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Football Outsiders pick Chargers

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, Jul 30, 2009.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006
    Football Outsiders pick Chargers

    By Kevin Acee
    July 30, 2009, 12:04 p.m.

    So, the geniuses (You doubt that? Then talk to one of them and see if you understand a word they say) at Football Outsiders have picked the Chargers to win the Super Bowl this season.

    And they were not shy about proclaiming it, saying their "statistical projection for the Chargers is so off the charts that it may endanger the boundaries of reality."

    In the chapter on the Chargers in the "Football Outsiders Almanac", they explain that in their six years of doing this preseason statistical analysis, only the 2007 Patriots (who ended up going 16-0) have come close to measuring as high as the Chargers.

    These guys run 10,000 simulations of the NFL schedule each year. Before the ’07 season, the FOA’s simulations projected the Patriots with a DVOA (it’s they’re core metric; we’ll try to explain later) of 33.5 percent and 12.1 wins. The ’09 Chargers have a 40.4 percent DVOA and 12.5 wins.

    In about 8,700 of FOA’s 10,000 simulations this year, the Chargers won 11 games. They won at least nine in 99 percent of the simulations.

    That might be all you need to know to know to sufficiently understand that a bunch of math geniuses think the Chargers will be good this season.

    But I was interested to know a few more things, so I exchanged e-mails with Bill Barnwell, managing editor of "Football Outsiders". (I was too embarrassed to communicate with him in person - him speaking genius and me speaking sportswriter.)

    We have to start with DVOA (Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average). I asked him to be brief and talk in English.

    "In the briefest English I know, DVOA measures how a player, unit, or team performed versus the league average after we adjust for the down, distance, game situation, and quality of opposition," Barnwell replied. "The result is a percentage versus the league average, which is 0 percent. For example, the Chargers had the best offense in the league last year, with a 24.1% DVOA; they were, on average, 24.1% better than a normal offense at advancing the ball, picking up first downs, and scoring points.

    "It's a much more useful statistic than the usual metrics people use - yards and touchdowns - because it's context-dependent. A player that gained seven yards on 3rd-and-13 against the Lions when his team was up 25 points already didn't accomplish much of anything. On the other hand, a back that gains seven yards on 4th-and-5 against the Ravens in a tight ballgame and scores the game-winning touchdown? He's accomplished something. DVOA accounts for that.”
    We’ll have to trust him, huh?

    As for how the FOA guys and their DVOA have fared year to year on predicting wins, Web site Vegaswatch did a comparison recently between the Football Outsiders preseason victory predictions and those of Vegas' oddsmakers. The FOA missed by an average of 2.02 wins, while Vegas missed by an average of 2.67. Not bad for the ridiculously perilous predicting game.

    "DVOA has a stronger relationship with wins in the following season than any other statistic we can find, including wins themselves," Barnwell said. "The correlation coefficient between a team's DVOA and their wins in the subsequent season is .34; not flawless by any means, but the best in the marketplace."

    The Football Outsiders also say the Chargers’ luck is bound to change. This is, after all, a team that had four of its eight losses come by a total of seven points.

    I told Barnwell that didn’t sound very scientific.

    "Well, when we say 'luck,' we don't really mean that they won the lottery," he said. "It's more just a way of expressing the effects of variance on the team. Say you and I bet on flipping a coin 20 times. I take Heads, and you take Tails. If we flip the coin 20 times and Heads comes up 15 times, am I luckier than you? A better gambler? Not at all; it's just the nature of 50/50 chances. Sometimes, you get "lucky" because the variance of an event that you have no control over benefits you.

    "There are events like that in the NFL, incredibly valuable and important things that happen in a game that teams have been shown to have virtually no control over ... With regards to the Chargers, a good example of their lack of "luck" was their performance in close games -- in games won by a touchdown or less, the Chargers were 2-7. Now, that might set some people off on a ‘They need to learn how to win close games’ tangent, but that effect simply doesn't exist.

    "Since 1994, there have been 16 other teams besides the 2008 Chargers to go 2-5 in games won by seven points or less. In the subsequent season, those teams were 55-65 in the same games - a .457 winning percentage, or just about league average. Teams that do really well in close games in a given season don't consistently perform well in those same close games in the subsequent season; truthfully, those tight games come down to a few bounces of the ball, who gets the ball last, and late-game coaching.

    "As a sign that performing poorly in close games is no death knell, the last team to go 2-5 in such games before the 2008 Chargers was, coincidentally, the 2007 Steelers. They managed to do all right in 2008.

    "As for the Chargers, they were 2-2 in such games last year, and 5-2 the year before. Chances are that they'll be better in close games in 2008; even going .500 in them would be a shift of two wins or so."

    That is absolutely the longest quote I have ever put into publication. But Bill was on a roll, so I couldn’t stop him. And how could I have possibly said that better?

    About that late-game coaching?

    The FOA folks aren’t big Norv Turner fans.

    So reads one passage in their book:

    "Between the sidelines, it seems like a Chargers championship is inevitable. On the sidelines, however, stands the Force of Evitability. His name is Norv Turner."

    They said their analysis has shown Turner to be one of history’s worst coaches at holding fourth-quarter leads. In nine of 11 years, his teams have failed to meet their projected win total.

  2. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006
    Preseason talk makes Bolts quiet

    Picked once again to win it all, players opt to focus, shun hype

    By Kevin Acee
    Union-Tribune Staff Writer
    2:00 a.m. July 30, 2009

    The “Football Outsiders Almanac,” formerly the “Pro Football Prospectus” and the bible of football geeks, projects a certain team to finally win its first Lombardi Trophy in February.

    In no uncertain terms.

    So opens the chapter on the Chargers:

    The San Diego Chargers are the prohibitive favorites to win Super Bowl XLIV. Our 2009 statistical projection for the Chargers is so off the charts that it may endanger the boundaries of reality.


    The boys in blue and gold haven't done all that well with preseason predictions of late. The Chargers' bravado has been emasculated by reality.

    “Yeah, it's time to stop talking,” center Nick Hardwick said dryly in June.

    The Chargers made the playoffs in 2004 for the first time in almost a decade and a young group was ready to take over the world. They didn't go back to the postseason after the '05 campaign. They've since won three straight division titles but never the title that matters.

    They were bounced embarrassingly in their first playoff game after a 14-2 regular season in 2006. They were beaten in the AFC Championship Game after '07 and, worst of all in the eyes of many, made the playoffs in an 8-8 season last year, won a game and then got run over (no, really, run over) at Pittsburgh to put the exclamation point on another postseason of discontent.

    All the while, every season was going to be different.

    To be fair, this team was largely undone by injuries in the '07 posteason and all of '08. But still.

    “There is no way in hell this team should be 8-8,” Shawne Merriman said.

    For that history of expectations leading to disappointment, skeptics abound about this group, which is on the eve of officially commencing training camp at 10:30 tomorrow morning.

    And maybe, in part, because they know you wouldn't believe them anyway, this group of Chargers is not talking in the same manner it has.

    “There hasn't been that much talk,” Philip Rivers said this week.

    Even the mohawked mass of muscle who lights up for pretty much every camera and has made Tweeting an art is vowing verbal caution.

    “This year I might talk the most,” Merriman said with a smile. “But I'm still not really talking.”

    You'll believe it when you see it? The Chargers themselves would agree that is fair.

    But they do appear older and wiser – and battle-tested.

    “There are two sides to it,” Rivers said. “You have to look back over the past three years and say we've done a lot of really good things. But we've had almost every experience you can have. We've had the ups and the downs. The 10 (wins) in a row, 14-2, knocked out in the first round. We've (gotten) to the conference championship. We've seen and been tested in every way you can. We know what it's going to take.

    “We've had the hype in the preseason before. So I think it's, like, we're not going to sit here and talk about it, we're going to go play.”


    “When you talk about the confidence, they just redirected their focus,” nose tackle Jamal Williams said. “ . . . Guys are trying to work hard and put the proof in the pudding on the field. One thing I've observed is how the maturity has changed over the years. It's not all about this person; it's about the team now. Everyone is starting to connect more and say, 'Hey, we have to do this together.' I love how guys have dedicated themselves this offseason.”

    So much of head coach Norv Turner's energy has gone into trying to get his players to understand that they have to earn what they get. He went as far this spring as to tell them the NFL is not “American Idol.” No one can vote them into the Super Bowl.

    He finally feels this group is at a point where it understands the message and is living it.

    “I'm just really excited about the maturity level of the team,” Turner said. “The way we've approached the offseason and the way they've responded to the coaching. I think there is a sense of maturity. This is a serious group. You'd love to be able to put it in their oatmeal two years ago. But maturity comes with experience, and experience you only get by going out and doing.”

    Just four players remain from the time before A.J. Smith became general manager in 2003, and just six more arrived before the turnaround began in '04.

    Sure, Smith acknowledges the team he has built has accomplished nothing of significance, its 54 victories in a five-year span being a franchise-record and fourth-most in the NFL since '04, but ultimately worthless.

    However, a GM sees building a team as a process. The Indianapolis Colts went to the playoffs four straight years before winning the Super Bowl after the 2006 season.

    “I believe we have a playoff-caliber team that is healthy, experienced, focused, ready and excited about the challenge ahead,” Smith said. “John Madden once said, 'There are a lot of players who play the game of football, but there aren't a lot of players who know how to play the game of football.' I believe we have a collection of talented players that are now learning how to play the game of football and play it as a team.

    “I think the bridge has been crossed mentally by our football team.”

  3. AnteaterRaider

    AnteaterRaider Carpe Diem et omni Mundio Staff Member Super Moderator Podcaster

    Jan 19, 2006
    At least this year it looks like the Chargers are making a conscientious effort to ignore the hype
  4. Ride The Lightning

    Ride The Lightning Join the Dark Side, we have cookies.

    Aug 15, 2006
    Looks like they are finally figuring it out.

    STFU and PLAY
    • Like Like x 1
  5. Lightning's Girl

    Lightning's Girl Mod Chick =) Staff Member Moderator

    Jan 15, 2007
    Which is a good thing. The trash-talking and that overamped "who's-got-the-biggest-cojones" crap needed to go. We'll do better if we don't get too cocky (and I mean that in both senses of the word).:yes:
  6. Kwak

    Kwak ....

    May 25, 2006
    Good. I don't want to see 1 quote that is billboard material. And no fuking whining in the press.
  7. cranberry

    cranberry BoltTalker

    Oct 3, 2006
    maths and statistics are wonderful things ... to talk about the whole night and the next day

    It's good to have such signs in the back

    but the BOLTs have to go onto the field, fight and collect wins. That will bring us to eternity.
    • Like Like x 1

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