AFC West12.90000 PROBABILITY OF WINNER HAVING THIS RECORD OR WORSE NFC North1520875346 AFC South9.1692010 NFC South14971336253 AFC West15321455352 NFC East7.99877292 AFC East153611663%61% ELO RATINGNON-DIVISION RECORD AFC East13.10000 NFC West12.70000 AFC South14141113537 What’s striking about the NFC East, though, is just how bunched together the teams are. Through 13 weeks of the season, the standard deviation of its teams’ Elo ratings is the fifth-lowest of any division since the NFL expanded to eight divisions in 2002. Translation: This year’s NFC East is unique in that every team is almost exactly the same amount of meh as the others. That parity in available talent is a major reason why every NFC East team is within a game of each other in terms of their records within the division.If the NFC East champion does end up assuming a place alongside the worst division winners of all time, it will be an undeniably great thing for the NFL’s schadenfreudist fan base. But it’s also worth noting the unusual confluence of intra-divisional parity and plain bad luck outside the division that will have helped the NFC East make history.Check out our NFL predictions for each team’s chances of advancing to the playoffs and winning Super Bowl 50. NFC South15.20%0%0%0% AFC North12.50000 AFC North15151434755 If there’s one thing that can unite a diverse group of NFL fans, it’s ridiculing awful divisions. I think it’s a kind of defense mechanism: We know divisions are at root arbitrary and buck at the notion of a sub-.500 squad making the playoffs (and hosting a game!) while the superior runners-up of other divisions sit at home (which is stupid).That brings us to this year’s Division of Shame, the NFC East. No team in the division is over .500. None has an Elo rating1A measure of team strength that updates with the outcome of every game. better than the league average, and the division’s best team by Elo (Philadelphia) has only a 37 percent chance of winning the division, meaning that an even weaker team could very well represent it in the playoffs. Dallas would have to win Monday night’s game against Washington by 20 or more to reach a league-average Elo rating; Washington has no chance of hitting average, no matter their scoring margin tonight. The division is thoroughly devoid of excellence, and there’s a good chance that will hold true through the end of the regular season.In our NFL predictions module, we use Elo ratings to simulate the remainder of the 2015 schedule 20,000 times, and we can track how often those simulations call for the winner of each division to end up with any given record. According to Elo, the eventual NFC East winner has a 77 percent probability of finishing 8-8 or worse, with a 29 percent chance of at best matching the 2010 Seattle Seahawks for the worst record by a playoff team in NFL history at 7-9: And it could get worse. Before the season, USA Today’s Chris Chase speculated about the worst record a playoff team could ever realistically have, short of technically possible but practically impossible scenarios, such as no team in a division beating a non-divisional opponent and all intra-division games ending in ties. He settled on 6-10 as the most remote practical possibility. Fast forward nearly four months, and our Elo simulations say there’s roughly a 2 percent chance that the NFC East winner will end up with exactly that record, thereby setting a new — and perhaps unbreakable — achievement in the field of “getting in by default.”Should that happen, the 2015 NFC East would be the subject of undying scorn. Yet there’s also evidence that it hasn’t been nearly as bad as some of the NFL’s other “worst division of all-time” candidates. The NFC East’s collective winning percentage in non-division games is 33 percent, which currently ranks 17th-worst in history, but its members have also gotten a bit unlucky in close games outside the division. The division’s Pythagorean winning percentage — i.e., the win rate we’d expect based on points scored and allowed, which is traditionally a better predictor of future outcomes than raw winning percentage — in those games is 42 percent, a mark that doesn’t even rank in the bottom fifth of all divisions since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.In fact, that number isn’t the worst of 2015 — the AFC South’s Pythagorean percentage outside the division is 37 percent. And the average NFC East team’s Elo rating isn’t the lowest of any division in football right now, either: NFC West15541455354 DIVISIONAVERAGESTANDARD DEVIATIONWIN%PYTHAG% NFC North10.92000 NFC East1471323342 DIVISIONAVERAGE WINS9-78-87-96-10
When do we get to stop jabbering about the Patriots? Last winter, the New England Patriots marched through the playoffs and won the Super Bowl. Then we spent all spring and summer worrying about whether their quarterback, Tom Brady, had knowingly deflated footballs — and then we had to start the conversation over again when his four-game suspension was overturned. And now that football is actually being played, the Pats are still on everyone’s minds: At 3-0, with the NFL’s second-best SRS rating,1SRS is the Simple Rating System, Pro-Football-Reference.com’s way of adjusting a team’s average scoring margin for the strength of its schedule. (The upstart Falcons are No. 1.) they’ve started so hot as to inspire speculation about another 16-0 season.But the Patriots media frenzy may have finally swallowed itself when Skip Bayless was asked on Tuesday’s “First Take” about New England’s chances of going undefeated and said it was “extremely probable” that the Patriots would go 16-0.We touched on this during a segment of our sports podcast, Hot Takedown (Pats chatter begins at the 7:00 mark), but the notion that it’s “extremely probable” for any team to go 16-0 after three weeks of the season was too absurd for us to confine our dissent to a podcast.Let’s get this out of the way: It’s extremely improbable that New England will win each of its remaining 13 games. According to our Elo ratings (a system for estimating each NFL team’s strength at any given moment), New England has only a 4.4 percent probability of navigating the rest of its schedule without a loss. In other words, if you played out 100 versions of the 2015 season, the Pats would fail to go undefeated in about 96 of them. Bayless is holding out for our real-life timeline to be one of the four leftovers.It’s easy to see why the Patriots are so unlikely to win out. They aren’t even favorites in all of their remaining contests — Elo says there’s a 53 percent chance they lose to Denver on the road in late November. And among the games in which they are favored, they’re far from guaranteed victors. Nine teams have a greater than 20 percent chance of knocking them off — there’s a 42 percent chance they don’t even emerge from their bye week and make it to 4-0 against the Cowboys on Oct. 11. (Granted, Elo is unaware that Dallas will be without QB Tony Romo for that game, but a Romo adjustment would still leave New England with roughly a one-third chance of being upset.)This year’s Patriots team is really good. Through three weeks, the 2015 edition has a slightly better Elo rating (1698) than the 2007 version that went 16-0 had (1697) at the same point in the season.2If this sounds contrary to what I said at the 9:05 mark of this week’s Hot Takedown, it’s because I goofed. There I was referring to the fact that, in the subset of our Elo simulations where New England went 16-0 this season, its final Elo rating of 1820 was slightly lower than the 1832 mark the Pats had after the 2007 regular season. But that’s all down the road — as of now, three weeks in, the 2015 Patriots’ Elo is slightly higher. But the 2007 Patriots were arguably the best team in pro football history (to the extent such a thing exists), and they still required a great deal of luck in close wins in the second half of their schedule.It’s very hard to go undefeated, which is a big part of why streaks capture our imagination. If it were as easy as Bayless seems to think it is, we wouldn’t care as much. Read more: The Best NFL Teams Of All Time, According To Elo
NFL Oh, and don’t forgetRandom audience guy with minimal training wins title after combatant pulls out of MMA fight, the jabroni dream All newsletters See more MLB predictions See more NFL predictions We’re launching a sports newsletter. 🏆 Join the squad. Subscribe Things That Caught My EyeWorst defeat everThe biggest sports story of the week is by far the collapse of the U.S. Men’s National Team in its World Cup qualifier match against Trinidad and Tobago. Going into the match — the U.S. needed a win or tie to automatically qualify — the U.S. had a 93 percent chance of making the World Cup. But they lost 2-1 to a team playing for nothing but pride, with one of those goals being scored by a U.S. defender on his own net. Then both Panama and Honduras won their games, eliminating the U.S. and propelling Panama to the cup. Going back to 1885, the men have never lost a World Cup match in any stage of the tournament or qualfying in which they were so favored to win. [FiveThirtyEight]Yeah that 2-1 loss has hundreds of millions of dollars worth of consequencesBetween the $425 million television broadcast deal and that wage discrimination lawsuit U.S. soccer will have a harder time contesting and that other antitrust lawsuit they might have an easier time contesting and the potential gutting of the youth soccer movement in America and the sponsorship revenue for Major League Soccer in potential peril, yeah it would have been really cool for a whole bunch of people had the U.S. national team not lost that game. [The Washington Post]Kansas City hustleWith five consecutive wins, the Elo rating of the Kansas City Chiefs is at the highest level since their win over the Vikings in Super Bowl IV. Only eight weeks in the team’s history have them looking better than they do now, all of them in that Super Bowl season. [FiveThirtyEight]It’s only a lost season if you fail to tankAccording to ESPN’s Football Power Index, the Browns have a 49 percent chance of finishing dead last and getting the top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the 49ers have a 32.2 percent chance, the Bears have a 9.3 percent chance, the Colts have a 3.3. percent chance and the Giants have a 3.6 percent chance. [ESPN]Congrats, equivalent of three fourths of Staten IslandIceland qualified for the World Cup — you remember, that thing America screwed up and failed to make — and is now the smallest nation to ever do so with its population of 334,000. [Bleacher Report]Not gonna lie, did not see this comingThe net favorability of the NFL among Trump voters according to a Morning Consult poll is -24 points. The net favorability among Clinton voters is +38 points. Hop in a time machine and go tell yourself that little nugget a year ago and watch an innocent mind explode. [The New York Times]Make sure to try your hand at our fun NFL can you beat the FiveThirtyEight predictions? game!Big Number55.232U.S. gymnast Morgan Hurd took the gold medal in Montreal at the 2017 World All-Around Championship, scoring a 55.232. Canada’s Ellie Black took the silver medal and Russia’s Elena Eremina took bronze. Make a little note of that in your “SMART SMALL TALK TO MENTION DURING OLYMPICS TO SOUND LIKE YOU FOLLOW SPORTS BESIDES DIVING” folder that I assume all other people have as well as me. [Flo Gymnastics]Leaks from Slack: Oh God no, not like this editiongfoster:[8:20 PM] Oh boy. U.S. Losing to Trinidad[8:37 PM] Ahhhhhh 2-0 Trinidad 😱[8:39] At least Costa Rica scoredtchow:[8:52 PM] Meanwhile..Argentina up 2-1meghan:[8:53 PM] So wait — is the US screwed again?tchow:[8:54 PM] No they’re still in at the moment. If results holdmeghan:[8:54 PM] Thanks, Tonywalt:[9:06 PM] oh my godtchow:[9:07 PM] Pulisic. American god[9:32 PM] Honduras up 3-2gfoster:[9:37 PM] Is panama scores and this holds, they are out[9:39] If all these results hold, they play a playoff with Australia…which ain’t good[9:47 PM] Panama scored[9:47] They are going to be eliminatedneil:[9:49 PM] Oh man — so they needed either Panama or Honduras to lose, and they both won?gfoster:[9:49 PM] This really sucks.neil:[9:49 PM] lol[9:50] Sorry, I mean 🇺🇸😿[9:50] (it’s soccer. /shrug )heynawl-enten:[9:51 PM] joined #sport.[9:51 PM] This is TERRIBLE.[9:51 PM] left #sport.gfoster:[9:52 PM] Terrible for traffic.neil:[9:52 PM] More room for baseball coverage. 😉gfoster:[9:53 PM] Nightmare.walt:[9:54] WHAT[9:54] omgemily:[9:54 PM] (do they still get paid more for not even qualifying than the WNT will for winning it?)Predictions MLB
2Tom Brady20113471.694010.271510 5Phil Simms19842966.059410.270477 CLE1.91.4NYJ22.48.09.41378 NYJ61NYJ61MIA 20, NYJ 12-1.2– HOU7.63.6NYG184.108.40.206386 Team ACurrentAvg. Chg*Team BCurrentAvg. Chg*Total ChangeGame Quality The best two-game QB starts to a season since 1970Most yards above backup quarterback (YABQ) for passers in the first two games of an NFL season, 1970-2018 KC85.05.1SF220.127.116.1142 DAL41.912.3SEA25.810.222.51523 LAR74LAR82LAR 34, ARI 0+1.9– PICKWIN PROB.PICKWIN PROB.ResultREADERS’ NET PTS MIN60MIN56GB 29, MIN 29+0.0 QuarterbackYEARAgeComp%Pass YDSNet Y/ATDIntYABQ IND17.44.7PHI75.05.810.41522 Age is as of Dec. 31 of the season in question.Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com GB30.411.5WSH20.78.620.21473 ARI8.44.5CHI23.810.014.51445 CIN50BAL55CIN 34, BAL 23-7.7– DEN63DEN63DEN 20, OAK 19-2.2– OUR PREDICTION (ELO)READERS’ PREDICTION And unlike the names above him on the list, each of whom were seasoned veterans, Mahomes is just 23 this season1And his first two games came before he actually turned 23 on Sept. 17. — and he had just one game started under his belt before this season. Although he probably won’t stay on this record-breaking pace all season, Mahomes’s early career performance doesn’t look like a fluke. Since 1970, only two QBs (Hall of Famer Kurt Warner and Pro Bowler Jeff Blake) had more YABQ through their first three NFL games as a primary passer2Meaning he led the team in dropbacks — i.e., pass attempts plus sacks — in a game. than Mahomes. Of course, not every hot three-game start presaged a path to Canton; for every Warner or Dan Marino near the top of the list, there’s also Eric Hipple, Scott Mitchell and Ty Detmer. But even if Mahomes’s career develops more like that of, say, Daunte Culpepper — whose stats at the same age are strikingly similar to Mahomes’s 16-game pace over his career to date — it would surely validate the Chiefs’ decision to jettison successful longtime starter Alex Smith in favor of his rifle-armed young successor.We can already see how the Chiefs’ offense has changed with Mahomes at the helm. According to ESPN’s Stats & Info Group, his air yards per pass — which measures the distance the ball traveled downfield before being caught (or hitting the ground) — is 11.5 this season, which ranks first among all qualified passers. Smith’s number last season was 7.4, which ranked 23rd. Mahomes has faced more blitzes (and more pressure in general) than Smith, but he’s handled the heat much more capably — his Raw Total Quarterback Rating against pressure has been 74.0 (the league average is about 50 on all passes and 20 versus pressure), compared with Smith’s 31.3 mark last year. And for a team that went an entire season without a TD pass to a wide receiver a few years ago, Kansas City now ranks third in touchdown passes to receivers and eighth in passing yards to wideouts, with Tyreek Hill on track to surpass his 1,183 receiving yards from a year ago.Kansas City is hoping this newfound offensive attack can prevent another midseason letdown like the one the team suffered last year. The 2017 Chiefs also got off to a blazing start, winning their first five games behind a dominating offense. Then they promptly lost six of seven at midseason to bring their record to 6-6, requiring a four-game end-of-season winning streak just to make the playoffs. That wasn’t exactly rare for K.C. under Andy Reid: The Chiefs finished the 2014 season on a 2-4 stretch after starting 7-3, and they went 2-5 down the stretch in 2013 after a 9-0 start. So Chiefs fans would be forgiven for tempering their optimism at the moment. But the versatility of this year’s attack — made possible in part by Mahomes’s unique arm strength and comfort level in a spread system — might be the missing ingredient that makes this hot start more sustainable than the ones that fizzled in years past.In light of all this Mahomes mania, the 49ers are an especially interesting foil for the Chiefs this weekend. Niners starter Jimmy Garoppolo captured the NFL’s attention late last season with a five-game run that rivaled what Mahomes has done thus far. (Jimmy G. averaged 131.4 YABQ per game in his best two starts of that stretch, compared with Mahomes’s 243.9 per game this season.) But Garoppolo’s 2018 also illustrates the reversion that is sure to come for Mahomes sooner or later: San Francisco’s highly paid QB has seen his QBR drop from 82.7 in 2017 to 22.7 this season. He’ll almost certainly improve on that in the near future — perhaps substantially so against a K.C. defense that currently ranks a distant last in the NFL in defensive expected points added. But Mahomes can learn from his counterpart how quickly a QB can go from acclaim to adversity once opposing defenses study enough of his tape.Until then, though, Mahomes and the Chiefs are riding high, with the league’s best projected record and playoff chances according to our model, plus a status as co-Super Bowl favorites (with the Eagles). It’s hard to imagine a better way for a young QB to begin his career as an NFL starter.FiveThirtyEight vs. the readersIn addition to our NFL Elo prediction interactive, which updates after every game to help you keep tabs on how your team stacks up, we’re also running a prediction game in which you make picks against our model (and your fellow readers). After the dust settles each week, we like to look at where Elo made its best — and worst — picks against the field. Here’s how it did in Week 2: The Chiefs have certainly seen a boost in our ratings with this hot start. Before the season, they ranked seventh in the league, and it wasn’t clear that K.C. was even the best team in its own division. But since the start of the season, Kansas City has risen to third in Elo, adding the third-most rating points of any team in the league (behind only the Buccaneers and Bengals).Mahomes has been leading the Chiefs’ charge. Going into the season, we noted that he would have a ton of weapons to work with in the Chief offense, and that his starting career could get off the ground quickly if he reined in his occasional “gunslinger” tendencies. Two weeks in, it’s worked out almost perfectly. Mahomes is making great decisions with the ball and has thrown plenty of absolute darts downfield. Since the 1970 AFL merger, only three QBs — Peyton Manning in 2013, Tom Brady in 2011 and, yes, Ryan Fitzpatrick this season — have produced more yards above backup QB (YABQ) through the first two games of a season than Mahomes has so far this year: BUF11.54.5MIN73.77.311.91525 3Peyton Manning20133767.17698.590501 Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs are officially the toast of the 2018 NFL season so far, after K.C.’s young quarterback threw an incredible six touchdown passes against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, bringing his season tally to 10 — and the Chiefs’ record to 2-0.It’s only been two weeks, but the reviews for Mahomes have been nothing short of breathless. The latest opponent that will have to weather the Kansas City onslaught will be the San Francisco 49ers, who travel to Arrowhead on Sunday afternoon. Although the game doesn’t figure to alter the playoff odds too much — according to our NFL Elo predictions — it’s an intriguing showdown that ranks fourth-best of Week 3 in terms of our measure of matchup quality (which uses the harmonic mean of the two teams’ Elo ratings): 10Dan Fouts19813074.064612.541414 DAL76DAL58DAL 20, NYG 13-15.1– PIT58PIT51KC 42, PIT 37+4.9– ATL62ATL58ATL 31, CAR 24-5.2– LAC47.010.6LAR18.104.22.168561 9Steve Young19983760.36667.961415 PHI63PHI67TB 27, PHI 21-7.6– MIA48.411.3OAK8.05.216.51463 JAX75.311.6TEN30.512.323.91529 CAR42.610.9CIN56.610.721.61538 1Ryan Fitzpatrick20183678.7%81912.981585 SF58SF62SF 30, DET 27+1.2– DET12.35.7NE72.09.415.01539 BUF53%LAC69%LAC 31, BUF 20+15.7– 8Lynn Dickey19833480.462310.681423 4Patrick Mahomes20182369.158210.1100488 WSH75WSH68IND 21, WSH 9+8.4– The best matchups of Week 3Week 3 games with the highest average Elo rating, using the harmonic mean, plus the total potential swing for the two teams’ playoff chances, according to FiveThirtyEight’s NFL predictions 6Joe Namath19722947.660913.472466 ATL62.6%+/-13.8NO29.8%+/-12.526.31578 Playoff %Playoff % NE56NE58JAX 31, NE 20-5.1– 7Drew Bledsoe19972564.16079.280428 NO85NO81NO 21, CLE 18-4.0– PIT39.911.7TB52.011.823.51548 BAL44.111.7DEN32.410.722.41503 Home teams are in bold.The scoring system is nonlinear, so readers’ average points don’t necessarily match the number of points that would be given to the average reader prediction. SEA54CHI52CHI 24, SEA 17+3.9– Game quality is the harmonic mean of the Elo ratings for the two teams in a given matchup.*Average change is weighted by the likelihood of a win or loss. (Ties are excluded.)Source: ESPN.com TEN70HOU51TEN 20, HOU 17-20.1– Elo’s dumbest (and smartest) picks of Week 2Average difference between points won by readers and by Elo in Week 2 matchups in FiveThirtyEight’s NFL prediction game After a successful Week 1 performance against FiveThirtyEight readers, I expected Elo to tail off a bit in Week 2. But instead, it did even better! On average, Elo beat the typical reader by 32.2 total points in our game this past week, bringing its overall lead up to 60.5 points on the season. The readers cleaned up in the Bills-Chargers game, taking advantage of Elo’s reluctance to acknowledge that Buffalo is a pit of despair this season. But that was offset by Elo’s confidence in the Cowboys at home against the Giants, and the fact that its seemingly misguided faith in the Titans — who were starting Blaine Gabbert, one of the worst QBs in NFL history, instead of the injured Marcus Mariota — paid off.We’ll see if Elo’s run of luck continues next week. Either way, congrats to reader Alexandre Augusto da Rocha, who led all (identified) users in points for Week 2 — and as a result leads for the season as well. And thanks to everyone who played last week. If you didn’t play, remember that it’s not too late to get in on the game, even if you missed the first couple weeks of the season. Make your picks now!Check out our latest NFL predictions.
SF0.20.1NYG0.10.10.21377 BAL54PIT52PIT 23, BAL 16+4.3– Elo’s dumbest (and smartest) picks of Week 9Average difference between points won by readers and by Elo in Week 9 matchups in FiveThirtyEight’s NFL prediction game 201311531125 WSH43.014.5TB22.214.171.124470 MIN68MIN69MIN 24, DET 9-0.9– 21976ColtsJones22Mitchell23Carr1820.8 The best matchups of Week 10Week 10 games by the highest average Elo rating (using the harmonic mean) plus the total potential swing for the two teams’ playoff chances, according to FiveThirtyEight’s NFL predictions 82000VikingsCulpepper21Smith18Moss1718.5 PICKWIN PROB.PICKWIN PROB.ResultREADERS’ NET PTS YearTeamPasserRusherReceiverTriplet Score 191995CowboysAikman15Smith20Irvin1917.7 DEN54HOU54HOU 19, DEN 17+6.0– 91982ChargersFouts22Muncie14Chandler2218.5 51961OilersBlanda22Cannon16Hennigan2119.3 KC84KC87KC 37, CLE 21-0.5– CHI54.715.4DET8.97.723.11507 14199349ersYoung23Watters14Rice2018.2 Game quality is the harmonic mean of the Elo ratings for the two teams in a given matchup.*Average change is weighted by the likelihood of a win or loss. (Ties are excluded.)Source: ESPN.com 31999ColtsManning18James21Harrison2019.6 122000RamsWarner15Faulk22Holt1918.2 152006ChargersRivers18Tomlinson26Gates1418.1 DAL66DAL64TEN 28, DAL 14+0.7– 162014PackersRodgers21Lacy16Nelson1818.1 20200049ersGarcia20Garner17Owens1617.5 The New Orleans Saints already looked like Super Bowl contenders at various times in the first half of this season. But after their 45-35 victory over the previously undefeated Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, the Saints have landed themselves squarely in the conversation of potential championship favorites. Certainly, no team is hotter as we survey the NFL at midseason: New Orleans has won seven straight, including triumphs over the Vikings, Falcons and Ravens. And for better or for worse, they’re doing it in classic Saints style — piling up a ton of points (and taking the occasional end-zone phone call) while simply hoping for the best on defense. Although this method might not ultimately result in the franchise’s second-ever Super Bowl title, it’s going to be damn entertaining to watch New Orleans try to score its way to the top of the NFL heap once again.Leading the way in the Saints’ offensive showcase is, of course, quarterback Drew Brees. Much has been said about how well Patriots QB Tom Brady has continued to play into his 40s, but Brees is only 17 months younger than Brady and has been just as good as ol’ Touchdown Tom was at the same age. Brees currently leads the NFL in passer rating and ranks fourth in Yards Above Backup QB (trailing only Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, the Rams’ Jared Goff and Philip Rivers of the Chargers). All this without the benefit of drinking up to 38 glasses of water a day and sleeping in his own brand of recovery pajamas.Some of the pinpoint throws Brees made Sunday against L.A. demonstrated once again how little touch he has lost — if any — since ESPN’s “Sport Science” scrutinized the mechanical perfection behind his superhuman passing accuracy nearly 10 years ago. Led by that star-powered triumvirate, the Saints’ offense currently ranks seventh in the league in yards per game, second in points per game and second in offensive expected points added (EPA) per contest. (And it’s anybody’s guess how much higher it will soar with new WR pickup Dez Bryant on board.) But the Saints’ undoing might be their backslide on defense, where they’ve fallen from a surprising 16th in defensive EPA last season to 29th this year. In that regard, the 2018 Saints are like too many versions that had come before last season — great on offense but prone to making opposing offenses look great, too. MIA21.210.3GB126.96.36.199457 For Brees’s excellence this season, my ESPN colleague Bill Barnwell made the case that New Orleans’s QB — not Kansas City’s — should be the MVP front-runner at the midpoint of the schedule. But Brees isn’t doing it all alone. In fact, the Saints’ resurgence in recent seasons has been as much about quickly re-assembling elite talent around Brees as it has been about Brees defying Father Time.New Orleans rolled out one of the league’s all-time great rookie classes last year, headlined by running back Alvin Kamara. Sharing touches with veteran ball carrier Mark Ingram in a historic RB tandem, Kamara was tabbed for the Pro Bowl while racking up 1,554 yards from scrimmage and 13 total touchdowns. And with Ingram suspended for the Saints’ first four games this season, Kamara has been even better in an expanded role. His touches per game are up 61 percent, and he’s on track to generate more than 1,800 scrimmage yards with 24 total TDs. Not bad for a player in his first real season as an NFL feature back.1Upon returning, Ingram initially ate a bit into Kamara’s workload, but over the past three weeks, Kamara is averaging 20.7 touches per game. That’s actually higher than his seasonlong average (which includes a 31-touch outing against the Falcons in Week 3).Kamara has provided the kind of monster performance New Orleans needed to build on last season’s explosive offensive output. But Brees also has a mega-productive target at wide receiver who keeps getting better every year: Michael Thomas. Thomas cracked 1,100 yards through the air in each of his first two NFL seasons, scoring 14 total touchdowns — and this year he has reached an entirely new level of statistical achievement. Averaging an astounding 110.0 receiving yards per game, Thomas would rank 15th all-time in the category if he somehow kept it up over the season’s second half.(We should also mention that Thomas’s outrageous catch rate of 88.6 percent is currently the best ever in a season2Since 1992, the first year for the statistic in Pro-Football-Reference.com’s data. among players with at least 750 receiving yards, more than 11 percentage points higher than the next-best season. It’s a friendly reminder that Thomas is having one of the most impressive WR seasons ever.)If we crunch the numbers for the Saints’ Big Three in terms of Approximate Value (Pro-Football-Reference.com’s cross-position measure of single-season player value), we find that Brees is on pace for 20 AV, with Thomas also at 20 and Kamara at 18. Together, the harmonic mean3A special kind of average designed to amplify combinations in which all individual values are high — and penalize ones in which they aren’t. of those AV numbers — a metric I’ll call the “Triplet Score” — is 19.3, which would rank New Orleans’s group fourth-best among QB/RB/WR trios since 1960: SeasonWinsLossesOffenseDefensespecial Teams SF62SF55SF 34, OAK 3-7.3– WSH55WSH52ATL 38, WSH 14+1.5– 172000ColtsManning18James21Harrison1618.1 NYJ1.00.6BUF0.20.20.91388 Even though New Orleans has that shiny 7-1 record, its defensive deficiency is probably something coordinator Dennis Allen will have to iron out if the Saints are truly going to vie for the Super Bowl. Although several other contenders — most notably Kansas City — are in a similar all-offense/no-defense spot at midseason, it’s rare to see such a poor defensive squad hoist the Lombardi Trophy. Since 2006, only one champion (the 2006 Indianapolis Colts) ranked 29th or worse in defensive EPA per game.4The 2011 New York Giants were close: They ranked 24th in defensive EPA. Aside from those two, no other champ since 2006 ranked worse than 13th on defense. But with an average of 62.1 total points being scored in their games thus far, the Saints have certainly been involved in their share of popcorn-worthy shootouts.They’ll take that brand of high-scoring football to Cincinnati on Sunday to face the Bengals. And although the Saints have all but locked up their postseason fortunes, this still counts as one of the best games of the week by our combination of matchup quality (i.e., the harmonic mean of the teams’ Elo ratings in each game) and game importance (how likely it is to swing either team’s odds of making the playoffs). That’s mainly because the Bengals, sitting on the precipice of the postseason picture with a 54 percent chance of getting in, have more than a dozen points of probability to lose or gain, depending on the game’s outcome. 18199249ersYoung22Watters16Rice1718.0 OUR PREDICTION (ELO)READERS’ PREDICTION PIT81.2%+/-10.5CAR75.2%+/-10.120.51618 CAR76CAR73CAR 42, TB 28-3.4– 20167953022 Team ACurrentAvg. Chg*Team BCurrentAvg. Chg*Total ChangeGame Quality KC99.80.2ARI0.20.10.41520 PHI60.013.3DAL10.59.322.61548 MIA62MIA59MIA 13, NYJ 6-4.2– NO59LAR52NO 45, LAR 35-12.4– Home teams are in bold.The scoring system is nonlinear, so readers’ average points don’t necessarily match the number of points that would be given to the average reader prediction. JAX9.16.6IND10.56.212.81456 201711521615 Playoff %Playoff % Saints’ NFL Rank in … 42018SaintsBrees20Kamara18Thomas2019.3 ATL43.78.9CLE0.10.19.01434 LAC86.86.9OAK0.00.07.01454 2018712293 The Saints’ defense is reverting to (poor) formYearly record and NFL rank in expected points added (EPA) for the New Orleans Saints since 2013 131964BrownsRyan17Brown23Warfield1618.2 As for the Saints, we’ll keep a close eye on how far their high-octane offensive attack can take them in the season’s second half. Our model gives them a 16 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl, which is tied with New England for second-best in the NFL (behind K.C. at 18 percent). And with Brees, Kamara and Thomas lighting up opposing defenses, New Orleans might lead the league in excitement either way, win or lose.FiveThirtyEight vs. the readersBe sure to check out FiveThirtyEight’s Elo ratings using our NFL prediction interactive, which simulates the rest of the season 100,000 times and tracks how often each team should make the playoffs and win the Super Bowl. And did you know you can also pick against the Elo algorithm in our prediction game? Maybe you can also climb up our giant leaderboard (or, if you’re like me, fall down it with each passing week).Here are the games in which Elo made its best — and worst — predictions against the reader picks last week: 20147953223 The Saints’ 2018 trio is on a historic paceTop QB/RB/WR trios ranked by their “Triplet Score” — the harmonic mean of each player’s Approximate Value (AV) — 1960-2018 20157923223 CHI54%CHI69%CHI 41, BUF 9+9.7– SEA61SEA51LAC 25, SEA 17+9.0– 101999RamsWarner19Faulk25Bruce1418.3 1199449ersYoung23Watters19Rice2120.9 2018 AV is pro-rated to a 16-game schedule.Source: pro-Football-reference.com Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group SEA33.713.4LAR188.8.131.52592 111992CowboysAikman17Smith20Irvin1818.3 72004ColtsManning21James21Wayne1518.5 62001RamsWarner20Faulk22Holt1619.0 CIN54.013.0NO94.14.017.01583 NE81NE71NE 31, GB 17-7.6– TEN40.513.7NE97.82.015.71590 Team Leaders and their Approx. value Readers kept it relatively close against Elo this week, losing by an average of just 5.1 points across all of Week 9’s games — their second-best showing of the season, behind Week 7. Of course, that tells you what kind of year it’s been picking against the algorithm: Elo has beaten the average reader in eight of nine weeks in 2018 so far. This time around, the readers’ bet against Nathan Peterman paid off (big surprise…) and they also picked up points with the Chargers’ victory at Elo’s longtime team-crush, the Seattle Seahawks. But the Saints’ win over the Rams hurt readers’ average score — perhaps they didn’t read that L.A. is good but not necessarily historically great.Anyway, congrats to the mysteriously named _ACN_, who led identified users in Week 9 with 204.0 points, and to Brian Hake, who pulled into the No. 1 slot for the entire season with 764.5 points. Thanks to everyone who has been playing — and if you haven’t, be sure to get in on the action! You can make picks now and still try your luck against Elo, even if you haven’t played yet.Check out our latest NFL predictions.
The Ohio State football team is just one game away from finishing an undefeated season, and although they are banned from postseason play, OSU coach Urban Meyer said the result of Saturday’s game versus Michigan will not define the season any more than it already would.“Will we be defined by this game? You usually are,” Meyer said Monday in his weekly press conference. “Regardless of what happens, this is the game.”The Buckeyes and Wolverines will meet for the 109th time in the long history of their college football programs Saturday at Ohio Stadium at noon. For the Buckeyes, it will be the final time they take the field this season, as NCAA sanctions from the “Tattoo-Gate” scandal have banned OSU from a bid in the Big Ten Championship game and bowl game.The Buckeyes, though, find themselves with an opportunity to finish the year 12-0.Rather than the bigger picture of clinching an undefeated season with a win, and potentially being in the running for an Associated Press national championship, Meyer said his team is “focused in” on their final opponent.“We just talked about winning this game,” Meyer said. “We’re not talking about what everybody is going to think a week from now, two weeks from now.”Redshirt senior outside linebacker Etienne Sabino said the rivalry with Michigan is all the motivation the Buckeyes need Saturday.“This is the game,” Sabino said. “This is a Super Bowl, this is the bowl game, this is national championship, this is everything for us.”Recognizing performances from Wisconsin winMeyer said senior defensive end John Simon, who he once again called the team’s “heart and soul,” was the team’s defensive player of the week after a four-sack performance against Wisconsin.Five other players were named defensive champions for their Wisconsin performances: redshirt junior safety C.J. Barnett, sophomore outside linebacker Ryan Shazier, junior safety Christian Bryant, redshirt senior Orhian Johnson and senior linebacker Zach Boren.For Boren, it was his first time being named a champion since converting from fullback to linebacker for the seventh game of the season versus Indiana.“I’ve gotten better. I can still get a lot better in a lot of different areas,” Boren said of his progress at linebacker. “I’m getting more and more comfortable.”Meyer called Boren’s conversion this season “one of the great stories … in college football, and certainly in Ohio State history.”“What he’s done, the selfless approach … what he would do for this team is extraordinary,” Meyer said. “Incredible human being and a great game.”Offensively, junior running back Carlos Hyde was named player of the week for his 87-yard, two-touchdown rushing performance, which included the game-winning, 2-yard touchdown in overtime. Two wide receivers, sophomore Evan Spencer and junior Corey Brown, the latter of whom had a 68-yard punt return touchdown on Saturday, were also named offensive champions.As a whole, however, Meyer said the offense “didn’t play very well,” and has to play better against Michigan.“It was bad,” Meyer said. “We have to open this offense up and trust that good things are going to happen.”In addition to his defensive recognition, Johnson was also named special teams player of the week. Meyer also acknowledged the blocking of redshirt senior Taylor Rice, Spencer, redshirt senior Stewart Smith and freshman Luke Roberts in leading Brown to his punt return touchdown.Simon was also named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week, while Brown earned the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week award.No comment on MarylandThe University of Maryland made big news in the Big Ten on Monday, announcing that they will become the conference’s 13th member effective July 1, 2014. That means football matchups against the Buckeyes are within their near future, but Meyer had little to say about the announcement on Monday.“Yesterday … was the first time I even heard about it,” Meyer said.
OSU coach Urban Meyer stands during a game against Iowa Oct. 19 at Ohio Stadium. OSU won, 34-24.Lantern file photoWith senior quarterback Braxton Miller’s health status in doubt after he re-injured his shoulder on Monday, Ohio State football fans won’t have to look far to see how the current coaching regime does when a signal-caller goes down.Coach Urban Meyer and co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman were both around just last season when Miller missed two full games, and the majority of another, after injuring his knee.Miller was first injured on OSU’s opening drive against San Diego State Sept. 7, 2013. Then-backup quarterback Kenny Guiton, who has since graduated, entered the game and passed for 152 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-7 victory.Guiton’s success continued in historic form as he set OSU records for the longest pass play and the most passing touchdowns in a game over the following two weeks.In all, Guiton played in 13 of 14 games in 2013, including the two aforementioned starts. He passed for a total of 749 yards and 14 touchdowns while only throwing two interceptions. The Buckeyes were 2-0 when Guiton started, on top of the win against SDSU.While Guiton slotted smoothly into Meyer and Herman’s system, both coaches have had experience with replacing quarterbacks even before coming to OSU.Meyer’s previous coaching stop was at Florida, where his No. 1 quarterback played in every game all six seasons while he was in charge. Before that, Meyer spent two years at Utah.In 2003, Meyer’s first year with the Utes, Brett Elliott, then a senior, started the season on top of the depth chart at quarterback. Elliott broke his wrist two games into the season, paving the way for then-sophomore Alex Smith.Smith went on to lead Utah to a 9-1 record in 10 starts that season while throwing 15 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He then led the Utes to an undefeated record his senior year before being named a Heisman Trophy finalist. Smith eventually became the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers.Between Smith and Guiton, the last two quarterbacks to come in for an injured starter under Meyer, their teams have totaled an 11-1 record in games they started in those seasons.Since 2007, Herman has been an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Rice, Iowa State and OSU.At Rice, where Herman coached in 2007 and 2008, his No. 1 quarterback, Chase Clement, played in all 25 games. But while at Iowa State, Herman had at least two quarterbacks start at least one game in each of his three seasons.In 2009 Austen Arnaud played in 12 games and threw for 2,015 yards, 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions for the Cyclones under Herman. Backup Jerome Tiller played in seven games, including a start, and tossed one touch down compared to four interceptions. The two quarterbacks led Iowa State to a 7-6 overall record.The following year, Arnaud started nine games and threw 13 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. Tiller started another game, and threw one touchdown in eight total appearances. The Cyclones finished the season 5-7.In Herman’s final season before leaving Iowa State for OSU, 2011, Steele Jantz started seven games at quarterback while Jared Barnett stated six under center. Both threw for more than 1,000 yards, but combined for 17 interceptions compared to 16 touchdowns. Iowa State went 6-7 after starting that season 3-0.While Herman and Meyer both helped the Buckeyes to success when Miller was out injured last season, it is yet to be seen if they can find that same success in 2014.The extent of Miller’s injury was not yet known as of Tuesday morning, pending the results of an MRI on Miller’s shoulder.With out without the senior in the lineup, OSU is scheduled to begin its season Aug. 30 against Navy at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. Kickoff is set for noon.
Urban Meyer prepares to lead the Buckeyes out on to the field prior to the Ohio State-Iowa game on Nov. 4. Ohio State lost 55-24. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorThe investigation into Ohio State head football coach Urban Meyer’s knowledge of domestic abuse allegations surrounding a former assistant coach will conclude on time, ending exactly on the 14-day deadline originally proposed by the university, Ohio State announced Friday.The statement went on to say that the investigators will “prepare a report for the working group to be delivered next week.” Once the independent group, chaired by former Ohio House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson, receives the report, they will present it to the Board of Trustees in an executive session to be held next week. University President Michael Drake will announce his decision for any response to the investigation “following deliberations with the board, and appropriate time for consideration.”The exact time and date of that meeting was not released in the statement, but the university is required by law to provide advance public notice of at least 24 hours. Drake told WOSU’s Ann Fisher on Thursday that the investigation would be “finished when it’s finished” without providing an idea of when that might be.Ohio State placed Meyer on paid administrative leave on Aug. 1 shortly after announcing it was going to examine if Meyer knew about and properly handled reports of domestic abuse from former wide receivers coach Zach Smith in 2015. Smith was fired on July 23 after his ex-wife, Courtney, filed a domestic violence civil protection order against him.Ohio State originally gave itself a 14-day deadline to complete the investigation on Aug. 5, which means the university will meet the deadline it self-imposed.The independent group has overseen the efforts of an investigative team led by former Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Mary Jo White, who also is the senior chair with the law firm Debevoise and Plimpton.
Pensioners who spend just half an hour a day gardening, fishing or walking can reduce their risk of a fatal heart attack by more than half, a major study has found.The study into 2,456 men and women, aged between 65 and 74, found that those with an active retirement had far lower death rates.Until now, much of the evidence about the benefits of exercise in protecting the heart has come from studies into those who are young or middle-aged.But the new study, presented yesterday at the world’s largest cardiac conference, suggested dramatic changes could be achieved later in life.Researchers compared three groups of pensioners, depending on whether they reported low, medium or high levels of activity.Participants were classed as having low levels of activity if they did less than four hours physical activity each week. They were compared with a group who were moderately active – taking light forms of exercise such as gardening, fishing, walking or cycling – for at least four hours weekly. They were also tracked against a third group of high intensity exercisers – those who did running, swimming, ball games or were involved in intense sports competitions for at least three hours a week.Overall, moderate physical activity for at least hour hours a week was associated with a 54 per cent reduction in deaths from heart conditions, with a 31 per cent drop in acute events such as heart attacks and strokes. Those in the group who did even more vigorous activity did still better, with a 66 per cent reduction in heart deaths and a 45 per cent drop in acute events. Every year, 82,000 people suffer a heart attack in England. Speaking at the annual European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress in Rome, Riitta Antikainen, professor of geriatrics at the University of Oulu, Finland, said: “Relatively little is known about the effect of regular physical activity on cardiovascular disease risk in older people.”Our study provides evidence that older adults who are physically active have a lower risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and death from cardiovascular disease. “The protective effect of leisure time physical activity is dose dependent – in other words, the more you do, the better. Activity is protective even if you have other risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as high cholesterol.”The 12-year study involved men and women who were enrolled into the National FINRISK Study between 1997 and 2007. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. The study compared three groups of pensionersCredit: Denis Closon / Rex Features Pensioners are being urged to boost their exercise levelsCredit:Andrew Crowley The research adjusted for other cardiovascular risk factors, such as blood pressure, smoking and cholesterol as well as social factors, including marital status and education levels.Researchers also took steps to minimise the risk of “reverse causality”, where worse health was actually the reason for lower activity levels. As a result, patients with coronary heart disease, heart failure, cancer, or prior stroke at the start of the trial were excluded from the analysis.Professor Antikainen urged pensioners to boost their exercise levelsShe said: “Physical exercise may become more challenging with ageing. However, it is important for older people to still get enough safe physical activity to stay healthy after their transition to retirement.”Professor Joep Perk, cardiologist and spokesman for the ESC, said: “The message is start moving after retirement – it’s never too late.”Emily Reeve, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This study highlights the importance of physical activity at any age, including the elderly.“In order to keep their heart healthy and improve general health, older adults need to keep active and still aim to achieve a minimum of 150 minutes of aerobic activity every week.”For some people, 150 minutes might seem like a lot, but this can be broken down into 10-minute sessions throughout the day that will easily build up.”She also said elderly people should try to break up long periods of sitting, with light activities.”We know that sedentary behaviour is now considered an independent risk factor for ill health,” she said.Last year, the charity revealed that UK adults were three times more likely to be inactive compared to those in the Netherlands.Official data shows that walking levels in Britain have fallen by more than a third in three decades, with the average person walking for less than 10 minutes a day.At the start of the study, participants were asked to provide information about their activity levels and other lifestyle habits and measurements of blood pressure, weight, height and cholesterol were taken.Caroline Abrahams, charity director for Age UK, said: “There is a really strong body of research that demonstrates the importance of physical activity in later life.”Even small amounts of physical activity can make a difference to a person’s health and can lower the risk of serious conditions such as heart disease, strokes and certain cancers. “Not only does exercise add years onto our lives, it can improve your mood and help maintain independence.”The important thing to remember is that it’s never too late to start, even increasing your daily physical activity by a small amount will benefit you at any age.”
Metropolitan Police urge anyone who may recognise the suspects to contact themCredit:Metropolitan Police The suspects knock the victim unconciousCredit:Metropolitan Police Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. The attack happened at around 10.15pm on April 30.A 13-year-old boy was arrested on 30 April on suspicion of affray, robbery and possession of a class B drug.He has been bailed pending further enquiries to a date in late November. A teenager was beaten unconscious by a gang of ten youths – who knocked him unconscious with a chair.Police are hunting the ten-strong gang who hospitalised the 19-year-old in the savage attack so that they could steal his phone.The victim was walking to catch a bus in Streatham, south west London when he was attacked by a group of ten men. He was knocked to the floor and suffered cuts to his face, head and lips, before being knocked unconscious by the savage blow from the chair.Met Police have released CCTV of eight suspects.They are described as black males, aged between 14 and 16, and wearing dark hooded tops.