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Just for kicks, let’s look at some of the Saints defensive numbers compared to the rest of the league if we only consider games 3 through 5.  Using @pfref ‘s drive finder tool in the play index (and limiting the search to only include games 3 through 6 — had to use 6 to get 3 games for some reason) I was able to filter out those first 2 games when the Saints Dr. Jeckyll defense showed up.

Using the above criteria the Saints defense defended against 36 drives.  Average drive went 5.2 plays (tied for 3rd fewest), 22.1 yards (3rd fewest), lasted 2:16 (2nd shortest), resulted in scores 19.4% of the time (lowest percentage — best — in the league) resulted in turnovers 25% of the time (highest percentage — best — in the league), and resulted TD’s just 11.1% (2nd lowest — 2nd best — in the league).  In other words, this defense has been kicking some serious butt the last 3 games.

In 36 drives there were 14 punts, 7 INT’s, 2 fumbles, 4 TD’s, 3 FG’s, 1 missed FG, 2 ended on failed 4th down conversions, and in the other 3 drives the game clock expired.  That’s how you gitter done, alright.  Can the Saints keep up this stellar play on defense?  1 game is an accident, 2 games is an impression, 3 games is a trend.  Saints have to play on the frozen tundra this week, ordinarily a monumental task, but Mr. Discount Doublecheck (may he get well soon) won’t be playing, and in his place, a young guy making his first ever NFL start.


Green Bay quarterback, Aaron Rodgers (the guy that does all the great State Farm commercials), went down with a broken collar bone last week.  It’s unclear how long he’ll miss, but what is clear is he won’t be playing against the Saints this week.  How big a loss is it for Green Bay?

These stats are from using only games 1 through 5 as criteria (ignoring all game 6’s for all teams).  Coming into the week last week prior to his injury the Packers’ offense was 6th best in drive scoring percentage (% of drives that end in either a TD or FG) at 45.8%.  They were 7th best in turnover percentage (% of drives ending in either an INT or a lost fumble) at 8.3%.  They were #1 in touchdown percentage (% of drives ending in a TD) at 35.4%.  And they were 9th best in interception percentage (% of drives ending in an INT) at 6.3%.

Now, let’s add last week’s game (where Rodgers was injured and where his backup came in and finished the game, in other words, use games 1 through 6 instead of 1 through 5 as above) to the stats.  Scoring percentage drops from 6th to 10th.  Turnover percentage drops from 7th to 16th.  Touchdown percentage drops from 1st to, well, 1st (unchanged).  And interception percentage drops from 9th to 24th.  These are some big dropoffs, especially considering he was only gone for part of a single game out of a six-game schedule.

Brett Hundley, Rodgers’ backup, came into the game after Rodgers’ injury.  He completed 19 of 34 passes (55.9%) for 1 TD and 3 INT’s for a dismal passer rating of 40.9.  Rodgers’ stats on the year: 66.3%, 13 TD’s, 3 INT’s, passer rating of 103.2.  How do you spell dropoff?  1 word or 2?  I’m not sure on the spelling, but I know no matter how good Hundley turns out to be, he’s not going to be much better than Aaron Rodgers, and in all probability, not nearly as good.

In Hundley’s defense, some of those INT’s happened as he was getting hit while in the act of throwing the ball, or so I’m told.  (I didn’t see that game.)  He also obviously wasn’t expecting to play and didn’t get the reps that week in practice.  He’ll get the reps this week, and furthermore, they’ll probably tailor the game plan to his unique skillset, playing to his advantages and masking his deficiencies as much as they can.

One concern I have as a Saints fan is the Saints defense hasn’t really been tested this year by a mobile quarterback.  Bradford isn’t a scramble.  Brady isn’t a scrambler.  Cam wasn’t scrambling as much at the time because of his shoulder injury (but I think he’s reverting the Cam of old since that game).  Cutler isn’t a scrambler.  Stafford was limited with his ankle and hamstring injuries, and so didn’t scramble much last week.  So the Saints haven’t faced a quarterback that can take off and pick up first downs with his legs, not like they’ll probably face this week with Hundley.  They’ll need to try keep him in the pocket and force him to try to beat them with his arm.

Don’t look now, but if the season ended today the New Orleans Saints would be in the playoffs as the #6 seed in the NFC.  Quite the comeback for the Saints after a disastrous start to the season.  The reason the Saints would be the #6 seed is because even though they’re tied with ATL, WAS, and SEA at all 3-2, the Saints would win out on the tie-breakers.  Too complicated to get into and it’s moot anyway since the season won’t end today, but it’s nice to know the team is in solid position to make a run at a #2Dat.

Let’s go ahead and review a few stats as of Monday afternoon prior to the Monday Night game.  Saints are currently 5th in passing yards per game at 258.4.  Brees’ passer rating is 103.2 (4th best).  He has 10 TD’s against just 2 INT’s.  Rushing offense is 14th at 113.8 yards per game, and tied for 6th best at 4.4 yards per attempt.  Rushing offense is 6th best in terms of‘s EXP ratings.  Passing offense is 8th best in the EXP rating.

Now, let’s look at the per-drive numbers.  Offense is #4 at 2.34 points per drive, #4 in scoring percentage at 45.3% of all drives ending in some kind of score, and #3 in turnover percentage at 5.7% of all drives ending in turnovers (either fumble or INT).  Defense is tied for 16th best with 1.89 points per drive allowed, #20 at 36.4% of opposing drives ending in some type of score, and #5 in turnover % with 16.4% of opposing drives ending in a turnover.  That’s a top 5 offense and a middle of the road, yet opportunistic defense, a known recipe for success (see 2009 season).

If we take out the garbage, so to speak, by looking *only* at the first 3 quarters, here’s how it looks.  Offense is #6 in scoring percentage (48.6% of drives ending in a score of some kind, whether TD or FG), #4 in turnover percentage, and #3 in yards/drive.  Defense is #29 in scoring percentage (45.9% of opposing drives end in a score), #10 in turnover percentage (13.5%), and #30 in yards/drive allowed (38.7).  (These stats ignore 4th quarter and OT because that’s often when you have garbage time stats.  But that’s also the time when games are won or lost, so they’re not to be taken too seriously, just another view into the matter.)

One final stat I’d like to look at is one of the most underrated and yet most important defensive stats: opponent passer rating.  It’s a passing league, and your defense is only as good as it is at defending against the pass.  Saints opponents’ passer rating is 90.2, 18th best.  That’s not great, but it’s not bad, either.  We just need the Saints to be “okay” on defense, not necessary for them to be world beaters.  Get this: Saints have allowed 9 passing TD’s while collecting 7 INT’s.  That’s an awesome defensive stat in 2017.

Saints are the 3rd best team in the NFC, at least according to one statistical, points-based way of looking at it.  I’m talking about the SRS (Simple Ratings System), as seen at

Overview of SRS

So, what exactly is SRS?  Good question.  The SRS rankings are based entirely on points scored and points allowed.  It ignores win/loss records, yardage stats, turnover stats, etc.  It begins with MoV (margin of victory).  MoV is simply (points scored – points allowed) / games played.  Let’s say a team scored 100 points and allowed 91 points in 3 games played.  The team would then be +9 in point differential (100 – 91 = 9).  If we divide the point differential (9) by the number of games played (3) we get an MoV of +3.  The team has outscored its opponents by an average of 3 points per game, another way of putting it.  (100-91)/3 = 3, simple enough to figure out MoV for any team.  Saints currently have MoV = 3.8, which is points scored (93) – points allowed (78) divided by games played (4): (93-78)/4 = (15)/4 = 3.75, rounds to 3.8.

While MoV is very straightforward and simple to understand, SRS is more complicated (despite the “simple” in the name).  SRS = MoV + SoS.  In other words, a team’s rating is based on its margin of victory combined with its strength of schedule.  If we only used MoV, we’d be ignoring the quality of the opponents.  So, in order to build up the complete SRS for each team we need to know not only the MoV for each team, but also the SoS for each.  SoS would be the average SRS rating of a team’s opponents.  Problem is, we don’t know the SRS before we know the SoS because SRS = MoV + SoS, and we don’t know SoS until we know the SRS for each team because SoS is the average SRS of each opponent.  We have this weird strange loop self-referencing thing going on with this.   SRS depends on SoS, which depends on SRS.

More than you really want to know about SRS

So, how do you get around this self-reference problem?  One way is to do it in iterations, beginning with some assumed value (example: begin the first iteration with the assumption MoV = SRS).  So, the first pass through you calculate each team’s SRS as it’s MoV (known) + its SoS (assumed to be opponents’ average MoV).  After that first pass all of the teams’ SRS’s will have changed (except for any that might have played a neutral strength of schedule where all its opponents MoV’s averaged to 0).  So, we do another pass, this time using MoV + (average SRS of each opponent — as opposed to average MoV for each opponent).  After this pass, the numbers have all changed again, but by a lesser amount.  We keep going through these iterations until the SRS numbers stabilize and stop changing (at least stop changing to some digit somewhere off the right of the decimal).  Typically, this might take a few hundred iterations to reach a desired level of stability (example, no SRS value changed more than 0.000001), but it’s child’s play for a modern computer using a good spreadsheet program, such as Excel or with a computer program written specifically for this purpose.

I once wrote and maintained a Java Applet (NFLPicker, now defunct) that attempted to handicap NFL games against the point spread.  I used something very similar to SRS in that applet.  I took average MoV for each team, then added average Mov of each of its opponents, and then added to that the average MoV of all the opponent’ opponents.  I don’t remember the exact weighting I gave to each, but I know MoV was most important, followed by opponents’ average MoV, followed by opponents’ opponents’ average MoV.  I reasoned if you keep going far enough eventually everybody played everybody and all the average opponents’ opponents’ opponents’ opponents’ MoV’s would average to 0, so I stopped at that 3rd level deep.  (By the way, NFLPicker was not very good at making predictions.)

Save yourself a headache and skip right down to here

Okay, so, in a nutshell, SRS = MoV + SoS.  Simple enough, it’s the (MoV) margin of victory adjusted by the (SoS) strength of schedule, which said SoS is merely the average SRS of each of the team’s opponents.  Pfref gives us OSRS and DSRS in addition to SRS, MoV, and SoS numbers.  Here, OSRS is simply offensive SRS and DSRS is simply DSRS.  So, these values focus on a team’s offensive output (points scored for OSRS) and defensive output (points allowed with DSRS).  One final formula before we look at the rankings: SRS = MoV + SoS = OSRS + DSRS.

Problems with SRS

No ranking system is perfect, and SRS certainly has its own flaws.  First of all, it doesn’t take into consideration things that are really important.  For example, it doesn’t look at win/loss records.  It treats a 30 point win and a 2 point loss (+28 net total) the same as 2 14-point wins (+28 net total).  I don’t know about you, but I’d rather win 2 games by 14 points each than win 1 by 30 and lose 1 by 2.  It doesn’t take into account garbage time scores.  In week 1 the Vikings had a comfortable lead late in the game, so they basically let the Saints march down the field and get a meaningless touchdown.  But that meaningless touchdown counts as part of the Saints’ SRS all the same.  It doesn’t take into account some fluke scores.  Take for example, the Monday night game where Washington has to try a very risky multiple lateral play, the ball is fumbled (almost inevitably on those type plays), and is picked up and run in for a meaningless (for the purposes of who won the game, not so meaningless for gamblers) score.  If it’s a tie game before that play, no way Washington tries it.  They probably take a knee or just do a standard hand off and play for OT.

Saints SRS ranking

Okay, I know I haven’t been very succinct and most of you reading this are actually no longer reading this, so here is how the Saints rank using this system.

Saints are 3rd in the NFC with SRS = +7.5
Saints are 5th in the NFC in MoV = +3.8
Saints are 4th in the NFC with SoS = +3.8
Saints are 4th in the NFC with OSRS = +5.2
Saints are 5th in the NFC with DSRS = +2.3


Does this mean the Saints really are the 3rd best team in the NFC?  Probably not.  We’ll have to wait and see whether the Dr. Jeckyll defense of weeks 1 and 2 shows up or the Mr. Hyde defense of weeks 3 and 4 shows up the rest of the way.  Still, even though the SRS system is not without its problems, it does give us a fairly simple (in a complex form of simplicity) to come up with an *objective* method of ranking teams.  Some of the issues with SRS can be addressed, for example, by awarding +3 points bonus for each win and -3 penalty for each loss, which would factor in the win/loss records.  You could also cap the blowout wins such that even if a team won by 30, it only gets credit for a +10 win (and -30 blowout losses only count as -10 losses).  Lots of things you can do to address deficiencies in the system, but each one adds subjectivity (how many points should a win be worth?) and certainly complicates the process even more.  I guess that’s why they call it simple.

Getting back to football here at the MMB, let’s take a look at a few stats of interest 4 weeks into 2017.

Per-drive stats

I always like to look at per-drive stats because it helps isolate offenses from the effect their defenses have on them and vice-versa.  For example, if an offense runs the ball a lot it shortens the game and limits the number of drives the defense has to defend, which makes their per-game numbers look very good even if their per-drive numbers are not so good.  Similarly, if the defense is so bad it keeps letting teams go on long drives against it, the offense might get fewer possessions and thus put up per-game numbers that do not necessarily reflect the quality of the offense.

Offensively, the Saints are 4th best in per-drive scoring at 2.51 points per drive.  Defensively, the Saints are 7th worst at 2.11 points allowed per drive.  Good news here is they are outscoring the opponents by 0.4 points per drive.  Further good news is the defense is playing much better in the last 2 games than it was in the first 2 games, so perhaps the trend will continue upwards.

In terms of scoring percentage (percentage of drives ending in a score of any type — whether TD or FG) the offense is 2nd best at 51.4% and 1 of only 3 teams better than 50% in this category.  League average is just 35.5%.  Defensively, Saints are 28th at 42.1%.  (Goes to show how atrocious they were in the first 2 games when even coming off a shutout win they are still 28th.)

In turnover percentage (percentage of drives that end in a turnover of any type — whether INT or fumble) the Saints offensively are tops in the league at 0%, and are the only team in the league yet to commit their first turnover.  That’s going to win you a lot of games in the NFL if you can keep that up.  Defensively, Saints are 14th best with opponents’ drives ending in turnovers 10.5% of the time.  League average is 10.5%, so the Saints D is average at this point when it comes to forcing turnovers.  I’ll take average with this defense and be a happy camper.

Taking out the garbage

Note: all information here is from and excludes all kneel down drives.

Filtering out all drives that start or end in the 4th quarter and *only* looking at drives that start and end in the first 3 quarters allows us to eliminate garbage time stats (or at least most of them) from the rankings.  Garbage time stats can definitely skew the rankings, and we don’t want that.  (But caveat: this elimination of 4th quarter drives also eliminates a lot of key drives in the most meaningful game situations, so it’s far from the be-all end-all of ways to look at this.)

Using only first 3 quarters, the Saints offensively are 9th best (46.2%) in scoring percentage, meaning 46.2% of their drives in the first 3 quarters end in a score of some sort.  League average is 37.3%.  Defensively, Saints are 3rd worst at 50%.  Saints are down by 2.8 on the average drive when the offense gets the ball, down by 1.2 on average when the defense takes the field.

Turnover percentage for the offense is still tops, of course, with 0% (Jets, surprisingly also have 0 turnovers in the first 3 quarters of games).  Defense is 21st with 7.7% of opposing teams’ drives ending in a turnover.


Offense is 4th best in points per drive, 2nd best in scoring percentage, 1st in turnover percentage.  Excluding garbage time: 9th best in scoring percentage, 1st in turnover percentage.  Defense is 7th *worst* in points allowed per drive, 28th in scoring percentage, and 14th best in forced turnover percentage.  Excluding garbage time, defense is 3rd *worst* in scoring percentage and 21st in turnover forcing percentage.

The NFL has fined Odell Beckham, Jr. $12,154 for his pee-like-a-big-dog celebration.  Where is the ACLU (American Canine Liberties Union)?  The NFL refuses to allow its players their freedom of speech protected under the First Amendment to the US Constitution and I’m sick and tired of these blatant abuses of said freedom.  This is America, damn it!

Could be the NFL deemed OBJ’s actions to be offensive to some, and perhaps they are, but that’s no excuse for censuring that man’s freedom of speech and self-expression.  I showed my dog the video and asked him what he thought about it.  My dog isn’t big on words (really only knows one), and all he said was “rough”.  I think he meant it was a rough life being a dog, but I’m not really sure.  He soon lost interest in the conversation and started scratching at a flea or something.  I let him outside just in case OBJ had inspired him.  He was wagging his tail though, which usually means he’s in good humor, so I conclude he *was not offended* by OBJ’s antics.  Therefore, since my dog was not offended, I conclude *no other dog* has any right to be offended, either.

Just in case anybody missed it, the above was my poor attempt at satire.  The NFL has chosen to hide behind the First Amendment in refusing to require their players to stand for the national anthem or face discipline.  The First Amendment is a *restriction* on the power of the *government*.  It does not apply here, not to a private company.  Just as the NFL has the right to (and does, as illustrated in the example above) discipline its players for what it deems improper conduct even though that conduct would be defensible in a criminal court as protected free speech under our great Constitution.  Do not confuse *freedom of speech* with a *right to be published.*  The players *do not* have a constitutional right to force the NFL to provide them with a platform from which to espouse their political beliefs and ideologies.  The NFL’s decision to sit on the fence and hide behind the First Amendment is *purely* a *public relations* move, and nothing to do with *morality*.

In the NFL’s defense, they’re stuck in the middle of something they didn’t start.  They’re actually getting boycotted *from both sides* of the political spectrum.  There are those boycotting for Kaepernick not having a job and there are those boycotting because the players are disrespecting the country.  When you’re taking heat from both sides, at least you know you’re a centrist.  The NFL’s PR strategy was working, this was blowing over, there weren’t *that many* players involved, but then Trump entered the fray.  It’s gonna be hard for the NFL to sit on the fence with Trump shaking it.  But we’ll see what happens.  I very much doubt the NFL will change its stance.  It’ll just have to try to weather the storm best it can and work behind the scenes to try to tend this PR *disaster* they’re faced with.  My guess is there will be some sort of compromise that involves all players standing for the anthem.  There will be those who don’t like the compromise, but there will be those who don’t like it no matter what happens.  For me personally, I just want to *get back to football* and put all these protests to bed.  They are *ruining* my enjoyment of what has always been (at least for me) an entertaining product.


I could go on and give my take on these protests and the validity (or lack thereof) of the underlying social concerns, but I choose not to at this time in this place.  I try to keep this blog about *football* only, but since football players have decided to bring politics into football, well, there you have it, my little soiree into politics here.  Trust me, I have some strong views (and I think I could make a very strong case in support of my strong views), but this, much like the football field during the playing of the national anthem, really isn’t the proper forum for political discussions.  People follow this blog because they like football, and I intend to *stick to football* in future posts.  This is *probably* the only political post you’ll see from me, at least here on the Mean Mark blog.   Saints have a key game coming up with a chance to get back to .500.  I’m hoping they can come away with a big victory and not embarrass our country in the process.

The Saints are off to play their game in London, so I thought I would ponder on the logistics of having a team permanently in London.  Were this a kingdom and I the king (and if I thought it would help fill my royal coffers by putting a team in London) here’s how I might go about it.

I would have a team that represented 2 cities.  For example, I would have the Jacksonville/London Jaguars (or some other team, doesn’t have to be Jacksonville).  They’d play 4 home games in London and 4 home games in Jacksonville.  This would accomplish 2 goals: 1) the other 31 teams would only need to go to London on average 1 time every 7.75 years, so it’s really not that big a burden; and 2) we could minimize the London trips for the Jacksonville (or whoever goes) team to just 1 or maybe 2 road trips a year.  They could play 2 home games in a row in London early in the season, and then make another 2-game road trip later in the season.  The rest of the time the team would be based out of Jacksonville.

The schedule would be something like this: NFC teams would play 1 time in London every 8 years.  We just take the 2 NFC teams that already play in Jacksonville every year and use those as 2 of the 4 London games.  That works out to 1 trip per every 8 years for NFC teams.  Jacksonville also plays every division opponent at home 3 times a year, so if we rotate 1 of those games every other year, division opponents would only need to go to London 1 time per every 6 years.  In years a division opponent goes to London, we only need 1 other AFC team to go, which can be 1 of the division matchup opponents (example, 1 of the 2 AFC East home game teams in years the AFC South plays the AFC East), in other years where no division opponent goes we just take the 2 division matchup opponents.  The division opponents would then go 1 time every 6 years and the division matchup opponents would go either 1 time in 6 years or 1 time in 12 years, depending on the cycle, but the average would be 1 time every 8 years.

It breaks down like this: NFC teams 1 trip to London every 8 years.  Inside division AFC teams (Tennessee, Houston, and Indy) go 1 time every 6 years.  Outside division AFC teams (the other 12 teams) go either 1 time every 6 or 1 time every 12 years (1 every 8 years on average).  Nobody ever has to go more often than 1 time in any 6 year period.  The advantage to this is teams and their fans can plan for a London trip years in advance.  Saints fans, for example, could know as much as 8 years in advance when the next London trip would be coming up, the year of it if not the exact date.

Playoff games would complicate it somewhat.  I could just decree that all playoff games are played in Jacksonville (I’m king, remember) or I could decree odd year playoff home games are played in Jacksonville, while even year playoff home games are played in London.  Alternatively, the next time you get a home game (or games) you play them in Jacksonville, and after that the next time you get home playoff games you play them in London that year.  The problem with playoff games in London is now you’ve upset the nice little equitable (or semi-equitable) rotation apple cart.  Easy enough fix: if you don’t want to have to go play playoff games in London, win enough games to get the better seed.



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