Thursday, November 3, 2011

COLD HARD FOOTBALL FACTS - REALLY?

http://www.coldhardfootballfacts.com/Articles/11_4546_CHFF_Super_Study%3A_Which_QBs_Decline_After_Seven_Games%3F.html

A friend of mine at work turned me on to this website today, asking me if I used it for any of my research.  So I checked out this article as my first read.  Could someone really determine which QB will decline for the second half of the season?  Premise is interesting enough.

First off, let me state, the guy did a lot of research, and that's to his credit.  I don't want to bag on the work he did.  I have to admit I have grown to love statistics and admire statisticians.  But I'm also wary of them.

An article like this is a reason why.  In a nutshell, if you break the article down, what knowledge can you take from this to help your fantasy team?  Almost nothing.

First, QB rating is one of the worst statistics ever created.  Why?  Because it takes all passing events and places the result on the quarterback when he is responsible for maybe 55% of the outcome.  I'll skew it to the QB because he has the actual decision of whom and where he chooses to throw.  However, dropped balls figure into a QB's rating.  If the wide receiver tips a perfectly placed pass into his opponent for an interception, the QB's rating suffers.  If a QB decides to willfully throw a ball out of bounds, his QB rating goes down, even if that was a smart decision.  So QB rating decline, as a measure of the quarterback is already dubious.

So let's go to YPA or yards per attempt.  Notice any pattern in the majority of quarterbacks who have little, no decline or an increase in their YPA over the last nine games (abbreviated L9 in the charts)?  What about completion percentage?  Some of those include names you'd expect:  Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Tom Brady.  Then there are others that are puzzling:  Mark Brunell, Matt Ryan, David Gerrard and Jake Delhomme.  Well except for Brady, all of those quarterbacks played generally in domes or warm weather climates.  Now, in general I think weather is overrated in people making decisions.  The only time it truly affects the game is in a huge storm or perhaps the swirling winds of Buffalo's Rich Stadium.  However, cold does factor on fatigue, and I'll give a little leeway toward that. 

Second, what does it tell you when QBs like Philip Rivers increase his completion percentage by .21 but decreases his YPA by -0.36?  If anything, that inverse relationship would appear to be correct -- the shorter the pass, the better chance of the completion.

Lastly besides the QBs mentioned above, what do you take from the anomalies like Joe Flacco, Matt Hasselbeck, Alex Smith and Kerry Collins?  Are you supposed to make a deal now for one of these four QBs for the last nine games of the season?  Of course not.  And I don't think that Scott Kacsmar would recommend you do that either.

None of this takes into account the particular quarterback's schedule that year i.e. how many games were against shoddy opponents, in warm weather or dome stadiums, takes into account the actual offense the QB is charged with running (i.e. does his team run 60 percent of the time or are they a no-huddle West Coast offense like the Patriots run) and so many other factors as to make the premise of the article on the basis of the research done impossible to deliver a viable conclusion.  Let's not even get into the discussion as to whether Eli has played in what has arguably been the most competitive football division for the last four years, maybe longer. 

Eli Manning has managed 4,000 yards passing the past two seasons and is on his way to a third.  His receiving weapons have improved every year, but this year his running game has been subpar due to injury and the losses of center Shaun O'Hara and Rich Seubert.  They're at the league averages on passing and rushing attempts.  Is this going to be a year where Eli Manning's 102.1 QB rating declines in the last nine games.  One would have to say it's possible considering the Giants have one of the most difficult schedules left of any NFL team.  The teams they face are a combined 36-21 and entail games at New England, San Francisco, New Orleans, Dallas and the New York Jets.  The home schedule is just as brutal as they host Green Bay, Philly, Dallas and Washington.  However, it's just as possible it rises as only three of those teams boast pass defenses in the Top 15 currently. 

In the end, I'm holding on to Eli Manning.  Losing Ahmad Bradshaw won't help the team's cause overall, nor likely help his completion percentage as he's going to have to throw more often for his team to be successful.  Fortunately, he's up against some terrible defenses, and as long as he's not in a blinding rain or snowstorm, in my opinion his chance to remain a top five fantasy QB are very very strong.