New 3CD: Art of Baylor

•2013/11/18 • Leave a Comment

It’s up on Football Outsiders now:

Baylor’s starting quarterback checked out with 6:34 to play in the game, 63 points in hand. The Bears got off to a horrendous start, and were down 20-7 late in the first quarter. Two of Baylor’s three players with over 800 yards from scrimmage on the season, Lache Seastrunk and Tevin Reese, didn’t play. Their top receiver, Antwan Goodley, had 101 yards and a touchdown and it felt like he left about 150 more on the field. They committed 12 penalties for 108 yards. None of it really came close to mattering.

I took this in, live and in person, at Jerryworld in Dallas. (I resisted, for the most part, the urge to watch the gigantic TV screen in front of my face rather than the game itself.) What I saw was the exhausting, inexorable march of football being dragged into the future by Art Briles.

Read the whole thing here.


New ESPN Insider Piece: The Jets and The Sixth Seed

•2013/11/18 • 1 Comment

It’s (been) up on ESPN ($) for awhile. My apologies for not linking it earlier.

As weird as it would have sounded at the beginning of the season, the New York Jets are in the driver’s seat for the last wild-card berth in the AFC.

Yes, that’s a statement that is stripped of the depressing context that there isn’t really a worthy sixth playoff team in the AFC this year — but it still rings true. Through 10 weeks, the Jets are the only AFC team that isn’t the Denver Broncos or a division leader to be over .500. And their closest competitors for the final spot, the Miami Dolphins, have plenty of issues on the field and off.

But can the Jets hold on and secure the AFC’s final wild-card spot?

Read the whole thing here, if you are an ESPN insider.

New 3CD: On Third-and-Long Play Calls and Anthony Castonzo

•2013/11/11 • 1 Comment

It’s up on Football Outsiders.

So we said last week that coaches were trading about 20 percent of their success rate on roughly 25 percent of third-and-longs to go conservative. After looking at the upsides of conservative coaching, what they are receiving in exchange is less downs with a replacement-level sack rate (about 2.4 percent difference) and about an 0.5 percent less chance of throwing a pick.

Yes, I’m aware that some of this can be chalked up to game theory. I’m also aware that some of this conservative coaching is coming in field position areas where gaining a few yards can set up a long field-goal attempt rather than a short punt or a fourth-down decision

Still, I can’t help but feel like some coaches are sacrificing a few too many third-and-longs to conservative thinking. There are specific instances where it may make more sense — immobile quarterback, leaky offensive line — but even if we say the Adjusted Sack Rate should hit 20 percent on those sorts of plays, it’s a stretch to say that it’s not smarter to throw the ball past the sticks.

Read the whole thing here.

New ESPN Insider Piece: Biggest Weaknesses For Contenders

•2013/11/11 • Leave a Comment

It’s up on ESPN ($) now:

At this point in the season, no one is surprised that the Seattle Seahawks’ defense is dominant (except against Mike Glennon, of course) and no one is expecting the Jacksonville Jaguars to make a miraculous playoff run.

But even contenders like the Seahawks aren’t without problems. We’ve previously examined a potential problem area for the Bengals, but let’s take a look at the biggest weakness for the other top contenders in the AFC and the NFC and how each team can solve the issue before the playoffs.

Read the whole thing here if you have ESPN Insider.

New 3CD: Third-and-Long Play Calling and Writing For Free

•2013/11/04 • Leave a Comment

It’s up on Football Outsiders:

If we know one thing about NFL coaches though, it’s that they aren’t exactly acting on rational game theory at all times. If the fourth-down revolution actually is over, as Mike Tanier declared, maybe this can be the new front. As a fan of a team that ran nearly nine percent of all third-and-long run plays last season, I can tell you that conservatism is not an uncommon theme in these situations. Teams often do decide that playing it safe is the best course of action.

I decided to dig into our 2012 charting database (we haven’t put together 2013 yet) to have a look at how often this happens, and try to project exactly what some certain coaches are protecting against.

Read the whole thing here.

New ESPN Insider Piece: How the 49ers Weathered Their Poor Start

•2013/10/29 • Leave a Comment

It’s up on ESPN ($) now.

After stringing together a pair of ugly losses to Seattle and Indianapolis early in the season — both in prime time, where their flaws were plainly evident to the tune of a combined 56-7 score — the 49ers were forced off the NFC contenders short list. New Orleans replaced them, next to Green Bay and Seattle, and the 49ers settled into the NFC’s second tier for a period. Five weeks later, following five straight 30-point outbursts, the 49ers still trail the Seahawks by just one game. And in terms of overall performance, they’re closing fast on their NFC West rivals.

Colin Kaepernick, roundly critiqued for poor showings against Seattle and Indianapolis, has a higher passing DVOA than Russell Wilson. (DVOA is Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average metric, explained here.) The 49ers have the fifth-easiest remaining schedule according to our numbers. And help is on the way. For the defending NFC champions, the best could be yet to come.

Read the whole thing here, if you’re a subscriber. If you’re not a subscriber, keep an eye on SlickDeals — it’s often not hard to get a full year for $5-$10. (Though currently this is the best deal I found, and it only knocks it down to about $20.)

New 3CD: On Sam Bradford’s Future and the Bryant McKinnie Trade

•2013/10/28 • 1 Comment

It’s up on Football Outsiders.

But just when you want to give up on Bradford, he makes a throw like he did in the third quarter of St. Louis’ Week 6 game against Houston. It was second-and-12, and the Rams were up 11 on the fringes of field-goal territory at the Houston 41 with 9:02 left in the quarter. The Rams ran play-action to try to give Bradford a clean pocket. The Texans rushed five, and the Rams had Zac Stacy stay in and block.

The only problem with that plan is that Stacy is not much of a blocker yet. In fact, while fanning out to the left to pick up Brooks Reed, Jake Long actually trips on Stacy, giving the pass rusher a free path to Bradford. Bradford wants Jared Cook for the entirety of this route, and he throws with anticipation on the cut towards the sideline, releasing the ball before Cook makes the cut. The ball releases, Reed bangs in to Bradford almost instantly afterwards, and the pass is an absolute strike that hits Cook right in the hands. Shiloh Keo had pretty solid coverage on this throw, but the end result was a 34-yard gain because the throw beat Keo to the outside. A few plays later, the Rams would score a touchdown on a quick slant to Brian Quick, get a gift special-teams touchdown, and the route was on.

Check out the whole thing here, and tune into Football Outsiders every Sunday morning for the column.


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