We are now halfway through the NFL season and have another juicy slate of sad stats to fuel this weekly blog. Just when we all thought the Denver Broncos were going to gallop away as the league's biggest catastrophe of the year the Colts stepped out of the stable neighing to the Broncos to hold their feeding trough. It's been a tough year for NFL fans who are members of the horse community. Let's see who failed getting out of the gates this week:
Sad Stat #1: The Indianapolis Colts are actually NOT in the "upper quartile of the upper quartile" of NFL wins since 2000 as Jim Irsay claimed
First things first. To my knowledge there was only one person to call their shot on Frank Reich getting fired Monday and that one person was me:
If you haven't listened to Jim Irsay's press conference introducing interim head coach Jeff "I'm Glad He Doesn't Have NFL Experience" Saturday it starts at about 7:46 and is highly worth your time. I counted 10 "umms" in the first 15 seconds making it crystal clear he had absolutely no idea what words are about to exit his mouth.
I haven't been this entertained by a Colts presser since Jim Mora as Irsay dropped several nuggets of gold beautifully covered by John Rich. But let's review some stats that may have played a hand in this decision. You could say things were a tad stagnant for the Colts offense on Sunday. They went 0-14 on third down which led to two fourth down attempts that both failed. Probably could have improved in overall offensive efficiency a bit too:
This all leads us to the titled sad stat. Irsay was well aware how bad the stats looked so he must have grabbed a cocktail napkin and pen late Sunday night to craft the following analytics counter:
"Look, we're 4th winningest franchise in the league since 2000. Alright. That means in the upper quartile of winners, we're in the upper quartile of that upper quartile. That's rare air"
The irony here is that Irsay spouted this analytics gem in the same presser he bashed analytics as being something desperate teams use. Sure seemed to have proved his point on that at least. But the fact that this stat isn't even accurate is what makes this an all-time first ballot hall of fame football guy quote. Let's say he's right that the Colts are 4th. 4/32 would make the eight teams in the upper quartile - but would only be middle of the pack of that upper quartile.
What say you to that Jim?
"I don't know how to make sausage. I don't know what goes into sausage"
Sad Stat #2: Aaron Rodgers is 0-6 on "Fall Back" Sundays since 2012
The Packers themselves are 0-8 and 0-9 if you count the Monday Night after Fall Back Sunday in 2017. I'm not sure what the issue is here for Rodgers but something about that extra hour of sleep is clearly affecting him. Maybe it's throwing off his ayahuasca schedule. Or maybe it's because he's not disciplined enough to have a schedule. One of the most successful quarterbacks on "Fall Back" Sunday I found was Drew Brees (9-1). I can't think of anyone more cookie cutter goody-too-shoes than that.
Sad Stat #3: Opponents of the Panthers and 49ers are 0-14 the following week
And it's 0-15 if you include following a bye. I could see teams mis-calibrating what an actual NFL opponent's skill level is after playing the Panthers and getting caught off guard, but the 49ers are pretty good, so I'm not sure what explains for that.
Week 11 will be the true test to see if there's some voodoo going on here. The 49ers were on bye in Week 9, and they play the Chargers in Week 10. The Panthers play the Falcons in Week 10, and their last opponent (Bengals) on are bye this week. So if fate says every team loses their next game after playing the Panthers and 49ers, a Week 11 moneyline with the following three teams could score big:
1. Bears (vs Falcons)
2. Steelers (vs Bengals)
3. Chiefs (vs Chargers)
Sad Stat #4: The Tennessee Titans are the only team to have zero completions to wide receivers in a game this year
This was a heroic effort by Malik Willis in finishing a game with zero completions to a wide receiver after coming so close in Week 8 with just two wide receiver completions. You shouldn't laugh at Willis for this though because not completing passes to a wide receiver is actually a untapped analytics move as catch-less wide receiver teams were 2-1 and the last team to complete this feat was the victorious Patriots vs the Bills last year:
The shame of this is that the Titans would have won had Travis Kelce been called for his blatant assault mid-play on the two point attempt OR if the refs simply didn't call a penalty on the defender for having his helmet literally ripped off his face by Kelce. The Titans would have won the game and improved this shrewd analytics strategy to 3-1 in the last couple decades and change.
Sad Stat #5: The Jets kicked the shortest non-onsides kickoff in my data and probably ever at 20 yards
You might not like it, but this is what winning NFL team opening kickoffs look like.
Braden Mann threw a big wrench in both team's game plans with this gorgeous changeup to start the game. This threw all the prior week's preparation out the window paving the way for the Jets to pull off the upset.
Below is a histogram showing how many NFL opening game kickoffs since 1999 traveled at every distance in yards excluding surprise onside kicks and touchbacks. At first you might think there's just a bunch of dead space on the left, but look closely - that 20-yard beaut is there.
Mann. That's tough.
What a fantastic week of sad stats. I've been writing this weekly blog every week of the season and can confidently say this is one of my favorite sad stat blogs yet. If it's not the best, it's definitely in the upper quartile of the upper quartile.