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NFL Analytics Survey Results: The Browns, Ravens, Eagles Are Geniuses. The Steelers And Lions Are Cavemen. Russell Wilson And TJ Watt Actually Suck

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ESPN released their annual NFL analytics survey and the results are clear: The Cleveland Browns lose more intelligently than anyone in the league. Congrats to all involved.

Which NFL team is the most analytically advanced?

1. Cleveland Browns (10)

2. Baltimore Ravens (4)

3. Philadelphia Eagles (3)

T-4. Atlanta Falcons (1)

T-4. Buffalo Bills (1)

T-4. Houston Texans (1)

T-4. Minnesota Vikings (1)

Analytics are a hot button issue in Cleveland as they are around any team that loses. Chargers head coach Brandon Staley unsuccessfully went for it on 4th down the most in the league in 2021. He has since throttled that aggression amid a shit storm of media scrutiny. When the team is winning no one cares how much input the nerds have. When you're losing sports talk radio callers are lined up to give them verbal wedgies. That's just the way it goes.

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Analytics are just a tool that every business uses to help them make intelligent decisions. The word sounds scary for people who struggled with Algebra in high school but it really isn't the data-driven boogie man that fans want to make it out to be.

Every team in the NFL uses analytics to some degree and Bill Belichick was reportedly one of the first to apply them to weekly game plans. And the results pretty much check out.

Besides the underachieving Browns (5-7 but just got Deshaun Watson back) and the Texans (1-10-1 but tanking for a rebuild) the rest of that list has a combined record of 43-18. Even with those two teams included the combined record is still 49-35-1. 

And it's no surprise that Buffalo, Philly, and Baltimore are three of the top four teams in the NFL in total DVOA.

Now let's look at the least analytically driven teams in the league.

Tennessee Titans (7), Washington Commanders (5), Chicago Bears (2), New Orleans Saints (2), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2), Detroit Lions (1), Pittsburgh Steelers (1)

Those teams have a combined record of 37-49 and none of them appear to be actively tanking except maybe the Bears. But to be fair, it's really hard to tell the difference between when the Bears are trying and when they are tanking. 

Analytics aren't the wave of the future they are the way of the present. The best teams use data as a weapon. They pair those raw numbers with highly intelligent football acumen and the result is a few extra percent chance of victory. Which many weeks in the NFL, is the difference between a win and a loss. 

And for those dorks who think being a "football guy" doesn't matter and you should never "trust your gut", how about the fact that even the analytics departments agree that momentum during football games is real. 

Does momentum exist within an NFL game?

Yes (15)No (5)

One voter abstained.

Analytically inclined people have often dismissed the idea of momentum, so it was surprising to see three-quarters of respondents believe in its existence.

"I am aware that I have no way to prove it," said a veteran analytics staffer who voted yes. "I've built the win probability models, when you look back at how you got to a spot it doesn't matter at all, I'm aware of all that. It's kind of like me taking off my statistician hat, putting on my football hat, I feel like you can feel it. 

"Just because we can't measure it, or we aren't capable of measuring it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist."

Suck on that, nerds. It still takes a football mind to know when to lean on analytics and when to ignore them. Aka trusting your gut. Just because the numbers say go for it on a certain fourth down situation, doesn't mean they take into account injuries, momentum in the game, or the fact your offensive line has been getting its ass kicked all afternoon long.

Momentum is like porn: It's hard to verbalize exactly what it is, we just know it when we see it, and in the end someone is almost always getting fucked. 

The place where analytics have made their greatest impact is in player evaluation. A front office can narrow down a field of college players before they even start watching film just by using certain guardrails. These give them the greatest shot at hitting on a draft pick and not taking someone like, oh I don't know, Baker Mayfield 1st overall. 

The same thing is done when evaluating players in free agency. Since you are always trying to pay players for future production instead of past accomplishments, it's important filter out what is valuable production and what is fluff. Aka who is overrated and who is underrated.

Name a player you believe to be generally underrated, based on your quantitatively informed opinion.

Excluding players from your own team.

Vikings QB Kirk Cousins (2), Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett (2), Titans DT Jeffery Simmons (2), Cowboys P Bryan Anger, Patriots WR Kendrick Bourne, Chargers CB Bryce Callahan, Jets TE Tyler Conklin, Bills OT Dion Dawkins, Broncos WR Tim Patrick, Vikings DE Harrison Phillips, Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, Falcons CB A.J. Terrell, Seahawks CB Tariq Woolen

Kirk Cousins underrated? Someone check on Big Cat. It's also kind of insane that a punter was near the top of this list. Makes me think the analytics dweebs just saw a guy who looked like them and decided to throw him a vote. 

Bet you cant figure out which one of these guys is the punter.

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Name a player you believe to be generally overrated, based on your quantitatively informed opinion.

Excluding players from your own team.

Cowboys CB Trevon Diggs (2), Broncos QB Russell Wilson (2), Raiders QB Derek Carr, Cardinals RB James Conner, Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott, Steelers S Minkah Fitzpatrick, Titans RB Derrick Henry, Chargers S Derwin James Jr., Texans QB Davis Mills, Colts G Quenton Nelson, Steelers OLB T.J. Watt, Commanders DE Chase Young

Now this is the juicy stuff. There has been a lot of talk about Trevon Diggs being overrated because of his gaudy interception total last season. And obviously Russell Wilson's corny, overpaid, unproductive ass belongs on this list. But how about Derwin James and TJ Watt? Those names feel out of place.

Then again I am a Browns fan so I will 100% be using this anytime I am in an argument with Steelers fans about who is better, Myles Garrett or TJ Watt. The answer is undoubtedly Myles Garrett, just look at the analytics. And if the analytics ever say otherwise, then I'm going full football guy and trusting my gut.