NFL Week 12 Round-Up – Now with More Tebow

You can’t get on the internet these days without seeing Tim Tebow somewhere, and now it’s spread to my blog (although I’ve already actually talked about him once, but we’ll ignore that).  Here’s how the weekend went for the model with a little extra Broncos coverage.

The over/under was a 50/50 proposition as Luigi went 8-8.  That puts him at 77-78-4 on the season.  Outright winners went pretty well at 12-4 for a season total of 97-63, but that means there weren’t a lot of upsets and so the moneyline picks were only 4-10 for a season total of 41-58, knocking them back into the red.

Against Bodog’s spreads, Luigi was 8-6-2, with the pushes being Atlanta-Minnesota and Jacksonville-Houston.  Four games were too close to call though, and Luigi was 2-2 in those games, so in pickable games the record was 6-4-2.  On the season that makes the record 66-55-7 and 80-72-8 in all games.  My SuperContest picks would have been Buffalo, Arizona, Detroit, Kansas City, and Philly for a record of 3-2 (the Philly game was virtually tied with Minnesota, which would have made the picks 3-1-1).  Top 5 picks are 32-24-4 for 34 points.  In my competition against Bill Simmons, I came in to the week with a three game lead and came out of Thanksgiving with a two game lead.  Bill went 10-6 against his lines for a season record of 89-79-8.  Luigi also went 10-6 to maintain my lead with a record of 92-76-8.  I split on the games that were pushes against Bodog and had a flip-flop on my close-call Bengals-Browns game because Bill’s line was half a point different.  Just to recap the importance of different lines and criteria: my overall picks against Bodog (all numbers throw out pushes) are 52.6% correct while my picks against Bill’s lines (also all games, but including week 1) are 54.8% correct.  My pickable games record is 54.5%, and my top 5 games record is 57.1% correct.  So not only is it important to pick where you get your lines wisely (they seem to be easier wherever Bill gets them, potentially the Hilton SuperContest), but it’s important to pick your fights and go with games you’re more confident in.

How about the power rankings?  The Packers are unsurprisingly still number one, followed by the Saints and Patriots.  The Texans aren’t too far behind though before a big drop to Baltimore.  Houston will be tested with a third-string QB against the Falcons next weekend.

And the season predictions.  The playoff picture should be solidifying a bit, although of course a few teams like to keep us in suspense. In the AFC, the byes should go to the Patriots (11 or 12 wins) and Houston (11 or 12 wins).  The other division winners look like Baltimore (11 wins, tie breaker over Pittsburgh) and Oakland (9 wins).  The wild card spots would go to Pittsburgh (11 wins) and Cincinnati (10 wins).  The exact positioning could shift since the teams are all close together, but many of the races are over.  Denver doesn’t project to stay that close to Oakland, and neither the Jets nor Titans project to win that many more games either.  In the NFC we have the Packers (14 or 15 wins) and 49ers (12 wins) on the bye along with the Saints (11 or 12 wins) and Cowboys (10 wins).  The wild cards would go to two of Chicago (9 or 10 wins), Detroit (9 or 10 wins), and Atlanta (9 or 10 wins).  The only other team really in the NFC race is the Giants, and I have them only getting to 8 wins.  If Atlanta can knock off Houston, that would really help them.

So how about that Tebow?  His team isn’t great, but they’re moving up some rankings boards.  Some say that his own stats aren’t that great.  But apparently he’s improving, all the way up to a 50% completion rate.  And he’s put up better numbers than the last He Just Wins Football Games QB, Vince Young (presumably neither Young nor Tebow is that good at Risk, or else they would leave out the Football part).  TMQ seems to be on board the Tebow Train, or at least not against it.  The biggest part of Tebowmania seems to be that a) he isn’t very good as a quarterback but b) the Broncos are winning.  They were 1-4 in games started by Kyle Orton (which includes the failed comeback attempt by Tebow against the Chargers) and are 5-1 in games started by Tebow.  What do my numbers say?

Well, in the power rankings above, the Broncos are 24th with an offensive rating of 2.47 and a defensive rating of -1.39 (good defensive numbers are higher, i.e. you want to be closer to 0) against league averages of 2.65 and -1.34.  So the Broncos have about an average defense but are below-average on offense.  Back after week 6, when Orton started his last game, the Broncos were 21st in the league with ratings of 2.87 and -1.70 against league averages of 2.84 and -1.54.  The league average is important to account for because, obviously, it changes with time.  So overall offenses have regressed by about .19 but the Denver offense has regressed by .37.  Tebow has dropped Denver’s offensive rating twice as much as the league has dropped in general.  Note that those numbers include Orton’s games; the current Broncos rating covers the whole season.  That means that it’s likely that the Broncos’ offense is currently even worse than its rating.  League defenses have improved by roughly the same amount that offense has declined, .2.  But Denver’s defense has improved by closer to .3.  So the defense has done better (and again, likely even better than suggested because the current rating includes the performance in the first 5 games).  When you add it up, the Broncos went from being .13 points below average early in the season when teams are more separated (i.e. larger standard deviation in team quality) to about .23 points below average when regression to the mean has kicked in.  That is, the Broncos are winning more even though they are playing worse.

Another way to look at it is to look at the season predictions, which account for teams played.  As of right now, if the Broncos played their whole season over (and were given their week 1 loss as granted) they would be expected to go 6-10 and they look a little lucky – we expect them to be more like 4-7 instead of 6-5.  Back in week 6 they were playing to expectations, with 1 win compared to 1.3 expected wins, and Luigi thought they would go 6-10 on the season.  So since Tebow has taken over, the Broncos have outperformed their stats to the tune of over two wins and almost three.  This is partially due to scheduling.  In Orton’s games the Broncos played games they were supposed to lose, namely Tennessee and Green Bay.  The losses to the Chargers and Bengals were projected as toss-ups but they weren’t favored in either.  Since then they’ve played Miami (close call, won in overtime), Detroit (close due to home field, crushed), Oakland (honest upset), Kansas City (an upset where Cassel got hurt), the Jets (close call, stayed close due to interception returned for touchdown), and now San Diego (upset, won in overtime).  Essentially they went from losing coin flips to winning them.

We’ll see if that continues going forward with games against Minnesota, Chicago at home, Buffalo, and Kansas City; they should definitely lose to the Patriots.  Those first four games are roughly toss-ups, so with the Tebow magic they should go 4-1 the rest of the way and take the AFC West.  But it would be unlikely.  And it probably won’t be due to Tebow.

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