ESPN’s “Football Scientist” KC Joyner put out a piece today entitled “NY Giants are NFC East favorites.” I highly… HIGHLY respect KC Joyner, so I clicked, obviously.
There are arguments that can be made for the Giants. The Giants were a good team last year, and even though they had a really bad offseason, they can be good again this year. I expected to read that Eli Manning was likely to cut down on his interceptions, or that the Giants had an elite group of pass rushers, a good secondary, a nice 1-2 combo of running backs, a special teams unit that probably can’t get any worse than it was a year ago, etc etc. I could certainly get on board with those arguments, and thought that’s where KC might be going with this. But no no no, my friends. This is KC Joyner. He sees things that nobody else sees. When KC Joyner goes KC Joyner, you listen. This is the smartest piece I’ve read all year.
Let’s look at KC’s eight magical bullet points on why the Giants are going to win the division over the Eagles, and just for fun, I’ll do my best to provide a different point of view on each point, although it’s impossible on most:
1) Michael Vick wasn’t anywhere near as good as his 2010 numbers suggest
One of the reasons Philadelphia won the NFC East in 2010 is that Vick had a near-MVP campaign, but the fact is he benefited from more luck than maybe any other quarterback in the league.
He had only 19.4 percent of his potential interceptions turn into actual interceptions. That total was tied for the lowest interception luck factor rate in the league and indicates he was a huge beneficiary of fortunate bounces.
|Player||Team||INT||INT + Nrint||Interception luck factor|
The interception column shows how often each quarterback was picked off last year. The int + nrint column shows the total number of interceptions and near interceptions (passes that could have been picked off but were dropped, tipped away, etc.). The interception luck factor column shows the percentage of potential interception chances that actually turned into interceptions.
Jimmy’s take – Wow! Michael Vick’s “Nrint rate” is a staggering 19.4%!!! I hate to take an opposing view to Joyner, but I should note, however, that Vick’s “completions that weren’t caught rate” was also extremely high. *Per my very proprietary own set of metrics:
|Player||Team||Completions||Completions that could have been caught if the ball didn’t hit the ground||Comp+CTCHBCITBDHTG adjusted factor|
That led the league.
*Disclaimer – I don’t actually show my work. Please just take my numbers at face value. Thanks.
2) Eli Manning wasn’t anywhere near as bad as his 2010 numbers suggest
Manning had 52.1 percent of his potential interceptions turn into interceptions, a total that was the fourth-highest in the league and was a prime reason Manning threw a league-high 25 interceptions. If Manning’s luck gets better (and it really couldn’t get much worse than last year) and Vick’s luck gets worse (and it couldn’t have been much better), it could mean as much as a 10-15 interception swing between these two in 2011.
Jimmy’s take – 52.1%, eh? Pretty tough to argue with those numbers. I know that disagreeing with Joyner is an effort in futility, but I’ll note that 87.2% of Eli’s passes had a wobble ratio of at least 3% rotational revolutions per every 10 yards of air distance. In a study I did in 2007, it was determined that wobble ratios of 2.3% or higher lead to poor interception luck percentages. Therefore, a poor interception luck percentage is to be expected. Unfortunately, my work was destroyed in a fire, so I can’t actually show it. Sooooo… there’s that.
(Much, much more after the jump)…
3) Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham are much better matchup-busters than DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin
A matchup-buster wide receiver is one who is capable of posting dominant numbers against quality cornerback coverage.
A study in the 2011 TFS Fantasy Football Draft Guide examined how wideouts around the league fared in this coverage scenario. The guide broke cornerbacks down into different rating levels, with a red rating being the best (allowing less than 7.0 YPA), and a yellow rating indicating the player was average (allowing 7.0-8.9 YPA).
Jackson and Maclin averaged 5.6 YPA on 66 passes against red- and yellow-rated cornerbacks last year. To put that into perspective, the league average in this category was 7.3 YPA, so these two weren’t even average when facing quality competition.
Now contrast that with Nicks and Manningham. Those two faced red- and yellow-rated cornerbacks on 96 passes last year and posted 9.6 YPA on those aerials.
The vast difference between these totals offers strong evidence that New York’s starting wideouts are much better matchup-busters than Philadelphia’s.
Jimmy’s take – While I agree with Joyner on his “red and yellow corners,” Maclin and Jackson averaged 12.4 YPA against turquoise and lavender corners, the true cream of the crop in my own proprietary CB metric system. To see that actual data and what players are turquoise and lavender corners, please send a check for $179 to:
Blogging the Beast Half Baked Statistical Metrics, PO Box 12345, Rockaway, NJ 07866. Please allow 8-12 weeks for delivery.
4) The Giants can largely absorb the loss of Boss/Smith with more passes to Nicks/Manningham
Let’s assume Manning will throw around 500 passes this year. Last year, Nicks saw 127 targets in only 13 games, so his target level could move up to the 150-range this year. Manningham saw 90 targets in 16 games, but only eight of those games were starts. If we move his target level up to 125, those two will account for 275 of Manning’s targets. Give the running backs 100 targets and the total moves to 375. That leaves only 125 targets for the tight end and No. 3 wide receiver. Even if the replacements for Boss and Smith are a yard or so worse in YPA, it means a loss of only 150 yards or so, which is a negligible amount.
Jimmy’s take – Brilliant! Boss? Smith? Bah! Just pass it to Manningham and Nicks more. Problem solved! I’m not even going to attempt a counter-point here. That’s bullet-proof.
5) Jason Pierre-Paul and Marvin Austin could make the strong Giants pass rush even stronger
Pierre-Paul was very highly rated coming out of college and is starting to showcase those skills at the NFL level to the extent that ESPN.com NFC East blogger Dan Graziano said he “looks like a monster.” Austin displayed a wide variety of pass-rush skills at North Carolina and could add a lot of up-the-gut pass-rush pressure.
Jimmy’s take – Again, I really have nothing here. The naysayers would say that Marvin Austin hasn’t played football since 2009, has missed time in camp, and his own DL coach is on record as saying “Technique-wise he’s a long way away,” but to those naysayers, I say “NAY to YOU, assholes!” Austin will easily be an upgrade over that hack, Barry Cofield. He just will… because he dispayed a wide variety of pass-rush skills at North Carolina.
6) Steve Weatherford could vastly improve the Giants punting
Matt Dodge’s punting last year was sometimes legendarily bad, something Eagles fans can appreciate most. It’s not a given that Weatherford will win the job, but even if his presence only serves to make Dodge get his punting act together, it would shore up a potentially huge weakness for the Giants.
Jimmy’s take – When I think NFC East Champs of yesteryear, I don’t think Aikman, McNabb, Simms, or Theismann. I think Sean Landeta, Dirk Johnson, Matt Turk, and Mike Saxon.
7) Pat Flaherty will help New York weather the offensive line changes
Flaherty might be the best offensive line coach in the NFL, and his expertise is a main reason why the Giants ranked second in sacks allowed percentage last year despite playing three different centers, two different left guards and two different left tackles. If Flaherty’s history is any indicator, it won’t take long for this revamped group to gel.
Jimmy’s take – Flaherty is of course one of 15 offensive line coaches that might be the best in the NFL. He’ll definitely fix the Giants OL. No need to explain how or why. He just will.
8) Kenny Phillips is healthy
Although losing Amukamara is certainly a hindrance, the Giants have good depth at the position with Corey Webster, Aaron Ross and Terrell Thomas. There is far less depth at safety, so getting the talented Phillips back to full strength should make up for the loss of Amukamara, and then some.
Jimmy’s take – Agreed again. Kenny Phillips doesn’t play the same position as Prince Amukamara, but who cares? He’ll make up for that loss.
I await your next act of brilliance, KC, errr… Dr. Joyner.