It wasn’t long after the Seattle Seahawks put the finishing touches on their 43-8 Super Bowl rout of the Denver Broncos that media people began throwing around the d-word, dynasty, as they peered into the franchise’s future.Of course, this happens with just about every Super Bowl winner; squint hard enough, and even the most obvious one-and-done champ looks like a perennial powerhouse. (In some ways, talk of that nature gets even more far-fetched with each passing season — we haven’t seen a repeat Super Bowl winner since the 2004 New England Patriots.) But in Seattle’s case, it might not be totally implausible to expect an elevated probability of a full-blown dynasty.Historically, teams that have won a title find themselves surprisingly well-positioned to win more of them. Since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger, 55.9 percent of Super Bowl winners won at least one more championship within the following 10 seasons. Even within that club, though, Seattle is starting from a better spot than most. Its schedule-adjusted pythagorean winning percentage during the 2013 regular season ranked sixth among all Super Bowl champions since the merger, trailing only the 1985 Chicago Bears, 1991 Washington Redskins, 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1996 Green Bay Packers and 1973 Miami Dolphins.More importantly, the Seattle’s core is incredibly young for an NFL champion. Weighted by the Approximate Value produced by each player on the roster, the Seahawks’ average age (26.0) was the second-youngest in the league a season ago and ranked third-youngest among Super Bowl winners since the merger. The two champs who had lower average ages? The 1974 Steelers and 1981 San Francisco 49ers, each of whom would go on to win three more Super Bowls apiece in their next decade of play. (Seattle also ranks as slightly younger than the 1992 Dallas Cowboys, who won two additional rings in a dynastic run.)Looking at all Super Bowl winners from 1970 to 2003 (for which we have a “next decade” worth of data), there’s a relationship between the team’s AV-weighted age in its championship season and its chances of winning additional titles.Among the aforementioned 55.9 percent of all Super Bowl champions who won another before a decade was up, a disproportionate number are clustered among the youngest teams on the list. Eleven of the 12 youngest champions in our 1970-2003 group went on to win at least one more Super Bowl in the following decade, while only four of the 12 oldest champs would go on to win another title.Usually, talk of dynasty potential among freshly christened champions isn’t very predictive. But because of their youth, these Seahawks are in a situation where the odds of winning another championship are particularly heightened.
The Arizona Cardinals won 11 games this year — the long-suffering franchise’s highest single-season win total since 1975. But Arizona went 2-4 down the stretch of the regular season, then were handled rather easily by the Carolina Panthers in a playoff contest where the Cardinals’ win probability broke 50 percent for just three plays.There was a certain injustice to a team like Arizona (the runner-up in what our Elo ratings consider far and away the best division in football), having to travel to Carolina for a playoff game against the Panthers, winners of one of the worst divisions in NFL history and only the second team ever to qualify for the playoffs with a losing record (excluding strike seasons). But the Cardinals also squandered their chances to avoid such a scenario during the regular season.Going into Week 12, Arizona was an NFL-best 9-1 and had a 71 percent probability of winning the NFC West, which would have guaranteed it home-field advantage in its opening playoff game. (There was also a 66 percent chance the Cardinals wouldn’t even have to play a divisional-round game, because the top two seeds in each conference are awarded first-round playoff byes.)However, starting quarterback Carson Palmer had also been lost for the season with a torn ACL in his left knee shortly before. And while Palmer’s understudy, Drew Stanton, played admirably in his stead, he, too, was sidelined indefinitely several games later. That left third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley to close out the team’s regular season in poor form, then post one of the worst QB performances in playoff history as the Cardinals lost in Carolina on Saturday.So, what might have been for the Cardinals had Palmer not been injured?They certainly might have fared better against Carolina with their No. 1 quarterback under center. Lindley’s -0.59 adjusted net yards per attempt (ANY/A) in Saturday’s game was 6.44 below that of Cam Newton, his counterpart on the Panthers, and there’s a definite relationship between ANY/A differential and winning football games. Based on a logistic regression model for all games since the league opened up the passing attack with major rule changes in 1978, there’s just a 3.7 percent chance that a team would have a -6.44 ANY/A differential in a game and somehow find a way to win.For Palmer’s part, his career ANY/A index is 104 (where average is 100, and every 15 units represents one standard deviation in performance), which would translate against the 2014 Panthers’ defense to an expected ANY/A of +0.23 relative to Newton’s performance. That differential would buy a team the win about 53 percent of the time. But in fairness, Saturday’s terrible game was something of an outlier for Lindley as well; although his career ANY/A index of 58 is rather ghastly, if he had even played to that norm, the Cardinals could expect to steal a win nearly 20 percent of the time. That means Palmer’s absence may have cost the team something like a third of a win.Back when Palmer was last healthy, Elo graded Arizona as the fourth-best team in football, with the league’s second-highest probability of winning the Super Bowl (narrowly trailing New England). But on the other hand, those Super Bowl chances were still just 19 percent at their peak, while the betting markets were nowhere near as high on the Cardinals as Elo was (largely because statistics say a chunk of their success was the product of unusually good luck).We’ll never know how high the Cardinals might have soared if not for their epic spate of QB injuries, though — and that’s a shame for a franchise that almost never has seasons as magical as 2014 was shaping up to be.
Photo by AAron Ontiveroz / The Denver Post via Getty Images; Chart by Allison McCann Packers72127137.620528.4 Seahawks65814021.320731.5 Cardinals71231344.022431.5 Broncos79431439.5%27334.4% Photo by AAron Ontiveroz / The Denver Post via Getty Images; chart by Allison McCann Photo by Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images; chart by Allison McCann Texans64320832.318929.4 Falcons60013722.813823.0 Browns55814225.414125.3 Panthers84823627.824829.2 Now here’s a slope chart, with the left column being Newton’s QBR on unmolested attempts, and the right his QBR when pressured: Bengals74714219.021829.2 Chiefs76618524.221728.3 This may be compelling evidence that Carolina simply stumbled in the big one, having just clubbed the second- and third-best pressure defenses in back-to-back playoff games. But Seattle and Arizona are both hugely different defenses from Denver. The Seahawks are a low-blitz team that relies on a killer secondary. The Cardinals also relied more on coverage before free safety Tyrann Mathieu went down for the year, but they also leaned heavily on blitz packages; their one-on-one pass-rushing was so anemic that 35-year-old Dwight Freeney led the team with eight sacks — and no other Cardinal had more than five.As you saw Sunday, that is not at all how the Broncos play defense. Raiders70023934.118125.9 This is a pie chart: Photo by Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images; chart by Allison McCann Vikings65517226.320431.1 Redskins65914421.915523.5 Giants67817626.017826.3 Buccaneers58516428.015426.3 Photo by John Leyba / The Denver Post via Getty Images; chart by Allison McCann TEAMDROPBACKSBLITZESBLITZ RATEPRESSURESPRESSURE RATE Titans56624443.115226.9 Ravens60717629.015625.7 Bears58212221.015326.3 To illustrate this, I’ve created a series of charts and graphs. Here’s a simple line chart showing various opponents’ pressure against Newton over the course of the game: Colts64024137.718328.6 Eagles68917124.817926.0 Chargers56117831.714425.7 Lions59319933.615526.1 For regular season and playoffsSource: TruMedia On the first fumble of the game, the one that set things spinning, Von Miller wheeled around the edge, sized up right tackle Mike Remmers like he was riding down on a quintain, and crashed past him and into Newton, knocking the ball out and into the end zone, all within something like two-and-a-half-Mississippi.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5dk0KqS2Pb4Miller circled back around on Remmers often enough to run up 2.5 sacks, 2 more hits and a half-dozen more near-thumpings. We have stats that can reflect what a player does in a game, but not as much what he does to it. The old Bill James line is that baseball stats can acquire the powers of language, telling a story or calling a game all on their own. Those Broncos numbers are burly enough to carry luggage, but they don’t quite have the powers to tell you how different the game looks when the pocket collapses before the snap finds the center’s ass.This works the other way around as well. Cam’s numbers aren’t getting any prettier no matter how you slice them. But at least twice Sunday he carried a defender on his back as he wound up and got a throw off toward the sticks — incomplete pass, but not a sack. They were hand-to-God some of the most impressive feats of strength I’ve witnessed. There aren’t stats for that, at least not in the ESPN database, as there aren’t any for something like whispering a third-quarter pass 30 yards in the air, over the shoulder of the defender and into Jerricho Cotchery’s breadbasket at the 5-yard line, only for the defender — a linebacker sprinting 25 yards downfield — to close at the last second and knock it out. It was just Cotchery’s third drop of the season; it also happened to be his third drop of the game. The streaking ‘backer was Miller, naturally, who was named the game’s MVP.After the game, receiver Devin Funchess was one of the few Panthers to serve up more than platitudes — if just barely — about preparing for Miller and the rest of Denver’s defense. “You can’t do that in practice,” he said, asked about preparing for the rush versus actually having to play against it. “Our guys can’t mimic that.”It’s true of the stats just as much as it is of the players. Other teams may have pressure numbers that resemble what this Denver defense put together this season, but only because our tools of observation remain imperfect. Near as we can tell, the Broncos are the best defense the Panthers faced in a postseason flush with top units. But for really unusual teams, our best guesses can often be far enough out that we can’t fully appreciate what it is that we’re watching without accepting that greatness affects the game in ways we can’t yet fully capture.Or, as Madden might tell you just as easily, When you have great players playing great, well, that’s great football.4An actual Maddenism. Denver’s defense was a force of nature Steelers77526133.719825.5 Dolphins58612721.715326.1 SAN FRANCISCO — If there’s one thing years of quarterback data have taught us, it’s that QBs do poorly under pressure.1ESPN Stats & Info defines a “pressure” as any instance in which a QB is sacked, hit, forced from the pocket, forced to alter his throwing motion, forced to move within the pocket or otherwise hassled by a defender in his line of sight. In about a quarter of all dropbacks, the QB is under pressure, according to ESPN Stats & Info, and in those cases, their QBR is 7.9.2Since 2010, one of the first years for which “pressure” data is reliable. QBR is ESPN’s measurement of quarterback performance. Some of you will never warm to QBR, which is fine. I’m falling back to it here for two reasons. First, it’s the best we have for big-bucket quarterback stats. Second, the ancillary stuff QBR picks up — rushing, fumbles, bad throws, lousy decisions — are precisely the sort of things we want to see when we’re talking about QBs escaping the rush. This is very bad. It is, to shine a little point of reference, JaMarcus Russell on an off day, and helps reverse engineer a John Madden quote: When a quarterback is being harassed, he doesn’t have much of a chance.3Not a real Maddenism, but it sounds like one. Great.As it happens, Cam Newton did not have much of a chance in Super Bowl 50. Stats & Info has him down for 48 dropbacks, of which 21 were pressured. His QBR on those 21 plays was 2.6; for the game, it was 16.9 — just a hair over his 15.6 mark on pressured plays for the season. He was sacked six times, hit 15 times (five on plays that didn’t generate a “pressure”) and blitzed 25 times. He threw an interception, and a few other balls sailed high, and he gave up two fumbles in his own red zone that would result in 15 points for the Broncos. It was, as our MaddenBot might say, a very bad day for Cam Newton.(Peyton Manning was pressured on 11 of 28 dropbacks, and had a similarly miserable 2.5 QBR on those plays.)Days like Sunday didn’t happen to Newton very often this season. Through the league championship, he was pressured 179 times in 654 dropbacks, or 27.4 percent. (His QBR on those plays was 15.6.) Going by pressures per dropback, the Panthers played only four top-10 pressure defenses this season. During the regular season, the Texans, Seahawks and Colts each played the Panthers tight and held Cam under 50 QBR (and under 80 in the traditional passer rating), but the Panthers defense and general mediocrity of those teams carried Carolina on through. In the divisional round rematch against the Seahawks, defensive end Cliff Avril — one of Seattle’s best pass rushers — left the game in the second quarter and didn’t return. The Seahawks pressured Cam just twice all game. The Cardinals brought pressure six times in the conference championship, a season-low for them. A histogram showing the distribution of pressure plays by scoring margin: Jaguars65418227.815123.1 Saints59816026.814023.4 49ers60016327.216928.2 Rams66825538.219128.6 As the data shows, Newton was well and truly, uh, accounted for. Cowboys55911720.915026.8 Patriots75914318.820026.4 Jets66729243.819929.8 Bills63819831.015223.8 This one is a stacked bar chart, in two segments:
Ashley Harris with child on Africa trip.Three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Tommie Harris lost his wife suddenly in February to a brain aneurysm. But even in his grief, Harris knew Ashley Harris would want him to continue their passion.And so, the San Diego Charger is honoring her memory by creating schools in African countries. The facilities — starting in Sudan — will serve girls who have been abused or enslaved by Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army. He will name it the Ashley Harris Sunshine School, and he hopes to build many more across the continent.Harris and Ashley, who was just 29, took two trips to Africa through Pros for Africa, a non-profit organization that describes its mission, “connecting professionals of all fields with the children of Africa.” Ashley Harris was moved by the people she met in Tanzania and Uganda. The organization appreciated her commitment so much that it dedicated to her this year’s medical expedition through northern Uganda and South Sudan.Tommie Harris has called on his NFL comrades to support his ambition. Matt Forte, who played with Harris with the Chicago Bears, already has signed on as a donor. Considering the large NFL contingent that reached out to Harris after his wife’s death, and his many fans in Chicago and San Diego, Harris has a strong base to achieve his mission — and honor his wife.
Shady ethics have been a part of college sports for a long time now. It’s the stuff that, if focused on, can sully the pageantry and magnificence of the games. Questions abound frequently in whispers about how an academically challenged student got accepted to a particular college. What’s happening at Auburn right now might shed some light on how.Tiger freshman running back Jovon Robinson is being held out of practice while the NCAA investigates allegations that his high school transcript was fake.Athletic department spokesman Kirk Sampson said Friday that Robinson’s academic status is being reviewed.Memphis City Schools said in a statement that NCAA officials contacted the school district Tuesday regarding allegations involving a former Wooddale High School athlete. The statement said schools superintendent Kriner Cash ordered an immediate investigation and that a school guidance counselor resigned after admitting to creating the falsified transcript.The Memphis Commercial Appeal first reported the allegations Friday.The statement did not identify the counselor or the student, but the fact that Robinson, from Memphis, is being held out while his “academic status” is under review makes it pretty clear it is Robinson.“Know that the District has clear and strict policies and procedures regarding student transcripts,” the school district statement said. “Academic fraud is not and will not be tolerated and will be dealt with swiftly and accordingly.”Robinson was one of Auburn’s top prospects, and had a chance to contribute in a backfield trying to replace starter Mike Dyer. The 6-foot-1, 220-pounder is easily the biggest of Auburn’s tailbacks and would bring a physical presence to the backfield if he’s eligible.Messages left by The Associated Press at the school were not returned.Emails sent to guidance counselors, head coach Keith Spann, assistant football coach Michael Collins and the school principal, Michael Kyle, were not returned. A phone number listed for Spann was disconnected.Potentially ugly stuff – but not unusual. Happens all the time. Just not all the time exposed.
Welcome to The Lab, FiveThirtyEight’s basketball podcast. On this week’s show (Feb. 22, 2018), we’re taking the All-Star Game back into The Lab. In the aftermath of a pretty successful Team Steph vs. Team LeBron showdown, Neil and Kyle dive into our best listener suggestions for how to improve the game even more. Next, we’re joined by our ESPN colleague Brian Windhorst to discuss NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s latest comments about potentially switching up the playoff structure. Plus, a significant digit on the Toronto Raptors’ amazing bench.Here are links to what was discussed this week:Keep an eye on our 2017-18 NBA predictions, updated after every game.In case you missed it, check out last week’s brainstorm with FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver on how to fix the All-Star Game.ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz writes that this year’s All-Star Game got the shake-up it needed.Guest Brian Windhorst of ESPN reported on Adam Silver’s possible playoffs compromise.According to Basketball-Reference.com, Toronto’s second unit is the best lineup in the league. Embed Code More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed By Neil Paine and Kyle Wagner
The streak is over. The Ohio State men’s ice hockey team defeated Western Michigan Saturday night, 4-3, and with the win the No. 15-ranked Buckeyes ended their 11-game winless streak. OSU (15-11-5, 11-10-5-1 CCHA) was 0-7-4 in 2012 coming into Saturday night’s contest, after losing to the No. 18-ranked Broncos (15-12-5, 12-9-3-3 CCHA) Friday night, 3-2, in the first game of the two-game set. On Saturday, with the Buckeyes trailing 2-2, OSU junior forward Alex Carlson scored twice in the final 5:24 of the third period to give OSU the win. Buckeye freshman forwards Max McCormick and Ryan Dzingel also tallied in the victory. After falling behind, 1-0, in the second period on Friday, the Buckeyes got out to a fast start Saturday. Midway through the first period, McCormick scored a power-play goal at 9:14 with assists from Dzingel and freshman defenseman Ben Gallacher. Following the tally, the Broncos committed another penalty 25 seconds later, and the Buckeyes converted with a goal from Dzingel at 10:23 in the opening period. OSU’s power play had been struggling coming into this weekend. The Buckeyes were 0-14 with a man advantage in two losses to Michigan State in Columbus last weekend. OSU got back on track this weekend, scoring four power-play goals. WMU responded to OSU’s two power-play goals in the first period Saturday with three straight scores. At 17:58 in the first period, the Broncos cut the Buckeyes’ lead to 2-1 with a score from WMU sophomore forward Chase Balisy. Following a scoreless second period, WMU took the lead with two quick goals. At 7:23, freshman forward Will Kessel backhanded a shot past OSU senior goalie Cal Heeter during a 4-on-4. Just 52 seconds later, WMU junior defenseman Matt Tennyson tallied to give the Broncos a 3-2 lead with a little more than 10 minutes remaining. Carlson regained the lead for the Buckeyes for good with two late goals. The first came on the power play at 14:36 after OSU freshman forward Darik Angeli’s shot was blocked, but Carlson was there for the rebound score to tie the game 3-3. The second came at 16:36 when Carlson buried home a puck that was just outside the crease. Heeter made 21 saves in net for the Buckeyes in the victory. With the win, OSU is now alone in fourth place in the CCHA with 39 points, two points back of third-place Michigan and one point ahead of Michigan State and Lake Superior State, which are tied for fifth place. WMU is in second place with 42 points, five points back of first-place Ferris State. The Buckeyes have this weekend off before playing their final series of the regular season on Feb. 24 and 25 against Miami (Ohio). The two teams will play in Oxford, Ohio, at 6:05 p.m. Friday and in Columbus at 7:05 p.m. Saturday.
If you want to watch Buckeye football in high definition this fall, it doesn’t mean you have to sell your tickets. Stretching 124 feet wide and standing 42 feet tall, Ohio Stadium’s monstrous new scoreboard offers fans a whole new experience in the Horseshoe. The HD Panasonic jumbotron sits atop the south end zone, replacing the 30 feet by 90 feet scoreboard that has been in use for the past 11 seasons. The televisions at concession stands have also been replaced with HD monitors. The new scoreboard is grouped with a new sound system as well, with 25 speakers flanking each side of the scoreboard. In total, the renovations come with a price tag of more than $7 million, according to an athletic department release. Don Patko, associate athletic director of Facilities Management, said the improvements were necessary and well worth the cost. “It was time for the video board to be replaced,” Patko said. “The usual life for a scoreboard is 12 to 15 years, and the last one was 12 years old.” Prior to installing the new system, the athletic department researched similar projects at other stadiums such as the Green Bay Packers’ Lambeau Field. Patko said that by researching other projects, and understanding the shortcomings of the old scoreboard, they were able to put together the best possible game day experience with the new system. “Everybody that has an HDTV at home knows that it provides better clarity,” Patko said. “The new board also allows you to have better viewing angles. The entire industry is moving toward HD, and we feel that we have one of the best systems out there.” Newly enrolled OSU freshmen had an early glimpse at the stadium’s improvements Aug. 20 during convocation, as they walked through Ohio Stadium and saw themselves on the big screen. “It was my first time in the stadium, so I didn’t even know it was new,” said Michael Gross, a first-year in health professionals exploration. “But it was something you noticed the moment you walked into the stadium, just the size of it was really impressive.” Benjamin Sokobin, a first-year in business, didn’t even have to enter the stadium to notice the scoreboard. “It was one of the first things my family noticed when I moved in,” said Sokobin, who lives in Lincoln Tower. “Ohio Stadium is known as one of the best venues in college football, and I think it’s great that they are making it even better.”
The University of Maryland is now part of Big Ten country. For Ohio State’s part, OSU athletic director Gene Smith said he is happy with the addition. Maryland’s Board of Regents voted “overwhelmingly” to approve the university’s application to the Big Ten Conference, prompting current Big Ten presidents to assemble for a Monday teleconference where the school’s admittance was approved unanimously. Maryland athletics, which bears the nickname “Terrapins,” a kind of turtle, will abandon the Atlantic Coast Conference after nearly six decades of membership. Maryland is expected to negotiate down the ACC’s $50 million exit fee to help facilitate the conference switch. Maryland’s move to the Big Ten will take effect July 1, 2014. Maryland President Dr. Wallace D. Loh said talks about the school’s move to the Big Ten began to heat up about two weeks ago. The move to the conference rooted traditionally in Midwestern universities, Loh said, was motivated by the need to stabilize its athletic department’s finances. “This is, today, a watershed moment for Maryland,” Loh said during a Monday press conference at the university’s student union in College Park, Md. “Membership in the Big Ten is in the strategic interest in the University of Maryland. As member … we will be able to ensure the financial stability of (Maryland athletics) for decades to come.” As Loh spoke, he was joined on an elevated platform by coaches from 15 of the university’s 20 athletics teams, as well athletic director Kevin Anderson, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany and university Chancellor William E. “Brit” Kirwan, a former OSU president. Smith welcomed Maryland, the 13th team in the Big Ten, and Terrapins fans during a Monday press conference at the Fawcett Center. “I just wanted to take this opportunity to extend to Maryland and its constituency and its fans, all the people who work at the University of Maryland, a warm welcome on behalf of Ohio State University and Buckeye Nation,” Smith said. “We look forward to having you as a member of our family and embracing your rich tradition and everything that you mean to higher education and intercollegiate athletics. “It’s a great move for our conference. When you think about where the landscape is today (and) what is happening in intercollegiate athletics, there is going to be, and, I think, as we move toward the future and years out, there will continue to be some change. Maryland is a great addition to our conference, so we’re looking forward to getting down to the details of trying to deal with the scheduling issues.” Rutgers is expected to be added as the Big Ten’s 14th team Tuesday, according to multiple reports, but Smith did not comment on that possibility, saying instead, “today is about Maryland.” Delany also declined to comment on the possibility of a Rutgers addition during the press conference in College Park.
Ohio State has named its next women’s basketball coach. The school announced Tuesday that Washington’s Kevin McGuff will be the next coach of the Buckeye program. “We are excited with the opportunity for Kevin to lead our women’s basketball program,” said OSU athletic director Gene Smith in a released statement. “He is a proven leader and has done a marvelous job everywhere he has been. We welcome him back to his home, Ohio.” The move comes less than a month after splitting ways with former coach Jim Foster on March 19. Foster spent 11 seasons in Columbus and garnered a 279-82 record. McGuff, who spent nine seasons at Xavier (214-73) in Cincinnati before jumping ship to Washington in 2011, led the Huskies to a 21-12 finish that ended in a loss to Pacific in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament second round this year. “I am extremely excited and humbled to be the next women’s basketball coach at Ohio State,” McGuff said in a released statement. “This is an amazing opportunity for my family and me to come back to the state of Ohio. I would like to thank Gene, Miechelle Willis (executive associate athletic director) and President (E. Gordon) Gee for putting their faith in me to be their next head coach. As someone who is from the state of Ohio, I know how special of a place this is and my goal is to have Ohio State competing at the highest level of women’s college basketball.” McGuff, who was 41-26 in two seasons with Washington, signed a contract extension on March 26 through 2020, according to a press release. An OSU spokesman said the terms of McGuff’s contract will be made available at a press conference Wednesday.