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06.07.2018 01:00
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Luck is a dirty word in football circles, at least outside of Indianapolis. After putting in hours upon hours of mental and physical preparation week after week, no successful football team wants to believe that it is winning games because it has been lucky. The struggling teams might want to believe that theyre unlucky, but once they turn things around, you better believe theyll be pointing toward hard work, resilience and improved play, not good bounces and the vagaries of randomness.Yet, taking a step back, we know luck can play a huge role in determining football games. Luck tends to even out over a larger sample, which naturally means that luck matters more when fewer games have been played. It matters more and plays a bigger part in a half-season, as an example, than it does over a full campaign. Its with that exact argument in mind that were going to take a look at how luck has influenced the first half of the NFL season today.Luck is shorthand here for a number of concepts; a better word would be randomness or variance, but luck will do. If youve been reading my work for the past few years, youll be familiar with many of these concepts (although I did not invent many of them). If not, you can read about many of them here. I last wrote about them before the season in suggesting that the Panthers and Broncos would decline, while the Cowboys and Chargers would improve. So far, so good.Pythagorean expectationPoint differential is a better predictor of future win-loss record than current win-loss record. Its true in baseball, and research (by Rockets general manager Daryl Morey during his time at STATS) has reiterated the accuracy of that statement for football as well. We can generate an expected win total for each team by running their point totals through the Pythagorean expectation formula -- Points For2.37 / (Points For2.37 + Points Against2.37) -- and multiplying it by the number of games each team has played.Were already seeing the impact of last years Pythagorean expectation in 2016.The five teams who outperformed their point differential most significantly last year were Carolina, Denver, Indianapolis, Minnesota and San Francisco. Theyve underperformed their point differential this year by 1.9 combined wins.The five teams who most underperformed their point differential last year, meanwhile, were San Diego, Tennessee, Seattle, the New York Giants?and Jacksonville. Theyre still underperforming their expected win totals in 2016, but only by a combined 0.4 wins.Looking at 2016 performance, there are two teams who stand out as well ahead of their point differentials, and several who are likely to improve comfortably in the coming two months:The Raiders and Texans have produced better records than their point differentials (and underlying level of play) would suggest. The good news for the Raiders is that it shouldnt really matter; even if they play like the just-above-.500 team their point differential suggests over the rest of the way, theyve already banked enough wins to make it into the postseason. Indeed, ESPNs Football Power Index gives them an 80.9 percent chance of making it into January. The Texans are down at 64.5 percent, and even that is only because the rest of their division is so dreadful. Theyre playing like a 6-10 team this year.Things should improve for the Browns, but their second-half performance wont really matter for entirely different reasons. This is more tangible information for fans of the Cardinals and Eagles. (Im counting the tie as a half-win for Arizona.) While Arizona has been disappointing this season, the dramatic shift in its win-loss record overstates the drop-off. Point differential suggest that the 13-3 Cards were a 11.9-win team last year and would have them on pace to be a 10.2-win team this season.The Eagles, sadly, might have sunk their own chances. Theyve surrounded statement wins over likely playoff teams in Pittsburgh and Minnesota with narrow losses to the Lions and the three other teams in the NFC East, all by one score or less. Likewise, the Bills turned around their season after an 0-2 start by winning four straight, but three consecutive losses -- including one-score defeats at the hands of the Dolphins and Seahawks -- might doom their playoff hopes.Record in close gamesWhere gaps in Pythagorean expectation reside, unlikely good or bad luck in close games tends to follow. Performances in one-score games are generally inconsistent from year to year, and were already seeing that with the standouts from last year. Last year, the five best teams in the league in games decided by one touchdown or less were the Panthers, Cardinals, Broncos, Vikings and 49ers. They were a combined 27-9 (.750) in one-score games last year; this season, theyre 3-8-1 (.292) in those same contests.Meanwhile, the dregs of the league have improved. The five worst teams in close games last year were the Browns, Cowboys, Giants, Titans and Chargers. (Well, some of them have improved.) They were a combined 11-33 (.250) in one-touchdown games last season, and in 2016, theyre 11-13 (.458). Regression toward the mean is a strong concept here.Five teams have gone winless in close games in 2016, with the Cardinals having a mere tie to their name as the sixth:The Bills, Browns and Eagles all reappear on this list thanks to their combined 0-12 record in one-score contests. The Texans and Raiders show up on the other side of the coin. The 5-2 Giants lurk just behind the Cowboys and Chiefs in terms of teams riding their luck in close games; the only game they have played that wasnt decided by seven points or fewer was their 14-point defeat at the hands of the Vikings in Week 4.Fumble recovery rateForcing fumbles is a skill, and giving away fumbles is a legitimate liability. What happens once the ball hits the ground is mostly randomness. No team has exhibited a steady ability to recover a disproportionately high percentage of the fumbles in their games. Not even that team you know who runs fumble recovery drills in practice and makes it a priority. (All teams do that.)If we know the rate at which fumbling teams recover the football, we can estimate how many fumbles each team should have recovered. Last year, that was 53.7 percent. (This year, as Chase Stuart noted last week, its closer to 57 percent.) The teams who outperformed their expected fumble recovery rates the most in 2015 were the Raiders, Texans, Giants, Bills and Jaguars. Those teams have actually recovered two fewer fumbles than league average given their combined opportunities this season. Again: Its random, folks, not a symptom of aggression or lack thereof. The Giants and Jags each ranked among the five best teams in the league in terms of fumble recovery rate last year; in 2016, theyre the first and third worst in terms of rate.On the other hand, the Cowboys, Patriots, Lions, Titans and Colts were the five worst teams in terms of fumble recoveries below expectation last season. This year, theyve combined to recover 0.9 fumbles more than a typical team, basically leaving them at league average. Where are the outliers in 2016?The big one is Big Blue.The Giants have lost eight of their 12 fumbles on offense, but even more distressingly, theyve forced nine fumbles on defense and recovered just one of them for an 11 percent rate. Those rates cant continue. The Panthers are just behind them, having lost all seven of their fumbles on offense this year when we would expect them to recover four of the seven lost footballs. The Jags, just 2-for-8 in recovering fumbles on defense, lurk just behind. The grouping on the other side isnt quite as extreme. Wholesale Titans Jerseys Free Shipping . Giroud, who wasnt in the starting lineup for two matches after allegations about his private life and a decline in form, scored twice in the first half. Tomas Rosickys chip made it 3-0 before half time at Emirates Stadium, while defender Laurent Koscielny scored an unmarked header in the second half. Youth Rashaan Evans Jersey .J. -- Marshawn Lynch said Thursday it will be good to get back to football after the Seattle quiet talking running back wrapped up his final mandatory media session of Super Bowl week. . Louis. To which I would say two things: 1. Where there is smoke, there is or perhaps has been a little fire. Or, in other words, the two teams would appear to have at least spoken. And spoken is defined as one calling the other to inquire, no more, no less. Youth Harold Landry Jersey . The team says the Spain international has a muscle pull in his right leg. Barcelona hosts third-division side Cartagena in the return leg of their round-of-32 tie after winning their first meeting 4-1. Youth Dane Cruikshank Jersey . Ronaldo produced a spectacular individual performance on Tuesday, scoring all three goals and guiding Portugal into the next years World Cup in Brazil with a 3-2 victory in Sweden. The Real Madrid forward has scored 66 goals in 2013, but the last three may be the boost he needs to upstage Messi after FIFA unexpectedly extended the voting period for the Ballon dOr to Nov. IRVING, Texas -- San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos has the moving vans pointed north to Los Angeles and idling, but they havent left the parking lot just yet.NFL owners, meeting at the Four Seasons Resort outside Dallas, unanimously approved a final tenant-lease contract between the Chargers and Los Angeles Rams on Wednesday. The contract had been agreed to in principle in January, when Rams owner Stan Kroenke received approval to move his team to Los Angeles.Owners also unanimously approved the Chargers using a debt waiver to finance a portion of the $650 million relocation fee.Spanos, however, reiterated that he will not make a decision on whether his team will remain in San Diego or move to Los Angeles until after the season is completed.The Chargers have until Jan. 15 to exercise the teams option to move to Los Angeles.Theyve been working for 15 years [to keep the team] in their community, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said of the Chargers. Theyre a big part of that community. They believe in that community, and they want to be a part of it.Its Deans option by Jan. 15 to make a determination of whether he thinks he can make it work in San Diego or whether he decides to take the option to Los Angeles.Goodell said he talked with San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer on Tuesday, telling him he would like to help further the citys stadium effort. But Goodell also told the mayor that the league had already added an additional $100 million -- from $200 million to $300 million -- in loan funding for a San Diego stadium.Asked about the possibility of a saturated market with the Chargers potentially joining the Rams in Los Angeles, Goodell said he believes the city is big enough to handle two teams.Its a great market, Goodell said. We know we have millions of fans there, but its also a challenging market. They demand to see that were doing everything possible to put the best product on the field. Im convinced the stadium project itself is going to be world-renowned. I think the entertainment aspect of it, and the stadium itself and around it, is going to be absolutely extraordinary.Like San Diego, Oakland is fighting to keep the?Raiders?in town.We have not made great progress in Oakland and in San Diego, Goodell said. Theres not a stadium proposal on the table that we think addresses the long-term issues of the club thats in those communities. So we need to continue to work at it.During the two days of meetings, owners received market updates from league employees on the stadium situations in San Diego and Oakland, along with the proposal to build a new stadium in Las Vegas.On Monday, NFL officials and representatives of the Raiders front office met with Oakland city officials and Alameda County officials, along with an investment group led by former NFL player Ronnie Lott and Fortress Investment Group.Lotts group proposes receiving an exclusive and confidential 60-day window to negotiate a development plan for landd that currently houses the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum and then build an estimated $1.dddddddddddd3 billion stadium that would keep the Raiders there.Lotts team would contribute $400 million, with the NFL and the Raiders contributing $500 million.The city of Oakland would contribute $200 million for infrastructure, such as storm drains and roadway parking. That money would be generated from bonds paid back from revenue created from the stadium and surrounding commercial development.The city and county also would contribute at least 100 acres of land, valued at $150 million.Oakland and Alameda County leaders voted to approve opening negotiations with the investment group on Tuesday. However, Raiders owner Mark Davis remains committed to moving his team to a $1.9 billion facility that received approval in Las Vegas.Nevada legislators voted to approve raising $750 million in hotel taxes to fund the stadium.Las Vegas Sands chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson would contribute $650 million, and the Raiders would pitch in $500 million.There are some real strengths to the Las Vegas market, Goodell said. Its clear that the Las Vegas market has become a more diversified market, more broadly involved with entertainment and hosting big events.And there is a growth to the market; you can see the trajectory when you look at the market data and where its going, so there were some very positive things in that.Goodell said that analysis includes a look at season-ticket holders, suite holders and what the market would look like in the future.Owners offered a wide range of reaction on whether the Chargers or Raiders would relocate in 2017.Some, including?Arizona Cardinals?president Michael Bidwill, took a more conservative outlook.I think were going through a process and were looking forward to hearing more information as we go forward, Bidwill said. Its a collective decision. Theres a lot of information, theres a lot to process and a lot to consider. So we look forward to discussing those internally.While others, such as?Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, said theres no reason for optimism in either home market and suggest its time to move on.There just isnt any opportunity in Oakland or San Diego, Irsay told reporters here. As owners, were aware of that. Its unfortunate. You dont like to see it. But its reality.In regard to the possible relocation of the Chargers and the Raiders to new cities, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank reiterated that the NFLs priority is keeping teams in their existing markets. But he also said at some point teams run out of options.We need to be respectful to what these cities have been going through and what these clubs have been going through, Blank said. Its been a very long process for a long period of time. So we have more information to gather, and theyre gathering it. 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