RELEASED: The Most Innovative NFL Preview EVER Designed

When advanced metrics and quantitative analysis meets sports betting and prognostication, you get Sharp Football Analysis.  Most sports betting “season preview” magazines are more like almanacs: sharing ATS records from 2004, busying up their pages with historical records and data in font nearly impossible to read.  How is THAT previewing the 2015 NFL season?

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What it is:

+ I developed the first Football Preview Magazine which is 100% rooted in advanced metrics and quantitative analytics.  I made it straightforward and simple to understand even though I convey next level information.
+ Designed for NFL fans, NFL media, Fantasy Footballers in leagues or Daily Fantasy, and of course, NFL bettors
+ Not only is it unique in that respect, its also embedded with technological advances.  “Companion Audio” links spread throughout the publication allow me to share extra information, explain reasoning, add context or just provide background for the points made.
+ 5 pages of team capsules cover everything from roster moves, analytical strengths and weaknesses, play trends, 2015 previews, 2014 lines and results, 2015 line analysis, win total historical results and angles, strength of schedule, player age, roster grading, coaching, historical results vs 2015 opponents, pass & rush success vs league average, 2015 offseason spending profile and MUCH more
+ Literally 150 pages dedicated to articles focused on studies and research projects I performed.  The results of which are fascinating.

How you access it:

Its a downloadable pdf file.  The easiest way to access it is to just view it electronically on your computer.  But the COOLEST way to access it is to transfer onto your tablet (or smart phone).  We’ve tested it on iPad and Kindle and its beautiful.  A simple, 2 step process (add the file in iTunes, sync) is used and a tutorial is inside the document on page 4.  Of course, if you have a color printer and want to print it out, it works just fine that way too.

What else:

342 Total Pages, built entirely on my own.  This is the result of 3+ months of work.

Certainly I believe this publication will not only be fun to read now, and great reference throughout the season, but will change the way you watch the games this fall.  I know its well worth its purchase price many times over, but being its the first one out of the box, I’m setting a VERY low price!  If you like it, tweet about it and help spread the word.  The information revolution is here – change your expectations of what a sports betting “football preview” should be.

This is not 100% designed for the sports bettor.  It’s 100% designed for the critical thinker.  NFL fans, fantasy players and sports bettors alike will find pages and pages of landmark articles, analysis and information.

I even cover the 2015 Offseason NFL Officiating Clinic and how new emphasis on 2 key penalties will impact the NFL, complete with graphs and rooted in actual data, not just conjecture.

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Hope your summer is going great, and get ready to enjoy the 2015 Football Preview magazine next week as NFL training camps open!  Trust me when I say you’ve never seen another NFL preview magazine like this before.

Playing from Behind: The Story of the Joe Philbin-led Dolphins

by Warren Sharp

Recently, Joe Philbin was quoted as saying:

I came here to win championships. I didn’t come here to be average and be 8-8. Steve Ross doesn’t own the team to be average. Our fans don’t want to be average. Our players don’t want to be average. So that’s what we’re here for. That’s why we invest and put the effort, the time into what we do.

“There’s three championships right now that are out there: There’s the AFC East, there’s the AFC and there’s the NFL championship.  So nothing’s been decided. I can honestly tell you sitting here we’ve had a couple of clunkers in three years. But we haven’t had a ton of clunkers where we just got manhandled from start to finish. So I’ve gone into every game thinking we’re going to win every game.”

Philbin may have believed his team could win every game and made reference to not getting manhandled from start to finish.  Here’s the problem:

His teams almost ALWAYS got manhandled at the start of games, putting them in a poor position moving forward:

Since coming to town in 2012, in 48 games played by the Dolphins (no playoff trips) they have led after the first quarter in just 12 games (25%).  NO TEAM has done worse.  Even the lowly Titans and Jets have led after one quarter in 13 games, and the Raiders have done it in 14.  Hell, even the Jaguars have led after one quarter in 17 games since 2012.

Note: these stats are further discussed for all NFL teams in my 300-page Analytics-Based 2015 NFL Season Preview, scheduled to go on sale later this week.

Getting off to a good start is key in football.  Since 2012, teams who lead after 1 quarter win 66% of their games.

So while they might not be getting “manhandled” in 1 quarter, they routinely are NOT leading, which is a problem.

philbinIts not their only problem.  On 3rd and short, the Dolphins converted 70% of their runs into first downs, 11th best in the NFL.  The problem was they passed on 52% of their play calls, 9th most often, and they converted just 55% of their pass attempts.  So they missed out on 15% better efficiency by simply not running enough on 3rd and short.

It gets even worse when considering the field position.  Last year in opponent’s territory (on the other side of midfield) the Dolphins had 27 plays on 3rd and 1-2 yards.  These are VITAL downs, and can be the difference between 0 and 3 points (if closer to midfield) or 3 and 7 points (if closer to the red zone).  Only 3 teams had MORE of these play calls, meaning they were big difference makers for the Dolphins in 2014.

On these plays, the NFL average was 57% run, 43% pass.  Yet on these plays, Philbin had the Dolphins call 15 passes and 12 runs, or 56% pass and 44% run, flipping the ratio.  On the 15 pass plays, the Dolphins gained only 7 first downs (47%).  On the 12 run plays, the Dolphins gained 8 first downs (67%).

Consider the Dolphins finished 8-8 last year, and lost multiple games by 4 or fewer points, and you can see why this makes a difference, as it could potentially cost between 3 and 4 points per 3rd down play.

Joe Philbin must figure out a way to get his team to start games faster.  The Dolphins have the 2nd easiest 6 week stretch to start the season of any team in the NFL.  Games vs WAS, JAC, BUF, NYJ and TEN are not going to be all that rough, even though they will have to travel to London to face the Jets.  They also have a bye week 4.  But they have some brutal stretches after that:

  • Weeks 8-11 they have the 6th hardest 4-game-stretch of any team in the NFL: @ NE, @ BUF, @ PHI and then vs DAL.  Three straight road games followed by the game vs Dallas.
  • Weeks 13-17 they have the 4th hardest 5-game-stretch of any team in the NFL:  BAL, NYG, @ SD, IND, NE.  The only benefit is that 4 of the 5 are at home.  I’m sure the Dolphins would rather host those teams in the brutal September heat than in the winter, however.

So Philbin should be able to get his team off to a good roll early, the problem is the late slate is particularly brutal.  And dating back to 2012, ignoring home Thursday games (huge edge to home team), the Dolphins have won just 2 of 12 games when  they did not lead after the 1st quarter if their opponent was at or above .500.  And you can bet many of those teams from weeks 8 thru 17 will be at or above .500.

Note:  My Analytics-Based 2015 NFL Season Preview breaks down the hardest and easiest schedule stretches over 3, 4 and 5 week periods for all NFL teams.

The Best Team in the NFL Just Received a Massive Upgrade

This article was originally published on Fox Sports & Outkick the Coverage

by Warren Sharp

I’ve long been in favor of early down efficiency as a key driver for success in the NFL offensively.  As my analysis showed, converting first downs before reaching 3rd down were twice as correlated with wins as converting well on 3rd down.  But a recent NFL transaction this offseason had me looking at 3rd down conversions more so than early down conversions.  When the Seattle Seahawks acquired TE Jimmy Graham from the New Orleans Saints, I initially thought it was a big move.  So did much of the NFL, particularly the fantasy world.  But I was wrong.  It wasn’t a big move.  It was a HUGE move.  That said, right now, separate fantasy from reality.  Jimmy Graham’s fantasy value won’t be as strong as it was in New Orleans.  But his contribution to the Seahawks will make them significantly more potent than they were the last couple of years, for reasons we’ll dig into.

Since Russell Wilson came to the Seahawks and became the starting quarterback, the team has recorded the best record in the NFL when NOT converting well on 3rd down.  The NFL average for 3rd down conversion rates since 2010 is approximately 38%.  In other words, 38 out of 100 times on 3rd down (and any distance) teams gain first downs and 62 times they are forced into 4th down.  The Wilson-led Seahawks have won 65% of their games when converting below that 38% average.  Its the best win rate in the NFL.  The next closest team is the Patriots, who won 59% of their games when converting sub-38% on 3rd downs in a given game.  Collectively, the NFL has won just 36% of their games since 2012 when converting sub-38% on 3rd downs.  So the Seahawks winning 65% of these is extremely unlikely.  Its insane.

That said, in 2014, Russell Wilson did struggle on 3rd down.  After a 96 passer rating in 2012 and a 90 rating in 2013, Wilson recorded a 77 rating in 2014.  Not only was that a big drop from what he did in 2012 and 2013, it was a huge drop from his 1st and 2nd down passer ratings in 2014, where he recorded ratings of 102 and 103 respectively.

In 2013, Wilson had solid 3rd down stats when passing to his TEs, predominantly Zach Miller.  When passing to TEs in 2013, Wilson went 20/26 for 220 yds, 2 TDs and 0 Ints.  That’s a 127 rating.  But in 2014, with no Zach Miller, Wilson struggled tremendously and did not target his TEs nearly as often or with as much success.  The ability to find that reliable TE target is essential to Russell Wilson on 3rd down, and thus, the success of the Seattle offense on 3rd down.

Drew’s Best Friend

The need for a solid TE for Russell Wilson to rely upon on 3rd downs is established, but how does Jimmy Graham factor on these plays? In 2014, Drew Brees passer rating on 3rd down to Jimmy Graham in 2014 was 109.4: 22/34 (65%), 216 yds, 4 TD, 1 Int, 0 sacks.  Obviously, those are solid numbers.  But even more relevant is what happened when Brees did not pass to Graham on 3rd down.  In those situations, Brees went 82/129 (64%), 1081 yds, 6 TDs, 9 Ints and 9 sacks, good for a 76 rating, which does not factor in the 9 sacks.

Graham really was a godsend for Brees.  A 109 rating when passing to Graham and 0 sacks on 3rd down, as opposed to a 76 rating when passing elsewhere and 9 sacks.  Graham’s ability to win quickly at the line of scrimmage to allow his quarterback to complete passes while avoiding sacks is tremendous.  Not only do these numbers demonstrate how helpful Graham will be for Russell Wilson, they also show how badly Brees might struggle unless they find a tight end who can somewhat occupy the role that Graham fulfilled as a Saint.

The Real Struggle

I’ve written before about how good the Seahawks have been on 3rd and short.  They have been one of the best short yardage teams when running the football in the NFL.  Last year, on 2nd thru 4th down, needing 1-2 yards for a 1st down, they converted 76% of rushes into 1st down, the 2nd best rate in the NFL.  And they ran the football in these situations 75% of the time.

But their real struggle on 3rd down was 3rd and medium.  When running on 3rd and 3-6 yds to go, they converted 67% first downs, 4th best in NFL.  But when passing in these situations, they converted just 44%, good for just 24th in the NFL.  And Wilson’s passer rating was only 81.6.

That 44% conversion rate on 3rd and medium passes was down from 51% in 2013 (7th best in NFL) and 50% in 2012 (8th best).  So Seattle moved from top 8 in the NFL for 2 straight years to 24th in 2014 when passing on 3rd and medium.  How could Graham help them?

The Weapon

Thanks in large part to Jimmy Graham, in each of the last 2 seasons, the Saints ranked far and away #1 in the NFL in these 3rd and medium situations, converting 61% into first down in 2013 and 59% in 2014.  Drew Brees passer rating was 129 in 2013 and 102 in 2014.  That’s a far cry from Russell Wilson’s 82, and their ~60% conversion rate was a far cry from Seattle’s 44%.

Jimmy Graham Specifically, in 2014 when passing to Graham in these situations, Brees went 11/14 (79%) for 122 yds, 2 TD and 0 Int for 8.7 ypa and a 143 rtg.  To the rest of the team, Brees went 27/43 (63%) for 361 yds, 2 TD, 2 Int and 4 sacks for a passer rtg of 86.

In 2013, Brees went 10/14 (71%) for 169 yds, 1 TD, 0 Int and 0 sacks to Graham in these 3rd and medium situations, good for 12.1 ypa and a 136 rtg.

Jimmy Graham2The last 2 years, Jimmy Graham has been the NFL’s best receiving weapon on 3rd and medium, and he’s helped set the Saints offense far above average as the NFL’s best in converting these plays into 1st downs.  Now he gets to do the same in Seattle.

The Importance of 3rd Down in Seattle

For Seattle, converting on 3rd downs offensively is perhaps more vital than it is for most other teams.  They have such a dominant defense, that they end up carrying a lead for much of the game.  And by simply converting on 3rd downs, they are far more likely to win these games than other teams.  Since 2012, when converting over 50% of 3rd downs, Seattle is unbeaten.  Only the Packers have won more games while losing none if converting over 50% on 3rd down.

Thus, because of the strength of their defense, considering game theory, its vital to convert on 3rd downs.  Sometimes, it simply means that a drive in the 4th quarter with a lead can bleed more time off the clock as opposed to punting.  That alone will be more likely to secure a win for the Seahawks than it would for many teams.

By landing Jimmy Graham, the Seahawks theoretically should be able to solve their biggest 3rd down weakness of 2014:  passing on 3rd and medium.  His ability in that situation was insane for the Saints when Drew Brees had the ability to throw to Graham:  an 143 passer rating to Graham, an 86 rating to other receivers.

And considering how tremendous Seattle is on 3rd and short situations, I really expect Graham’s presence to be far more meaningful than most casual fans believe it was when they made the move.  I don’t believe Russell Wilson will post Drew Brees-like fantasy stats, nor do I believe Jimmy Graham will post fantasy stats like he did in New Orleans.

But for the Seahawks, his presence is far less about fantasy stats and far more about reality difference-making.  And he will be a vital difference maker on 3rd down for the Seattle Seahawks in 2015.  The Seahawks were the NFL’s best team when posting a below-average 3rd down conversion rate (17-9, 65% when converting sub-38% of 3rd downs).  Far more games in 2015 and beyond should see an above average 3rd down rate.  That means 83% wins for Seattle (when converting over 38% of 3rd downs, the 2nd best rate in the NFL).  And that means another trip to the playoffs, the NFC Championship game, and possibly another Lombardi trophy.