Super Ending to a Super NFL Season, But Unintelligent Play Call Spoils it for Seattle

The 2014-15 NFL season has officially come to a close.  Clients and I went out with a bang, going 2-1 on the official game recommendations. We also won both 0.5 unit props (including a +195 payback) and delivered an overall 8-4 evening to complete the NFL season.  You can see all recommendations below (click to enlarge).

With the 2-1 official recommendations, it improved the 2015 NFL Playoffs record to 12-6 (67%) overall.   {Note that I don’t include props in the long term record as these are often difficult to find for ALL members, thus while they factor into daily wins and losses, and we obviously won nicely on props yesterday, I grade and retain records for all sides/totals/teasers, etc rather than game props.}

The culmination of the season for me as a NFL analyst is the Super Bowl write-up.  I spend considerable time researching and breaking down the game.  For the next 48 hours, I’ll share the actual write-up I delivered to those I work for and with, as well as public clients.  Just click below to review the detailed 6 page analysis:

2015 Sharp Football Analysis Super Bowl Writeup for Public

If you read the write-up, you’ll see I was correct in predicting the flow and pace of the game for the most part. After a 0-0 first quarter, it took 2 TDs in the final 40 seconds to send the game over 24 points in the first half.  Due to varying game lines, it was most fair to split the 2 unit teaser into two individual releases, and take the most common lines available, which is why we won two, 1 unit wagers as opposed to one, 2 unit wager.

I correctly projected the Patriots would not be able to run the ball, and thus it would be Tom Brady’s “legacy” game, and predicted he would throw the ball a TON.  He finished with 50 attempts and 4 TDs.  I took 40+ attempts at +195 and the under on Blount’s rushing total, and won both (Blount rushed for just 2.9 ypc).  I correctly projected the receptions would be to Edelman and Gronkowski up the middle, and LaFell would not do much.  So I bet over Edelman’s receptions at 6.5 (he had 9) and under on LaFell’s receiving total (he only had 29 yds) and won both.

My two favorite props (that I went the largest on) revolved around game flow:  I correctly projected the Patriots would be forced into a lot of 3rd downs, and they would exceed 5.5 third down conversions.  That was my favorite prop.  They went 8-14 on third downs to win it.  My second favorite prop was the Brady 40+ attempts at +195 which I discussed above.

As for Seattle, I correctly projected the Patriots would struggle to stop the Seattle run game, and they did.  Lynch rushed for 102 yds at 4.3 ypc, even though his longest rush was only 15 yds.  But I projected the game would come down to how well Russell Wilson played.  His 11.8 ypa was tremendous, as was his 111 passer rating.  Both were better than Tom Brady’s.  But the interception at the goal line obviously decided this game, and I’ll cover more on that in a minute.

You can read the write-up to see how I projected the game flow:

I correctly projected the first half would start slow, and that the Patriots may take the lead.  I figured the first half would end under the total of 24 points, with the Patriots holding a narrow halftime margin.  With a 7-7 score and less than 1 minute left, New England was on their side of the field with the ball.  In a remarkable scoring barrage, not only did NE march the ball for a TD in that final minute, Seattle also drove the length of the field for a TD to tie the score at halftime.

I correctly projected Seattle would be playing from behind, late.  However, I guessed the score would be 24-23, and Seattle would only need a FG to win the game.  I guessed Wilson could drive them into range for the FG attempt.

As it turned out, the Seahawks trailed 28-24 (not 24-23) and as a result, needed a TD instead of a FG.  Wilson drove the team well into field goal range, as I projected, with a 1st and goal at the 5 yard line with just under 1 minute on the game clock.  A strong 1st down run gave the Seahawks a 2nd and goal from the NE 1 yard line.

That’s when the decision to call a pass foiled the game.  Yes, it was a brilliant pass break-up and interception by the Patriots, a tremendous play from the defender.  But it was a terrible play call.

Take a look at the below chart, which shows play success rates for runs vs passes at the 1 yard line, both in Super Bowl history, as well as in all NFL games since 2000.

As you can see, this was just the 8th time in Super Bowl history that a coach decided to call a pass play on 2nd (or 3rd) down at their opponent’s 1 yard line.  Those plays scored TDs just 38% of the time, and resulted in turnovers 13% of the time.

Compare that to runs on 2nd and 3rd down at the 1 yard line, which scored TDs 59% of the time and resulted in turnovers just 3% of the time.

That differential is tremendous!  Back out the turnover rates, and it makes it even more substantial.  You can even compare this to regular season games since 2000 (a huge sample size).  Even when doing so, 57% of all runs on 2nd or 3rd down were TDs.  Better than 49% when passing the football.

Why did Seattle pass when its hard to imagine Lynch getting stuffed at the goal line 3 straight carries?  Who knows.  I have mentioned OVER and OVER to viewers of this site that on 2nd and 1, the OPTIMAL play call is NOT a pass, I don’t care where you are on the field.  Far too often, teams take “shots” on these plays, thinking if it fails, they’ll be able to easily convert on 3rd and 1.  But as I’ve said religiously, these passes on 2nd and 1 have a pretty high interception rate, and because I stress efficiency in play calling, in my optimal situation:

After running a play to set up 2nd and 1, I hurry to the line and call a run play.  There is NO reason to hesitate, and just pick up the first down by quick-calling one of 2-3 standard 2nd & 1 “quick plays” in your playbook.  While the Seahawks were playing against the clock as well, they really over thought the decision and ended up going far too high risk than what was required, and it cost them.

For me and my clients, we had a great Super Bowl, but I simply hate watching bad play calls.  The numbers show that clearly, calling a pass in that situation has a history, in both the Super Bowl and the regular season, of being a lower reward play.

Last year was the first year I studied a lot for the NFL draft, and shared a lot of pre-season information and analysis.  I wrote the first edition of my Football Preview, a 247-page electronic PDF that sold on this site for $14.99.  The feedback was outstanding, and everyone seemed to love the incorporation of advanced metrics and analytics into a season preview.  So I will plan to do another one to preview the 2015 NFL season.  Stay tuned to the website for pre-draft and post-draft analysis, and much more this summer.

I only handicap football, as its the sport I have the biggest edge in and the only sport I’ve ever attempted to analyze.  Thus, I won’t be offering game recommendations or sales until next football season.  But I’ll be sharing AMPLE amounts of free information, analysis and research from now until next September, so stay tuned.  And join the mailing list to get updates on all the research and information I share the next 7 months.

I hope everyone had a GREAT 2014-15 NFL season!  If you were with my service, I hope you enjoyed the nice profit on my recommendations, and as importantly, learned some things along the way that you can use in your own analysis to break down games in the future.