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Packers are done and so is the idea of NFL parity

Jeff Fogle
VSiN City Newsletter

Packers ready to pack it in as young quarterback Brett Hundley continues to struggle. Stats from Detroit/GB…NFL Power Ratings…and key data from college football today in VSiN City.

Monday Night Football: Stick a fork in the Packers, Detroit dominates Green Bay 30-17 
Normally, it would seem extreme to rule a 4-4 team out of the playoffs. They’re sitting at .500 and there’s still half a season to go. But the Packers with inexperienced and overmatched Brett Hundley playing quarterback have little chance to win enough games to reach the postseason in the competitive NFC. 

Remember as you peruse the numbers below, Green Bay was as fresh as can be off a bye week that followed a home game…AND had all the motivation in the world to beat a divisional rival to stay in the playoff hunt. Then, include the fact that the Packers went 75 yards in 7 plays while running out the clock for a garbage time TD that padded their stats and broke the hearts of Under bettors. 

Detroit (-2) 30, Green Bay 17

  • Yards-per-Play: Detroit 6.2, Green Bay 5.4
  • Total Yards: Detroit 417, Green Bay 311
  • Third Down Detroit 62%, Green Bay 22%
  • Turnovers: Detroit 1, Green Bay 0
  • Rushing Yards: Detroit 64, Green Bay 78
  • Passing Stats: Detroit 26-33-0-353, Green Bay 26-38-0-233
  • TD Drive Lengths: Detroit 71-91-75, Green Bay 78-75

It was a stat slaughter until garbage time. At least Hundley will be able to move the ball against any opponents in the final two months who are just running out the clock on their own seasons. Green Bay didn’t score a TD until it was down 20-3 in the fourth quarter. The Packers scored their last TD trailing 30-10 on a bonus play after time expired.

Let’s stack that game with the Packers at home vs. New Orleans in Hundley’s other start

  • New Orleans won yardage 485-260, YPP 6.5 to 5.2, and third downs 53% to 36%
  • Detroit won yardage 417-311, YPP 6.2 to 5.4, and third downs 62% to 22%

The Saints are very likely going to be a playoff team. Detroit has a chance, but probably won’t be. Green Bay “at home” is well below the standard needed to make a run. Not only will Hundley struggle to move the ball, but he can’t help protect what’s been recently exposed as a very soft defense. Upcoming road games for the Packers will see them as road dogs in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Carolina, and at Detroit. They will be home dogs to Baltimore and Minnesota. 

Currently better than Green Bay’s 4-4 mark in the NFC:

  • Philadelphia 8-1
  • Minnesota, New Orleans, LA Rams 6-2
  • Carolina, Seattle 6-3
  • Dallas 5-3 

That’s seven teams currently ahead of GB for six available playoff spots. Detroit, Atlanta, Washington, and Arizona are also 4-4. 

Does Detroit have a chance to reach the NFC brackets? The Lions’ schedule is extremely favorable.

Road: at Chicago, at Baltimore, at Tampa Bay, at Cincinnati
Home: Cleveland, Minnesota, Chicago, Green Bay

That’s two shots at Mitchell Trubisky, one at Deshone Kizer, another at Brett Hundley, and then possible road wins at recently plummeting Tampa Bay and Cincinnati. Detroit still needs some help. A lot of those other contenders run into each other a few times. 

A look at our updated estimate of “market” Power Ratings will add some more context to Detroit’s remaining schedule. 

NFL: New Estimated Market Power Ratings
Time for our weekly Tuesday update of how it appears “the market” is rating all 32 pro football teams on a Power Ratings scale. First, here’s a look at the Monday evening lines we’ll be using…

  • Seattle (-6/41.5) at Arizona
  • Minnesota (-1.5/42.5) at Washington
  • Green Bay at Chicago (NL pending MNF)
  • Pittsburgh (-10/44.5) at Indianapolis
  • LA Chargers at Jacksonville (-4/41)
  • NY Jets at Tampa Bay (with Fitzpatrick) (-1.5/42)
  • Cincinnati at Tennessee (-5.5/40.5)
  • New Orleans (-2.5/46) at Buffalo
  • Cleveland at Detroit (NL pending MNF)
  • Houston at LA Rams (-12/46)
  • Dallas at Atlanta (-3/50.5)
  • NY Giants (-1/42.5) at San Francisco
  • New England (-7.5/46.5) at Denver
  • Miami at Carolina (-9/40)

If you’re new to our website, or this newsletter, we use those lines to build “couplets” that we place on the scale. We adjust the numbers you see above three points as a standard for home field advantage. Seattle is -6 at Arizona…so the Seahawks must go 9 points higher than the Cards on our scale. (That would be a “neutral site” line). Down at the bottom, Carolina is -9 at home over Miami. They would go 6 spots higher because home field is helping to boost that number.

Here we go…

85: New England, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia
84: Kansas City, New Orleans
83: Dallas, Atlanta 
82: Minnesota, LA Rams, Seattle
80: Carolina, Jacksonville 
79: Buffalo, Tennessee, Oakland, LA Chargers 
78: Baltimore, Washington, Detroit 
77: Cincinnati
75: Denver, Chicago, Tampa Bay (w/Fitzpatrick)
74: Miami, NY Jets, Green Bay 
73: Houston, Arizona (w/Stanton)
72: Indianapolis, NY Giants
71: Cleveland, San Francisco (with Garappolo, maybe more)
68: San Francisco (with Beathard)

A few notes…

  • We had to make some adjustments from last week for our estimates on Arizona and San Francisco. Seattle must be 9 better than Arizona…and Arizona should still be about 5 higher than San Francisco given its cover of last week’s line head-to-head. If we kept AZ and SF where we had them before, inconsistent Seattle was suddenly a Super Bowl team despite losing at home to Washington. If we moved Arizona down to a place this week that made sense for the Seattle line, they were way to close to SF. So, we’re now going to assume that the market correctly understood that SF was much worse with Beathard than we had been accounting for. “SF with Beathard” now represents a new league low, below Cleveland with Kizer or anyone else. The Niners host NYG this week then have a bye. We won’t be able to peg any adjustments for Garappolo until he’s installed at the starter (which might not even be this season). 
  • We’ve lifted the top of the scale to 85 from 84, which is normally championship caliber. New England and Pittsburgh are getting respect in the pricing this week. You’d think Philadelphia would HAVE to after a bye week off the rout of Denver. We may not really be able to separate the elites confidently until playoff time.
  • The Ringer published an article a few weeks ago titled “The NFL’s Parity Myth Has Become a Reality” which jumped the gun way too soon based on strong early season success for underdogs, an over-reliance on won-lost records without adjusting for schedule strength, and some misreads on where teams belonged in the league hierarchy (along, arguably, with a lack of recognition that more QB injuries were likely to happen). The Power Ratings you see above about as opposite of parity as you can get. 

Imagine a bar graph (which is basically our chart above flipped on its side)…

  • Parity would be shown by a tight bell curve with A LOT of teams bulging the middle. I trust all of you know what a bell curve looks like. 
  • An even distribution (a version of anti-parity) would instead be similarly sized team stacks forming a fence that you could run across the top of. The market has currently settled on something close to a fence that runs 14 points long to SF with Garappolo, 17 to SF with Beathard.

84-85: 5 teams
82-83: 5 teams
79-80: 6 teams
77-78: 4 teams
74-75: 6 teams
73-down: 6 teams

A bunch of “experts” gave explanations for something that doesn’t even exist. And it’s not like this year’s scale is out of whack. Normally the peak is a bit higher…with a super-team or two up around 87.  But the dregs also usually higher than very low 70’s.

You could also make the case that a “barbell” is a form of anti-parity (something like 14 elite teams, 4 in the middle, and then 14 really crappy teams). With more franchises considering losing with young quarterbacks to improve draft position…let’s hope things don’t get THAT extreme the rest of the way (we’re looking at you Denver and Cincinnati). 

College Football: Quick recaps of last Saturday’s big games
We’ll devote some time later this week to expanded previews of this Saturday’s games matching Top 10 teams like Georgia/Auburn, Notre Dame/Miami, and TCU/Oklahoma. While this past weekend is still fresh in our minds, let’s quickly run the key numbers from showcase games we discussed last Friday. 

Big 10 Danger Spots (which turned out to be well-named!)

  • Ohio State got obliterated at Iowa as a 21-point favorite. The Hawkeyes won 55-24 (a 52-point cover), winning total yardage 487-371, yards-per-play 7.0 to 5.8, turnovers 4-0, while scoring on TD drives of 80-89-22-78-60-47 yards. One very cheap one in there (plus a pick six), and then a semi-cheap one at 47 yards. But the supposedly awesome Ohio State defense (judged by pundits who watched the second half of OSU/Penn State, but apparently not any of Oklahoma/Ohio State), allowed four TD drives of 60 yards or more to the huge dog. Our “stat score” (2 times rushing yards, plus passing yards, times 0.67, divided by 15), would have had it 33-24 Iowa. So, the turnovers and cheap points helped turn a 30-point cover into a 52-point cover.
  • Tough to blame this one on “the public” overrating Ohio State. Quants and oddsmakers have been saying Ohio State was the Alabama of the north all season, and kept right on saying it until kickoff of this game. Hopefully our warnings about the Buckeyes based on horrible boxscores vs. Clemson in last season’s Final Four and then this season’s OU game got through to some.
  • Penn State endured a long weather delay (which typically hurts visitors more than hosts) before losing to Michigan State 27-24. Sparty won total yardage 474-466, third downs 56% to 33%, and turnovers 3-1 while posting TD drives of 52-69-91 yards. Penn State did win yards-per-play 6.8 to 5.9, continuing its trend of letting its athletes make big plays in the middle of the field that don’t necessarily yield the point totals you’d expect. 

Bedlam (also living up to the subhead)

  • Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State 62-52, winning total yardage 785-661, yards-per-play 10.3 to 7.5, and turnovers 3-2. We’ll save some space and not list all the TD drives! Fun if you like arena football. Felt more like a travesty if you respect defense. OU very clearly established its superiority to OSU by dominating the numbers to that degree in Stillwater. Oklahoma State’s home losses to both TCU and Oklahoma darken the doorstep of all the pundits who assured us that the Cowboys were Final Four caliber back in August and early September. 

SEC Smashmouth (pretty much)

  • Alabama beat LSU 24-10, winning yards-per-play 5.0 to 4.2, but not appearing as dominant as a line of -20.5 would have suggested. Big underdog LSU won total yardage 306-299 and third down conversions 47% to 36%. One of Alabama’s TD drives was pretty cheap at 37 yards.  

ACC Action (let’s not beat a dead horse)

  • Clemson beat NC State 38-31, but sure didn’t look like a lock for the Final Four. Underdog NC State won total yardage 491-415, and yards-per-play 5.8 to 5.7. Clemson had a punt return TD, won the turnover category 2-1, and did a better job at moving the chains on third downs to the tune of 44% to 23%. This was the same Wolfpack team that Notre Dame clobbered the week before. Most concerning to Clemson fans, allowing 491 yards and 31 points (TD drives of 40-65-75-65) pops the balloon of Clemson having a brick wall defense. Definitely a lot of great athletes…but this wasn’t a defensive effort to be proud of.
  • Miami controlled Virginia Tech 28-10, winning total yards 429-299, yards-per-play 7.4 to 4.0, and turnovers 4-3. Tech’s only TD came on a 17-yard drive. So, pretty woeful night for the clearly overrated Hokies. Still a mystery why they temporarily shot to a road favorite here against the tide of all prior market pricing. That re-corrected back to Miami before kickoff. Stat score here was Miami 29, Virginia Tech 18, further cementing pretender status for the Hokies. Their 4 giveaways kept some points off the board. 

To this point, if you took Miami when they were a dog…it’s ALL DOGS covering pointspreads in the big games. 

Pac 12 Powderkegs (probably hyperbole)

  • Washington State made the world wonder why Stanford was a short road favorite. Wazzou won scoreboard 24-21, misleadingly close because the Cardinal had an interception return TD. The home dog won yardage 430-198, yards-per-play 5.6 to 4.2, third downs 44% to 25%, with all three of their TD drives being longer than any Stanford TD drive. All the pundits celebrating K.J. Costello finally starting at QB for Stanford watched him go 9-20-1-105.
  • USC was the first favorite to cover one of our showcase games, beating Arizona 49-35, on a huge yardage edge of 642-380. USC won YPP 8.2 to 5.2, and turnovers 3-1. Just in time for the Trojans to garner hype as “closing the season playing some of the best football in the country” while already having eliminated themselves from Final Four consideration. 

We’re looking forward to going more in-depth in college football now that the games matter most. We’ll also have some special college basketball treats for you this week with the hoops season starting Friday. 

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