Tag Archives: Falcons

Which Comeback Was Most Unlikely?

Last night was ridiculous. Only Brady and Belichick can go down twenty-five points in the Super Bowl without their fans losing hope. And to score thirty-one straight points to do it? And to win the first ever overtime Super Bowl? And to do it while setting records left and right? Holy crap.

Then again, the Patriots are really just continuing a trend that’s been going on since June. This past year has been filled with tremendous comebacks and upsets. Like the Pats, the Cubs, Clemson, Trump, and the Cavs have all accrued huge deficits and overcome them. But which comeback of these five was the most improbable of all? Let’s figure it out.

5. Donald Trump (28.2% chance of winning)

This was a difficult probability to determine. While we can rely on Vegas and ESPN’s win expectancy for sports, there are a number of conflicting predictions out there. Accordingly, I went with Nate Silver and FiveThirtyEight’s empirical prediction model, rather than predictions from places such as the New York Times (15%) and the Princeton Election Consortium (1%) that were less based on statistics.

Although the Trump’s victory seemed unbelievable and shocking at the time, statistically, it wasn’t all that unlikely. Accordingly, all four sports comebacks were more miraculous than the election results.

4. Chicago Cubs (21.7%)

The Cubs’ comeback seems unlikely, and it was, but they were favored in each of the fateful final three games, by significant margins. Vegas expected Chicago to win each of the individual final three games, so the fact that it did isn’t too surprising.

Based on the money line, Chicago was expected to win 67.7% of the time in Game 5, about 59% in Game 6, and 54.5% in Game 7. Combined, they had barely better than a one in five chance of winning three straight games and emerging victorious at their nadir, which, while improbable, isn’t quite the act of God that it appeared to be.

3. Clemson Tigers (9.6%)

Clemson’s low point came after a Calvin Ridley reception gave Alabama a first down. At that point, in the middle of the second quarter, Clemson was down two touchdowns against a dominant defense. Despite this, the Tigers came roaring back to draw within three.

Later on, O.J. Howard’s 68 yard touchdown catch pushed their odds of winning back down to 14%. Once more, Clemson fought hard and eventually took the lead for the first time, gave it up, and finally regained it with one second remaining.

This was an impressive victory against the Evil Empire of college football, and the situation for Clemson was dire for large chunks of the game. However, the deficit was only fourteen points at its largest, so it doesn’t seem like the Tigers had a major comeback, even though their win expectancy reveals they did.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers (5.9%)

Both the Cavs and Cubs had to win three straight games, including two on the road, to break a mammoth championship drought. So why was Chicago nearly four times as likely as Cleveland to end its season with champagne?

The main reason is that the Cubs were superior to the Indians, while the Cavaliers were inferior to the record-setting Warriors. Furthermore, basketball is much less reliant on luck than baseball, so Cleveland needed to legitimately beat a dominant, otherworldly Golden State squad three straight times–a lucky, fluky win wasn’t possible.

Because of this, the Cavs’ championship comeback was the most unlikely of all until…

1. New England Patriots (0.03%)

The Pats had a huge comeback over the Falcons last night: after going down 28-3, New England roared back to score thirty-one points unanswered. The Falcons had a win probability of over 92% for thirty straight minutes, including a twelve minute streak when it never dipped below 98%.

The situation was bleakest after an incomplete pass from Julian Edelman left the Pats facing a 3rd and 3 from their own 46 with just over six minutes left in the third quarter while down 28-3. ESPN gave the Patriots a 0.03% chance of coming back to win the game at that point.

Even if you want to use the least optimistic Trump prediction, which gave him a 1% chance of winning the election, last night’s Patriots victory was three times as unlikely as Trump’s triumph.

Any way you slice it, this Super Bowl comeback was nearly impossible, and was the most improbable of the last year’s five unlikely moments. Of course, that’s just from a quantitative standpoint, which can’t capture the in-the-moment insanity that accompanies any spectacular event, along with all the other qualitative factors that go into making a memorable moment. Which one do you think was the craziest comeback of all? Let us know in the poll and in the comments!

Sources: FiveThirtyEight for Trump, ESPN for Clemson and New England, and oddsshark.com for Chicago and Cleveland. 

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Week 13 Picks Against the Spread

This week is the three-quarter mark of the season. At this point, most teams know where they stand, as a contender, pretender, or about to surrender.

However, there remain a few teams on the playoff bubble whose fate has yet to be determined and there are games taking place today that will go a long way towards deciding who’ll be spending January at home. Let’s focus on three of those games between semi-contenders and look at how each game’s result reverberates across the league.

Note: all home teams are in CAPS and all lines are from ESPN and are accurate at the time of writing.

Jets -2.5 over GIANTS

There are a ton of similarities between these two teams. Each has a star wide receiver, each is maddeningly inconsistent, and each is tied for a playoff spot.

The Giants sit at 5-6, tied with Washington for the lead in the NFC East. However, they don’t own the tiebreaker currently and it’s highly unlikely they’ll get it. The first tiebreaker between the two teams is division record. Each has two wins, but New York has three losses to Washington’s one. To take the tiebreaker, the Giants will have to win in Week 17 against the Eagles, but they’ll need the Cowboys and Eagles to sweep Washington in three games. Even if Washington goes 1-2, resulting in a tie in division record, the next tiebreaker, conference record, also belongs to them, as they’re 5-3 to the Giants’ 4-5.

To win the NFC East and to get into the playoffs, the Giants will have to have a better record than Washington, another scenario that seems unlikely. Comparing the two schedules, the Giants will face an undefeated team (Carolina), an 8-3 team (Minnesota), and the Eagles and Dolphins, as well as the Jets today. Washington on the other hand, will play Dallas twice, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Buffalo. The best case scenario has the Giants going 3-2, but it’s much more likely they’ll go 2-3, or even 1-4. Washington, however, will be hard-pressed not to win more than three games against the creampuff schedule they’ll face. Things are looking bleak for the Big Blue.

The Jets have an easier path to the playoffs. They currently sit in the seventh seed in the AFC, tied with four other teams at 6-5, with two more close behind at 5-6. For those seven teams, there  are three spots available, two for the Wild Cards and one for the winner of the AFC South. I’m going to proceed with the assumption that the Chiefs hold on to the fifth seed thanks to their season-saving hot streak and a fairly easy schedule. That leaves one spot for three teams: New York, Pittsburgh, and the second-place team in the South.

We’ll delve deeper into the latter two teams later on in the article, so let’s focus on the Jets now. The Jets have an astoundingly easy schedule. Out of their sixteen games, only four will have come against teams with winning records. The only team they’ll have faced that can be considered a genuine contender is the Patriots. For that reason, I’m skeptical of their chances of advancing should they make the playoffs, but with an easy schedule over the remainder of the season, I consider them the favorite to nab the sixth seed, especially if Houston (which has the head-to-head tiebreaker over them) beats out Indianapolis (which doesn’t) for the AFC South crown.

Arizona -4.5 over ST. LOUIS

MINNESOTA +2 over Seattle

Houston +3.5 over BUFFALO

MIAMI -3.5 over Baltimore

Atlanta +1 over TAMPA BAY

Both of these teams are erratic, wildly fluctuating from week to week between dominant and feeble. This game will likely not end up mattering because Seattle has a firm hold on the sixth seed due to its easy schedule. However, for these two teams, it’s essentially an elimination game. If Atlanta loses, it’ll be tied with Tampa Bay, without the tiebreaker, and with a tough schedule over the remaining four games. If the Buccaneers lose, they’ll be two games behind the Falcons with four games to play, a nearly insurmountable deficit.

If the Seahawks lose to the Vikings, then things will start to get interesting. Seattle will be 6-6 to Atlanta’s 7-5 or Tampa Bay’s 6-6 with the tiebreaker. Seattle will still be favored to get the sixth seed, thanks to Atlanta’s two likely losses against Carolina and Tampa Bay’s slightly tougher schedule, but it’ll be much more of a toss-up, and it could come down to the wire.

Cincinnati -9 over CLEVELAND

TENNESSEE +2 over Jacksonville

CHICAGO -6.5 over San Francisco

Denver -4 over SAN DIEGO

Kansas City +3 over OAKLAND

Carolina -6.5 over NEW ORLEANS

New England -7.5 over Philadelphia

Indianapolis +7.5 over PITTSBURGH

This is a must-win for the Steelers. Should they lose this game, they’ll fall to 6-6, and the remainder of their schedule includes Cincinnati and Denver, which realistically caps their record at 8-8, a record that is unlikely to result in a playoff berth.

The Colts, on the other hand, are well-placed to succeed even if they lose this matchup, as their remaining four games aren’t overly challenging, they’ll get to play Houston at home in a game that’ll likely decide the AFC South, and Andrew Luck will be coming back from a kidney injury within three weeks.

Whichever team is able to win this game will have the inside track to a playoff berth and whichever team loses will be hard-pressed to regain ground on the rest of the playoff-hopefuls, making this a pivotal moment in each team’s season, and since it comes on Sunday Night Football, I’m looking forward to watching it all unfold.

For the record, I fully expect the Steelers to win this game, but I’m picking the Colts +7.5 and hoping for a garbage-time touchdown.

WASHINGTON -3.5 over Dallas

As it stands now, i think that Washington will win the NFC East and that Seattle will take the sixth seed. I think Indianapolis will win the AFC South and that the Jets will win the sixth seed by a single game over Pittsburgh and Houston.

Of course, the beauty of football is that, unlike other sports such as basketball, anything can happen. After all, there are no sure things in the NFL. Well, except for the Browns turning a victory into an agonizing defeat.

Who is This Year’s CJ Anderson?

Last year hundreds of thousands of fantasy leagues were decided by one player: CJ Anderson. Anderson came out of nowhere in Week 9 against the Raiders, racking up 163 all-purpose yards along with a touchdown, for 23.3 points in standard leagues. The next week he salvaged a poor rushing day with eight receptions for 88 yards. From then on, Anderson was a high-end RB1, with only one game below 18.5 points (standard scoring) the rest of the way.

There were other guys who broke out in the latter half of the 2014 season to carry teams to championships. Jeremy Hill was very good, but not nearly as good as Anderson. Odell Beckham Jr. was spectacular, but he was good before the stretch run for the average fantasy league.

Even though Anderson wasn’t owned before the stretch run and Hill and Beckham Jr. both were, there are two important similarities between these three players. Each took advantage of a struggling incumbent starter. Giovani Bernard ceded his job to Hill, Victor Cruz’s injury freed up a ton of targets for Beckham Jr., and Montee Ball was ineffective, which allowed Anderson to fill up that gap in production. Each player was new to the league. Hill and Beckham Jr. were rookies and Anderson was a second-year player who had seven touches across two games in his rookie season.

Let’s use these two criteria to find a few likely breakout candidates. This player needs to have been in the league for less than two seasons and have a starting job ready to be seized after an injured or ineffective starter vacated it.

First and foremost on this list is Thomas Rawls. With the recent news that Marshawn Lynch will be out for at least four weeks after a sports hernia surgery, the running back has a clear path to the starting job in Seattle. Rawls is a rookie, who went undrafted but was then signed by the Seahawks. Adding to Rawls’ appeal, in the four games Lynch has been out so far this season, Rawls has averaged 132.5 rushing yards on 21.5 carries, with three touchdowns. Those are RB1 numbers and with the shaky RB situation this season, Rawls could easily be a top-5 RB the rest of the way.

Javorius Allen is another easy choice. Like Rawls, he’s a rookie and the incumbent starter, Justin Forsett, broke his arm and is out for the season. Not only is the starting running back job his for the taking, the QB, Joe Flacco, is also out for the season after tearing both his ACL and MCL, with Matt Schaub set to take over. Schaub was last seen in 2013, setting a record by throwing a pick-6 in four straight games for the 2-14 Texans. I have a feeling the Ravens won’t give Schaub much responsibility, especially because their wide receiver corps doesn’t inspire any confidence. That’ll lead to a ton of touches for Allen, and in fantasy football, tons of touches equals tons of points.

In Kansas City, the Chiefs haven’t missed a beat after Jamaal Charles went down for the season with a torn ACL. Charcandrick West,  took over the starting job and has produced RB1 numbers with a massive workload. Now, West, should be owned in any competitive league, but he went down with a hamstring injury this past week, opening the door for Spencer Ware to fill in. Ware’s in his third season, but until last week he had a total nine touches in his career. He doubled that on Sunday, totaling eleven carries for 96 yards and two touchdowns along with a five yard reception. Should West miss this week, Ware will have a chance to prove his viability as a feature back, a role which could provide him with the rich usage needed to be a bona fide fantasy stud.

Devin Funchess was a breakout pick at the start of the year. He’s a rookie, drafted in the second round out of Michigan. After Kelvin Benjamin tore his ACL before the season began, Funchess’ ADP began to rise. However, he did almost nothing for the first half of the season, and guys like Ted Ginn Jr. and Jerricho Cotchery soaked up the newly available targets. Over the last three weeks, Funchess has turned his season around, averaging three receptions for 59 yards and catching a pair of touchdowns. With his relative youth and the wealth of targets available to him, Funchess has a good shot at a solid finish to the season.

It’s tricky to predict how long players will be out from concussions, and although Devonta Freeman isn’t expected to miss more than a game from the one he suffered last week, should his ailment keep him out for longer, the Falcons will need to find someone to soak up the a ton of touches. Enter Tevin Coleman, yet another rookie, a third round pick out of Indiana University. He was actually expected to be the starter entering the season, but after an injury sidelined him for a couple of weeks, Freeman took hold of the job and never let it go. Now that Coleman has little competition for running back touches in the Atlanta offense for at least a week, could he perform well enough to steal back the job from Freeman? Admittedly, it’s unlikely, but stranger things have happened.

Last of all, one player with a shot to become this year’s CJ Anderson is…CJ Anderson. This is still only his third year in the league so youth is on his side. Denver’s QB combo of Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler doesn’t inspire much confidence, so if Anderson can wrest the starting job back from Ronnie Hillman, he could have a spectacular stretch run, leading teams to victory for the second straight year.