Saturday, January 14, 2006

Hope for Skins in Seattle?

I've been tinkering with ways to quantify NFL schedule strength differences in terms of wins and losses. While working on that I noticed a timely tidbit last night that's worth sharing before tomorrow's big game.

Seattle's opponent win percentage this year is the third-lowest in the past five years (I've only compiled data back through the 2001 season). Washington, on the other hand, is tied with six other teams for the 16th toughest schedule over the same span. The tables below include Washington, Seattle, and several other 2005 teams.

The first table lists teams with the lowest opponent win percentages (easiest schedules). Notice that six of this year's playoff teams are on the list.

Over the past five years teams with an opponent win percentage of .400 to .449 averaged 11.2 wins. Teams with an opponent win percentage of .450 to .474 averaged 10.1 wins.

The second table lists teams with the highest opponent win percentages (toughest schedules). It includes two 2005 teams whose coaches were fired this year (Oakland and Houston), and one team whose coach would likely have been fired this year if he wasn't in the first year of his contract (San Francisco). The list also includes one of the best teams not to make the playoffs this year (San Diego) and another team that barely edged into the playoffs by winning its last five games (Washington).

Teams with an opponent win percentage of .550 to .599 averaged just 5.1 wins, and teams with an opponent win percentage of .525 to .549 averaged only 6 wins over this period.

Some other offhand observations: In 2003 Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Reeves was replaced with three games to go as the Falcons finished 5-11. Too bad for Reeves. He not only lost Michael Vick that year, but also drew one of the toughest schedules in the league. In 2004 Reeves's replacement Jim Mora, Jr. was hailed as the NFL's next great genius--after getting back his star quarterback and drawing the fourth easiest schedule in the past five years.

Fortunately for Redskins fans, Buffalo unceremoniously dismissed Gregg Williams in 2003 after he led his team to a 6-10 record against the fourth toughest schedule on the list below.

And then there's Tony Dungee who was dimissed from Tampa Bay after a 9-7 down year in 2001--against opponents with a win percentage of .535. Good thing for young genius Jon Gruden that Tampa Bays' schedule strength dropped to .480 in 2002, helping his team lock up home field advantage through the playoffs.

Oh, and remember that uncharacteristically bad 6-10 record Indianapolis compiled in 2001? Yep, they had an even tougher schedule than Tampa Bay that year, which led to the firing of Jim Mora (Senior) and the hiring of Tony Dungee. And round and round we go!

I didn't include win-loss records but Washington is the only team on the toughest-schedules list to win 10 games and reach the playoffs. The Redskins may have improved more this year than is readily apparent: Last year's 6-10 record and dismal offensive performance were achieved against a much weaker schedule (.477 opponent win percentage) than this year's 10-6 mark.

Current Washington Post Redskins stories: Seattle to Washington; Seattle all Smiles; Taylor Trial Update; Uneasy Truce; Yes, Taylor Brazen Liar; Seattle Waiting; Holmgren Loser; Getting D; Prioleau Grabs Chance; Brunell Odd; Kicking Bad Habits; Focus on Offense; Kornheiser; Griffin Difference Maker; City Powerless

Lowest Opponent Win Percentages Since 2001
RankYearTeamOpp Win Pct
2003Kansas City0.418
42001Green Bay0.434
2003St. Louis0.434
102001New England0.449
2002Green Bay0.449
2005Tampa Bay0.449
2004Green Bay0.457
2001San Francisco0.465
2004New Orleans0.465

Highest Opponent Win Percentages Since 2001
RankYearTeamOpp Win Pct
2005San Diego0.559
92003NY Giants0.555
2004Kansas City0.551
2005San Francisco0.539
222001Tampa Bay0.535


Anonymous said...

Makes 100% - and even more so if the Skins win today.

ThatGuy said...

Nice research there. Good article, exactly the kind of information you'll never find any big media outlet report.

Anonymous said...

I get so sick and tired of hearing how "good" Seattle is. They are a paper tiger.

Seattle has only played 5 games where their opp is over .500 (4 if you exclude the Colts game, which Indy didn't play to win). They got beat by the Jags (another paper tiger) and the Redskins (at a time when the Skins, although undefeated, were't really that good). They beat the Cowboys (barely) and the Giants (barely) -- both at home.

The reason they have such a good record is because they are in a crappy division and they play 6 games within their division.

I am also getting a bit tired of hearing about how they are 8-0 at home. Well, they didn't play many good teams at home -- only Dallas, New York, and Indy were above 500, and Indy really shouldn't count. The 2 "good" teams that they played gave them all that they could handle (the Giants and Cowboys lost by 3 points each) -- on their home field. Today's Redskins (yes, there is a huge difference in the current 'Skins and the 'Skins from earlier in the season) spanked the Giants and Cowboys.

Seattle's "impressive" offense is predicated upon getting Alexander the ball thus opening up the passing game, which puts points on the board and causes the opposing team to make mistakes on offense.

But ...

I don't think that Washington's D is going to let Seattle run ball, which means that Seattle will make mistakes on offense (they will be forced to pass).

Here's a stat for you:

Matt Hasselbeck has 24 TD's and only 9 INT's. Wow! I am so impressed that I will go out on a limb and say that Washington doesn't stand a chance.


When he plays teams with a record over 500 (not including Indy), he has 6 TD's and 6 INT's. That's not nearly as impressive.

Washington is going to win.

Anonymous said...

"Washington is going to win."

Good call.

One thing that should be considered is that good teams make their strength of schedule worse by beating all the teams they play.

A team with a good record (say... 13-3?) is responsible for 13 losses for their opponents, which makes a big impact on S.O.S.

Ashley said...

Actually opponent win percentage doesn't change that much when you throw out opponent games involving a team with a good record.

I had already calculated this for all teams and Seattle's opponent win percentage changes from .430 to .446, moving them from 3rd easiest schedule in the past five years to 8th easiest. Washington's changes from .539 to .550, moving them from 16th toughest to 9th toughest.

Of course, it doesn't really make sense to say which team is "going to win" any more than it makes sense to say "I'm going to roll a one or a two on this die". You can try to estimate the probabilities that one team or another will win, though, and the point of my post was to show that today's game was a closer matchup than many people thought.