The Pi-Rate Ratings

August 26, 2015

2015 AFC East Division Preview

Today, we begin our 2015 previews of each NFL division with a look at the AFC East Division. This year, we are going to concentrate mostly on stats and analytics.

You will see the following information in each preview.

  1. A current starting lineup based on multiple sources.  This will include players that are questionable for Week 1, and players suspended in the first four weeks.
  2. Team Information–Head Coach, Offensive and Defensive Coordinators, Last Year’s W-L Record and Average Offensive and Defensive Points Per Game
  3. 2015 Preseason PiRate, Mean, and Bias Ratings with an Average of the Three.
  4. Our PiRate Grades on Running Game, Passing Game, Defense Against the Run, Defense Against the Pass, Special Teams, and Coaching + Intangibles.  Note that these grades use advanced metrics and do not rely on regular statistics.  More about that in the footnote at the end of this entry.
  5. The PiRate Ratings won-loss predictions for 2015 and whether the team is picked to make the playoffs.  These predictions are based on a unique set of data and do not strictly correlate to our preseason ratings.  We actually have pre-adjustments in our ratings based on factors such as depth, age, schedule, travel, etc.

AFC EAST

New England has won this division six consecutive seasons, and the last time they didn’t win, they lost in a tiebreaker to the Miami Dolphins.  With Tom Brady sidelined for four games, a lot of pundits are picking the Patriots to begin the season trailing one or more contenders.  We remind them that Matt Cassel took over a Patriot team in 2008 and went 10-5 as a starter.  Jimmy Garoppolo should be able to at least split those four games, which should allow the Pats to seven-peat in the AFC East.

Rex Ryan takes over at Buffalo, and the Bills have enough talent on hand to make a playoff run, something Bills’ fans have not experienced since the fateful “Music City Miracle” in 1999.  With the addition of Matt Cassel, LeSean McCoy and to a lesser extent, Percy Harvin and Richie Incognito, Ryan’s Bills could take on the persona of the Oakland Raiders of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Miami added Ndamukong Suh and Greg Jennings to a roster that was 7-5 before fading fast last year.  The Dolphins will make the Playoffs this year, or Joe Philbin will be history.

The New York Jets start over with a new coach, a new quarterback they did not expect to have, two new cornerbacks, and a commitment to open up the offense.  However, in order for the Jets to get off the ground in 2015, unexpected new starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick must find a way to avoid the interception bug for at least 4 or 5 games, or else rookie Bryce Petty will be in the Big Apple microscope.

BUFFALO BILLS

Starting Lineup
Offense
WR Sammy Watkins
WR Percy Harvin
WR Robert Woods
TE Charles Clay
LT Gordy Glenn
LG Richie Ingonito
C Eric Wood
RG John Miller
RT Seantrel Henderson
QB Matt Cassel
HB LeSean McCoy
FB Jerome Felton
Defense
DE Mario Williams
DT Marcell Dareus
DT Kyle Williams
DE Jerry Hughes
LB Nigel Bradham
LB Preston Brown
LB Manny Lawson
CB Leodis McKelvin
S Aaron Williams
S Corey Graham
CB Stephon Gilmore
N5 Nickell Robey
Special
Kicker Dan Carpenter
Punter Colton Schmidt
KR Percy Harvin
PR Marcus Thigpen
Buffalo Bills
Head Coach Rex Ryan
Off. Coordinator Greg Roman
Def. Coordinator Dennis Thurman
2014 W-L-T 9-7-0
Pts 21.4
Opp 18.1
Ratings
PiRate 99.8
Mean 100.6
Bias 99.6
Average 100.0
Grades
Running B-
Passing C-
Vs. Run B+
Vs. Pass B-
Special Teams C
Coaching + Intangibles C+
Predicted W-L 10-6-0
Division Rank 2
Conference Rank 9
Overall Rank 17
Postseason Yes

MIAMI DOLPHINS

Starting Lineup
Offense
WR Greg Jennings
WR Kenny Stills
WR Jarvis Landry
TE Jordan Cameron
LT Albert Brandon
LG Dallas Thomas
C Mike Pouncey
RG Billy Turner
RT Ja’ Wuan James
QB Ryan Tannehill
HB Lamar Miller
FB (None)
Defense
DE Cameron Wake
DT Ndamukong Suh
DT Earl Mitchell
DE Olivier Vernon
LB Chris McCain
LB Koa Misi
LB Jelani Jenkins
CB Brent Grimes
S Reshad Jones
S Michael Thomas
CB Jamar Taylor
N5 Brice McCain
Special
Kicker Caleb Sturgis
Punter Brandon Fields
KR Jarvis Landry
PR Jarvis Landry
Miami Dolphins
Head Coach Joe Philbin
Off. Coordinator Bill Lazor
Def. Coordinator Kevin Coyle
2014 W-L-T 8-8-0
Pts 24.3
Opp 23.3
Ratings
PiRate 98.7
Mean 100.3
Bias 98.0
Average 99.0
Grades
Running C-
Passing C+
Vs. Run C
Vs. Pass B
Special Teams C-
Coaching + Intangibles C
Predicted W-L 9-7-0
Division Rank 3
Conference Rank 10
Overall Rank 19
Postseason No

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Starting Lineup
Offense
WR Reggie Wayne
WR Julian Edelman
WR Danny Amendola
TE Rob Gronkowski
LT Nate Solder
LG Josh Klein
C Bryan Stork
RG Ryan Wendell
RT Sebastian Vollmer
QB Tom Brady
HB LeGarrette Blount
FB James Develin
Defense
DE Rob Ninkovich
DT Alan Branch
DT Sealver Siliga
DE Chandler Jones
LB Jamie Collins
LB Jerod Mayo
LB Dont’a Hightower
CB Malcolm Butler
S Patrick Chung
S Devon McCourty
CB Logan Ryan
N5 Robert McClain
Special
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski
Punter Ryan Allen
KR Danny Amendola
PR Julian Edelman
New England Patriots
Head Coach Bill Belichick
Off. Coordinator Josh McDaniels
Def. Coordinator Matt Patricia
2014 W-L-T 12-4-0
Pts 29.3
Opp 19.6
Ratings
PiRate 107.9
Mean 107.9
Bias 107.9
Average 107.9
Grades
Running C-
Passing A+
Vs. Run C-
Vs. Pass C
Special Teams A
Coaching + Intangibles A+
Predicted W-L 12-4-0
Division Rank 1
Conference Rank 1
Overall Rank 2
Postseason No

NEW YORK JETS

Starting Lineups
Offense
WR Brandon Marshall
WR Eric Decker
WR Jeremy Kerley
TE Jeff Cumberland
LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson
LG James Carpenter
C Nick Mangold
RG Willie Colon
RT Breno Giacomini
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
HB Chris Ivory
FB Tommy Bohanon
Defense
DE Muhammad Wilkerson
DT Damon Harrison
DE Leonard Williams
LB Quinton Coples
LB Demario Davis
LB David Harris
LB Calvin Pace
CB Darrelle Revis
S Calvin Pryor
S Marcus Gilchrist
CB Antonio Cromartie
N5 Buster Skrine
Special
Kicker Nick Folk
Punter Ryan Quigley
KR Chris Owusu
PR Jeremy Kerley
New York Jets
Head Coach Todd Bowles
Off. Coordinator Chan Gailey
Def. Coordinator Kacy Rodgers
2014 W-L-T 4-12-0
Pts 17.7
Opp 25.1
Ratings
PiRate 97.7
Mean 98.2
Bias 97.5
Average 97.8
Grades
Running C-
Passing D
Vs. Run A-
Vs. Pass B+
Special Teams C
Coaching + Intangibles D
Predicted W-L 7-9-0
Division Rank 4
Conference Rank 12
Overall Rank 23
Postseason No

Grade Constituents & Data

Running Game: Offensive Line & Running Backs

Mere average yards per carry or total yards gained matters little here.  We grade based on how effective the running game is.  So, if a player gained 1,200 yards and averaged 4.0 yards per carry last year, there is no guarantee that he is better than a player that gains 800 yards and averaged 3.5 yards per attempt.  Gaining three yards on third and two is a lot more important than gaining four yards on third and eight.  A player that gets a lot of attempts inside the two yard line will see his average yards per carry drop but will be more effective due to getting the job done.

Passing Game: Quarterback, Receivers, Backs, Offensive Line

We use a combination of average yards per attempt, air yards per attempt, yards after catch, sacks per attempt, and avoidance of turnovers.  A team with a better quarterback may have a lower grade than a team with less talented quarterback, if he has a better pass blocking offensive line and/or better receivers.

Defense: All 11 defensive players factor into both run and pass defense.  The defensive ends and cornerbacks count more against the pass than any other position, while the front seven counts more against the run than the secondary.

Special Teams: Punt and Kick Coverage count for a little more than punt and kick return, but with a little extra given weight to returners that have a proven history of becoming game-changers.  Actual punting and kicking have gotten to the point where there is not much difference between the best and worst.  If the top punter averages 46 yards per punt, and a replacement punter averages just 40 yards per punt, that six yards is not that much of a factor.  Coverage is much more important.  Not allowing the opponent to get a long return counts more than the six yards difference in the punters.

Coaching + Intangibles: The head coach is not the only coach that matters, but he counts more than the strength and conditioning coach.  We look at the entire coaching staff, with the coordinators receiving more consideration than all but the head coach.  Intangibles include a host of factors, including things like having a player break a teammate’s jaw, penalties from deflating balls, having a team that missed out of the playoffs by a tiebreaker last year, and many other little things.

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