The Pi-Rate Ratings

September 12, 2017

PiRate Ratings NFL Forecast For Week 2: September 14-18, 2017

This Week’s PiRate Spreads & Totals

Home Visitor PiRate Mean Bias Total
Cincinnati Houston 3.5 2.9 4.5 31
Jacksonville Tennessee 2.2 1.4 3.1 47
Baltimore Cleveland 11.6 11.5 11.5 40
Carolina Buffalo 7.1 5.1 7.3 50
New Orleans New England -2.6 -4.6 -2.3 55
Indianapolis Arizona -1.5 -1.8 -1.8 53
Kansas City Philadelphia 6.7 8.2 6.1 43
Pittsburgh Minnesota 7.2 7.7 6.4 41
Tampa Bay Chicago 9.3 8.0 9.9 42
LA Chargers Miami 5.4 3.7 6.3 52
Oakland N. Y. Jets 16.0 17.6 15.6 46
LA Rams Washington -4.2 -3.5 -4.7 43
Denver Dallas -1.1 -0.1 -1.0 39
Seattle San Francisco 13.8 14.2 13.6 42
Atlanta Green Bay 4.3 2.5 5.1 62
N. Y. Giants Detroit 3.9 3.0 3.9 35

This Week’s PiRate Ratings

East PiRate Mean Bias Avg Totals
New England 104.7 105.6 104.5 104.9 22
Miami 98.6 99.3 98.0 98.6 24
Buffalo 97.5 98.4 97.7 97.9 24
N. Y. Jets 92.0 91.3 92.0 91.8 19
North PiRate Mean Bias Avg Totals
Pittsburgh 104.4 104.9 104.0 104.5 23
Baltimore 103.2 103.4 103.5 103.3 18
Cincinnati 97.7 97.8 97.9 97.8 16
Cleveland 94.6 94.9 95.0 94.8 22
South PiRate Mean Bias Avg Totals
Tennessee 98.6 99.2 97.9 98.6 25
Jacksonville 97.9 97.6 98.0 97.8 22
Houston 97.2 97.9 96.5 97.2 15
Indianapolis 95.6 95.8 95.2 95.5 27
West PiRate Mean Bias Avg Totals
Kansas City 105.0 105.3 105.4 105.2 22
Oakland 104.6 105.4 104.1 104.7 27
Denver 101.8 101.3 102.1 101.7 17
LA Chargers 100.5 99.5 100.8 100.3 28
East PiRate Mean Bias Avg Totals
Dallas 105.9 104.4 106.0 105.5 22
N.Y. Giants 101.3 101.4 101.1 101.3 14
Philadelphia 101.4 100.1 102.3 101.3 21
Washington 99.1 98.7 99.5 99.1 25
North PiRate Mean Bias Avg Totals
Green Bay 103.8 104.8 103.3 104.0 28
Detroit 100.4 101.4 100.2 100.7 21
Minnesota 100.2 100.2 100.6 100.3 18
Chicago 94.5 95.0 94.3 94.6 20
South PiRate Mean Bias Avg Totals
Atlanta 105.0 104.3 105.5 104.9 34
Carolina 101.6 100.5 101.9 101.3 26
Tampa Bay 100.9 99.9 101.3 100.7 22
New Orleans 99.6 98.4 99.7 99.2 33
West PiRate Mean Bias Avg Totals
Seattle 102.4 102.5 101.9 102.3 18
Arizona 100.1 100.5 100.0 100.2 26
LA Rams 91.4 91.7 91.3 91.5 18
San Francisco 91.5 91.3 91.3 91.4 24

The Offense Rests
Okay, it has only been one week of the NFL season, and two teams didn’t even play, so we are looking at just 15 games to date. And, after 15 games, the worry going around the NFL is that there is a giant lack of offense. Let’s look into this potential problem to see where the answer(s) might be.

The Average Points Per Game for Week 1 was 20.2 points, which is down a little from the recent trend of about 22.5 to 23.0 points per game. The Average in total yards was 305, which is off by a little more than the recent historical norm of 325 yards.

Have defenses simply just gotten better, and is this trend real? Or, could there be other factors? The professional athlete continues to evolve into a more fit, stronger, quicker, and smarter specimen. This evolution has changed all sports, as NBA basketball has a handful of superstars, and you must have at least one and preferably two to compete for the title. Major League Baseball is all about how hard one can hit the ball and how difficult one can prevent one from hitting the ball. Small Ball is almost extinct, as it is all about OPS and preventing such.

Could it be that football has changed as well, and that the superior athletes of today can close up all the gaps on the field and make it much more difficult to gain yards?

We think not. Let’s look back to the 1960’s, a time when the professional athlete was evolving from a time 10 years earlier when linemen might be 210 pounds and backs 180. In the 1960’s, the trend of 270-pound tackles and 220-pound linebackers led to the fear that the field might become too small. However, the NFL featured all types of scoring. You had teams that scored a lot of points and gave up a goodly amount as well. You had teams that featured defenses that held teams under 10 points per game for an entire season. You had quarterbacks that you knew would lead their teams to the playoffs, while others would not be up to the challenge.

The philosophy of the game was much different. Today, almost every NFL team relies on the short passing game to move the ball, complimented with the power running game. A team is likely to feature 15 to 20 line plunges and 15-20 passes of less than 5 yards through the air. Defenses basically must defend horizontally, and they can get by with 2-deep coverage or man-to-man with a free safety for most of the game. They can bring 7 men into the box on more downs than ever, because today 2nd and 10 is more likely to see the QB throw a short pass of less than 5 yards with the hope that the receiver can run for another 5 after the catch.

Even on 3rd & 10, there is a great chance that the QB will throw a short pass, hoping that the receiver can gain the necessary yards to convert. Defenses can play 2-deep with a nickel or dime package and appear to have all the zones covered in the 10-yard range.

This bunching horizontally has led to an appearance that the running gaps are covered across the field. It is much easier to squeeze in and stuff the inside run, and since there are defenders spread out, the wide runs don’t always work any more, as the art of pulling two guards to lead interference has gone away like the drop kick.

Statistically, quarterbacks today look much better than quarterbacks of 50 years ago, but it is most likely not the case. And, here’s why. Today’s quarterbacks might go 20 of 30 for 185 yards with a TD. A passer from 50 years ago might go 14 of 30 for 185 yards with a TD. The 2017 QB has a higher QB rating (94.5 to 77.8), but how did he perform any better? The 2017 QB most likely threw passes that gained little yardage or even lost yardage. The 1967 QB rarely completed a pass for less than 5 yards. It was unheard of back then, and when it happened, it was almost always from a botched screen pass. In essence, if you look at the 2017 QB, he might have 40% of his completions going for less than 8 yards. The 1967 QB was more likely to have 10% of his completions going for less than 8 yards, and for the most part coming on 3rd and 5, not 3rd and 10.

Let’s look at the breakdown of some of the passing philosophies of today and 50 years ago. First, let us categorize passing plays into screens, short passes thrown no more than 5 yards downfield with some coming behind the line, medium passes in the 6-12 yard range, intermediate passes in the 13-20 yard range, deep passes in the 21-30 yard range, and long passes in the 31+ yard range.
The passer of today might throw 2 screens, 16 short passes, 8 medium passes, 2 intermediate passes, 1 deep pass, and 1 long pass per game. He might complete both screens, 12 of the short passes, 4 of the medium passes, 1 intermediate pass, and 1 of the two deeper throws for 20 completions. This gives him 185 passing yards.

The passer of 50 years ago might have thrown 4 screens (this play was used a lot more then), 3 short passes, 10 medium passes, 5 interemediate passes, 3 deep passes, and 5 long passes for his 30 attempts. He might complete 3 of the 4 screens, 2 of the 3 short passes, 5 of the 10 medium passes, 2 of the 5 intermediate passes, 1 of the 3 deep passes, and 1 of the 5 long passes for 14 completions but also for 185 yards.

So, which is better? We believe the 1967 stats are better, because they are more likely to produce points. It has always been difficult to drive down the field 80 yards in 15 plays for a touchdown. It takes long-gaining plays to win in the NFL, and it always has been the case. There have been teams like the 1960’s Green Bay Packers, and the 1970’s Miami Dolphins that could sustain drive after drive, but these teams also had great defenses, and they could afford to grind it out with 40 running plays and 20 passing plays in a game. Still, when you looked at Bart Starr, his passing feats were usually right there at the top. Starr would set up the longer passes by forcing the defense to stop the Packer running game. The Packers spread the field both horizontally and vertically.

Other quarterbacks like Johnny Unitas, Norm Van Brocklin, Sonny Jurgensen, Roman Gabriel, Don Meredith, George Blanda, Daryle Lamonica, Len Dawson, John Hadl, Joe Namath, Norm Snead, and Frank Ryan rarely threw a short pass. Lamonica is the quintessential passer from the 1960’s. Known as the “Mad Bomber,” he led the Oakland Raiders to a 37-4-1 record from 1967 to 1969. Lamonica threw the ball more than 40 yards downfield about 7 or 8 times a game, usually completing 2 or 3, and usually passing for 2 to 3 touchdowns every week. Having Warren Wells and Fred Biletnikoff running deep routes and having hands like glue meant that defenses had to play 3 and 4 deep on many downs. 2 Deep coverage was rare, because the QBs of the 1960’s would burn it.

The running games had more room in the 1960’s, and with a two-back alignment, the running game was more consistent. Defenses had to play looser against the deep pass and had to worry about which of the two backs would carry the ball. Defenses could not cover all the running gaps, because at least 3 defensive backs had to play off the line of scrimmage far enough back to cover the deep passing routes, and the linebackers had to worry about the intermediate zones of which there was more width than today, as today’s underneath zones usually have 5 defenders, whereas 50 years ago, there were just 4.

There are a few teams that showed us a vertical game this past weekend. Oakland, Minnesota, and Atlanta, showed a vertical passing offense this week, and the three teams combined for 78 points (26.0 ppg). All three won their games.

So, we believe the issue of less offense has more to do with game-planning than with evolution of athletes. Athletes have been evolving continually for years with consistency. Philosophies have changed through the years. As soon as one team succeeds in playing a certain way, 80% of the league tries to copy it. Maybe, when a vertical passing team wins a Super Bowl, within a couple years, the vertical passing game will be the norm once again, like it was in the 1960’s when the NFL and AFL were more exciting than the NFL today. It could also be a factor in the decline of television viewership and the less frequent sellouts in the stadiums.

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