The Pi-Rate Ratings

October 25, 2016

NFL Ratings And Spreads For Week 8: October 27-31, 2016

A Look At The Metrics
Without getting into far advanced metrics that would bore all but one or two of our readers, let’s take a look at some of the main statistics every football fan is familiar with and try to determine what is affecting NFL games the most this year.

Let’s go through each big recognizable statistic and see if we can discover where the top tier in each stat is winning and in line for the playoffs, and which stats appear to mean very little this season.
Of course, we will throw out things like wins and losses and scoring margins. Obviously, these are the most important stats to determine who is performing the best so far, but we cannot look at just wins and losses and scoring margin and determine that a team is bound to win their next game or lose their next game based on these factors. Later in the season, won-loss records and scoring margins can be used to determine future wins and losses, but still there are times when these stats are not perfect. We won’t even include the fact that a team that has clinched its division and has nothing to play for in Week 17 might treat a game against a 7-8 team like an exhibition. We are talking about games when all teams are still trying to win.

We will also throw out things like Adjusted Value over Average or Air Yards per Pass Attempt. These statistics are great for individual achievements, but a forward pass includes blocking, the quarterback throwing accurately, and intelligently, the receiver catching the ball, and then the receiver looking for downfield blocks and empty space to run.

Something that should be considered is how the yards are gained. Two teams can average four yards per rush, but they may have wide ranges with how they average four yards per rush. Let’s say Team A runs for 16 yards on the first attempt and then gains nothing at all on the next three attempts. If Team A begins at their own 25 yard line and runs four consecutive times for 16,0,0,and 0 yards, they will face 4th and 10 from their own 41 yard line.

Let’s say Team B runs for exactly four yards on each attempt. Four plays later, they will also be at their own 41 yard line, but unlike Team A that is having to punt on 4th and 10, Team B will have it 2nd and 6. Consistency of gaining more than what is needed on a play is more important than regular average. A big fullback might average just 2.9 yards per rush, but if he only carries the ball at the opponents’ two yard line and also on 3rd and 1 or 2 or 4th and 1, that 2.9 yards might make him the most valuable player on the team. Then, another player with a 4.8 yard rushing average might be almost worthless, because he frequently gets stopped short of the first down marker and then gets a 35-yard run just before halftime when the defense has a 7-man secondary and is in prevent, as that 35-yard run ends the half.

After looking at all the 2016 stats that are easy enough to understand, you can completely eliminate total offense, total defense, yards per rushing attempt by offense and versus defense, and yards per passing atttempt by offense and versus defense. There are teams in line to pick high in the 2017 draft that are doing quite well in these statistics, and there are teams that could receive home field advantage in the playoffs doing poorly in these statistics.

Does your team’s coach believe that you win by running the football to set up the pass and by stopping the run first? Chances are, your team is not doing well this season. Four teams are averaging around five yards per rush this season–Buffalo, Cleveland, Miami, and Tennessee. These four have a combined 10-18 record. One team averages less than three yards per rush–Minnesota with a 5-1 record.

Okay, so you say that stopping the run is what really counts? Then, explain why the New York Jets, Carolina Panthers, and Baltimore Ravens aren’t at the top of their divisions, since they stop the run cold. Meanwhile, the Oakland Raiders are surrendering five yards per rush and have a 5-2 record.

Let’s look at the passing game. Passing the ball and defending the pass have been more accurate in predicting the winners of NFL games in the last 10 years or so. It is definitely a better indicator this season than rushing, but it is still not overly accurate. You have division leaders Atlanta, New England, and Dallas among the league leaders in yards per pass attempt, but you also have Cincinnati, San Diego, Miami, and Detroit among the top of the charts.

Defensively, Denver and Minnesota are leading the way by allowing the fewest yards per pass attempt, but right with these two division leaders are Jacksonville, Arizona, the New York Giants, and Los Angeles.

So what statistic currently corresponds with the best with the won-lost records of the NFL? There is definitely one that stands out by itself as the most accurate after seven weeks. In fact, of the top 12 in this statistic, eight would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, and two of the other four would be within striking distance but currently are on the outside due to byes giving teams a half-game lead.

What is this statistic? It is turnover margin. Turnover margin has been much more important this year than in recent seasons. Minnesota leads the league in turnover margin. Oakland and Buffalo are tied for second. Following the top three in order are: Kansas City, Philadelphia, Denver, Dallas, Arizona, and New England. Not a single team has a losing record among this group.

At the other end, of the bottom 13, only two teams have winning records, and both are just 4-3. All eight last place teams in the divisions can be found in this dirty dozen.

The question becomes: “Can we use this stat to predict future results? Ah, therein lies the problem. The turnover margins tend to be the least predictable, even when you have Ryan Fitzpatrick or Case Keenum as your starting quarterback. Fitzpatrick might throw 10% of his passes to the wrong colored jersey for an entire month and then not throw one for a month. A ball carrier might fumble twice in one game and then go weeks without coughing it up.

That presents quite a dilemma when trying to pick winners and losers in the NFL this year. The only rational thing to do is go with underdogs that have positive turnover margins and against favorites with negative turnover margins. And then, don’t count on being all that successful this year.

This Week’s PiRate Ratings

Current NFL PiRate Ratings
East PiRate Mean Bias Avg Off Def
New England 108.9 107.3 109.8 108.7 65 44
Buffalo 104.3 104.6 105.0 104.6 63 42
N. Y. Jets 99.1 97.5 100.0 98.9 58 41
Miami 96.8 97.3 96.7 96.9 59 38
North PiRate Mean Bias Avg Off Def
Pittsburgh 103.9 103.4 104.8 104.0 63 41
Cincinnati 102.2 101.8 102.4 102.2 61 41
Baltimore 97.4 99.2 96.8 97.8 61 37
Cleveland 90.1 90.7 89.8 90.2 57 33
South PiRate Mean Bias Avg Off Def
Indianapolis 97.5 99.1 97.0 97.9 62 36
Houston 97.6 98.7 97.3 97.9 61 37
Tennessee 94.5 96.1 94.0 94.9 57 38
Jacksonville 94.3 96.0 93.5 94.6 59 36
West PiRate Mean Bias Avg Off Def
Denver 107.1 105.2 107.0 106.4 63 43
Kansas City 102.9 102.6 103.4 103.0 64 39
San Diego 100.6 101.4 100.5 100.8 65 36
Oakland 98.3 99.2 98.5 98.7 64 35
East PiRate Mean Bias Avg Off Def
Philadelphia 104.0 101.9 103.6 103.2 63 40
Dallas 101.4 100.9 101.8 101.4 61 40
Washington 100.1 100.0 100.1 100.1 62 38
N.Y. Giants 98.6 98.5 98.6 98.6 62 37
North PiRate Mean Bias Avg Off Def
Minnesota 106.5 105.3 106.8 106.2 62 44
Green Bay 102.5 102.0 102.3 102.3 63 39
Detroit 98.8 98.5 98.6 98.6 61 38
Chicago 92.9 91.7 92.4 92.4 54 38
South PiRate Mean Bias Avg Off Def
Atlanta 102.7 104.2 103.1 103.3 68 35
Carolina 101.9 102.0 101.8 101.9 60 42
New Orleans 97.7 99.5 97.3 98.2 64 34
Tampa Bay 96.8 97.1 96.4 96.8 60 37
West PiRate Mean Bias Avg Off Def
Seattle 107.5 104.6 108.4 106.8 63 44
Arizona 106.6 104.5 107.1 106.1 67 39
Los Angeles 98.5 99.6 98.2 98.8 57 42
San Francisco 90.1 91.3 89.4 90.3 53 37


This Week’s Games
Home Visitor PiRate Mean Bias Totals
Tennessee Jacksonville 2.7 2.6 3.0 43
Cincinnati (*) Washington 2.1 1.8 2.3 44
Atlanta Green Bay 2.8 5.2 3.8 57
Buffalo New England -1.6 0.3 -1.8 44
Cleveland New York Jets -6.5 -4.3 -7.7 39
Houston Detroit 1.8 3.2 1.7 49
Indianapolis Kansas City -2.4 -0.5 -3.4 51
New Orleans Seattle -6.8 -2.1 -8.1 50
Tampa Bay Oakland 1.5 0.9 0.9 52
Denver San Diego 9.0 6.3 9.0 49
Carolina Arizona -1.2 1.0 -1.8 45
Dallas Philadelphia 0.4 2.0 1.2 46
Chicago Minnesota -10.6 -10.6 -11.4 35
(*) This game will be played in London



April 6, 2015

NCAA National Championship Game By The Numbers

Duke (34-4) vs. Wisconsin (35-3)
CBS Television Tip Time: 9:18 PM EDT
Team Offense Duke Wisconsin
Field Goals 1075 989
Field Goal Attempts 2140 2054
3-Point Shots 279 281
3-Point Attempts 721 769
Free Throws 594 578
Free Throw Attempts 853 755
Offensive Rebounds 439 372
Defensive Rebounds 964 931
Turnovers 416 291
Steals 274 171
Possessions Per Game 66.4 59.8
Points Per Game 79.6 72.7
Team Defense Duke Wisconsin
Field Goals 937 872
Field Goal Attempts 2220 2041
3-Point Shots 192 198
3-Point Attempts 612 527
Free Throws 373 317
Free Throw Attempts 538 449
Offensive Rebounds 417 291
Defensive Rebounds 775 782
Turnovers 476 373
Steals 213 159
Possessions Per Game 66.7 59.9
Points Per Game 64.2 57.9
Four Factors Duke Wisconsin
Effective Field Goal % 56.8 55.0
Effective Field Goal %–Defense 46.5 47.6
Offensive Rebound Rate 36.2 32.2
Opponents Offensive Rebound Rate 30.2 23.8
Turnover Rate 16.5 12.5
Opponents Turnover Rate 18.8 16.0
Free Throw Rate* (FT/100 Poss.) 23.6 24.8
Opponents Free Throw Rate * 14.7 13.6
PiRate Criteria Factors Duke Wisconsin
Scoring Margin 15.4 14.8
Field Goal % Margin 8.0 5.4
Rebound Margin 5.6 5.4
Turnover Margin 1.6 2.1
R+T Rating # (see below for formula) 19.6 19.1
Won-Loss Away From Home 15-2 21-2
Schedule Strength (Per ESPN) 61.6 61.5
# R+T Rating components: Duke Wisconsin
Rebound Margin * 2 11.2 10.8
Average Steals * .5 3.6 2.2
6 – Opponents Average Steals 3.2 4.0
Turnover Margin 1.6 2.1
R+T Rating 19.6 19.1
PiRate Ratings
PiRate Red Wisc by 1
PiRate White Duke by 1
PiRate Blue Duke by 2

100 Computer Simulations

Duke Wins: 52

Wisconsin Wins: 48

Note: 9 Overtime Games 2 of which went to double overtime, and one to triple overtime

Average Score: Duke 70.7  Wisconsin 69.4

Outlier A: Duke 74  Wisconsin 58

Outlier B: Wisconsin 70  Duke 60

This concludes the PiRate Ratings College Basketball Coverage for the season.  We will return in a couple weeks to offer our take on the Kentucky Derby with an emphasis on the two possible super horses this year–Dortmund and Materiality.


March 24, 2010

Sweet 16 Preview


From Sweet to Elite

Advanced Level Bracketnomics


Hello PiRate Basketball fans.  Our system worked well, but the idiots (us) in charge of the data didn’t have the guts to play all the upsets.  We still have nine teams alive, and our top-rated teams according to our system are still there, except for Kansas. 

We told you in the first round that Georgetown and Vanderbilt were the most ripe for upset bids based on their R+T scores just barely above zero.  We were there on other double-digit ups as well.

Before we preview the Sweet 16 games, let’s refresh you on the PiRate formula components.

Scoring Margin—We look for teams with a minimum scoring margin of 8 points per game, give precedence to teams with double-digit scoring margins, and develop huge crushes on teams with scoring margins of 15 or more points per game.  We award one point for as little as a 5-point scoring margin, 3 points for 8 or more, and 5 points for 10 or more. 

Teams with a negative margin who have made it to the Sweet 16 are eliminated and are automatically picked to lose the next game (unless of course there is a rare instance of their opponent also qualifying for elimination.)

Field Goal % Margin—We look for teams that have a +7.5 or better difference in field goal percentage versus opponents’ field goal percentage.  We give special consideration to teams with double-digit field goal percentage margins, and if we see a team hitting better than 48.0% and yielding less than 38.0%, we circle that team in red because they are going to be tough to beat if they are a member of one of the Big Six conferences (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, or SEC).  We award one point for FG% margins of 5.0 or more, 3 points for margins of 7.5% or more, and 5 points for double-digit margins. 

Like above, teams arriving at the Sweet 16 with a negative field goal margin are eliminated.

Rebound Margin—This is actually part of a multiple statistical entry, as we combine it with turnover margin as well.  However, we do separate rebounding because offensive put backs are vitally important in the Big Dance.  We are looking for teams with a +5.0 or better rebounding margin.  We award one point for a rebounding margin of 3.0 or better and 3 points for a margin of 5.0 or better. 

Teams with a negative rebounding margin receive -2 points, but they are not eliminated yet.

Turnover Margin & Steals Per Game—Teams with negative rebounding margins can make up for it with exceptional turnover margins, especially if they get a lot of steals that lead to great fast break opportunities.  We don’t award points solely on turnover margin and steals; we incorporate those stats into a multi-statistical formula we call “R+T.” 

R+T is a formula that applies weighted advantages to steals and turnover margin, while adding rebounding margin into the equation.  Rebounding margin is already factored into the formula by itself, but it receives fewer awarded points.  This stat balances out the rebounding with the scoring and field goal margin, and it allows us to look at the number of extra scoring opportunities a team normally receives. 

The Formula for R+T is:  R+ (.2S*1.2T), where R is rebounding margin, S is steals per game, and T is turnover margin.  Whenever this stat is negative, this team is immediately eliminated.  If this stat is less than one, don’t figure on this team staying around in the Dance.  All four teams that fell below one in R+T lost in the first round, including heavy favored Georgetown and Vanderbilt.  We award the result of the R+T in points.

Power Conference & Strength of Schedule—We give extra weight to teams that are members of the Big Six conferences.  We give a little weight to the teams from the top of the mid-majors (such as Missouri Valley, West Coast, Colonial, and Mountain West).  We deduct for teams from the lower conferences (such as America East, MAAC, Big West, and Patriot). 

We look at the strength of schedule as produced by, and multiply that number by 100.  50.00 is a mid-point, so if that number is 52.37, we consider that schedule to be 2.37 points stronger than average.  If the number is 46.28, then that schedule is 3.72 points weaker than average.  This is incorporated into our criteria.

Record Away From Home—Every team is playing on a neutral floor, so we throw out the home won-loss records.  A team that is 26-9 overall, but 17-0 at home is actually a .500 team away from home.  Likewise, in some rare instances a team might be 22-10 with a home record of 14-6 and a record away from home of 8-4.  Winning two –thirds of one’s games away from home would make this team more likely to beat the 26-9 team on a neutral floor, all else being equal.

Before the first round, our formula picked Duke as the overall favorite based on their 34.4 PiRate score.  The Blue Devils no longer own the top score after the first two rounds.  Their criteria score fell a little, while another team elevated just enough to post a higher score.  The new leader in the clubhouse is none other than Kansas State.  This surprised us all here, but the Wildcats were impressive in wins over North Texas and BYU.  Their defense was stifling, and their offense, while not spectacular, clicked in spurts.  KSU controlled the boards in both games as well.

The Wildcats have had few great moments since in the last 20+ years.  This team is starting to bring back memories of the glory days in the Little Apple when Tex Winter introduced his triple-post (triangle) offense and Jack Gardner had the Cats running and gunning.

Of the 16 teams remaining, five come from conferences outside of the Big Six conferences, but each of the quintet’s PiRate criteria scores reveals that they belong in the Sweet 16.  None of the five (none of the entire 16) have scores in single digits.

Now, it’s time to look at the eight, Sweet 16 games, using these criteria.  The number you see in (Parentheses) after the team is their PiRate Criteria Score.  All of these scores have been update to reflect their two wins in the Big Dance.                                                                            


East Regional


#1 Kentucky (29.22) vs. #12 Cornell (14.56)

The Wildcats are the one team that also qualifies in the 48-38% field goal margin.  John Calipari no longer officially owns any Final Four appearances to his name, after the NCAA upheld the vacating of all Memphis wins during Derrick Rose’s playing career (his U Mass team had to vacate that appearance as well).  So, we can say he is still looking for his first official visit to the Final Four.  We don’t know with 100% certainty if the Wildcats will make it there, but we are safe in saying they will be one of the Elite 8.  Cornell cannot stop DeMarcus Cousins inside unless they totally sell out on the perimeter.  John Wall and Eric Bledsoe will make the Big Red pay for that tactic, and then Patrick Patterson will break their backs if he hits a three.

Cornell might stay close through one or two TV timeouts, but this game should get out of hand before halftime.


Prediction: Kentucky 88  Cornell 64


#2 West Virginia (29.08) vs. #11 Washington (21.93)

West Virginia wins ugly.  The Mountaineers don’t look pretty, but they keep pounding at opponents until they see an opening.  Then, like a crafty boxer, they exploit that opening and grab the lead on points.  They rarely record a knockout, but they are great at keeping the lead once they get it in the final half.

Washington does look pretty when they play.  Lorenzo Romar’s teams vaguely resemble many of the great UCLA teams from the past.  With Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas providing a great one-two punch, it is hard to stop the Huskies from scoring 70 or more points.

West Virginia doesn’t usually win games if they give up more than 75 points.  Coach Bob Huggins will devise a game plan to force UW’s big threats to work harder for open shots, and Washington will not reach 75 points in this game.

Prediction: West Virginia 73  Washington 66


South Regional


#3 Baylor (26.04) vs. #10 St. Mary’s (15.47)

This looks like a classic mismatch between a power team from a power conference and a team that should be just glad to have made it this far.  It could be, but we like the way St. Mary’s plays, and we think Coach Randy Bennett is possibly the next Lute Olsen if he so chooses to move on to a school from one of the Big Six conferences.

This will be a great battle between big men.  Baylor’s Ekpe Udoh and St, Mary’s Omar Samhan should balance each other out.  Samhan is a little better offensively, but Udoh is a little better defensively.  Samhan is the more likely to get in foul trouble.

Baylor has more potent weapons in LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter, but the Gaels have more depth.  We just don’t see the Bears running away with this game.  We will pick them to advance.

Prediction: Baylor 78  St. Mary’s 71


#1 Duke (30.48) vs. #4 Purdue (15.37)

Credit must be given to the Boilermakers for making it this far without Robbie Hummel.  They played hard and won a couple of tough games.  Unfortunately, Purdue goes up against one of the big boys.  This is their final game of the season.

Duke may have fallen a notch in winning their first two games, but having to play the play-in winner lowered their strength of schedule.  Emptying the bench may have artificially lowered their criteria score, and we still think Coach K is sitting pretty with his club in a great bracket.

Prediction: Duke 81  Purdue 67


Midwest Regional


#2 Ohio State (22.24) vs. #6 Tennessee (21.16)

These may not be the two best teams left in the Big Dance, or even in this regional, but they may be the two best-coached teams.  Buckeye head guy Thad Matta has definitely produced a better record than his talent on hand should have produced, and Volunteer coach Bruce Pearl has squeezed every last drop of juice out of his big orange.

Two years ago, when Ohio State was the top-rated team, Tennessee built up a 20-point lead against OSU, before the Buckeyes chipped away and came back for the win in this same round.  Vol center Wayne Chism can remember that game well.

We look for this to possibly be the most entertaining game of this round, but we have to go with the Big Ten in this one.  Tennessee is having to go with players that would be considered bench-warmers at Ohio State for almost one quarter of the available playing time.  Pearl will either have to play five reserves for their usual 48 combined minutes per game or go with his top seven until they drop.  Either way, it tips the scale in favor of Brutus.

Prediction: Ohio State 69  Tennessee 63


#5 Michigan State (20.92) vs. #9 Northern Iowa (13.76)

This is another game where we have to discount a team for the loss of a player.  Spartan star guard Kalin Lucas is out for the rest of the year with a ruptured Achilles tendon.  He is the Spartans’ leading scorer, leader at getting to the foul line, leading passer, and best perimeter defender.  Losing him is almost like losing Magic Johnson. 

One thing MSU still has in its favor is a brutalizing inside force with a three-headed rebounding monster.  Raymar Morgan, Draymond Green, and Delvon Roe will see to it that Northern Iowa will not get many second-chance points.

Northern Iowa is primed to exploit MSU’s misfortune, but we expect the Panthers to come out flat following the huge upset over Kansas.  Jordan Eglseder is going to need help inside as the Spartans attempt to force their offense to score inside the paint.  Adam Koch cannot afford to risk foul trouble, so we see some difficulty here for NIU.  We also do not believe that Ali Farokhmanesh will drain threes all night in this game.  We can see him going 2 for 9.

It’s rather obvious that this is going to be a very low-scoring game, at least until the final minutes when one team may be getting a dozen trips to the foul line.

Prediction: Michigan State 56  Northern Iowa 51



West Regional


#1 Syracuse (27.88) vs. #5 Butler (19.35)

Quickness over brute force strength should be the difference in this game.  Syracuse has been flying a little bit under the radar so far, and the Orangemen are about to reveal to the rest of the nation that they are an Elite 8 team. 

Butler cannot be overlooked, as the Bulldogs are now the best team in the Hoosier state.  However, Butler doesn’t have the horses to exploit the cracks in the SU 2-3 matchup zone.  We see the Bulldogs going through stretches where they cannot score, and you can’t beat Syracuse that way.

A ‘Cuse win should set up the best Regional Final of the four, regardless of their opponent on Saturday.

Prediction: Syracuse 74  Butler 60


#2 Kansas State (31.21) vs. #6 Xavier (18.37)

Xavier has become a household name in the Big Dance, so it’s no longer much of a surprise to see the Musketeers advancing in this tournament.  They just happened to get the wrong team in the Sweet 16, because we just cannot see them matching up inside against the purple and white.  Kansas State can bring two wide-bodies off the bench, and the Wildcats’ guards can hit the glass as well.

The storyline of this game is that KSU will hold Xavier under 40% from the field and rarely give the Musketeers an offensive rebound.  Teams just don’t win in the Sweet 16 unless they can either control the boards of shoot a high percentage.

We look for the Wildcats to set up the game of the tournament in the West Regional Finals on Saturday.

Prediction: Kansas State 77  Xavier 61


Check back with us Saturday before game time for a preview of the Elite 8 Regional Final games.


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