Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Super Bowl XLII Breakdown - Pats vs. Giants

Stats used in the preview are unadjusted for opponent and cover the regular-season only.

Patriots Run Offense vs. Giants Run Defense
Pats' Run Off: 14th in league, 4.0998 yards per carry, 1.6663% VOLA (Value Over League Average)
Giants' Run Def: 9th, 5.7191 yards per carry, 3.8020% VOLA
Advantage: Giants, worth 0.4905 points

The interesting thing about the Patriots this season has been their seemingly mediocre running game. According to Football Outsiders, they have the best running offense in the league. Since Football Outsiders' stats are about gaining the yards you need, I'm thinking that the Patriots are put in an abnormally high proportion of short-yardage situations because their passing game is ridiculously good. Looking here, the Patriots are a paltry 26th in the league in running plays over 10 yards. With the threat of Randy Moss, it's quite possible that safeties cannot commit to run defense even in situations where they expect the run. My system does not see the Giants' advantage as being particularly large nor particularly valuable, but if the Patriots are stuck in numerous 3rd-and-4 or -5 situations, expect the passing game to bail them out.

Giants Run Offense vs. Patriots Run Defense
Giants' Run Off: 14th in league, 4.0998 yards per carry, 1.6663% VOLA
Pats' Run Def: 26th, 4.3733 yards per carry, -8.4481% VOLA
Advantage: Giants, worth 2.7902 points

My research into postseason success has shown that balanced teams (as in being good to very good at most things, not being equally good at everything) go the distance, which is why it's disconcerting to see the Patriots' run defense ranked so low. This might also be a function of their pass offense being so good. They can afford to give up big runs that eat up clock when ahead 20 points. Or their linebackers are old and just not very good. I'm inclined to go with the latter. A good game from Brandon Jacobs will go a long way towards keeping the Giants in it, since that will keep Tom Brady off the field. Jacob's high success rate is a very good omen. The advantage here could very well be worth more than 3 points.

Patriots Pass Offense vs. Giants Pass Defense
Pats' Pass Off: 1st in league, 7.6294 yards per pass, 26.1090% VOLA
Giants' Pass Def: 8th, 6.8706 yards per pass, 5.6341% VOLA
Advantage: Patriots, worth 3.7375 points

How can the advantage be worth only 4 points, you ask? Well, keep in mind that the prediction system is trained not to output extreme values because quite often they don't come true. Look at some of the close games the Pats had against teams like the Ravens. At any rate, I think it's clear that His Excellency, Field Marshall, Al-Haji, Dr. Wes Welker, Life President of Wide Receivers, conqueror of the National Football League, distinguished service order of the Military Cross, Victoria Cross and Professor of Geography will just freakin' dominate this game. Might I also be the first to suggest that Randy Moss' comeback is thanks entirely to human growth hormone? How else does a broken-down receiver make such a miraculous comeback? Tainted perfect season! McCarthyism! Join the fun! *!

Giants Pass Offense vs. Patriots Pass Defense
Giants' Pass Off: 23th in league, 5.5236 yards per pass, -8.6972% VOLA
Pats' Pass Def: 5th, 5.3106 yards per pass, 12.2180% VOLA
Advantage: Patriots, worth 4.0638 points

Eli Manning has been good in the playoffs, but in the regular season, he was crap. I would say go with the larger sample of data, but he played well against the Patriots the last time. The Giants can't win without a good game from Manning. The odds say that it won't happen. Momentum is nothing next to regression to the mean. If you're a mediocre quarterback, you'll eventually play like one.

Patriots Pass Rush vs. Giants Pass Protection
Pats' Sack Rate Made: 2nd in league, 8.2024% of pass plays, 35.9070% VOLA
Giants' Sack Rate Allowed: 8th, 4.9037% of pass plays, 18.7510% VOLA
Advantage: Patriots, 0.0232 points

I do not remember the Patriots' pass rush being this good, but the Giants' strong offensive line play has a good chance of neutralizing the pass rush.

Giants Pass Rush vs. Patriots Pass Protection
Giants' Sack Rate Made: 1st in league, 9.0592% of pass plays, 50.1030% VOLA
Patriots' Sack Rate Allowed: 4th, 3.4596% of pass plays, 42.6770% VOLA
Advantage: Giants, 0.0536 points

Similarly, the Pats' pass protection and Giants' pass rush cancel each other out. However, I will say that I saw Matt Light get abused in a few games against top-tier pass rushers (the Colts game comes to mind). Maybe Strahan has one last great game left in him.

Patriots 3rd Down Offense vs. Giants 3rd Down Defense
Pats' Conversion Rate Made: 2nd in league, 48.1674% conversion rate, 21.9020% VOLA
Giants' Conversion Rate Allowed: 5th, 34.5970% conversion rate, 12.4420% VOLA
Advantage: Patriots, 0.5455 points

Giants 3rd Down Offense vs. Patriots 3rd Down Defense
Giants' Conversion Rate Made: 12th in league, 41.7431% conversion rate, 5.6435% VOLA
Patriots' Conversion Rate Allowed: 4th, 33.6897% conversion rate, 14.7380% VOLA
Advantage: Patriots, 0.5241 points

The Patriots' success on third downs is a function of their passing game. Again, I think if the Giants can avoid 3rd-and-shorts, they can go toe-to-toe with the Patriots.

Patriots Interception Rate Given vs. Giants Interception Rate Taken
Pats' Interception Rate Given: 1st in league, 1.4827% of pass plays, 49.8100% VOLA
Giants' Interception Rate Taken: 26th, 2.4390% of pass plays, -17.4380% VOLA
Advantage: Patriots, 0.9639 points

Giants Interception Rate Given vs. Patriots Interception Rate Taken
Giants' Interception Rate Given: 26th, 3.5026% of pass plays, -18.5660% VOLA
Patriots' Interception Rate Taken: 8th, 3.3159% of pass plays, 12.2440% VOLA
Advantage: Patriots, 0.4416 points

Patriots Fumble Rate Given vs. Giants Fumble Rate Taken
Pats' Fumble Rate Given: 1st in league, 1.6000% of plays, 48.3080% VOLA
Giants' Fumble Rate Taken: 18, 3.2595% of plays, 5.3054% VOLA
Advantage: Patriots, 1.0120 points

Giants Fumble Rate Given vs. Patriots Fumble Rate Taken
Giants' Fumble Rate Given: 20th in league, 3.2581% of plays, -5.2632% VOLA
Patriots' Fumble Rate Taken: 16th, 3.3333% of plays, 7.6923% VOLA
Advantage: Patriots, 0.3050 points

The Giants defense isn't very good at creating turnovers, and they cough up the ball too often. This game could very easily be a 30-point blowout on the basis of a few Giants' turnovers.

Final Prediction: Patriots by 8 points (8.3633 to be exact)
This translates to about a 75% chance of winning the game. A lot of things have to go the Giants' way for them to even stay in it. That said, the '72 Dolphins did not have as many close calls as the Patriots have had. To me, this game is all about regression to the mean. Either Eli Manning regresses to the mean and the game ends 52-0 Patriots or the Patriots regress to the mean and finally lose a close game. Maybe the Patriots will experience some bad luck with injuries finally and lose somebody that matters.


Brian Burke said...

Great analysis. Love how each phase's match-up is translated into a point differential.

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