Thursday, January 10, 2013

2012 Season Football ERA Formula Trends

(AP Photo David Zalubowski)

   Every season since we began publishing the Football ERA algorithm, the formula trends in December--in conjunction with the Defensive Report Card formula--has given great insight into who are the true contenders as opposed to pretenders going into the playoffs.  In addition, it has successfully identified who might get hot in a postseason playoff run--which can be particularly tricky to glean from the standard NFL regular season rankings, as this is a week to week type of trend that can only be detected from one game at a time to the next.  Similar to the fallacy behind trying to glean too much from the very generic NFL Total Yardage Rankings which determine the top rated Defenses and Offenses, we cannot make too much of the absolute Football ERA Rankings, but instead look to the week to week trends with respect to teams rising and falling in the Rankings.

    For example, teams at both the bottom and top--like Jacksonville and Houston, do not allow for much analysis since their cumulative stats from the entire season tend to overshadow week to week changes in their performance.  Whereas Houston proved to be very solid against a very tough Bengals squad, they have a daunting task in facing the Patriots who have been playing at a totally different level among the elite teams of the AFC.  Clearly Denver has also taken a spot among the elite while having one of the strongest final halves of any team in the NFL.  A key component to what the Broncos have accomplished --going into the playoffs as the number 1 seed-- is their steady rise in excellence on Defense as shown by their ranking not only in the ERA Formula Rankings here, but in their steady rise to the top in the Defensive Report Card Rankings. It will be hard for any team to travel to Denver and knock them off, but if it happens to be the Patriots who end up facing this daunting task, then the New England - Denver Championship will provide another epic Brady vs Manning matchup with a trip to the Super Bowl at stake.

(AP Photo Matt Slocum)

 On the other hand,, the NFC is much more of a free for all compared to the AFC. The 49ers established themselves very early in the season as among the top class of the NFC, but the real difference behind the rise of the Packers in the last month of the season, has been the emergence of their defense which suddenly became a strength in complimenting a potent passing offense behind Aaron Rodgers. This has allowed Green Bay to run the ball more going into their playoff run. It is also impossible to miss the Seahawk's meteoric rise to allow them take their place among the NFC playoff favorites and elite. Seattle faces an enigmatic Falcons team who provide an intriguing match up for the Seahawks.  The difference between the 2011 Atlanta squad and this year's Falcons is in the excellent play of their defense whose improvements can sometimes escape traditional statistical analysis in that they play the new style of bend but don't break defense like that of New England's.  The new style of defense strives not to be broken deep which the nouveau passing offenses are designed for doing via deep explosive plays. Atlanta's offensive success against a rising Seattle defense remains to be seen, but the emergence of an NFC champion from this outstanding field will provide a very entertaining finish to an amazingly competitive season.

(Photo: Jared Wickerham, Getty Images)

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