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    Expected Points - Wildcard Weekend (01/09/17)

    By Frank Brank @realfbra
    We introduced our new metric, Expected Points, for NFL games using simple box score statistics to predict expected scores and win percentages for each game. Below are the results for Wildcard Weekend.



    In a weekend full of blowouts for home teams, the most surprising result is the Raiders-Texans game. Though it wouldn't surprise anyone to find the Texans had a 99.9% chance to win the game, it is shocking that the Raiders' Expected Points was under four points. There's a simple reason for this. The Raiders compiled 203 yards, which came mostly on their only two scoring drives. Our model would expect those yards to be more evenly distributed throughout all the drives in the game. When you combine that with their three turnovers, it would be unlikely for the Raiders to only gain 203 yards, turn the ball over on three drives, and still put up 14 points.

    For example, Oakland was gifted an extremely short field to work with and had a touchdown drive of 38 yards. After that, they gained a total of 24 yards in the second quarter on four drives and four yards on their next four drives in the third quarter. It was a predictably abysmal performance by Connor Cook against a solid Texans defense.

    The other games went about as we would anticipate. The blowouts were blowouts on the field and in the boxscore. There wasn't a single team under 77.7% chance to win and they all closed the deal.

    As you can see, a few of the losing teams underperformed their anticipated points outputs. The Dolphins and Giants each shot themselves in the foot over the course of their games in very different ways. The Dolphins drove down the field a few times on the Steelers defense only to give the ball back to the Steelers on fumbles. This cost them about 4.6 points in the boxscore.

    The Giants had five drives into Packers territory in the first half where they faced fourth-and-six or less on all of those drives. Ben McAdoo elected to kick the ball all five times. They settled for two field goals and three punts against one of the best quarterbacks and offenses in the NFL. It eventually came back to haunt them as Aaron Rodgers sped up his time in the pocket and threw more timing routes against the Giants stout secondary. Eventually, the defense got tired and got abused late in the game. It'll mostly go unnoticed because playing conservative in the NFL is the way not to get blamed for any wrongdoing, but McAdoo should have been trying to put up as many points as possible against a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers.

    Three of the four games coming up are lined inside of five points. Thus, we should have closer games and more interesting results to follow up this week.
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