Eager's Football Friday* - Week 12

by Eric Eager|November 23, 2023

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Happy Football Friday Thursday. 

Week 11 saw a season-ending injury to Joe Burrow, a possibly career-ending benching to Zach Wilson, and the first-career win for Giants starter Tommy DeVito. The Broncos continued their winning ways against a Vikings team that had previously been unbeaten without Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson, while the Eagles avenged their Super Bowl loss to the Chiefs in the third-straight game in which the Chiefs failed to score in the second half of the game. 

Using the data from the new and improved SumerSports.com, we will go over some of the thoughts and predictions I made a week ago and provide some for this coming week.  

Week 12 gives us four games before the actual weekend, including our first-ever Black Friday affair. The Bills and Eagles square off in a game that could end up determining the MVP of the league, while the Saints and Falcons will likely crown the champion of the worst division in NFL history, the NFC South. Ten divisional matchups in total adds up to a lot of leverage and an exciting week.  

Let’s dig in. 

One thing I’m thankful for 

I’m eschewing my normal format for a Thanksgiving themed one, where I go over some things I’m thankful for this season.  

The first thing, or in this case, person, I’m thankful for is Lions head coach Dan Campbell. Campbell came to Detroit without much fanfare, at least from people like me. The former player, a former Lion even, had an introductory press conference for the ages, full of kneecap biting and culture talk. Many people wrote Campbell off then and more so after a 3-13-1 first season and 1-6 start to season two.  

SumerSports In-Game Coaching Model: An Introduction | SumerSports 

However, Campbell’s bunch stuck with it, winning eight of their last ten games last year and eight of their first ten this year – putting Detroit at 8-2 after 10 games for the first time since 1952. Campbell combines a rugged leadership style with empowering those around him; those people include quarterback Jared Goff, offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn. Johnson, one of the best play callers in the game, was a hot candidate for head coaching positions a season ago but chose to stay with Campbell in Detroit, a move that has the Lions at the doorstep of the first seed in the NFC. 

We’re an analytics company, though, and this is actually where Campbell shines. Per our in-game decision model, Campbell has added 0.44 wins over the average coach by virtue of his fourth down, two-point conversion, timeouts, and special teams decisions, which is second in the entire NFL. In our top-down approach to modeling head coaching, he’s 11th in the NFL, adding 0.23 points per game to the Lions above and beyond their talent level.  

Building a Way to Measure NFL Coach Value | SumerSports 

The league is better when Detroit is good, and Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes have turned this team into a winner. Here’s to a Thanksgiving Day of relevant football for the people of the Motor City. 

Another thing I’m thankful for 

I’m thankful for the cyclical nature of the NFL. As someone who has loved the sport for almost four decades, what keeps it interesting is the moving goalpost. In 2020 we were seeing unprecedented offense, with the average score near 50 points for the first 11 weeks of the season. We’re almost a touchdown below that this year, with the average game landing at 43.4 points so far.  

This is Football with Kevin Clark: Most Surprising QBs of the NFL Season on Apple Podcasts 

Less than 10 years ago we didn’t have data for RPOs, and now their usage has stabilized – to the point where the play isn’t even necessarily +EV anymore. Interior defensive linemen are seeing more high-end contracts – the numbers are surpassing that for edge players – and are paying back their teams in spades as NFL teams have stopped the run more effectively with small boxes than they did a season ago, despite playing more of them. Motion and play action have become table stakes, to the point where teams like the Dolphins started motioning players towards the sideline at the snap.  

 

Some weeks when I’m watching NFL games, I feel like I’m really watching a game from the 90s on YouTube. And that’s a good thing; 90s football was awesome. What’s even better is that the state of play today will serve as the kernel for the evolutions of the future. 

The last thing I’m thankful for (at least in this article) 

The last thing I’m thankful for is the Stats & Scheme podcast on our YouTube channel (and in the SumerSports Show feed everywhere else you get your podcasts).  

Stats & Scheme – YouTube 

Sumer is home to some of the most talented data scientists, engineers, and subject matter experts in the industry, and this truth shines brightly in this unique show, which pairs data scientist Tej Seth with scheme expert Shawn Syed. Every topic is on the table in this show, and I find that I learn something new and interesting every time I listen.  

If you’re in the market for another football podcast, give them a try. 

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