NFL Strength of Schedule Projections

Evaluating teams’ remaining slates

Football is unpredictable–even at the NFL level–for a lot of reasons. There’s all your cliches: it’s a game of inches, games aren’t played on paper, etc. There are match-up peculiarities, small sample sizes and just plain luck. Yet, sometimes the ‘unpredictability’ is because, especially early in the season, a lot of what we predict is based on projections tied to previous years. Now, every team has at least a quarter of its season played and several teams are 5 games in. So the 2017 season can really start to mean something in and of itself for projecting ahead.

One way to capitalize on this is to look at the schedule ahead for each team. Before the season, most strength of schedule metrics are measured by opponents’ prior year win percentage. That yielded this list: Continue reading “NFL Strength of Schedule Projections”

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Power 5 Sleepers

Week 3 Picks included

Earlier this week, I noted the strength of each conference at the top. Each one has a team well set up for the playoff race and most have more than one. Looking at each conference, you can identify the 2 or 3 favorites:

SEC: Alabama, LSU, Georgia
ACC: Clemson, Louisville, Virginia Tech
Pac-12: USC, Washington, UCLA
Big 12: Oklahoma, Oklahoma St.
Big Ten: Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio St.

Thats not an exhaustive list of favorites, but its a pretty good idea of which teams we expect to hear from at the end of the season. Yet, each conference has a team that, through two weeks, looks like it might be able to unexpectedly get into that conversation. These sleeper teams are ones I see with shots to get to their conference championship games, which will have them in the New Year’s six discussion–if not more.

SEC: Vanderbilt
Derek Mason has improved the Commodores record every year since he took the helm in 2014, getting Vandy to a bowl last season. This year, led by a stout defense and QB Kyle Shurmur (the Vikings’ offensive coordinator’s son), they look ready to make some noise. They already put the clamps on a good Middle Tennessee State team and crushed an FCS foe like they should. It’s tough sledding to have Alabama, @Florida and Georgia in consecutive weeks, but the SEC slate is always difficult. The SEC East is wide open and if they can pull an upset and get to 9-3 they have a shot to get to Atlanta.

This week: I love Vanderbilt +4 against Kansas State. K-State is a tough matchup for anybody, but the game is in Nashville and Vanderbilt is ready to get a big win heading into their Bama game next week. Continue reading “Power 5 Sleepers”

MLB: State of the Race

Setting the stage for the hunt for October

With the calendar turning to September, baseball begins to heat up (In a real bummer for the MLB, football also starts…). The division and wildcard races begin to crystallize in ways the casual fan can grab hold of and the excitement of each game, inning and pitch begins to build to October’s crescendo.

The excitement will largely come from the wildcard race as only two divisions are within five games. In the AL, The Indians have put together a win streak that has effectively wrapped up the Central, while the Astros have cruised their way to a West title (the Justin Verlander acquisition is just gravy. In the NL, the Dodgers have run rampant out West and the Nationals have been dominant in the East. If you strain your eyes a little bit, you can see drama in the AL East and the NL Central. The Red Sox have a 4.5 game lead on the Yankees and the two don’t meet after the first weekend of September. The Brewers have hung tough after relinquishing their surprising division lead to the Cubs, but will need to dominate the teams’ seven meetings in September to have a realistic chance of catching the reigning champs.

For the true races, turn your eyes to the wildcards. Continue reading “MLB: State of the Race”