Post-traumatic statistical disorder

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jan 05, 2009



We're still haunted by the Sherman-esque swath of destruction the Giants cut through our Quality Stats last year.
 
The Giants were dead last among playoff teams last season when we sized up our annual list of playoff contenders and pretenders. It was no surprise: the Giants were dead last year among playoff teams when measured by every other outlet, too. After all, they struggled through a 10-6 season, they had outscored their opponents by just 22 points during the year, and their quarterback was teetering on earning a "bust" label from the notoriously brutal Big Apple media.
 
In fact, the Giants were so disappointing last year that New York fans were ready to run both head coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning out of town in the weeks before the playoffs.
 
What happened next can only be described as a statistical bloodbath. In fact, we still suffer from PTSD – post-traumatic statistical disorder – from witnessing the carnage.
 
We just took a look back at the 2007 playoffs to see just how bad it was. The guys in the white lab coats told us it would help.
 
Plus, we have to prepare for the worst: If history repeats itself, we could find ourselves in a situation where the lowly 9-7 Cardinals win the Super Bowl. That would pretty much be the equivalent of what we witnessed last year. And that would cause untold harm to our fragile state of mental health.
 
The Haunting Memories
Here's what we did: There are 11 playoff games each year. We sized up each team before the playoffs in eight different Quality Stats, plus we ranked them by average – giving us, effectively, a ninth Quality Stat. (We did the same thing this year.)
 
With 11 games and nine Quality Stats, that gave us 99 indicators by which to compare teams.
 
The better team across those 99 indicators went 56-41-2 last year. In other words, if you picked any single indicator before any single game, it had about a 58 percent chance of identifying the winner, even if you took no other factors into consideration. Not so hot.
 
(The two ties come from two games, Giants-Cowboys and Jaguars-Patriots, in which the teams were tied on our 2007 Offensive Hog Index).
 
But the Giants were almost singularly responsible for almost every loss our Quality Stats suffered last year (actually, 29 of 41 statistical defeats).
 
In fact, if you remove the Giants (which, obviously, you can't; but this is a mental exercise here, breath heavy with us), our Quality Stats posted a mark of 50-12-1.
 
In other words, if you picked any single indicator before any playoff game not involving the Giants, it had about an 80 percent chance of identifying the winner, even if you took no other factors into consideration. That's Sharon Stone in "Basic Instinct" hot. (Not Safe for Work.)
 
show video here 
 
 
But the Giants just utterly destroyed those red-hot statistical trends all by their lonesome.
 
The Giants were No. 1 last year in Defensive Hog Index. But other than that, they were mediocre to bad in every other Quality Stat.
 
In fact, they were better than their wildcard opponent, Tampa, in Scoreability and in Offensive Hog Index, as well as Defensive Hog Index.
 
But the Cowboys, Packers and Patriots – New York's other postseason victims – were better than the Giants in every single one of our Quality Stats except for Defensive Hog Index.
 
It didn't matter, as the Giants eked out narrow, last-second wins over each and every superior opponent, including something about the greatest upset in Super Bowl history.
 
The Hopes for Recovery
What's it all mean, this post-season destruction?

Well, maybe it means Defensive Hog Index really is all that and a bag of chips (as we discussed in our Monday Morning Hangover this week). After all, the DHI went 10-1 identifying playoff winners last year and is off to a red-hot start here in the 2008 playoffs (4-0 in the wildcard round). That's 14-1 identifying playoff winners since 2007. Maybe we just get rid of every other indicator and look at each team's defensive front as the golden road to unlimited devotion and enlightenment. But that's not likely long term.
 
Or maybe it means the Cardinals are poised to buck all the statistical trends and win the Super Bowl this year. After all, they were a dreadful regular-season team akin to the 2007 Giants. But that's not likely, either.
 
Or maybe it means the Giants were a once-in-a-lifetime statistical anomaly, a team that had no business winning, yet still did. And maybe if this is the case, it means we're not likely to suffer the same statistical destruction we did last year.
 
And that'd be good, because wounds heal slowly and our fragile psyche will crumble if we witness the same statistical carnage we saw last year.

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