Friday, October 16, 2009

Giants: NFL Parity

The old saying we rely on to trumpet parity in the league "on any given Sunday..." doesn't seem to apply this year. Consider the following. There are 9 teams in the league that have 0 or 1 win on the season so far through week 5. There are also 9 teams that have lost no more than 1 game, with 5 of them undefeated. The old mantra that if one of the worst few teams in the league were to play one of the best teams in the league, the best team would win most but not all of the time. Somehow the worst team would find a way to squeeze out 1 or 2 wins out of a hypothetical 10 games played. I don't think you can make the same assertion with this group. After watching the Raiders play the Giants last week, and seeing the shocking disparity in talent, coaching and athleticism; and that with 4 of the Giants defensive starters out, parity is simply not in the league this year. The line between winning and losing in the NFL, they used to say is very thin. This year it's about a mile wide. I don't think the Giants and Raiders are very close this year, for an example, nor is it close with the other haves and have-nots in the league. The St Louis Rams could play the Indianapolis Colts 20 times and I can't envision any circumstance where the Rams would win or come within 2 TDs in any of the 20 games. Continuing the comparison with another team, Rams have scored 34 points total in 5 games this year and the New Orleans Saints, highest scoring team in the league are averaging 36 points per game. Let me repeat that for emphasis: average points per game over 4 games for the Saints is greater than total points in 5 games for the Rams.

With so many awful teams in the league, it makes it difficult to assess how good any of the other teams are based solely on their record. You have to inspect the schedule and not just look at the straight up won-loss record of each team. You have to adjust the record to the level of competition before you can evaluate how good a team is. For example, the Giants only victory against a team with a winning percentage came against the 3-2 Cowboys. In fact, the Cowboys themselves have no wins against a plus .500 team and have lost their only two games against plus .500 teams. By contrast, the Saints have beaten the Eagles and the Jets, both of whom have winning records, so the game this weekend could be a real good test for the Giants.

By the same token we do have to consider some statistics and understand that averages need to be balanced by standard deviations. I don't want to bore anyone with statistics, but the standard deviation gives a measure of how varied the individual samples are. For example, suppose student 1 gets grades of 85 and 75 on his two exams and student 2 gets grades of 100 and 60. Both have an average of 80, but the first student has a lower standard deviation, meaning in essence that he is more reliable or predictable, because his scores are bunched closer to the mean (average). The Saints are averaging 36 points per game and Drew Brees has 9 TD passes. But they ran up the score against the Lions in the opener and scored a ton of points against the Eagles fueled by 3 turnovers, each of which gave them a short field and 21 points. They scored 45 and 48 in those two games. However, they were fairly quiet on offense against the Jets, with the defense scoring 14 of their 24 points. The Giants, by contrast are averaging fewer points per game than the Saints, but seem to have had more consistent offensive output from game to game than the Saints. Of Brees' 9 TD passes, 6 came in one game, the opener against the Lions. I don't know what this all means and you certainly can't use it to predict the outcome of the game Sunday. It doesn't mean the Saints are overrated, and it certainly doesn't mean that their offense is not dangerous. It is just interesting to be aware of the statistics a little more carefully.


wolfman said...

Chargers cut an experinced safety this week. Maybe Giants should take a look

Ray said...

This week will be key. I expect NO to game plan to pass to Bush and the TE, putting major pressure on the LBs and Safeties. How well we do against that could make us look at safety help - and, I agree with you that, in a year where we could go very far, the safety position could use upgrading.