Edit: Big thank you to Steve Noah of http://www.operationsports.com for linking to this article on the front page of the Operation Sports home page, and thanks to all of you OS readers and members who are coming here to read this write-up for the game!
EA Sports’ yearly release in their NCAA Football video game franchise is due to hit on Tuesday, July 13th; in preparation for that, I have gone through the ratings for all of the teams included in this year’s game to run some data analysis. The goal of this research is to provide some data surrounding how the EA Sports team has decided to rate each school’s team in the game, and how that affects potential conferences to use in the game’s multiplayer Online Dynasty mode.
Please note that the ratings used in this analysis are taken from video recorded at the Electronics Entertainment Expo and may not reflect the retail team ratings when the game is officially released.
With today’s release of the official Super Bowl XLIV video and the beginning of the free agency period last Friday, the 2009 NFL season has come to a conclusion. The news reports now are focused on which players will be wearing new uniforms in the coming year and how teams will be adjusting to the uncapped salary year.
Before we move on completely, however, it is important to note one particular side-story that has been overlooked from Super Bowl XLIV: this year’s Super Bowl championship game was the first such match-up between two teams who play their home games in a dome or retractable-roof stadium.
However, in the NFL it isn’t as simple as teams that play indoors versus teams that play outdoors. After all, of the four major American sporting leagues, only the NFL hosts outdoor games regardless of temperature or weather conditions and only the NFL hosts outdoor games during the fall and winter months. The NFL has teams all over the country representing different climates, and temperatures change drastically from September to February.
Looking ahead to Super Bowl XLVIII (48), which will be played in 2014, the question of NFL climates has particular importance. At this time, there are three bids to serve as host city for the game: the new Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida, and Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida. Obviously, one of these cities is not like the others: a championship game played at Meadowlands Stadium would be the first Super Bowl ever played outdoors in a city referred to as a “cold-weather city” for the NFL. This is a tricky situation because Meadowlands Stadium is currently considered a front-runner to host the game; Sun Life Stadium just hosted Super Bowl XLIV, Raymond James Stadium hosted last year’s Super Bowl XLIII, and Meadowlands Stadium will be the newest facility of the three, opening for play this fall. But many people involved in the NFL are not high on the idea of the Super Bowl being played in the harsh winter environment.
This research originally began as an evaluation of whether or not indoor teams in the NFL had an unfair advantage over their outdoors competitors, but through actually doing the research it became clear that climate—and obviously the quality of team personnel—plays a significant role in team success as well.
For some time now, the official stance of the National Football League brass when it comes to teams resting starters at the end of the season has been that those teams earned the right to rest players by clinching playoff berths before the end of the season. Such an explanation makes sense in theory, as the NFL schedule features 16 grueling games and some teams don’t get any time off between Week 17 of the regular season and Wild Card Weekend. However, there are certainly voices of opposition: one need not look any further than Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley and his comments heading into Week 17 of the 2009 NFL season: “Cincinnati is probably going to go into New York and lay down for the Jets and not play them hard just because they don’t want to see Pittsburgh in it, because they know if we get into the playoffs, we’re a dangerous team… All of them will lay down. No one wants to see Pittsburgh in it. That’s just how it is.”
On the other side of the coin, teams such as the Indianapolis Colts have frequently rested starters at the end of the season due to strong regular season records; they even did it in 2009, despite the chance to be the second team with a 16-0 regular season record and much to the chagrin of their paying fans. That the Colts essentially gave up a game to the New York Jets, a playoff “bubble” team, didn’t sit right with anyone either and appeared to spark an investigation by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (which is the last anyone has really heard of it). I can understand to some extent, with all of that potential labor trouble lurking.
Over the past few months, I’ve become somewhat of a football memorabilia nut. I’ve purchased Riddell’s set of 43 Super Bowl Champion Pocket Pro Mini-Helmets, Riddell’s set of all 32 current NFL teams in Pocket Pro Mini-Helmets, Riddell’s set of AFC 50th Anniversary Pocket Pro Helmets, and Riddell’s Football Helmet Standings Tracker sheets with all 32 current NFL teams in Gumball Mini-Helmets. I also received a genuine Reebok Premier/EQT Tom Brady New England Patriots Team Color Jersey for Christmas from my parents. Given the price and quality of jerseys, I asked for a Premier/EQT jersey because it is the mid-priced option (MSRP: $109.99) and has some stitching on the jersey instead of the Replica jerseys which are all screen-printed for an MSRP of $79.99 and the Authentic jerseys which are fully-stitched and game quality but carry an exorbitant $259.99 MSRP price tag. More info on the differences between the jerseys can be found here.
Growing up in the state of Maine, I’ve always been in a bit of a football “dead zone” in terms of being able to easily access NFL merchandise and games. The New England Patriots–my “hometown” team–play nearly 3 hours from my hometown and a full 5 hours from my current location. As such, the only true option for me to purchase NFL merchandise has been through online outlets.
For the memorabilia I mentioned in my opening paragraph above, I went through NFLShop.com for the items. After the New Orleans Saints upset the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV and I had interest in purchasing a jersey to remember that victory–particularly since it was the first Super Bowl my fiancée had ever watched and it was our first Super Bowl since getting engaged. Unfortunately, NFLShop.com dropped the ball with the Super Bowl XLIV jersey situation.
After the big first day for my formula being unveiled to determine who the most successful franchise of the 2000′s was (and where the other 31 teams ranked), I’ve had the opportunity to revise numbers, compare results, and generally mull over the statistics that I gathered to put together the initial rankings in the first place.
Following that trend, I decided to analyze particular statistical trends among the 32 National Football League teams and try to see if there were any connections between these bits of data and the overall ranking for “Best of the 2000′s”. If you’re interested in seeing the numbers crunched and munched even further, read on.
Interestingly, in the overnight hours USA Today’s NFL editors cobbled together a “Best of the Decade” Power Rankings for the NFL from 2000-2009. While taking into account regular season victories, playoff victories, and Super Bowl wins, there is also clearly some subjectivity involved in the rankings, which can be found here. In the interest of seeing how the formula I used to come up with my “Best of the Decade” list compared to what was put together by people who are actually getting paid to discuss football, here’s the comparison:
Note: Thanks to Trey Wingo of ESPN, Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com, and the fans at SaintsReport.com’s Forum for getting the word out there about the research I’ve done, allowing me to receive feedback and improve the quality of the formulas used here. I truly believe that the numbers here are solid and help to quantify each franchise’s success in the NFL over the past decade.
With the close to another decade of play in the National Football League, there has been much conversation about just who the greatest teams and players of the 2000’s are. Much of this discussion, of course, involves personal opinions based on who a particular fan is rooting for. In the interest of presenting a quantifiable method of measuring the success of the 32 NFL franchises through the 00’s, an entirely new set of data was required.
One of the most oft-argued points when selecting the team of the 2000’s comes down to how much weight one places on regular season success versus postseason play. Those who support teams with Super Bowl success like the New England Patriots (Super Bowl XXXVI, XXXVIII, and XXXIX Champions) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (Super Bowl XL and XLIII Champions) lean towards an evaluation that heavily favors postseason results, while those who support teams with regular season success like the Indianapolis Colts point to their multiple 10+ win seasons as the measure of greatness.
The difficulty, then, was to concoct a scoring scheme that puts nearly-equal weight on both regular season and postseason results while simultaneously acknowledging that every NFL team’s goal at the beginning of the season is to become Super Bowl Champions.