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August, 2013 | The DC Times

The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football


Analyzing the Cowboys’ 2013 Schedule

At DallasCowboys.com, I looked at the difficulty of the Cowboys’ 2013 schedule:

Adjusted Net YPA (ANYPA)

ANYPA is a unique stat that has proven again and again to accurately predict team success. It’s the best individual stat that us geeks have, and we use it all the time. The formula to calculate ANYPA is as follows:

(Passing Yards – Sack Yards 20 * Passing Yards – 45 * Interceptions)/(Attempts Times Sacked)

So it’s basically an individual stat that penalizes quarterbacks for taking sacks and throwing interceptions. You might argue that neither of those acts fall solely at the feet of quarterbacks; the offensive line helps determine sacks, for example. While that’s true, both sacks and interceptions have proven to be far more dependent on the quarterback than the offensive line. Just take a look at Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. There’s a reason their offensive lines always seems to be the best in the NFL. Last year, those two both got the ball out in 2.5 seconds or less on their average throw, the two lowest marks in the league.

On top of that, for the purposes of projecting the strength of a schedule, it doesn’t really matter who’s at fault on a particular play. We just want to use numbers to predict something in the future. If the numbers can do that accurately and consistently, then they have pragmatic value.

ANYPA for Cowboys’ Opponents

Below, I listed the opposing quarterbacks for the Cowboys this year, along with their 2012 ANYPA.

Week Opponent QB Adjusted Net YPA
1 Giants Eli Manning 6.59
2 at Chiefs Alex Smith 6.76
3 Rams Sam Bradford 5.64
4 at Chargers Philip Rivers 5.45
5 Broncos Peyton Manning 7.89
6 Redskins Robert Griffin III 7.47
7 at Eagles Michael Vick 5.27
8 at Lions Matthew Stafford 5.81
9 Vikings Christian Ponder 4.99
10 at Saints Drew Brees 7.17
11 BYE
12 at Giants Eli Manning 6.59
13 Raiders Matt Flynn 7.56
14 at Bears Jay Cutler 5.37
15 Packers Aaron Rodgers 7.33
16 at Redskins Robert Griffin III 7.47
17 Eagles Michael Vick 5.27
Average 6.41

You can see that the Cowboys’ opponents averaged 6.41 ANYPA in 2012. That’s actually significantly more than the league average of 5.89. Even if we take the top 32 quarterbacks in 2012, the mean is still only 6.15. So in regards to the most predictive stat in football, the one that can best predict overall team success, the Cowboys’ schedule is much harder than average.

On top of that, don’t forget that ANYPA actually doesn’t account for quarterback rushing. With one-quarter of their games against RGIII and Vick, the Cowboys’ road to the playoffs might be even more difficult than the numbers suggest.


100 Fantasy Football Tips in 100 Days, Day 95: Daily Fantasy Hangout

Yesterday, Josh Moore and I did another daily fantasy Google Hangout for 4for4.com. Check it out.


100 Fantasy Football Tips in 100 Days, Day 94: Contrarian Strategies in Daily Fantasy

At 4for4, I discussed how to implement a contrarian strategy to daily fantasy:

I just completed a high-stakes draft in which I selected Arian FosterDarren McFadden, and Mike Wallace—three players I thought I wouldn’t own heading into the 2013 season. One of the reasons is because, with a massive grand prize payout, I was really implementing a risk-seeking strategy.

But I also jumped on those players because there are currently concerns regarding their potential production. Foster hasn’t taken a single snap in the preseason, McFadden is probably one-in-100-trillion to play all 16 games, and there have been poor reports out of Miami on Wallace all preseason.

None of that is inherently beneficial, of course, but all of that information is known by everyone drafting. The risk surrounding each player is already priced into their draft slot, meaning there’s a decent chance to acquire value. All three players—and others such as Josh GordonJustin Blackmon, and Ryan Mathews—are getting drafted as if everything that we know could go wrong will go wrong. But we just don’t know that yet—McFadden might play 15 games this year, yet he’s getting drafted as if he’ll 100 percent be out for at least a month—and it creates value propositions.

Such a draft strategy—one in which you acquire value by purposely going against popular opinion—is known as a “contrarian” approach. The idea is that you can “buy low” on players who the public is fading, understanding that the risk associated with them is already factored into their cost, yet the potential reward isn’t.

A Contrarian Approach to Daily Fantasy

Not only should you be using a contrarian approach to daily fantasy, but one is probably essential to your success. Daily fantasy is a marketplace even more so than season-long fantasy; players are priced to reflect public opinion, so you need to find value where others aren’t looking.

Check it out at 4for4.


Cowboys vs Texans Review and Burning Questions for ‘Boys in 2013

At NBC, I broke down the play of four players from last night’s game against the Texans:

QB Alex Tanney
A couple weeks ago, I published an article called Alex Tanney Isn’t the Answer for Cowboys. At that time, he was completing 55.6 percent of his passes for 5.6 YPA—well below the marks posted by Tony Romo and Matt Moore in their first preseasons. Playing against second and third-team defenses, young backup quarterbacks with promise are typically efficient, and Tanney hasn’t been.

On Thursday, Tanney completed 17 of his 31 passes (54.8 percent) for 177 yards (5.7 YPA), no touchdowns, and one interception. It’s basically a mirror image of the numbers we saw from Tanney to start the preseason. Although he’s reportedly showed talent in practice, Tanney shouldn’t make the 53-man roster.

And at Bleacher Report, I tackled 10 burning questions for Dallas this season:

Will the Cowboys Run More Play-Action Passes?

Last year, Tony Romo managed a 66.2 percent completion rate, 8.6 YPA and a 109.1 passer rating on play-action looks. Despite that, he attempted a play-action pass on just 10.0 percent of his dropbacks—the lowest rate in the NFL, by far, according to Pro Football Focus.

Actually, the difference between Romo and the next-lowest quarterback—Eli Manning—was larger than the gap between Manning and the next 11 quarterbacks.

The Cowboys likely limited their play-action looks because they couldn’t effectively run the ball, but there’s actually no correlation between rushing success and play-action efficiency. Five of the top 10 play-action passers in 2012 played on teams that ranked in the bottom 10 in the NFL in yards per carry.

Defenses tend to play situations, not pass-rushing efficiency, so the Cowboys should increase their play-action usage regardless of their running game.


100 Fantasy Football Tips in 100 Days, Day 93: Winning the DraftDay NFL Expert Challenge

DraftDay is running an awesome contest called the “NFL Expert Challenge.” They’re going to put 16 fantasy experts, myself included, against 16 qualifiers. You can qualify for the tournament at this link. It costs $2.20 to join the tournament, or you can get in for free by depositing and using the code ‘EXPERTNFL.’ There are $1,500 in prizes up for grabs. If you get into the main challenge, here are the experts you’ll face.

So what’s the preferred strategy? Early in the year, I use my season-long rankings to uncover undervalued assets. Matchups are of course important, but I’ll be bullish on Shane Vereen, Cecil Shorts, and all of the other players I like in season-long fantasy. If you want some extra help to qualify and take down the grand prize, you can check out my 2013 Weekly Fantasy Football Package. It has projections for season-long and daily owners, weekly content, and even optimized lineups that you can use in this contest.


100 Fantasy Football Tips in 100 Days, Day 92: Comparing Expert Rankings to ADP

At RotoWire, I compared aggregate expert PPR rankings to current ADP:

Today, I’m going to compare the RotoWire team’s PPR Top 50 Rankings to current ADP.

Rank Player ADP Difference % Change
3 C.J. Spiller 5 2 40
11 Brandon Marshall 16 5 31.3
47 Shane Vereen 65 18 27.7
44 Torrey Smith 60 16 26.7
42 Jordy Nelson 55 13 23.6
10 Dez Bryant 13 3 23.1
48 Mike Wallace 61 13 21.3
46 Giovani Bernard 58 12 20.7
16 Demaryius Thomas 20 4 20
33 Danny Amendola 41 8 19.5
30 Vincent Jackson 37 7 18.9
31 Lamar Miller 38 7 18.4
28 Victor Cruz 34 6 17.6
5 Calvin Johnson 6 1 16.7
20 Maurice Jones-Drew 24 4 16.7
22 Larry Fitzgerald 26 4 15.4
39 Cam Newton 46 7 15.2
45 Hakeem Nicks 52 7 13.5
26 Roddy White 30 4 13.3
27 Andre Johnson 31 4 12.9
7 LeSean McCoy 8 1 12.5
8 Trent Richardson 9 1 11.1
43 Eddie Lacy 48 5 10.4
50 Vernon Davis 54 4 7.4
13 A.J. Green 14 1 7.1
40 Dwayne Bowe 42 2 4.8
14 Julio Jones 19 5 2.6
49 Ryan Mathews 50 1 2
1 Adrian Peterson 1 0 0
2 Doug Martin 2 0 0
4 Jamaal Charles 4 0 0
12 Matt Forte 12 0 0
15 Jimmy Graham 15 0 0
29 Randall Cobb 28 -1 -3.6
24 Aaron Rodgers 23 -1 -4.3
23 Drew Brees 22 -1 -4.5
18 Chris Johnson 17 -1 -5.9
38 Peyton Manning 35 -3 -8.6
36 David Wilson 33 -3 -9.1
41 Darren McFadden 36 -5 -13.9
37 Frank Gore 32 -5 -15.6
21 Steven Jackson 18 -3 -16.7
25 Reggie Bush 21 -4 -19
35 DeMarco Murray 29 -6 -20.7
34 Darren Sproles 27 -7 -25.9
32 Stevan Ridley 25 -7 -28
9 Ray Rice 7 -2 -28.5
17 Marshawn Lynch 10 -7 -70
19 Alfred Morris 11 -8 -72.7
6 Arian Foster 3 -3 -100

The players ranked at the top are those who are ranked higher in our composite rankings than in ADP. I chose to use the percentage change because I believe a three-spot drop in the first round is way more important than a three-spot drop in the fourth round. Arian Foster is getting drafted at No. 3 overall, for example, yet we’ve ranked him at No. 6 overall. That’s a very meaningful drop.


5 Cowboys to Watch vs Texans

At NBC, I posted a quick game preview for tonight:

RB Joseph Randle
Randle has averaged just 3.7 YPC through four preseason games. Some people on the Cowboys rave about the rookie, but I think he’s going to have a difficult time in the NFL. If he’s going to make it, Randle will need to become a dominant receiver and improve in pass protection. That’s really where he can make his mark, so let’s keep an eye out for Randle in the passing game.

DE George Selvie
Selvie has racked up three sacks this preseason, but he’s also been inconsistent at times. I think the defensive end with the 34.5-inch arms has a really good shot to stick, but he has to show more durability in the running game.


Star Magazine “On Air” Podcast, Episode 26: Jay Ratliff & Play-Calling Theory

The latest episode of “On Air” is up at the Cowboys’ team site. Josh and Jeff discussed the defensive front and I jumped in for a quick play-calling discussion.


Cowboys’ Underrated, Overrated Preseason Performers

At NBC, I listed four underrated and four overrated performers for the Cowboys this preseason. Here’s one of the underrated players:

LB Brandon Magee

I talked about Magee in a previous article. Prior to the Bengals game, Magee was leading the entire NFL in tackles this preseason. He unfortunately suffered a setback with a concussion last week, but he was on fire with a tackle on 19.6 percent of his snaps through three games. In my opinion, he needs to make the roster, even ahead of veterans like Ernie Sims or Justin Durant. I’m not sure the Cowboys can sneak him onto the practice squad.

And one of the four overrated players:

S J.J. Wilcox
Wilcox is another young player that I really like, but he hasn’t really showed up much this preseason. He had a big interception in the end zone a few weeks ago, but he’s also missed two of the 12 tackles that he’s attempted. Wilcox has surrendered five catches on seven targets (71.4 percent) for 114 yards (16.3 YPA). To his credit, he has seemed to improve as the preseason rolls along. We all knew he’d take some time to develop with just one year of safety experience at Georgia Southern, but the idea that Wilcox is ready to start is wrong.


100 Fantasy Football Tips in 100 Days, Day 91: The Rise of Daily Fantasy

I’ve been traveling recently, so this series has quickly turned into “100 Tips in 102 Days.” In any event, today’s sample comes from my book on daily fantasy football. It’s a few tips on money management.

The 10 Laws of Money Management

If you want to play weekly fantasy football—and you want to play it for more than a few weeks before going bankrupt—you absolutely must have a sound financial plan. It doesn’t have to be complex, but if you’re consistently placing 11 percent of your total bankroll on each matchup, you’re going to lose your money.

Law No. 1: You will not believe in “sure things.”

Weekly fantasy football is a game ruled by probability. You might be a quality owner—say, a 60 percent long-term winner in head-to-head leagues—and you’ll still lose all of your money if you’re playing as if you’re an 80 percent long-term winner. There are no sure things, and you have to understand the percentages in order to profit from weekly fantasy football.

Law No. 2: You will not wager more than you can afford to lose.

Your bankroll is the total amount of money you’re willing to lose. If you place $1,000 into an account but plan to remove the money if you dip down below $500, your bet sizes—based on a $1,000 bankroll—will be too large in relation to your actual bankroll of $500.

Make sure you check out my weekly fantasy football package, good for daily and season-long owners. I also recently saw a quick blurb on daily fantasy that quoted this series:

  • More Strategy & Analysis. Daily fantasy football expert, Jonathan Bales, recently saidDaily fantasy football strategy, too, has game theory as a cornerstone. You absolutely must consider others’ actions when selecting your lineups.”  At scoutPRO®, we agree with Jonathan, which is why we’re developing tools that leverage our signature, patented data for daily game players.  Our past research shows that seasonal fantasy players want more accurate predictions and analysis, so its not surprising that daily players are seeking this same level of analysis to help them win prize pools, etc.