At numberFire.com, we use contextual, efficiency-based metrics and similarity algorithms to predict sports player and team performance. Just like you (or someone you know) spend your days digging for the real drivers of a stock or fixed income product so you can make the best investment decisions, we dig for the most descriptive player and team information in figuring out who to start in fantasy lineups and which bets to take. We provide that fantasy and handicapping advice to you at numberFire.com.
Division battles are supposed to be close contests, right? I guess the Pony Express got lost between St. Louis and Phoenix. In their last 11 games against the Rams, dating back to December 2006, the Cardinals have won 10 times. That's not surprising; the Rams have had some horrendous teams (the starting QB for Rams in the week 16, 2009 game was Keith Null). What is surprising, though, is how the Cardinals have dominated the Spread. The Cardinals have won Against the Spread in 73% of those meetings, including both games last season. And two of the three times they didn't cover (Week 11, 2009 and Week 5, 2007), they won but missed the cover by one point.
Under the Bridge
Judging defensive effectiveness by Yards Allowed is as hopeless a pursuit as looking for love at 230 5th… You need to look at context: the caliber of an opponent is very important. In numberFire's opponent-adjusted defensive rankings, both the Cardinals (#2) and Rams (#9) have top ten defenses. Teams currently in the top ten have faced off six times this season, and, in those games, Vegas has horrendously miscalculated the totals line: the under has been the correct choice five times: Cleveland/Philadelphia (under 42.5), Atlanta/Denver (under 50.5), Chicago/St. Louis (under 42), Arizona/Philadelphia (under 41), and Atlanta/San Diego (under 47). Only Houston/Denver (43.5) went over.
The QB Connection
Are you one of those old-school folks who thinks QBs are overrated? Well, last week, the teams with more efficient QBs went 11-4. With that in mind, it becomes important to examine the Bradford-Kolb matchup. We’ll use numberFire's best friend, the Net Expected Points (NEP) formula, which lets us measure a skill player’s efficiency, to do so.
Kolb has been surprisingly efficient this season, with a +19.51 NEP total, and +0.16 NEP/pass, meaning that he has added 19.51 total points and .16 points/pass to the Cardinals’ offense over what a league average QB would have added this year. Of the four games Sam “I was a #1 draft pick” Bradford has started this year, three saw barely positive NEP performances. The big indicator for our purposes came in week 3 against the Bears when Bradford posted a -24 NEP. You could see that as an outlier, but, again, context is key! That Bears game was the only time Sam Bradford faced a defense in numberFire's top 10. The Bears are #3. The Cardinals are #2.