Marlins+1.44-0.08+0.19 SENTIMENT SCORE Red Sox+0.63-0.27-0.12 Twins+0.41-0.03-0.10 Pirates+0.92-0.13-0.07 Reds+0.58-0.04-0.22 Rangers+0.24-0.78-0.08 Orioles+0.43-0.07+0.08 Giants+0.50-0.04+0.05 Baseball teams have a way of dragging their fans’ moods with their fortunes on the field. It’s no fun to root for a perpetually losing team, especially if its performance seems unlikely to improve. Conversely, an unexpected contender has a way of lifting one’s spirits.But wins and losses are much easier to measure than happiness. We do have a proxy, though: the masses at Reddit. I scraped comments from each team’s subreddit1Using this script to get text from specific subreddits. on the website and determined how happy their comments were.2In technical terms, the valence of each subreddit, or how positive it was. To do this, I used the AFINN-111 word list, which was assembled by Finn Arup Nielsen in 2011. To do that I used sentiment analysis, collecting the words used by each fan base to determine their overall level of joy. More positive words (“win,” “wow,” “wonderful”) point to a happier fan base, and more negative words (“unimpressed,” “miserable,” “wrong”) suggest the opposite.Here are some highlights of what I found (a full table is at the bottom of this post):There are some caveats, as there always are with sentiment analysis. The word list I used was calibrated to a sentiment analysis of Twitter — it’s possible that language is used differently on Reddit, and so the sentiment scores may not be as calibrated to the medium as they would be if we had Reddit-centric sentiment scoring. For example, the word “damn” is rated as strongly negative, since it is usually a negative exclamation (“damn, we lost again”). However, it can also be used in a positive sense: “damn, that was our fifth straight win, we are pretty good.” And maybe people on Reddit “damn” more positively than the hordes on Twitter. (The same can go for any word used atypically in any sentence, making its meaning different from how the algorithm interpreted it.) Also, people who write on Reddit do not constitute a random sample of a team’s fans.But let’s get back to the results. Hope springs eternal in the offseason but is extinguished for many fan bases by July.3All measurements come from three time periods: one preseason (Feb. 15 to March 15), one pre-trade-deadline (June 15 to July 15), and one crossing the trade deadline (July 15 to Aug. 15). That makes sense given how many teams don’t have any hope left. In the preseason, only one team — the Phillies — had playoff odds less than 1 percent, per FanGraphs. Now, 11 teams have odds less than 1 percent. Sentiment scores per word — our index of happiness — tended to be between 0.3 and 1 on the sentiment scale in the offseason, indicating that the average word was a positive one (between a neutral word and the word “agreement”). Nowadays, the same scores have plunged. Clearly the grind of the MLB season wears on the fans’ happiness as it does the players.Every fan base lost some of its happiness from the preseason, save one: the Chicago Cubs, who increased their sentiment score by a bit. The Cubs have not only been contenders in the crowded National League Central, they have also seen a number of top prospects called up, most notably Kris Bryant (but also Addison Russell and Kyle Schwarber). Not only are the Cubs contending a little earlier than expected — the future is even brighter.All other teams’ fans have become much less happy since February, but not all by the same amount. The change in sentiment score from February to July is roughly in proportion to the change in playoff odds of each team.4The correlation coefficient is r = -.3, which is not quite significant. Teams that made strides in their playoff hopes such as the Yankees, Angels and Dodgers have seen the smallest declines in sentiment since February. At the other end of the spectrum, teams such as the Mariners, Athletics and Padres have seen their playoff odds tumble. Their fan bases also have had some of the most pronounced declines in sentiment scores per word.From July to August, sentiment scores were steady, fluctuating about four times less than they did from February to July.5The Pearson correlation value was a strong .746. The trade deadline didn’t seem to do much to move the needle in terms of fan happiness, but the teams that did gain are mostly the ones you’d expect: the Blue Jays (who strengthened their roster enormously), the Cardinals (who locked down a playoff spot) and a few others who were riding winning streaks. On the other side, the Tigers lost happiness, witnessing their championship window close and their highly regarded general manager leave.Although on-field success can buy happiness, it doesn’t seem to work for every team. The Royals have gained the most playoff probability of any team since the preseason, but they lost the fourth-most happiness from the offseason to July. There are any number of potential reasons6Including the All-Star controversy, an injury to their star player (Alex Gordon), and enmity from other teams/fan bases. for the relative grumpiness of Royals fans, but one may be that fans were more optimistic about the Royals than the projection systems. While contention in Kansas City may seem surprising to sabermetricians, it may not to Royals fans who were riding high off a World Series appearance.Conversely, failure on the field isn’t necessarily enough to dissuade a happy fan base. The Phillies, hopeless since the beginning of the year, nevertheless have fans who aren’t that much sadder than they were before the season. Despite the loss of erstwhile ace Cole Hamels at the trade deadline, fans have gotten happier since July — his trade and others signaled a shift in direction for the team toward rebuilding. As above with the Cubs, fan bases seem to not only weigh the present but also to consider the prospect for future improvement.There are also some inexplicable cases such as that of the Rays, whose fan base declined in sentiment much more dramatically than their playoff odds would lead one to expect. It’s possible that the Rays’ 4-8 slide in July before the All-Star break had something to do with it, or the seven-game losing streak from June 28 to July 4. The streaks, winning and losing, may play havoc with fans’ emotions, causing people to see false patterns suggesting imminent decline in what is mostly random fluctuation.Obviously, we’re grasping for answers as to why fans are happier or sadder as the season goes by. But the general trend seems to be that a complex calculus of current performance and hope for the future dictates how happy each team’s fan base feels. Of course, it all resets come March. Hang tight, Reds fans. Only a few more months to go. Cubs+0.49+0.74+0.84 Rockies+0.88+0.13+0.12 Mariners+1.07-0.38-0.35 Indians+0.66+0.05-0.02 Angels+0.28+0.21+0.08 Dodgers+0.29+0.07-0.15 Tigers+0.55+0.15-0.11 Brewers+0.71-0.29-0.06 Mets+0.23-0.19-0.04 Rays+2.24+0.04+0.27 Nationals+0.61-0.11-0.18 Yankees+0.90+0.62+0.74 Royals+0.85-0.27-0.20 Braves+0.46+0.11+0.08 Cardinals+0.44-0.26-0.02 TEAMFEBRUARYJULYAUGUST White Sox+0.940.00-0.07 Padres+0.94-0.11+0.13 Diamondbacks+0.28+0.04+0.17 Blue Jays+0.28-0.03+0.21 Astros+0.87+0.09+0.11 Athletics+0.62+0.10+0.10 Phillies+0.35+0.05+0.35
Nigel Hayes has been outspoken about race issues. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images Sport)Nigel Hayes recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a successful college basketball career as a Badgers forward, but a fan was more focused on his “bizarre” hairstyle.Hayes, who is the only Badger to have appeared on the college’s top 10 list for points, rebounds and assists, tweeted a letter from Jennie Madden, a self-proclaimed fan of his and UW-Madison. The note began by congratulating him for earning his degree and staying in college. But it took a turn when she slammed his hair, which he wears in locs.I guess a black male’s naturally dreaded hair in a ponytail isn’t fit for NBA teams/communities. As well as, it seems, professional society. pic.twitter.com/9zdnyygyR9— Nigel Hayes (@NIGEL_HAYES) May 17, 2017“What the heck crazy odd hairdo are you having on the top of your head??” Madden wrote. “Who wants [to sign] a handsome nice guy like you with such a bizarre hairdo as what you got?“Get to the barbers,” she wrote, recommending a local Black shop in Madison. “And get all cleaned up with a nice haircut and [side-burn] trim and [professional] appearance — then for sure you will get picked to be on a pro basketball team looking better and more classy for their team and community.”Madden felt Hayes, who has been racially targeted in the past, could “set [an] example” by “not only getting your nice college diploma — but [getting] a good appearance.”Hayes’ teammate, guard Zak Showalter, who is white, also received an email from Madden, who praised his haircut and asked to get more information to share with her [email protected]_HAYES Guess you should be more like me 🙂 pic.twitter.com/NItIJ7Mjf6— Zak Showalter (@ZShowbball333) May 17, 2017As a result of the racist email, many fans supported [email protected]_HAYES @HPbasketball Yeah ok… pic.twitter.com/ScHxUOZJrv— Jamal Curry (@Murray_4MVP) May 17, 2017 @NIGEL_HAYES 1st of all, congrats on graduating! Furthermore your natural hair is wonderful. At last check the NBA wanted ballers not Paul Mitchel.— Anita (@ChgoCookkie) May 18, 2017 @NIGEL_HAYES don’t ever cut your hair, it rocks!— Michele Weisman (@ottogrl) May 17, 2017UW-Madison also shared its support.You looked fantastic last weekend @NIGEL_HAYES @AnnieTamblyn @ZShowbball333 #UWGrad #Proud pic.twitter.com/WRSSkO1dLL— UW-Madison (@UWMadison) May 17, 2017 @NIGEL_HAYES Rock dem locs. I wish I kept mine. Also it’s a sign of patience. Do you.. do well!— Quentin Smithers (@Que_Roca) May 17, 2017 @NIGEL_HAYES *shakes dreads for the culture*— King of Wakanda (@southerngent26) May 17, 2017
The Atlanta Falcons had the NFL’s most explosive offense this season, racking up yards and points with efficiency and balance. As a result, the Falcons are the NFC’s No. 2 seed in the playoffs, quarterback Matt Ryan is a leading MVP candidate and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is reportedly interviewing for four different head-coach openings.The Falcons led the NFL in many offensive metrics this season, finishing No. 1 in points per game (33.8), yards per play (6.7), per-drive scoring rate (52.6 percent) and Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average).But Ryan, Shanahan, star wideout Julio Jones and the Falcons’ dynamic tailback duo of Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman were all in Atlanta last season, and the Falcons finished below or around the league average in all of those categories.So what has transformed an underperforming offense into the most effective unit in the NFL?Nearly every element that has made the 2016 Falcons offense special was on display in Week 12, when they welcomed a hungry, talented Arizona Cardinals defense. Despite their struggles with consistency, the Cardinals ended up finishing first in sack rate (8.1 percent), second in yards-per-play allowed (4.8), ninth in per-drive scoring rate (32.1 percent) and 10th in per-drive turnover rate (13.0 percent).The Cardinals received the opening kickoff and then drove for a touchdown, putting Ryan and company in a 7-0 hole. How the Falcons offense answered is a microcosm of how it’s dismantled NFL defenses all season long.Anchoring the run gamePerhaps the best free-agent acquisition of the offseason, center Alex Mack — the second-highest rated center in the league, according to Pro Football Focus — has transformed the Falcons’ line, providing a vital boost to the team’s pass protection and run-blocking. And his leadership on the team has set the tone for the Falcons’ young offensive line, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff told me during an August interview on SiriusXM’S “NFL Inside Read.”On Monday, Falcons head coach Dan Quinn called Mack a “real critical factor in what we do and how we play.” That was evident on the second play of the Falcons’ opening drive against the Cardinals in Week 12.On a zone run to the left, Mack (No. 51) engaged and overwhelmed Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell (No. 93). Freeman (No. 24) cut behind Mack’s block and exploded through the opened seam:Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/538_falcons_mack-1.mp400:0000:0000:12Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Football Outsiders’ offensive line metrics rank the Falcons 10th in Adjusted Line Yards (4.09), up from 15th (3.82) last season. The balance provided by being able to run the ball is keeping the Atlanta offense on schedule and the chains moving; the Falcons’ run game was third in expected points added (+22.12) this season, up from 31st in 2015 (-62.96).Outstanding receiver playJulio Jones’s raw numbers this season were down from 2015, when he was a first-team All-Pro and led the league with 1,871 yards on 136 catches. But his efficiency is up significantly, and the Atlanta offense has been better for it. During the 2016 regular season, Ryan targeted Jones on 24.2 percent of his pass attempts, down from his force-fed 33.1 percent rate in 2015. The effectiveness of new receivers Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel, plus the continued impact of Freeman and Coleman out of the backfield, means that the entire Atlanta offense doesn’t have to run through Jones anymore. With Jones free to concentrate on beating defenses deep, his yards per catch exploded from a career-low 13.8 last season to 17.0. That’s Jones’s highest mark since his rookie season (17.8), when he was a high-powered complement to veteran No. 1 Roddy White.Ryan’s accuracy and ball placement haven’t been markedly better this season than in the past, as Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus wrote, but his receivers are getting open more often and catching the ball much more reliably.Gabriel (1st), Jones (2nd) and Sanu (34th) all rank among the top 35 receivers in DVOA, reflecting the per-play value each delivered on passes thrown their way. But Ryan’s collection of weapons is so robust that even down-roster players make big contributions. On the opening drive against Arizona in Week 12, rotational wideout Justin Hardy made a spectacular catch that turned an incomplete pass into a 27-yard gain:Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/538_falcons_hardy.mp400:0000:0000:17Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Dictating matchupsBut watch the Hardy catch again: The tight end goes in motion right, then turns around and sprints out to the left flat. The offensive line sells a zone run to the right, only for Ryan to sell a play fake and roll back to the left. Hardy’s two-move route takes him with the run action, then upfield, then back out to move with the quarterback.All-Pro Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson should have no problem covering a fourth-string wideout one-on-one, but his eyes are checking on the run action. By the time he gets his head around and watches Hardy make a second move, there’s too much separation for Peterson to recover. Ryan puts it high, and Hardy makes an outstanding catch.Throughout the drive, Shanahan uses motion, spread formations, bunch formations and varied personnel packages. Sanu lines up outside, inside — even as a Wildcat quarterback, fooling a linebacker with a read-option keeper:Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/538_falcons_sanu_b.mp400:0000:0000:18Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Any offensive coordinator can install a bunch of goofy looks and pre-snap window dressing. But Shanahan is dictating matchups and getting players open.Aggressive coachingThe 11-play touchdown drive (discounting a defensive penalty on the Cardinals’ 2-yard line) seems like a master class on how to execute a scripted game plan against a stout defense.But the Falcons’ offense did fail at one point in the drive. Peterson sniffed out a screen to Freeman on a 2nd-and-4 play from the Arizona 44, and on the next play, Coleman was stopped three yards short of the sticks.A 4th-and-3 in opponent territory? Other NFL head coaches might punt the ball away and surrender possession, but Quinn went for it. Shanahan dialed up a rub route, and Sanu made a drive-saving catch.The Wall Street Journal named Quinn the fourth-most-aggressive head coach of 2016, factoring in fourth-down decisions, play-calling and special-teams decisions. By pressing his talent and scheme advantage, Quinn is maximizing his chances of winning.It’s not just that Ryan has cut his interceptions down this season, from his career rate of 2.4 percent to 1.3 percent. It’s not just that the offensive line is playing much better, receiver depth is dramatically improved or that the coaches are getting optimal results from the available talent. It’s all of these factors coming together to challenge NFL defenses on every front — and make the Falcons look as ready as anybody to make a Super Bowl run.Check out our latest NFL predictions.
More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS Video Excerpt: Defining An Athlete’s Gender Hot Takedown Welcome to this week’s episode of Hot Takedown, our podcast where the hot sports takes of the week meet the numbers that prove them right or tear them down. On this week’s show (July 28, 2015), we discuss a ruling by an athletic court that makes the distinction between male and female athletes harder to find. It ruled that a woman with elevated levels of testosterone could compete in women’s events. We dive into whether it’s even possible to “measure” gender. We also tackle why Boston rebuffed the Olympics and, after the U.S. men’s soccer team’s losses to Jamaica and Panama, whether Jurgen Klinsmann is the coach it needs. Plus, our Significant Digit of the week: Tom Brady’s text messages.Stream the episode by clicking the play button, or subscribe using one of the podcast clients we’ve linked to above.Below are some links to what we discuss on the show:Sprinter Dutee Chand wins the right to compete.Kate Fagan on the International Olympic Committee’s gender testing policy.The tricky economics of hosting the Olympics.Does the U.S. hate the Olympics?Jurgen Klinsmann needs help with the U.S. team.Does soccer depend on luck too much to evaluate players?Significant Digit: 80 texts sent and received per day by Tom Brady on a phone that was destroyed. The number was revealed in the NFL’s ruling to uphold his four-game suspension. If you’re a fan of our podcasts, be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts and leave a rating/review. That helps spread the word to other listeners. And get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments. Tell us what you think, send us hot takes to discuss and tell us why we’re wrong.
Starters are getting the hook early this postseasonDifference between actual and expected batters faced from the fourth inning onward, for Division Series and Wild Card games 201724188.8.131.52.8-2.6 FIRST THREE INNINGSREST OF GAME This trend was already starting to emerge last postseason, when starters were getting a slightly quicker hook than expected. And it got a bunch of attention on the game’s biggest stage, as Cleveland’s Terry Francona and the Cubs’ Joe Maddon each drew praise from analysts for deploying their bullpens creatively en route to the World Series. So perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that this year, almost every playoff manager seems to be emulating Francona and Maddon. In 2017 to date, relievers are tossing an incredible 52 percent of the available innings in playoff games — which, if it holds up, would be the first time they’ve cracked half the innings in a single postseason since at least the beginning of baseball’s expanded playoffs in 1969.4I estimated this for seasons before 2009 by using the postseason pitching data in Sean Lahman’s database, parceling out innings by role in proportion with how many of a pitcher’s postseason appearances came in starts or in relief.That’s not to say starters’ roles are being completely diminished in the modern postseason. Some, like Boston’s David Price on Sunday, are being asked to enter the game as relievers, where they stand to be more effective anyway. One side effect of managers having such an all-hands-on-deck approach in every postseason game is that any pitcher — starter or reliever — could be asked to play an important role in any given game. The kind of appearance that used to be reserved for legendary pitchers in must-win games, such as Pedro Martinez’s six-inning relief masterpiece in Game 5 of the 1999 ALDS or Randy Johnson’s scoreless inning and a third in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, might become the norm.But if the early games of this postseason are any indication, teams will have to weather a rough first few innings from their starters before settling in for the bullpen chess match. For better and for worse, it’s just another way in which 2017-style baseball is starting to look very different from the game we all grew up watching.Check out our latest MLB predictions. 20143211.70.912.912.1+0.8 Sunday night’s American League Division Series game between the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians was a true pitchers’ duel — the kind of taut, low-scoring affair we tend to think of when we conjure up mental images of postseason baseball.It was also completely out of place in this year’s playoffs.Through Sunday’s games, this is the highest-scoring postseason through the Division Series1Including Wild Card games since 2012. in 15 years, with the typical score resembling the Nationals’ 6-3 win over the Cubs Saturday night (or the pair of 8-2 victories the Astros hung on the Red Sox to open their series) much more closely than the Yankees’ 1-0 Game 3 margin. Starting pitchers have borne the brunt of the damage, and — coming on the heels of the Postseason of the Reliever — managers have used this as an excuse to hook them quicker than ever. All signs point to this being a bullpen-dominated postseason like no other.For all the comparing of rotation strengths we love to do going into the playoffs, few starters have fared well in October so far. According to our game score metric, which quantifies a pitcher’s performance in a given start according to a variety of stats, starters are collectively suffering their fourth-worst early-round performance since 1995.2Division Series and/or Wild Card. They’re also allowing their worst ERA and easily pitching the fewest innings per start of any postseason in that span. Not even Corey Kluber and Chris Sale, probably the two best pitchers in baseball this season, were immune to downright awful starts in the postseason’s first week.But more significantly, starters are also being pulled out of games much earlier than usual, even after accounting for their rocky performances. To judge this, I tracked each starter’s performance in all Division Series and Wild Card games since 2009,3The earliest season for which ESPN’s Stats & Information Group has data broken out by inning. breaking the game down into two chunks — the first three innings were one unit, and everything from the fourth inning onward was another. Not surprisingly, there’s a pretty reliable relationship between how few runs a starter yields in his first three innings of work and how many batters he gets to face over the remainder of the ballgame, which we can use to set up an expectation for how long each start will last, controlling for performance. So far this year, starters are being allowed to face about two and a half fewer batters after the third inning than we’d expect based on how many runs they allowed through three: 20113812.21.411.211.0+0.2 Average3412.01.311.211.2— POSTSEASONSTARTSBATTERS FACEDRUNS ALLOWEDBATTERS FACEDEXPECTED BATTERS FACEDDIFF. Expected batters faced from the fourth inning onward based on runs allowed through the first three innings.Source: ESPN Stats & Info 20124412.01.211.611.5+0.1 20154212.31.710.710.3+0.4 20103012.00.912.512.1+0.4 20134011.71.212.111.5+0.6 201634184.108.40.2060.3-1.0 20092612.30.812.712.4+0.3
Elo’s dumbest (and smartest) picks of Week 6Average difference between points won by readers and by Elo in Week 6 matchups in FiveThirtyEight’s NFL prediction game *Not including yards gained vs. the Eagles.Source: ESPN 3N.Y. GiantsPaul Perkins2512+13 3N.Y. GiantsOrleans Darkwa2254-32 YARDS GAINED/GAME 1WashingtonRob Kelley3051-21 BAL75BAL72CHI+2.4– OUR PREDICTION (ELO)READERS’ PREDICTION CAR57CAR53PHI+1.4– GB56GB66MIN-14.2– 6CarolinaJonathan Stewart-450-54 NO58DET51NO-11.3– OAK68OAK61LAC+5.7– 5ArizonaChris Johnson2131-10 HOU83HOU85HOU-1.0– CORRECTION (Oct. 17, 6 p.m.): A previous version of this article incorrectly said that if the Eagles were to win the NFC East this season, it would be the eighth consecutive season that the division would have a different champion. It would be the 13th season.Check out our latest NFL predictions. 2Kansas CityKareem Hunt81110-29 Running backs perform poorly against the EaglesRushing yards gained against the Eagles vs. season average against other teams, among running backs with five or more carries in games against Philadelphia JAX66%JAX55%LAR+10.5– KC77KC73PIT+3.2– TEN59TEN63TEN+0.3– The domination of the Eagles’ front seven has meant that opposing teams have been forced to try their luck through the air. Philly ranks 29th in the league in total passing yards given up per game, but that’s largely because opposing teams have launched an onslaught on the Eagles’ secondary — Philly’s defense ranks No.1 in the league in pass attempts faced. Also, the Eagles have already faced Kirk Cousins, Alex Smith, Philip Rivers and Carson Palmer — four of the top six quarterbacks in passing yards per game through Week 6. When you strip the numbers back, the Eagles’ defense ranks 17th in the league in yards given up per passing attempt and 14th in opponents’ passer rating — still not great, but not terrible either.On the other side of the ball, the Eagles have gotten by with a balanced offense that ranks third in the league in total yards gained per game. Second-year quarterback Carson Wentz is off to a solid start to the year — Wentz has thrown 13 touchdowns and three interceptions and has a 99.6 passer rating through six games. And Eagles fans may be thinking this is the return of the Wentz they saw in the first three games of last season, when the team started 3-0 and before Wentz threw 14 interceptions in his final 13 games (when the team went 4-9). Thanks to the contributions of tight end Zach Ertz and running back LeGarrette Blount, Philadelphia is the only team in the league to have three players averaging more than 50 receiving yards per game2 and a running back averaging more than 60 rushing yards per game.3 With much of the hype surrounding the team’s defense, the offense has quietly emerged as one of the most dynamic in the game.So can the Eagles keep on winning? The answer might be “yes” — in the regular season at least. The Eagles’ opponents in their remaining 10 games have an average team Elo rating of 1484 (that’s a metric that estimates each team’s skill level using only the final scores and locations of each game — an Elo rating of roughly 1500 is considered average). Of those 10, just two — Washington and the Los Angeles Rams — have top-10 passing offenses (by passing yards per game). With Rodgers down for what could be the rest of the season, the Eagles could do some damage in the playoffs too. Now, obviously, a lot can change with 11 weeks remaining in the regular season, but of NFC teams currently in playoff positions, only the Saints’ Drew Brees ranks in the top 10 in passing yards per game.FiveThirtyEight vs. the crowdWeek 6 in our NFL prediction game — in which we invite you to pick football games and try to outsmart our Elo algorithm — was full of surprises. In fact, it was the fifth-most-upset-laden week in the NFL since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, according to the Brier Score of this week’s games (that’s a measure used to show how accurate each team’s pre-game win probabilities were).There were multiple games that both our Elo algorithm and you, the readers, got wrong. One of the biggies was the Green Bay-Minnesota game — but readers really took a bath on the Packers’ defeat, losing 14.2 points on average even compared with Elo. Readers also lost big when the Giants won (you read that right) on the road against the Broncos. It wasn’t all bad for readers, though — their best game of the week came when the Rams beat the Jaguars on the road (that’s what Elo gets for betting on the Jags). PICKWIN PROB.PICKWIN PROB.WINNERREADERS’ NET PTS NE67NE78NE+3.7– WSH83WSH80WSH-2.9– WK.TEAMPLAYERVS. EAGLESSEASON AVG.*DIFF. ATL78ATL83MIA-9.5– 4L.A. ChargersMelvin Gordon2267-45 DEN77DEN84NYG-13.6– ARI58TB53ARI-12.4– In Week 6, the NFL’s best showed off their very worst. The Falcons blew a 17-0 lead to the Dolphins at home. The Patriots flirted with disaster against the Jets. The Chiefs were uncharacteristically lackluster in a loss at home. And the Packers suffered the worst loss of all when Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone. One contender that did take care of business: the Philadelphia Eagles. And it might be time to start taking them seriously.The Eagles beat the Panthers on the road on Thursday to improve to 5-1, and it appears that the NFC East could have its 13th consecutive season with a different champion (don’t even think about it, Giants fans). The Eagles now have a 76 percent chance of winning the division according to FiveThirtyEight’s NFL forecast; that’s the best chance of ending the season atop a division for any team other than the Chiefs. While it might be too early to bet the house that the Eagles will win the Super Bowl, there are plenty of reasons for optimism.Philadelphia’s defense is one major reason. Through Week 6, Doug Pederson’s rush defense is ranked No.1, surrendering just 66 yards per game. The Eagles have been so good that the 394 total yards that their defense has given up on the ground are the fewest they’ve conceded through six games in 63 years. Oh, and rookie sensation Kareem Hunt of the Chiefs is the only running back to rush for more than 35 yards1 against the Eagles this season, and even he ran for less than he has against other opponents this season, on average.
With the season two-thirds complete, the Ohio State men’s soccer team’s robust schedule has helped bring the team close to the top of the RPI standings. But in the midst of a strong campaign, head coach John Bluem still believes there is plenty of room for improvement “I’d probably give them a ‘B,’” Bluem said. “All three matches we lost, I think we could have won. I think we hurt ourselves with our own mistakes. So as you go down the stretch here you got to limit the mistakes.” At No. 4 in RPI standings, OSU (6-4-2) is looking to line itself up for a favorable seed in the NCAA Tournament. The RPI standings take into consideration a team’s winning percentage and the winning percentage of its opponents. With four matches left, including three Big Ten contests plus the conference championship, there’s still plenty of time for things to change. With quality performances against some of the country’s best teams, including ties to previously ranked No. 8 Louisville and No. 1 Akron, along with a victory over No. 11 Michigan State, the Buckeyes have proven they can run with anyone. Players said the key is embracing that confidence going forward. “It gives the confidence of knowing that we can play against some of the best teams … in the nation. But it also lets us know that we could do better. There were a lot of things in those games could have gone different way and we know that working hard, maybe we could have won those games,” sophomore forward Chris Hegngi said. While OSU is undefeated in four matches at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium this season, the team is 3-4-1 in games away from Columbus. After Wednesday’s loss, 1-0, to University of Illinois at Chicago, four of the next five home games will be at home. Following four straight match wins, the Buckeyes dropped two consecutive games. For a team that’s played well against quality opponents to that point, OSU believes getting served a slice of humble pie will help finish the season strong. “Anyone’s beatable,” said Austin McAnena, reigning Big Ten Player of the Week. “Northwestern hasn’t had a great season, but they’re a hard working team. Basically anyone in the Big Ten can win at any given time. It’s kind of a wakeup call, too.” Bluem said for the team to finish the regular season where it wants to, his players would need to maintain the right mindset for the entirety of the game, not just crunch time. While the Buckeyes are a strong defensive club, they struggle to score at times causing Bluem and his staff to experiment with different lineups. “We’re right about where I thought we would be. We have had a very difficult strength of schedule this year,” Bluem said prior to Wednesday’s loss. “I think we’re pretty well positioned to move forward into these final (five) games. “I’m proud of what the guys have achieved so far, but at the same time, we still have work to do.”
Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel was not named the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts Wednesday, despite being interviewed for the position more than once. Colts owner Jim Irsay instead chose former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano to lead his franchise after Indianapolis finished with a league-worst 2-14 record in 2011. “I really believe Chuck is bringing a toughness, the leadership we need at this point for the franchise,” Irsay said when introducing the new coach Thursday. Tressel interviewed for the Colts’ coaching job twice according to multiple reports. On Monday, former Colts’ coach and current NFL analyst at NBC Tony Dungy said he thought Tressel might land the job. “I think Jim Irsay has his man in mind. It may be Jim Tressel, that’s what I’m hearing,” Dungy said on the Dan Patrick Show. Tressel served as a consultant for the Colts during the 2011 season and helped the team make in-game replay decisions. The Colts suspended Tressel until the seventh game of the season because of NCAA violations committed at OSU while Tressel was coach. As a result of the violations, the NCAA issued OSU a one-year bowl ban and a reduction of nine scholarships over three years. Tressel was served with a five-year show-cause penalty for his role in the violations. The penalty means that any NCAA institution that hires Tressel within the next five years could face sanctions.
OSU then-junior midfielder Jake Withers (18) during a game against Michigan on April 16 at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Lantern File PhotoIn the undercard to the football team’s annual spring game, the Ohio State men’s lacrosse team put on an impressive display on both sides of the ball. The Buckeyes jumped out to a 7-1 lead in the first, and never looked back en route to a 18-7.OSU’s offense clicked on all cylinders in the first quarter. Six different Buckeyes scored goals, leading to a 7-1 advantage over Michigan.The Buckeyes scored four goals to the Wolverines two in the second quarter. Michigan sophomore midfielder Decker Curran scored two goals late in the quarter before OSU junior attack Colin Chell and senior midfielder John Kelly scored goals with five minutes remaining, extending the Buckeyes lead to 8-3.In the third, OSU pushed farther down on the gas pedal. Buckeye senior attackman Eric Fannell found the net in the start of the quarter. Moments later, sophomore attack Jack Jasinski scored his second goal, followed by a goal for Michigan junior midfielder PJ Bogle.Michigan’s Decker and King scored two more goals with five minutes remaining in the third. The Buckeyes scored three more times before the end of the quarter.OSU outpaced Michigan throughout the morning matchup, dominating in faceoffs won, 22-7. Michigan rattled off 49 total shots, but only 22 were on net to the Buckeyes 24 on frame.The No. 10 ranked Buckeyes struggled with turnovers, giving the ball away 18 times, but they overcame the turnovers by converting on 66 percent of their shots on goal. Senior attack Eric Fannell led all scorers with four goals and two assists.OSU sealed the deal with one final goal in the fourth, and held the Wolverines scoreless in the final frame. The Buckeyes square off against the No. 3-ranked Maryland Terrapins on April 22 in Columbus in the team’s next matchup.
Ohio State senior forward Jae’Sean Tate addressed questions about the FBI’s ongoing fraud and bribery investigation in college basketball during Ohio State’s media day Wednesday at the Schottenstein Center. Ohio State is not implicated in the investigation. Credit: Nick Clarkson | Social Media EditorOhio State men’s basketball players said Wednesday they were aware of the ongoing FBI investigation into college basketball corruption, but made clear they hadn’t experienced anything similar to the allegations. Sophomore center Micah Potter said he had not experienced any illegal recruiting and added that former head coach Thad Matta had done things the right way while on the recruiting trail.“It’s definitely unfortunate. I’m glad they found out about it ’cause obviously it’s wrong,” Potter said. “I saw it on social media and then it’s all over ESPN. It’s unfortunate, but I’m glad it got caught.”The college basketball world was rocked Tuesday with the FBI’s announcement of a wide-ranging fraud and bribery scandal involving 10 people, including Power 5 schools, financial advisors and a top Adidas executive. The FBI has subpoenaed employees of Nike’s AAU circuit, EYBL, and documents, according to sports attorney Darren Heitner.Assistant coaches from Auburn, Arizona, Oklahoma State and USC have been charged with fraud, corruption and bribery, among other charges from the ongoing investigation. Ohio State has not been mentioned in the investigation.According to FBI documents, assistant coaches accepted cash bribes to funnel players financial advisors and agents in one scheme, and James Gatto, director of global marketing for Adidas basketball, gave six-figure payments to three individuals to steer those recruits to programs affiliated with the company.Louisville placed coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich on unpaid administrative leave Wednesday after the FBI released evidence that an assistant coach allegedly planned to pay $100,000 to the father of an All-American recruit.Senior forward Jae’Sean Tate would not comment on the investigations because he said he did not have enough details to properly speak on the situation.“There’s always going to be rumors, but for me, personally, I never experienced or seen it with my own eyes, so there’s not really much I can say about it,” Tate said. “But obviously, if the FBI are investigating, things have happened.”The investigation is ongoing and more schools than the aforementioned four could be in hot water as the FBI continues its investigation. Sophomore Andre Wesson also said he experienced no foul play in the recruiting process. He emphasized that he had no concern with the investigations because it did not affect the team.“It’s crazy … I’m not really worried about that,” Wesson said. “I’m just worried about here and Ohio State and what we can do.”