Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Book Review: Pro Football Prospectus 2005


Pro Football Prospectus 2005: Statistics, Analysis, and Insight for the Information Age by Aaron Schatz and the Staff of FootballOutsiders.com
As I wipe the drool from the previous book I read off my face, it's replaced almost as quickly as football drool. Baseball is so damn boring that statistics are the only thing interesting about it, but thankfully it's tailor-made for such statistical obsession, since almost everything that happens out there can be broken down into a discrete statistic. Football, by contrast, is like a constantly moving chessboard; there are lots of discrete actions, few of which can be, let alone are, broken down into the same sort of basic statistic that is the building block of baseball sabermetrics. This doesn't mean, though, that you can't learn anything from football statistics, and FootballOutsiders.com is about the best place to learn about what you can and cannot easily figure out. In terms of independent football analysis, this is about as good as it gets, and this book is their 2005 season preview. It has a lot of great information, with fairly in-depth write-ups of all teams and fantasy-players. Two complaints, neither deal-breaking: (1) player profiles for fantasy positions, i.e. QB, TE, WR, and RB, are in the position sections, separated from the team sections that have commentary on the rest of the guys on the 53-man roster. If you're like me and not a fantasy player, but instead trying to get a good feel for how a team's offensive might perform and thus how good a team would be overall, this is distracting. (2) Typos, typos, typos. Yes, coming from my lazy, half-cocked blog posts, this is like the pot calling the kettle black, but from me, you get what you pay for. From annoying things like "Matt Hassalback" on the cover to misidentifying Steve McNair's wife as a nurse rather than a nurse's aide or the score of the Titans-Packers game from 2004 (but getting it right another place), these are nigglinig and annoying errors. They don't get to the core value of the book, but they do detract from the overall reading experience.

The reason for the introduction, though, is that perhaps 40% of the book is taken up with individual fantasy profiles of people at the aforementioned positions. This is great if you're a serious fantasy football player, since projections are primarily for individual player statistics. As a football fan, though, you skim this information, since much of it is not particularly relevant. Still, I've read enough of it, and the rest of the book in enough detail, to believe that it merits inclusion in the 50 Book Challenge.* The same is not true, however, of the 2005 NFL Record & Fact Book. This book is literally a football junkie's dream, crammed full of statistical information... 2004 box scores and statistics, offesason rosters, historical data, all-time team v. team records. I could write a blog post a day on this, both independently and applying it to the current season, and not run out of material. Yes, my name is Tom, and I'm a football addict.

*-At a site I used to post at, there was this thing called the "50 Book Challenge" wherein you challenged yourself to read 50 books in a year and post a review of each. Since I was already in the habit of doing that, I decided to play along. This review is being re-published almost completely unedited from when it was first written, so make of it what you will.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Titans Roster Prediction Results

A bit over a month ago, I predicted who would make the final 53 man roster for the Tennessee Titans. I offered some updated predictions a couple weeks ago. Now that the roster has been down at 54* since Saturday, it's time to see how I did. For ease, I'll do a position-by-position breakdown. Note, though, that I flubbed it. The roster is 53, of which 45 are active on game day. The 8 man practice squad is in addition to that. For some reason, I was thinking there was a 53-man roster, 47 of which were active on game day, 1 third quarterback, and a 5-man practice squad. I goofed, plain and simple.

Offensive linemen: Justin Hartwig, Eugene Amano, Benji Olson, Zach Piller, Jacob Bell, Brad Hopkins, David Stewart, Michael Roos, Daniel Loper, and Todd Williams.
I correctly predicted everyone but Todd Williams. Note, though, that Brad Hopkins is suspended for the first game against Pittsburgh, so there's an extra roster slot available. I have a very hard time seeing them keeping ten offensive linemen, and so when Hopkins returns for Week 2 against Baltimore, Todd Williams is quite likely gone.

Quarterback: Steve McNair and Billy Volek.
This was the shocker, only carrying two quarterbacks, both of whom have missed time due to injury in the past two seasons. I had Gino Guidugli penciled in at first, then Chris Redman, and I was surprised when I saw Redman got a visit from the Turk. My guess is they were hoping to see a good fairly young veteran whom they could pick up get cut; Brian St. Pierre looks like the closest thing to that, as the Steelers dropped him, but they haven't made the move to open a slot for him. Expect to see them add somebody at some point. Matt Mauck is on the practice squad, but I bet they want someone with NFL game experience for the third slot. Oh, and I correctly predicted McNair and Volek would both make the team. Duh.

Tight ends: Erron Kinney, Ben Troupe, Bo Scaife, and Gregg Guenther.
This was the prediction I sort of fudged. The Titans have held Troupe's readiness level very close to the vest. I ended up with 54 players on my prediction because I expected Troupe to be injured and not count, so figured they'd go with all four. I just didn't think they'd do it at the expense of a third quarterback. Based on Troupe's health, I would not be surprised to see Guenther shuttle between the practice squad and the 53-man over the course of the season.

Wide receivers: Drew Bennett, Tyrone Calico, Roydell Williams, Brandon Jones, Courtney Roby, and Troy Edwards.
I correctly predicted the first five, but didn't foresee the signing of Troy Edwards after he was released by Jacksonville. In fact, I thought it likely they would only carry five wideouts. Still, I can see why they did it. First, Bennett is the only receiver who has played more than 10 NFL games, aside from Edwards. Second, Calico has some NFL experience, but is injured and may not be at full speed. Third, someone has to catch punts, and Adam Jones, discussed more fully below, has not yet shown he can reliably do that under NFL game conditions. Still, I wouldn't be surprised to see Edwards cut before Pittsburgh on Sunday.

Running backs: Troy Fleming, Chris Brown, Damien Nash, and Travis Henry.
I flubbed the count here, expecting them to carry more than 4. Additionally, I had Jarrett Payton, who will spend another year on the practice squad, over Damien Nash. Honestly, Payton looks vastly improved, while Nash was injured for much of training camp and didn't show much ability. This was a bit of a surprise, but Nash was a 5th round draft pick, and it's tough to give up defeat on those quickly.

Now on to the defense:
Defensive linemen: Kyle Vanden Bosch, Travis LaBoy, Antwan Odom, Bo Schobel, Albert Haynesworth, Rien Long, Jared Clauss, and Randy Starks.
Easiest spot on the team to predict. Absolutely no surprises at all here. D-Line coach Jim Washburn had apparently made noises about carrying 9 instead of 8, but there apparently wasn't anybody who impressed enough to make them carry him.

Linebackers: Rocky Boiman, Keith Bulluck, Brad Kassell, Peter Sirmon, Rob Reynolds, and Cody Spencer.
Note that I listed Ken Amato here in my original prediction, but I'm listing him here as a special teams player. I called this selection perfectly, including the (somewhat surprising) dismissal of Rocky Calmus. The Colts were willing to give up a draft pick for him, for kudos to GM Floyd Reese for getting something for him. No, you don't enjoy trading a player to a divison rival, and they might use him for inside information and then cut him, as they did with a defensive back last year or two years ago (sorry, blanking on the name right now), but if not, he'll probably get hurt by the first head-to-head matchup in Week 4. Nothing personal, just a statement of probability.

Defensive backs: Tony Beckham, Andre Woolfolk, Rich Gardner, Michael Waddell, Reynaldo Hill, Adam Jones, Tank Williams, Donnie Nickey, Lamont Thompson, Justin Sandy, and Vincent Fuller.
I figured 9 of the 16 in training camp would make the 53-man, but they chose to carry 11. I chose the correct 11 players, but cut two. This wasn't that hard, aside from figuring out how many they'd carry.

Special teams: Rob Bironas, Ken Amato, and Craig Hentrich.
I essentially punted on the kicker question in my original prediction; I never thought Gary Anderson again was a particularly realistic possibility. In my second post, I thought they would sign the loser of Minnesota's kicking battle. Since then, though, Bironas has performed well on kickoffs and decently, though not particularly well, on field goals. Jay Taylor, whom they brought it, was absolutely awful; after the San Francisco game, I wondered if they'd even let him on the charter back to Nashville, or give him a ticket from SFO to a destination of his choosing. If Aaron Elling, who lost to Paul Edinger in Minnesota, didn't have the injury history he did, I think they probably would have signed him. As is, it's Bironas's job to lose, and he can lose it. Hentrich is the punter, of course, and Amato spends another year as the long snapper, overall special teams dynamo, and VERY occasional linebacker in some packages if enough people get hurt.

Overall, I think I selected 49 of the 54 on the roster correctly, including the departure of Rocky Calmus. There were no huge surprises, and if I'd known the precise position breakdown, I would have done even better. If I may engage in the slightly unseemly act of tooting my own horn, I think that's a pretty damn good job.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Titans Roster Prediction Update

With the NFL roster now down to 53 players, the Tennessee Titans have made their final cuts, pending a few other possible moves. Here is the press release with the last round of trimming. I think I did pretty well in my predictions, as I hope to demonstrate in the next day or so. Anyway, it's time for me to sleep, so that's enough blogging for this late evening.