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. More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS Hot Takedown Welcome to the latest 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 (Dec. 15, 2015), we look at whether the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team will sweep every team before it in this year’s NCAA season. With FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief Nate Silver, we explore the rise of Kristaps Porzingis and whether we can compare him to Dirk Nowitzki. Plus, we try and understand a metric that’s earning college football coaches hundreds of thousands of dollars. And a Significant Digit on Odell Beckham Jr.’s almost-record-breaking number of touchdown receptions.Stream the episode by clicking the play button, or subscribe using one of the podcast clients we’ve linked to above. Links to what we discussed are here:Benjamin Morris on why last season’s Huskies were so good.Nick Martin on the metric earning college football coaches millions.Odell Beckham Jr.’s magic touchdown caught on pylon camera.
NBA free agents cashed in big time this year. Everybody got paid. Even the scrubs.Using CARMELO projections, which estimates the future value of NBA players based on wins above replacement, we can weigh players’ contracts against their projected market “worth” in the years to come. These projections assume a player’s full value in a world with a team salary cap but without a maximum individual salary, which would allow the best players to be paid something closer to their true value but perhaps leave less budget for more marginal players.By that measure, the average 2016 contract is overvalued by $4.4 million per year of the contract. This is primarily the result of a windfall to mediocre players. Matthew Dellavedova, who barely saw the court for Cleveland in the 2016 NBA Finals, inked a four-year deal for $38.4 million with the Milwaukee Bucks. According to CARMELO, he is valued at $1.4 million a year during his contract, meaning his $9.6 million average annual salary is $8.2 million over his value per year.DeMar DeRozan’s five-year, $139 million contract to stay with the Toronto Raptors is just crazy. He will average $27.8 million a year, but his CARMELO value per year is $13.1 million. The Raptors will be paying more than $14 million per year over value for a player who is the second-best on the team. In the 2015-16 season, DeRozan led the team in scoring, with 23.5 points per game, and played well in the playoffs. But his WAR was just above 5, compared with teammate Kyle Lowry’s nearly 14.Of course, free agents get paid more than their stats might warrant all the time — that’s the nature of a salary-capped league with a maximum salary for the best players. What makes this summer special is the scale. In addition to DeRozan, five players signed $100 million deals, and according to CARMELO, they’re all are overvalued. In the past, deals at that level were typically for surefire stars, like LeBron James, or good-but-not-great players leveraging their worth against a small market, like Joe Johnson. Now guys like Nicolas Batum are signing for nine figures, and it’s practically a matter of course. In the table below, you can see every contract signed in the 2015 and 2016 free agency periods, what each is worth and each player’s CARMELO value over the length of the contract. Sources: Spotrac, NBA and Basketball-Reference.comAmong the players who signed nine-figure deals, Batum, Al Horford and Andre Drummond are within reasonable distance of their CARMELO value,1In this case, I considered $5 million to be a “reasonable” distance (which might say something about some of the other contracts that were signed this summer!). while Bradley Beal’s five-year, $128 million deal with the Washington Wizards is overvalued by $7.7 million a year. The Memphis Grizzlies kept Mike Conley with the richest NBA contract ever, at five years for $153 million — $83.2 million more than his projected value over those years. He’ll be 29 during the 2016-17 season and produced less than 4 WAR last season. However, Memphis is a small market that needs to hold on to its core players if it wants to fill seats — even if the core players are now average starters.The chart below shows the difference between players’ CARMELO average value per year and what their contracts pay per year, for both 2015 and 2016 free agents. As you can see, the orange (2015) line is always higher than the blue (2016) line — meaning that, at the same rate of pay, teams got more bang for their free-agency buck last year than they did this summer: Because CARMELO’s market value numbers don’t set a floor at the veteran’s minimum, some players with especially poor projections end up appearing to “owe” their teams money. For instance, Lance Thomas has a negative CARMELO value for every year of his contract with the New York Knicks. He will make $27.5 million over four years but is worth -$13.8 million.One thing that’s striking is how much difference a year (and a massive salary cap spike) can make. Twenty-three percent of contracts that were signed in 2015 were overvalued by at least $5 million per year, compared with 45 percent from this year. When we look at all contracts signed during the 2015 free agency period, the collective CARMELO value projections show that under the NBA’s new economic conditions, teams actually underspent by $80,000 per contract.The once-laughable four-year, $70 million deal that Enes Kanter signed with the Thunder last year still doesn’t look great — according to CARMELO, he is worth almost $15 million per year less than he’s getting. But it’s much closer to where the market has settled this year. This offseason, five players signed contracts that paid them over $15 million more than their value.Next summer, the salary cap will rise again, but probably not as high as the league previously projected (the estimate fell to $102 million from $107 million). So this trend of average players being overpaid might slow down. However, with Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry and Blake Griffin all hitting the market in 2017, we can still expect to see superstars going the Kevin Durant route — playing on super teams for below-market value and leaving money on the table for everyone else.
Based on projected wins or over/under win totals. Data gathered on March 14, 2017.Sources: Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs, Clay Davenport, Las Vegas Review-Journal 5San Diego Padres6965656866.6 4Arizona Diamondbacks7877777877.4 How forecasters view the NL West 1Los Angeles Dodgers9794989595.9 2San Francisco Giants8888858887.1 In honor of the 2017 Major League Baseball season, which starts April 2, FiveThirtyEight is once again assembling some of our favorite baseball writers to chat about what’s ahead. Today, we focus on the National League West with Molly Knight, author of “The Best Team Money Can Buy,” and Sarah Wexler, a writer for Dodgers Digest and The Hardball Times. The transcript below has been edited. 3Colorado Rockies7778748177.4 RANKTEAMPECOTAFANGRAPHSDAVENPORTWESTGATEAVERAGE EXPECTED NUMBER OF WINS neil (Neil Paine, FiveThirtyEight senior sportswriter): All right, so let’s talk NL West! I’m gonna start with the Dodgers, since they’re considered by most people to be the favorites in the division. (And, of course, both of you are very familiar with them!)mollyknight: It’s totally bizarre to me that they’ve won the division four years in a row. And yet somehow the Giants have won 11 World Series during that run.neil: Hah — yes, it does feel that way for the Giants. (At least until last year.)mollyknight: When I was reporting my book, Dodgers President Stan Kasten told me the goal was to make the playoffs every year because the playoffs are such a crapshoot and there’s no other way to control winning a title.But now it strikes me they may be turning into the ’90s Atlanta Braves. Which were also run by … Stan Kasten.neil: Well, that was one thing I wanted to ask about — the Dodgers seem to have an absurd amount of talent this year. FanGraphs considers L.A. to be the most talented team — not just in the NL West, but in all of baseball. It also gives them the third-best odds of winning the World Series.It seems kind of assumed that the Cubs are the NL’s best team. But is it possible that we’re all underrating the Dodgers, particularly with a healthy Clayton Kershaw, an improving Corey Seager, the Logan Forsythe trade, etc.? (Feels weird to say a $240 million team is underrated.)mollyknight: I still think the Cubs are better, but the gap is narrowing. The Cubs don’t have much starting pitching depth. If anything happens to one of their big three, I believe the Dodgers become the favorite.What do you think, Sarah?sarahwexler: That sounds about right. We saw last year the way the Dodgers were able to cobble together a rotation that worked (with the help of an excellent bullpen, of course) despite a league-leading number of injuries because of the incredible depth they have. And while that hopefully won’t be necessary this year, it’s certainly something they could do again if they had to.Also, I think it’s telling that they’ve traded away both Jose De Leon and Chase De Jong this offseason and they’re still flush with starting pitcher depth.mollyknight: It’s going to be so fun when top prospect Cody Bellinger gets called up. He’s a rock star. I think Seager/Bellinger will be the West Coast version of Bryzzo, and I’m here for it. And I think Bryzzo is here for it, too. They’re fun guys who love to compete. That rivalry should be outstanding.sarahwexler: I’m very much looking forward to Bellinger, too, though you have to wonder what that means for Adrian Gonzalez, who’s been an absolute rock at 1B for the Dodgersmollyknight: Yeah, that’s sort of the iceberg looming on the horizon for me with this team, tbh.neil: Although even that is a good problem to have!mollyknight: I don’t know how the team will respond if Gonzo’s production continues to taper off (as it does for all players on the wrong side of 32). It’s very difficult to bench a guy like that. But Bellinger plays in the outfield also, so I believe we may see him there first.neil: That’s going to be one of the questions that weighs on L.A. manager Dave Roberts. What did you think of his first season?mollyknight: He showed a willingness to embrace analytics and use relievers in unorthodox ways, both of which are vital to any team’s success going forward. This oversimplifies, but the three teams left standing at the very end (Cubs, Indians, Dodgers) all had managers willing to use their closers in the eighth inning or earlier.neil: That’s a great point — probably one of the reasons that creative bullpen management is the big new trend people are talking about leaguewide.mollyknight: Zach Britton sends his regards from hell.neil: Haha.So we’ve raved about the Dodgers’ strengths — what are the potential pitfalls for this team?sarahwexler: For as much talent and depth as there is in their rotation, there’s also a lot of uncertainty there. Will Rich Hill’s blisters be an issue again? Will Kenta Maeda wear out like he did last season? Is Julio Urias going to live up to his potential? Will we ever see Hyun-Jin Ryu again?mollyknight: They need to hit left-handed pitching. Logan Forsythe is a nice addition at second, but if he’s going to be leading off, I’m slightly concerned that his on-base percentage was .333 last season.Also, Clayton Kershaw can only pitch once every five days.sarahwexler: $240 million team, and they haven’t even figured out a way to clone Clayton Kershaw yet. Pft.mollyknight: I’m calling for a nonpartisan investigation into Rich Hill’s blister.neil: As long as nobody has to investigate his treatment method.sarahwexler: I was going to make a golden showers joke, but I restrained myself.mollyknight: I did not know about this, and now my lunch is ruined.neil: On that note, let’s move on to the Giants! They had such an up-and-down season in 2016 — at their best, they looked ready to keep that even-year championship streak going; at their worst, they nearly tailspun their way out of the playoffs down the stretch. What version do we expect to see this year?sarahwexler: I think those Giants evened out to about where they were supposed to be, and I think we’ll see similar end results with them this year. They’ve made a few key changes in signing closer Mark Melancon and bringing in Jae-gyun Hwang to play 3B, but besides that, they’re really not a radically different team.neil: How big was the Melancon pickup? The bullpen was a huge issue for them last year.sarahwexler: It was a great signing for them. It definitely fills one of their most substantial needs, and for one year fewer (and slightly less average annual value) than Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen got (which makes sense, given that Melancon’s a bit older and not quite as good, though still very good).Of course, besides that, their bullpen doesn’t look especially different, so we’ll see.mollyknight: It is tough to count the Giants out though. Never forget Hunter Pence is a witch.sarahwexler: I usually go with alien myself. Maybe he’s a witch from another planet.mollyknight: He actually lives in my friend’s building in San Francisco — and it’s sinking!sarahwexler: Something something metaphor for America.neil: Or the Giants’ division odds down the stretch?mollyknight: I was there in the fall, and I ran into him in the gym. He was doing Pilates.So Giants fans reading this should know that Hunter Pence takes his offseason seriously enough to do Pilates while the building sinks.neil: Even Pence is getting a little long in the tooth, though (supernatural origin notwithstanding). If this is basically the same group as the past few years, back for another go-around, they seem a little bit short of where L.A. is talent-wise (to say nothing of the NL’s other heaviest hitters). What has to go right for San Francisco to win the division?mollyknight: Buster Posey hitting for power again. Matt Moore turning into the guy everyone once thought he could be, on a consistent basis. Hunter Pence not changing his underwear.And the Dodgers collapsing.sarahwexler: All of that, plus Hwang panning out at 3B, and maybe also figuring out a way to plug the black hole that is their left field.mollyknight: It would also help if their bullpen didn’t blow 32 games. Melancon really should help. I don’t know how it could get any worse than last year. I looked up one night last September and saw Joe Nathan pitching in a tie game at Coors Field and thought I was hallucinating.neil: According to FanGraphs, basically the Dodgers and Giants were the only teams that had any shot at the division all year. Is this a two-team race again? Colorado got some buzz over the offseason (as much buzz as the Rockies ever really get).sarahwexler: The Rockies kind of seem to do the same thing every year, which is get off to a really hot start that leads people to question if they’re legit. They then answer that question by falling off quickly.mollyknight: It’s so hard to evaluate the Rockies since I’m not even sure what game they play in Denver. It looks nothing like baseball. Can you even imagine being a pitcher drafted by the Rockies?neil: Well, that was going to be one of my questions — is it possible their rotation looks … kinda OK?sarahwexler: They do actually have some intriguing young arms.mollyknight: They’ve got a young kid they drafted last year named Riley Pint who sits 97 and can touch 100. He’s 19 years old. I WANT TO BELIEVE.They’ve also got Nolan Arenado, who, in my opinion, is the most underrated player in baseball.neil: What did you make of the Ian Desmond signing? Was it as bad as everyone said?sarahwexler: Can’t say I love giving five years/$70 million to a guy to play a position he hasn’t played a single inning at in his entire career, but I don’t think their 1B situation is going to be what makes or breaks them this year.mollyknight: Their farm system is decent. I believe Baseball America has them at No. 10. The problem is the Dodgers and the Padres are both deeper. But they do have two potential future stars, in Pint and shortstop Brendan Rodgers — though neither one is close to the big leagues right now.neil: So even if the “dark horse” talk is premature for the Rockies, maybe they’re finally taking steps in the right direction. (Now, if only anybody can figure out what the heck to do about the weird underperformance of their batters on the road …)mollyknight: Spoiling the Dodgers’ or Giants’ season might be the best they can hope for this year.neil: The other team that I think is interesting as a spoiler is Arizona. They were one of the buzzy teams of last offseason and had a complete disaster of a season. Any chance they bounce back?mollyknight: I saw Zack Greinke was sitting 89 during his last spring training start. That is not what you want.I mean, unless you are Dodgers baseball-ops president Andrew Friedman.sarahwexler: Greinke rebounding is obviously going to be essential for this Dbacks team, as is Shelby Miller looking … well, better, but that’s a low bar.mollyknight: The Diamondbacks have a bunch of sort-of-broken young pitchers with plenty of promise. If someone can fix a couple of them, then this team looks very different.sarahwexler: Yeah, Taijuan Walker’s a guy who’s yet to live up to his potential, but I still think his addition improves their rotation.mollyknight: Shelby Miller, Taijuan Walker, Patrick Corbin, Archie Bradley — all of these guys were GUYS at one point.sarahwexler: Plus, Robbie Ray was one of the top strikeout guys in baseball last year. What’s up with that?mollyknight: Dansby Swanson looks like a franchise shortstop. That Shelby Miller trade will go down as one of the worst deals in the history of baseball if he doesn’t turn it around. No pressure, Shelbs. They’ve got to hope Greinke has a good first half and then unload him for prospects and money relief. They cannot win while paying his salary. Their farm system is in ruins.They’ve finally got a smart front office in there, but they are a decade behind other teams in terms of analytics. The good news is nobody expects anything, and Paul Goldschmidt exists. The bad news is everything else, including the uniforms.neil: Yeah, they seem like a team in a weird place, with too many expensive players to fully rebuild right now but nowhere near enough talent to contend.mollyknight: I believe Dan Haren will fix the Diamondbacks with his tweets alone.neil: Finally, we have the San Diego Padres. Exactly how bad are they going to be?sarahwexler: Oof. When I got asked to do this, one of my first thoughts was, “Oh, great, I have to find things to say about the Padres.” Uh … Carter Capps might be fun to watch?neil: Yes! They have to be glad that Carter Capps a) will return from injury and b) still has a legal delivery!mollyknight: I still can’t believe GM A.J. Preller didn’t get fired for trying to hide injuries of players he traded last year. I will give this to the Padres: Even when they are bad, it’s never boring.neil: Will other GMs ever trade with Preller again?sarahwexler: I mean, what does he even have at this point that anyone would want to trade for?mollyknight: Pitcher Anderson Espinoza and center fielder Manny Margot, both of whom could either wind up being total stars or total duds. Fun times! I also like Cal Quantrill a lot, especially as a pitcher in that park. He needs to work his way back from Tommy John, but I think he’ll be a solid front-end rotation guy for them in a few years.It’s hard for me to knock the Padres, though, because their ballpark food is so great. They even have beer garden days. And the crowds are so chill. It’s the most relaxing atmosphere in sports.But, yeah, they’re going to be ril bad.neil: One cool thing they might do is to tinker with pitcher usage, having the starter only go through the lineup once. So, that’s fun. (Bad teams should do more of this cool, experimental stuff.)mollyknight: Yes, if you are going to lose, you might as well do it in style.neil: Sounds like “intriguing” is just about the best you can hope for out of this division if you’re not named the Dodgers or Giants.sarahwexler: It’ll likely be another fun chapter in the Dodgers/Giants rivalry, and there’s certainly potential for the Rockies or Dbacks to surprise us. Or for the Padres to make us look like jerks for being so mean to them.mollyknight: I’d be surprised if the Dodgers ran away with the division. The Giants always hang around. As certain as a Madison Bumgarner snotrocket in September, the Giants will be there.sarahwexler: Peeing on blisters, snotrockets … this chat has everything.CORRECTION (March 14, 10:30 p.m.): An earlier version of this chat misattributed one of Sarah Wexler’s lines to Molly Knight. The statement beginning “It’ll likely be another fun chapter in the Dodgers/Giants rivalry…” was said by Wexler, not Knight. An earlier version of this correction misidentified the statement that had been corrected.
Tampa Bay0.53140.5186-2 Tennessee0.465310.48623+8 After Thursday night’s two-hour special on the NFL Network, we now know exactly what every NFL team’s schedule looks like for the upcoming season. But what we don’t know is how hard any of those schedules will be.Every year when the schedules are released, NFL analysts ritually compare the strength of the 32 teams’ slates. And every year, they do it the one way we know doesn’t work.This year is no exception: Analysts are adding up last year’s wins and losses for each team’s 2018 opponents. That approach might make sense if we had no data about how NFL teams perform from year to year — but we have an awful lot, and it says that NFL win-loss records are significantly influenced by luck and are a terrible predictor of themselves.Twelve years ago, Doug Drinen of Sports-Reference.com saw the annual crop of strength-of-schedule articles spring up and decided to test their merit. He compared NFL team records from the prior year (Year N) with the year before that (Year N-1) and their opponents’ win percentage from Year N-1, and he repeated the process all the way back to 1990.Drinen found that prior-year wins by a team’s opponents are “essentially irrelevant” to following-year success — and while how well the other team plays absolutely matters when toe meets leather, “these strength-of-schedule estimates that are being thrown around right now seem to have no role at all in determining teams’ (upcoming year) records.”In a league where about half the teams that make the playoffs in any given year miss them the following season (a whopping eight 2016 playoff teams missed the cut in 2017), assuming every team’s record will remain the same never really made any sense.But there is a stat that does correlate with upcoming-season wins: Pythagorean wins, based on points scored and points allowed rather than win-loss record. Developed for baseball by Bill James and modified for other sports by current Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey, this equation is where Pro-Football-Reference.com’s “expected wins” number comes from. In a 2007 blog post, Drinen found that this stat significantly correlates with next-season wins.If we compare actual wins to expected wins for 2017, we see which teams are most likely to improve in 2018 and which are most likely to regress. Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com Washington0.504140.49320-6 New England0.484220.45630-8 L.A. Rams0.52350.51010-5 Detroit0.53520.49915-13 Kansas City0.492190.51010+9 Dallas0.500150.5252+13 TeamWinsExpected WinsDIFF Chicago0.52080.49320-12 Biggest Droppers Cleveland03.3+3.3 Revisiting the 2017 NFL seasonThe teams that had the biggest discrepancies between their actual win totals and their expected win totals based on points scored and allowed Miami0.500150.47726-11 Jacksonville1011.8+1.8 Arizona0.52080.5243+5 Buffalo0.496180.50014+4 Pittsburgh0.477250.5128+17 originalAdjusted Buffalo96.4-2.6 Houston0.453320.45231+1 Jacksonville0.477250.45032-7 Denver0.477250.49816+9 Green Bay0.53910.5137-6 Carolina0.512120.5205+7 N.Y. Giants0.52080.5119-1 New Orleans0.53520.5261+1 San Francisco0.500150.50113+2 Pittsburgh1310.5-2.5 Tampa Bay56.8+1.8 Houston45.7+1.7 Seattle0.52350.50912-7 As we wrote before the season, going 0-16 takes not just terrible talent but also terrible luck — and the 0-16 Cleveland Browns’ 3.3 expected wins point toward a rebound in 2018.On the other side of the ledger, the Buffalo Bills have the biggest negative gap between the number of games they won and the number of games they’d be expected to win. This isn’t a shock: We also wrote about how the 2017 Bills squad was actually bad.Here’s how the 32 teams’ 2018 opponent slates stack up in terms of actual 2017 win percentage and expected 2017 win percentage, sorted by the difference between the two: 2018 may not be as hard (or as easy) as it seemsEach team’s 2018 schedule by the 2017 win percentage of their opponents, original and adjusted by expected wins Cincinnati0.473290.48922+7 Arizona86.1-1.9 Atlanta0.509130.49816-3 Baltimore0.488210.47527-6 Tennessee97.4-1.6 L.A. Chargers0.480240.46828-4 Biggest Climbers Baltimore910.4+1.4 Oakland0.473290.48424+5 Minnesota0.52080.49618-10 Indianapolis0.484220.47825-3 teamOpp. Win %Difficulty RankOpp. Win %Difficulty RankDiff Cleveland0.52350.5214+1 TeamWinsExpected WinsDIFF N.Y. Jets0.477250.45829-4 Carolina119-2.0 Philadelphia0.492190.49618+1 Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com Though 23 of the 32 teams had a difference of less than 1.5 games between expected wins and actual wins, those small differences add up quickly when using the NFL’s division-based schedules. For example, the Pittsburgh Steelers play the Browns and Ravens twice each. Baltimore joined Cleveland among the five biggest underperformers last season, and the two teams’ combined difference in expected wins adds 9.4 wins to the total for the Steelers’ opponents. It’s no wonder, then, that Pittsburgh had the biggest increase between actual and expected 2018 opponent win percentage, jumping from a 25th-ranked 0.477 to the eighth-strongest, at 0.512.All four of 2017’s 13-win squads — New England, Philadelphia, Minnesota and Pittsburgh — had expected-win values below 12 according to the Pythagorean method. This gives a boost to the schedules of the non-Minnesota NFC North teams, which are slated to play the AFC East: The hard end of their schedules (Minnesota twice, New England) projects as a little less intimidating, and they also draw overachievers like Buffalo and Miami.Straight opponent win percentage gives the Packers the hardest projected 2018 schedule, and the Detroit Lions are tied for second-hardest. But using expected wins, they drop to seventh and 15th, respectively.The team that supplants the Packers with the toughest road is the New Orleans Saints. Their degree of difficulty fell slightly with the change from actual win-loss record to expected wins, but it’s still high enough to capture the top spot.There’s no model that can account for player age, coaching changes, free agency, the draft or player injuries before they happen. Many teams will defy what 2017’s expected-win value suggests about their 2018 outlook. But history tells us that expected-win values do correlate with what’s going to happen this autumn — and raw win-loss numbers don’t.CORRECTION (April 20, 2018, 3:17 p.m.): An earlier version of a chart in this article incorrectly identified the Arizona Cardinals as the St. Louis Cardinals.
Raiders1+5.6+6.4-1.0-0.4-0.4-0.1 HOU64.213.6DEN8.96.019.61468 1Colts-6.1-4.0-10.1+11.4-0.4+11.0 TEN28.510.8DAL21.17.718.51503 The best matchups of Week 9Week 9 games by the highest average Elo rating (using the harmonic mean) plus the total potential swing for the two teams’ playoff chances, according to FiveThirtyEight’s NFL predictions 10Jets-2.9-2.1-4.9+2.4+0.5+2.8 5Texans-0.8-5.6-6.4+1.7+5.6+7.4 2Broncos-3.9-2.9-6.7+3.9+5.5+9.3 3Chiefs+3.8-0.3+3.4+8.7-0.6+8.2 PIT88PIT78PIT 33, CLE 18-5.7 Home teams are in bold.The scoring system is nonlinear, so readers’ average points don’t necessarily match the number of points that would be given to the average reader prediction. EPA/G vs. BrownsEPA/G vs Others Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group Elo’s dumbest (and smartest) picks of Week 8Average difference between points won by readers and by Elo in Week 8 matchups in FiveThirtyEight’s NFL prediction game The Simple Rating System is a way of rating NFL teams that measures points per game (for, against and as a differential) relative to average after adjusting for a team’s strength of schedule.Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com Ravens1-10.9-13.9+1.3+5.6+6.2-0.6 S. DarnoldNYJ55.2%12.44.4%4.0%6.4%5.1-181 PICKWIN PROB.PICKWIN PROB.ResultREADERS’ NET PTS KC99.50.5CLE0.30.30.81469 Steelers2-1.5-1.0+0.8+12.2+9.9+1.4 The Browns’ defense is cooling down opposing offensesOffensive expected points added per game for teams against the Cleveland Browns and against all other teams, 2018 season 6Bears-4.6+3.3-1.3+6.7+0.1+6.8 Playoff %Playoff % CIN62CIN64CIN 37, TB 34-0.3 GB18.26.9NE126.96.36.199563 WSH60.415.7ATL23.312.828.51539 J. AllenBUF54.011.11.43.613.13.0-424 OAK56%IND57%IND 42, OAK 28+11.1 DET57DET53SEA 28, DET 14+2.6 Comparing the 2018 rookie QB classKey passing statistics for 2018 rookie quarterbacks (min. 25 attempts) MIN50.815.2DET18.511.726.91535 J. RosenARI55.611.43.03.68.64.3-322 OpponentGamesTot Off.Pass Off.Rush Off.Tot Off.Pass Off.Rush Off. B. MayfieldCLE58.3188.8.131.52.25.1-348 TeamOff.Def.Tot.Off.Def.Tot. To be sure, Mayfield has been far from perfect. His performances look even worse after adjusting for the quality of his competition, since he has put up subpar numbers despite facing what is by far the easiest slate of opposing pass defenses of any quarterback in the league this season.5Minimum 150 attempts. After synthesizing all of that into our Yards Above Backup Quarterback (YAQB) metric, Mayfield has been less valuable than either Darnold or Josh Rosen, though Rosen has compiled his numbers in fewer attempts. (On a per-dropback basis, Mayfield pulls ahead of Rosen, though he is still far behind Darnold.)But while it would have been ideal for the Browns to see Mayfield burst out of the gates with a statistical season like the ones produced by recent rookies Dak Prescott (1,199 YABQ), Robert Griffin III (990) and Russell Wilson (934), it’s entirely possible to emerge from a rough rookie season unscathed as a young passer. Donovan McNabb (-350), Troy Aikman (-374), Matthew Stafford (-569), Terry Bradshaw (-586) and Jared Goff (-660) all debuted with the types of performances Mayfield is tracking for, and they all rebounded. (That said, plenty of bad quarterbacks — Ryan Leaf, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, etc. — also had similarly bad numbers. Judging QBs is hard!) And according to ProFootballFocus, Mayfield is tied for the 16th-best grade of any QB in the league, so the stats may just be penalizing him for the poor performance of his teammates.Either way, the Browns are banking heavily on Mayfield’s potential — and that was one of the reasons Jackson had to go as head coach. In the big picture, they’re hoping the combination of a promising young QB, an emerging defense and a die-hard fan base proves enticing for whomever Cleveland’s next coach will be. Just the same, though, this week’s move has tacked even more points onto the Browns’ CHAOS (Cumulative High-Activity Organizational Strife) score, which already was the highest in the league over the past two decades. Setting aside the reasons for the change, it’s fitting that the Browns would have made the first coaching swap of the 2018 season, though that’s not overly encouraging for a team dragged down by so much instability over the years.As for the short term, the Browns have said they’re not giving up on 2018 quite yet. Although our Elo prediction model gives Cleveland only a 0.3 percent chance of making the postseason, Elo is probably too hard on the Browns, if we’re being honest. It still ranks them as the worst team in football, while they rank only ninth-worst in SRS, sixth-worst in Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Replacement and seventh-worst in Inpredictable’s betting market ratings. Why? Elo doesn’t give teams any credit for being competitive in games they ultimately lose. And if the 2018 Browns have a calling card, that’s sort of it. Last year’s Browns did go 0-6 in games decided by one score, but they also lost eight games by at least two touchdowns. At any randomly selected moment of the 2017 season, they trailed by an average of 6.1 points. This year, they’ve trailed by an average of 3.8 points at any given moment — still not great, but at least indicative of how much more in the hunt they’ve been most weeks. Indeed, four of Cleveland’s games have ended in overtime, which already ties them for the most OT games a team has played in a season since at least 2001.2The earliest year I could search in the ESPN Stats & Information Group database.The biggest reason for Cleveland’s uptick in performance hasn’t been the play of hyped rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield (more on him later). Instead it’s been a defense that, relative to opponent, ranks as the best in the league so far this year in terms of expected points added (EPA). Against Cleveland, Browns’ opponents are averaging 7.5 fewer offensive EPA per game than they are against all other teams, including 9.0 fewer through the air. SEA55.013.1LAC74.59.322.41577 Game quality is the harmonic mean of the Elo ratings for the two teams in a given matchup.*Average change is weighted by the likelihood of a win or loss. (Ties are excluded.)Source: ESPN.com Team ACurrentAvg. Chg*Team BCurrentAvg. Chg*Total ChangeGame Quality Jets1-6.8-5.6+0.0-6.2-2.5-2.9 CHI40.512.7BUF184.108.40.206450 2017 SRSChange in 2018 QuarterbackTeamComp%Yds/CTD%Int%Sack%ANY/AYABQ NO87.57.4LAR98.51.08.41650 CAR68.111.7TB10.97.519.21529 HOU60HOU62HOU 42, MIA 23-0.3 CHI65CHI69CHI 24, NYJ 10+1.1 KC82KC83KC 30, DEN 23-1.4 NE71NE85NE 25, BUF 6+4.3 That’s a big contrast to last season’s Browns, who were among the 10 worst defensive teams in the league and were particularly bad against the pass. This year, Cleveland is allowing the third-lowest adjusted net yards per attempt3A measure of passing efficiency that tracks yards per attempt with a bonus for touchdowns and penalties for interceptions and sacks. (ANY/A) of any team in football — a huge testament to the team’s pass coverage, given that the Browns have the league’s fifth-lowest rate of pressures per opposing dropback despite blitzing the third-most frequently of any team. (Stellar defensive end Myles Garrett has eight sacks by himself, but the rest of the team has only 12.) According to the grading system of ProFootballFocus.com, rookie Denzel Ward has been the ninth-best cornerback in the league so far, while safety Damarious Randall and even linebacker Joe Schobert — who ranks as PFF’s top LB in coverage this season — have done quality work stifling opposing pass-catchers.Just having a defense that puts the team in a position to compete represents a huge improvement for Cleveland. But the scoring attack hasn’t kept pace, despite the pedigrees of Jackson and Haley as offensive coaches. The Browns are 26th in offensive SRS; they’ve produced the fifth-fewest offensive EPA per game in the NFL and the fourth-fewest yards per play; they own the league’s third-worst third-down efficiency mark.(We’ll set aside a conversation about Cleveland’s horrid special teams, which has already produced nine missed kicks4Including field goals and extra points. between two different kickers.)Although it’s better than last year’s DeShone Kizer-led disaster, Cleveland’s passing game still ranks just 30th in adjusted net yards per attempt, with Mayfield sitting 29th out of 34 qualified QBs in ANY/A. It isn’t necessarily Mayfield’s fault: Being a rookie quarterback is hard enough, and the Browns have made it even harder on their new QB. Mayfield lost prospective top target Josh Gordon when Cleveland dealt the receiver to New England in mid-September, and then he said goodbye to starting running back Carlos Hyde, whom the team traded to the Jaguars a month later. Meanwhile, his offensive line is allowing the league’s fifth-highest rate of pressures per dropback, and Cleveland’s receivers currently have the highest drop rate in the league.Mayfield himself has fought through the team’s situation to tie New York Jets QB Sam Darnold for the best ANY/A of any blue-chip rookie this season. He’s shown better accuracy and more composure under pressure than any of his rookie-class compatriots, with a lower interception rate to boot. However, none of the passers in this year’s rookie crop have played at an average level, or even that of a high-level backup QB — which is pretty much to be expected from a collection of signal callers making their debuts on below-average teams. Saints1-1.3-0.6-3.2+15.8+13.2+1.9 OAK0.20.2SF0.10.10.31370 ARI58ARI50ARI 18, SF 15-9.0 OUR PREDICTION (ELO)READERS’ PREDICTION Back before the NFL season started, I dived into the Cleveland Browns’ miserable plight since the franchise was resurrected in 1999: One playoff bid in 19 years (and counting) … just two seasons above .500 … nine different head coaches … 28 starting quarterbacks … a combined 1-31 record in 2016 and 2017. You get the idea. I wondered whether it would ever be possible for the Browns to pull out of this cycle of doom, ultimately concluding that the team needed to start building a culture of stability and competency before it could begin truly laying the groundwork to compete.But I suppose things have to get worse before they get better — because we’re eight weeks into the season and Cleveland has fired yet another coach. This time it’s Hue Jackson getting the boot, ending what was statistically the worst coaching tenure of any one coach with any one team in NFL history.1According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Jackson’s .088 winning percentage in Cleveland was worse than even Bert Bell’s .185 mark with the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1930s and 1940s. Jackson, who probably should have been shown the door after last season’s 0-16 campaign, appears to have sealed his fate by bickering internally with offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who was fired at the same time. It didn’t help that Jackson also lost five of the season’s first eight games, with a tie thrown in for good measure.The funny thing is, the Browns have actually shown signs of life this season — at least, by Browns standards. So let’s take a look at where they’ve improved — and whether there is more hope in Cleveland than usual in the wake of the team’s latest coaching shake-up.For one thing, the Browns have been much more competitive this season than last. (Granted, it would have been a real challenge to get worse.) Their Simple Rating System (SRS) score of -3.5 ranks 24th in the league, but it’s also more than a touchdown per game better than their -11.0 rating from last season, making Cleveland one of the most improved teams in the NFL this year. YABQ = Yards Above Backup Quarterback, a statistic that summarizes a QB’s passing and rushing production (after adjusting for strength of schedule), relative to that of a typical backup QB in the same number of plays.Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com NFL average64.811.65.02.46.66.5— None of that is likely to matter this week, of course, in a game against the dominant Kansas City Chiefs, where any metric you use would consider K.C. a major favorite. (See above.) But even though you wouldn’t know it from the bleak Elo and yet another spin on the NFL coaching carousel, the Browns do appear to be in a better place now than they’ve been in at least a few seasons.FiveThirtyEight vs. the readersAll season long, you can follow along with FiveThirtyEight’s Elo ratings in our NFL prediction interactive, which simulates the rest of the season 100,000 times and tracks how often each team should make the playoffs and win the Super Bowl. In conjunction, you can also pick against the Elo algorithm in our prediction game. (What do you win? Bragging rights! And a place on our giant leaderboard.)Here are the games in which Elo made its best — and worst — predictions against the reader picks last week: BAL50.8%±18.4PIT67.8%±15.533.91584 9Ravens+2.2+1.2+3.4-0.8+5.3+4.5 PHI67PHI63PHI 24, JAX 18-4.7 2018′s most improved NFL teamsLargest year-over-year changes in Simple Rating System (SRS) scores for 2018 NFL teams Buccaneers1-3.1-7.9+1.4+8.8+9.7-0.5 7Bengals-4.1-0.9-5.0+6.2-0.9+5.3 8Seahawks+0.7+1.2+1.9+0.9+3.8+4.7 Chargers1+12.5+4.9+9.1+9.8+10.9-0.8 LAR79LAR74LAR 29, GB 27-4.5 MIN55NO52NO 30, MIN 20+5.4 MIA16.78.7NYJ4.94.313.01426 WSH61WSH63WSH 20, NYG 13-0.3 4Browns-6.8-4.1-11.0+2.7+4.7+7.5 CAR57CAR52CAR 36, BAL 21-6.6 After notching their first collective win of the season against Elo a week ago, the field didn’t quite keep its momentum going in Week 8, losing by the narrow margin of 8.3 points (on average). Readers were smart to keep betting against Jon Gruden’s Raiders, but they gave back some points in wins by the Cardinals, Panthers and Steelers.A quick note: We’ve had readers email to ask why the average user lost points on games in which the readers and Elo had the same average pick probability. That’s because of the nonlinear nature of the game — even when the average picks are the same, a few disastrous (or amazing) picks on either side can swing the point totals. For instance, many readers will pick matchups with 0 percent or 100 percent probabilities, causing them to lose net points when the result goes in the opposite direction. (Naturally, Elo will basically never pick with such certitude, so even when it’s wrong, it loses fewer points relative to those overconfident readers.)Anyway, congrats to Erik de Loos and Ryan Seay, who tied for lead among users in Week 8 with 350.0 points, and to Ellis, who took the seasonlong lead with 779.6 points. Thanks to everyone who has been playing — and if you haven’t, be sure to get in on the action! You can make picks now and still try your luck against Elo, even if you haven’t played yet.Check out our latest NFL predictions.
Embed Code FiveThirtyEight More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed This week’s episode of Hot Takedown mourns the end of March Madness and celebrates the start of the NBA playoffs. With the race for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player still up in the air, Robin Lundberg makes the case for Giannis Antetokounmpo over James Harden. We see if there’s data to move the needle either way.It’s Masters week! With the most anticipated event in golf nearly underway, the team breaks down the prospects for Tiger Woods in a crowded field of contenders. Could this be Tiger’s last chance at the green jacket? His start to the season shows potential, but the game has changed since he last dominated.For our Rabbit Hole of the Week, inspired by her Minnesota Twins, Sara goes back to 1908 to track MLB players hitting for the cycle.Here’s what we’re looking at this week:A spontaneous Google search during this episode on the use of data in MVP determinations landed on this Nate Silver throwback.We’re glued to the FiveThirtyEight NBA predictions.Basketball-Reference.com’s 2018-2019 MVP Tracker is an excellent resource.In anticipation of the masters, Neil examines Tiger Woods’s chance at the jacket.From our Rabbit Hole, Bengie Molina’s ridiculous cycle.
Few high school football programs have been as successful as Cleveland’s St. Ignatius, yet the Buckeyes and Wildcats rarely hook up for top players. Ignatius has won a record 10 State Titles but has only sent one player to OSU on a scholarship in the last decade. Luckily, 6-foot-1, 225-pound linebacker, Scott McVey isn’t an ordinary player. McVey will be the first Wildcat since wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez to wear scarlet and gray, and if his success is any indication, McVey should make quite the impact as a Buckeye. Gonzalez was known for his deceptively quick speed, and while McVey isn’t a wideout, speed is something he has no problem with. “The defense today is so based on speed. These huge middle linebackers who used to plug the off-tackle hole, that kid now has his hand on the ground playing defensive end,” St. Ignatius coach Chuck Kyle said. “The interesting characteristic that Ohio State and many other schools noticed right away is Scott’s excellent speed. He’s a regional finalist in the 110-meter high hurdles in track. You don’t find many linebackers who can do that and that also shows his athleticism.” McVey caught scouts’ eyes with a dominant performance in the OHSAA playoffs his junior season, when he led Ignatius to a Division I State Title. His disruptive nature on the field as a run stopper and his play as a pass rusher are why many schools quickly offered him a scholarship. While even the Buckeyes decided he was their kind of player, some believe questions still remain unanswered about McVey’s ability at the college level. “Scott had all of the tools as a high school player, but there are some critics that want to see how he will perform at the next level,” said Kevin Noon, Buckeyegrove.com’s managing editor. “It is just a matter of the Ohio State coaches finding the best position on the field for him to excel at.” One thing McVey has going for him is his intense love for the game. While his physical measurements may be lacking according to some, he doesn’t allow it to stop him from making himself known on the defensive side of the football. “Scott plays in a very intense gear when he is out on the field,” Kyle said. “You watch a few videos on him, and you see he is always making a play. He is always running people down from behind and is just relentless. He is definitely a defensive player; he has the mentality of a hunter going after his prey.” Height seems to be McVey’s one disadvantage according to scouts and recruiting analysts. It didn’t stop him at the high school level but seems to be a concern moving forward. McVey, however, has everything going for him other than the lacking inches. “He is a smart football player [who] understands the game, and what he may lack in height he more than makes up for in the ability to anticipate plays and very strong fundamentals,” Noon said. “He has been coached well in high school and should continue to develop as a solid player.” Kyle, who has sent a plethora of players to college and to the NFL, said he could tell from a very early time in McVey’s career that he was special. Ignatius isn’t the easiest place to make an early impact on the football field, but Kyle said by McVey’s freshman or sophomore year, he knew he could expect great things. Off the field, McVey is also an asset to the Buckeyes. Kyle said he believes OSU is getting the kind of player who won’t look at college as a stepping stone to the NFL, but rather someone who will work hard in the classroom and wants a degree. He also believes all the fuss about McVey’s height is unwarranted. “He is 6-feet-1-inch and sometimes you read things that he is a little short,” Kyle said. “He is the same height and is as big as [Ross] Homan is, the guy who led Ohio State in tackles.” On signing day, when McVey was introduced to the media by the Ohio State coaching staff, the question of his height was raised. Assistant coach Taver Johnson compared McVey’s playing style and mentality to Homan and said he didn’t believe size will be a problem. “I think he’ll be fine,” Johnson said. “You have Brian Rolle, he’s 5 feet, 11 inches. We’ll take those guys who are explosive and mean and will take your head off.” Regardless, even after an illustrious high school career, McVey has something to prove at Ohio State. Luckily for him talent, heart and desire aren’t measured in inches.
He’s a self-proclaimed “little white wide receiver,” but as a Buckeye, Dane Sanzenbacher has been challenged to be so much more. “I get that a lot. I get pinned as (Anthony) Gonzalez or (Brian) Hartline because we’re both little white wide receivers,” Sanzenbacher said. “It’s easy to learn from the guys and they’re two good mentors to have.” Hartline saw his successor’s potential early on. “Dane Sanzenbacher is doing a really good job at making great strides in his game,” Hartline said following Sanzenbacher’s first season. “There is a point when you get to college and lose your swagger and become not as edgy. As you keep playing, you gain an understanding of the speed of the game and things slow down and you learn how to make adjustments on the run. Dane is doing that and is seeing things a lot quicker.” Three years later, at 5-feet-11-inches, Sanzenbacher is aggressive and has developed that speed. It’s been a learning experience for Sanzenbacher, who wasn’t highly recruited out of Toledo Central Catholic High School. “I would never have imagined I would have been here,” Sanzenbacher said. “Just being able to be a part of it was kind of a dream in the first place and then to get where it’s at right now is pretty crazy.” It’s become the norm for Sanzenbacher to have to block on the Buckeye offense. “You get used to it,” he said. Sanzenbacher etched his name into the record books following OSU’s 73-20 victory over Eastern Michigan on Sept. 25. “Well, I think obviously you never come into a game expecting to do that,” Sanzenbacher said following the game. Sanzenbacher tied Terry Glenn (1995) and Bob Grimes (1952) with four touchdown receptions in a single game, the OSU record. “That was unbelievable, not something I thought I’d do, to be named with names like Terry Glenn,” Sanzenbacher said. “It’s pretty awesome to have a piece of this history wherever you can get it, it’s cool to know that your name will be in the book forever.” Sanzenbacher leads the team with 505 receiving yards and seven touchdowns this season. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor has found Sanzenbacher for more receptions, but Sanzenbacher maintains he’s just in the right place at the right time and they connect with one another. “I definitely think we have good chemistry together,” Sanzenbacher said. “I understand what he’s thinking.” “Dane’s good,” Tressel said. “He’s where he’s supposed to be … It’s all according to who’s open, and some of the things we were doing, Dane was the guy that popped open.” Close on his heels is best friend Brandon Saine with six touchdowns. Saine, a graduate of Piqua High School, played Sanzenbacher in high school, but they didn’t know each other personally. Irony struck close to home when Sanzenbacher and Saine were roommates in their first year. Both agree that they are best friends. Looking at all four years, Sanzenbacher is content with the progression of the guys that he entered camp with in 2007. “I think we’re guys that have been through tough wins, tough losses, been through a lot different situations in our career since we were freshman back in the national championship game,” he said. “And being able to win at the Rose Bowl and everything that came in between, I think when you bring that experience it just breeds confidence.” The future for Sanzenbacher is still unclear. “Obviously I want to take this football thing as far as I can. If not, we’ll see, I couldn’t even speculate though, cause I wouldn’t guess I’d be here a year ago.” If Sanzenbacher follows in the footsteps of Gonzalez and Hartline, he should be preparing for the NFL draft. Gonzalez went to the Indianapolis Colts in the first round. In 2009, Hartline went to the Miami Dolphins in the fourth round. Tressel gave each senior a notebook that documented the number of days each player has left as a Buckeye. “It’s crazy how fast that goes though, that’s something that kind of put it into perspective, how little time we have left. It’s kind of depressing,” Sanzenbacher said. “We’ve just rattled them off, so I mean it’s flying by.” In the midst of his senior year, he isn’t thinking about his personal future, but the future of the Buckeyes and the ‘one week at a time’ attitude. One more thing comes to mind: a national championship. “We’re pretty sure they’re sick of us winning championships, but I mean it’s something that comes with the territory,” Sanzenbacher said. “We feel like, at least to the seniors, it’s our job to kind of pass down the knowledge and preach to the younger guys that it just doesn’t happen.”
Braxton Miller should be the starting quarterback for Ohio State for the rest of the year. Last week in Miami (Fla.), nothing could go right for OSU quarterbacks. This week, after getting the nod from head coach Luke Fickell, Miller shined in his first career collegiate start. Ohio State was able to overpower the visiting Buffaloes 37-17. The disaster in Miami that led to OSU’s first loss of the season was a poor outing for OSU quarterbacks. Senior Joe Bauserman and freshman Miller combined for 35 yards through the air. In the entire game. In Miami, neither Bauserman nor Miller completed a pass to a wide receiver or tight end. The only four completions came on screen passes or dump passes to running backs. Against Colorado on Saturday, Miller played his game, played it well and proved that he should be the starter for the rest of the season. No, Miller is not the most accurate passer. But after two weeks of Bauserman tossing the ball into the stands like it was a souvenir, it was Miller time. (Pun very much intended.) Miller was shifty in the pocket, creative on his feet and was able to lead his team down the field effectively and often. While his passing stats were nothing to brag about, he ran for 83 yards on the ground. He created when there was nothing to work with. Miller had only five completions on the day for 83 yards, but there were several balls in the hands of receivers that were inexplicably dropped. Many of Miller’s passes were rockets and on target. Others kind of made you scratch your head wondering if it was the same guy out there. Without DeVier Posey, inexperience at wide receiver is still very evident. However, he was able to convert through the air when he needed to. He found true-freshman wide receiver Devin Smith twice for touchdowns on the day. The first on a 32-yard pass over the middle to put the Buckeyes up 17-0. The second came on a 17-yard strike to the north end zone to put the Scarlet and Gray up 27-7. Miller to Smith. You’ll be hearing that for a long time to come. Both true freshmen, both great athletes. It is clear that Miller is the future of OSU football, and it was about time he got the chance to get in there. He was able to play some football without the coaches taking him out every other series. Miller had a total of 166 yards of offense using both his arm and his legs. In the end, Miller won that game controlling the ball, protecting the ball and solidifying his position as starting quarterback at OSU.
Steve Sabol, the former president of NFL Films and a man rooted to Ohio State, died from brain cancer Tuesday, according to multiple reports. He was 69. As president of New Jersey-based NFL Films, Sabol oversaw the application of various cinematic techniques to capturing professional football, such as slow-motion photography and microphones attached to players and coaches. Dramatic musical scores accompanied video of game action in many NFL Films productions. Sabol is survived by his wife, Penny, son, Casey, and sister, Blair, Both of his parents, Audrey and Ed, also survive NFL Film’s former leading man. Ed Sabol, an OSU graduate and former member of the Buckeyes men’s swimming program, was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 6, 2011. Steve Sabol presented his father during the Hall of Fame ceremony with an introductory speech. Steve Sabol played a direct hand in the creation of the Aug. 2, 2011, Wexner Center event entitled “A Tribute to Ed Sabol and NFL Films.” Shelly Poe, former sports information director for OSU football and now the associate athletic director for media relations at Auburn, told The Lantern that Steve Sabol planned to return to OSU for the Wexner Center event but eventually declined to attend. Poe told The Lantern that Steve Sabol and his personal staff were accommodating in helping put the event together despite the cancer diagnosis he was living with at the time. Steve Sabol received the diagnosis in March 2011, according to a Tuesday Wall Street Journal report. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called Steve Sabol the “creative genius behind NFL Films” in a Tuesday email to league personnel. “Steve’s passion for football was matched only by his talent and energy,” Goodell said in the email. “He was a major contributor to the success of the NFL, a man who changed the way we looked at football and sports, and a great friend. His legacy is assured. “Steve was an incredible visionary. He spent 50 years at the NFL and changed the way we see pro football. So when you’re watching the games this week, it’s worth remembering just how much Steve contributed to the way we think, see and love our game.” Ed Sabol was contracted to shoot the 1962 NFL Championship game, which was the first event filmed by the league’s in-house production company. Steve Sabol was a photographer during the game and continued work with NFL Films during the next 50 years, according to NFL.com.