Week 1 Analytics Preview – Ravens vs Bengals
The 2017 NFL season is already in motion. What a start last night. The Chiefs have already upset the Patriots on opening night 42-27.
With John Harbaugh beginning his 10th year as the head coach in Baltimore, what does the 2017 have in store for the Ravens? We do know that the Ravens will start the season with a divisional game on the road in Cincinnati. How has that gone in the recent past? The last six games dating back to 2014 show the Ravens at 1-5 against the Bengals. The only win coming in week 12 of the 2016 season. Except for the finale of the 2016 season, these games have been close.
(You can discus this topic on the discussion board here)
Near the end of this post, the past 6 games between Bengals and Ravens will be presented through graphical game summaries for each game – the GameMap. This is a form of descriptive analytics employing a data visualization scheme applied to game drive data. Before presenting those GameMaps, we’ll explore some recent season analytics for both the Ravens and Bengals.
A matchup analysis using performance metrics developed at theQ5.com for BAL (8-8) vs CIN (6-10) at the conclusion of 2016 season shows the Bengals having better performance over the entirety of the season despite having a record with two less wins. You can explore Q-scores and the drive performance metrics over at www.theq5.com. Also, every game over the past two seasons sits in visual format accounting for every drive from 2015 and 2016. Relive the past two seasons of any team. Super Bowls and playoff games reside there as well.
In the two pictures below, the Ravens and Bengals are matched-up after 16 games in the 2016 season. Their drive performance is compared side by side and also within the context of the entire league. The Ravens are the green circle and the Bengals are the black circle. The size of the circle reflects the performance in the last 4 games while the location reflects left to right the season long performance. The further to the right, the better the season performance.
Bengals were 6-10 but the drive data performance analytics says they were better than their record. Later in this post we’ll see that the Bengals were horrible in close games. They could be primed for a good year in 2017 since they played better than their 2016 record showed. The Ravens finished 8-8 with a week 17 loss to the Bengals after playoff elimination the week before vs Pittsburgh (more on this later as well).
A visualization of points for and points against in a per game calculation since 2011 is presented for both teams.
A recent article by Bill Barnwell – http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/20114211/the-nfl-stats-matter-most-2017-offseason-bill-barnwell – puts three team stats forward that may best predict future performance.
- Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average -DVOA – for 2016 and 2015 (last year)
In this ranking we find Bal and CIN right next to each other at numbers 12 and 13.
- Point Differential and the Pythagorean expectation for win total.
A look at the win totals and season point differentials for both teams over the past 10 seasons shows the following:
- Record in close games (7 pts or less)
Ravens were 6-5 in 2016 which was an improvement from 2015 when they were 5-7.
What did the Bengals do in close games in 2016? 1 win and 7 losses:
The prediction of future performance based on past performance is not a new field at all. The attempts to predict football game outcomes are gaining steam and models/concepts are improving. This is a challenging endeavor. In my opinion, past performance points towards the Bengals winning this game. 2016 was a down year for victories with 6 but the analytics say they performed better than their 6 wins showed. This is a huge game for both head coaches. Harbaugh trying to get back to the playoffs after two years away and Lewis trying to show those 6 wins last year were an anomaly and perhaps sooner than later he’ll need to bring a playoff win to Cincinnati. 15 years is a long tenure for a head coach and it looks even longer when no playoff wins are present. As a college football coach, the saying “consistently good, occasionally great” keeps a job. I wonder when “occasionally great” will require a playoff win for the Bengals and their fans.
As we get ready for Harbaugh’s 10th season as head coach of the Ravens, the head coach on the other sideline is headed into his 15th season as the head coach of the Bengals. Marvin Lewis was defensive coordinator of the Ravens from 1996 to 2001 helping the Ravens win Super Bowl 35 over the NY Giants. As head coach of the Bengals, Lewis has a 0-7 post season record while Harbaugh has a 10-5 playoff mark.
The past six games presented on GameMaps – the games 2014-2016 with BAL vs CIN:
2016 BAL vs CIN: The Raven’s playoff chances ended in week 16 with a loss to the Steelers. That 31-27 loss may have been one of the most crushing losses in team history as a 27-24 lead captured with just 78 seconds left in the game was turned into a 31-27 deficit when Antonio Brown caught a 4 yard TD pass with just a few seconds left on the clock. The hangover from that game in week 16 was evident when the Ravens played the Bengals in week 17. The Bengals scored points on all four of their first half possessions building a 20-3 lead at halftime. A long drive by the Ravens near the end of the second quarter ended with an interception that was turned around into a field goal for the Bengals with just a few seconds left in the half.
Baltimore’s lone victory when looking at the last six games with Cincinnati sits in week 12 of the 2016 season. 16 first half points would have been enough to win as the Ravens managed only a field goal in the 2nd half in-route to a 19-14 victory. This victory came within a sequence with the season where. This victory came within a sequence within the 2016 season where the Ravens were 5-2 as seen in the season results summary. Within that stretch, those two losses came at the hands of the Cowboys and Patriots. No shame in that.
The Ravens 2016 week by week results:
The Ravens ended the season 1-3 in the last 4 while the Bengals finished 2-2.
2015 BAL vs CIN: Games in 2015 occurred in weeks 17 and 3. The Bengals swept the season series from the Ravens.
2014 BAL vs CIN: The 2014 season was also swept by the Bengals. The GameMaps show the Bengals scoring the last points in each game – touchdowns late in the 4th quarter secured victory for CIN in each game.
If you made it this far through the visualizations, here is one more from last night’s game with the Chiefs as the focus team.