But this year’s Week 1 results aren’t just close by Week 1 standards. The Broncos (over the Panthers), Bengals (Jets), Raiders (Saints) and Giants (Cowboys) all won by just 1 point: That’s the first time that four games in one week have been decided by a single point in 34 years.Since 1993, only one week has been as close on average as the 5.1-point margin tallied so far on opening weekend — Week 5 of the 2001 season. Since 1993, the standard deviation of from the previously mentioned 11.6-point average margin of victory was 2.3 points. That makes this season’s Week 1 a true outlier: At 5.1 points (pending tonight’s games), it is 2.3 standard deviations from average. The graph below shows the average margin in each week of the regular season since 1993: Of course, if you insist on having something to overreact to, your best bet for a hot take this morning is to look at the performance of the two NFC heavyweights, Seattle and Arizona. The Seahawks were favored by 10 points but needed a late touchdown to beat the Dolphins, 12-10. And Arizona, favored by 9 points against a New England squad without both Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, missed a last-minute field goal and fell, 23-21. But given that Seattle and Arizona both rank in the top five in wins over the last three years, both teams have earned the benefit of the doubt after one mediocre performance. When a game takes an unexpected turn in Week 13 of an NFL season, it can easily be recognized for what it is: an outlier. But when a favorite is upset in Week 1, it’s harder to say whether the game is an aberration or a sign of how the rest of the season will unfold. Observers have such a tendency to overreact to the results in Week 1 that Football Outsiders has coined it National Jump to Conclusions Week.But this year, in a special Week 1 twist, there’s very little to overreact to, at least at a macro level. As usual, some games unfolded in fascinating ways — the Chargers blew a huge lead to the Chiefs, the Lions blew a huge lead but then still beat the Colts, the Raiders won on a 2-point conversion — but Week 1 should generate surprisingly few hot takes. In fact, the most notable result in Week 1 was how close the games were.Philadelphia beat Cleveland, arguably the worst team in the NFL, by 19 points. That otherwise tame result is notable for one reason: Of the 14 games played so far, this was the only game decided by double digits. That’s already tied for the single-week record, with two games (Washington/Pittsburgh and San Francisco/Los Angeles) still to play this evening.The NFL introduced free agency for the 1993 season, another in a long line of efforts by the league to create parity. From 1993 to 2015, the average margin of victory in Week 1 was 11.6 points; this year, pending the results of tonight’s games, the average margin of victory is a microscopic 5.1 points.
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This is Miami’s first Game 7 in the LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh era.The Heat’s three stars addressed reporters for the final time on Saturday before Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, with Chris Bosh saying he again expects to come off the bench, Dwyane Wade explaining the reason for his offensive struggles, and LeBron James asserting it’s absurd for anyone to suggest he could produce Thursday’s eye-popping numbers every game.Through six games, Wade had just 35 first-half points in this series on 12 for 46 shooting (26 percent). But he has 92 points in the second half.Wade said because he’s facing so many double teams, the Celtics are “taking me out of the game. So I’m trying to make as much of an impact as possible. I understand I have to affect the game other ways and wait for my opportunities to come.“It’s not the easiest thing to do. A double team doesn’t let you get good looks, and when you get looks, it gets you out of your rhythm. But I’ve got to stick with it, and that’s what I’ve done.“I’ve had better second halves than first halves, and if I can pick one, I’ll pick the second half, instead of playing great in the first half and not good in the second one. They put a game plan together, and there’s no question the game plan is to make sure I don’t see a lot of opportunities.”James said Saturday that “I would love to have another game like” Thursday’s 45-point, 15-rebound epic, but “no one can do that every single game. People say, ‘Why can’t I do that every game?’ That’s the craziest thing.”Mario Chalmers referred to James’ serious, piercing glare during Game 6 as “his ugly look.” James, informed of that, was amused. “I never had that look,” James said. “I never had that look in my life. It’s a focused look.”As for Bosh, he said he has no issue with coming off the bench for the third consecutive game since returning from an abdominal strain. “It’s irrelevant,” he said. “It will be irrelevant as long as we’re playing. As long as I get to play, it doesn’t matter. We have a good thing going right now. I will continue to come off the bench as long as it’s good. I’m going to have my time with certain lineups.”Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he would not announce his starting lineup until just before tipoff.Source: Miamiherald.com
U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan dismissed Jonathan Vilma’s defamation lawsuit against NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello announced by Twitter on Thursday.Goodell and the league sought to have the case dismissed on the grounds that the the league’s collective bargaining agreement prevents players from suing Goodell personally for claims of this nature. Vilma may be able to take other action against the commissioner under the CBA. He filed the suit in May.Vilma, a linebacker for the New Orleans Saints, claimed Goodell tarnished his reputation by making false statements in connection with the league’s “bounty” investigation. Goodell tabbed Vilma as the ringleader of the program, claiming he offered cash to teammates to injure opponents.”Even though this matter has been pending only since May … it feels as protracted and painful as the Saints season itself, and calls for closure,” Berrigan wrote in her decision, according to Yahoo! Sports. ”The Court nonetheless believes that had this matter been handled in a less heavy-handed way, with greater fairness toward the players and the pressures they face, this litigation and the related cases would not have been necessary.”Vilma was initially suspended by Goodell for the entire 2012 season, but was allowed to play while his appeal was being heard. Saints defensive end Will Smith, Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita and free agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove received lesser suspensions.Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue stepped into the proceedings after Goodell recused himself from the second round of appeals. Tagliabue heard the final appeals of the players and threw out their suspensions last month.Neither Aiello nor Goodell released a comment about Thursday’s ruling by Judge Berrigan.Vilma’s lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, wrote in an email to Yahoo! Sports: ”We are obviously disappointed, strongly believe that the CBA does not give anyone — including a commissioner — a license to misrepresent and to manufacture facts, especially at the expense of another person’s reputation — and are considering our options.”Vilma will have 30 days to file a notice of appeal.
Rocco Mediate said Tiger Woods cannot hit the shots he used to when he was at the peak of his game. Tiger Woods went out Friday in the second round at Torrey Pines and hit shots like he used to hit when he was at the top of his game. And so, he leads the Farmers Insurance Open at 11-under after crafting a beautiful 65 that included an eagle on No. 18.Now comes the hard part.With a lead going into the weekend, Woods was all but money during the height of his dominance. He had won 30 of 32 times that he held a 36-hole lead. But of the last six times he has held that advantage, he has won just twice. Not good, especially for him.“We have a long way to go,” Woods said. “It’s a pretty tough course.”Woods shot a first-round 4-under 68 on the harder South Course in Round 1. On the easier North Course, Woods was awesome, despite a steady rain. He leads over Graham DeLaet, Josh Teater and Ross Fisher, all who sit at eight under.The timing of Woods’ play was almost on purpose to counter Mediate.“Nothing he did ever surprised me,” Mediate said to USA TODAY. “He’s that good. But he can’t do it anymore because his golf swing is different. It doesn’t produce the shots he used to hit,” Mediate added. “Do I think he’s finished winning majors? No. Does he have as much desire? Yes. But you could ask him to hit any shot blindfolded back in the day and he could. Now he can’t. I know what I’m seeing. I know what I saw before. And it’s not the same.”Maybe not, but he sure looked like the old Woods Friday.He birdied the first two holes then closed out the front 9 by sandwiching birdies around a bogey on No. 8. He parred the first four holes on the back and then made birdie on the par 5 No. 14 and the 174-yard par 3 at No. 17. Finally, he closed the round by getting on the 516-yard par 5 closing hole and making the eagle putt to send him into the weekend looking as strong as he has in some time.
Photo by The Washington Post.A day after saying on a Dallas radio station that he could do anything Detroit record-setting receiver Calvin Johnson could do, Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant backed off his statements like a cornerback trying to cover a deep route.On a conference call with Detroit writers, Bryant dismissed the comparison, saying: “I wasn’t comparing myself at all. I think a lot of people took it the wrong way. Clearly, I said there’s no comparison. That’s something that I do not do. I don’t compare myself with anybody.”Bryant’s explanation of his original comments was weak. He said he intended to say he and other receivers can catch the ball as Johnson does. Huh?“It’s just a pride thing, like I said,” Bryant added. “Calvin Johnson set the standard, set that bar high for every wide receiver in the league. I think it’s the respect, it’s really respect to him that he makes receivers like us go out there.“He broke Jerry Rice’s [single-season yards] record last year. That’s setting the bar. So for every receiver in the league, that’s what I’m saying.”Bryant said on the radio program: “I believe I can do whatever he can do. It’s just a pride thing. When it comes to football, just being on the field, it’s a mindset and having a mentality.”Lions receiver Nate Robinson scoffed at the notion that Bryant was on Johnson’s level.“Well, you know, Nate’s right — I’m not Calvin Johnson, I’m Dez Bryant,” Bryant said on SportsCenter. “I didn’t open up a can of worms. I wasn’t going out for nobody.“(The Cowboys) haven’t really said anything to me about it because they all heard what I said,” he added to ESPN. “I don’t take back anything I said because I didn’t say anything wrong. I think it’s how a lot of people are looking at it. I’m not lying about anything I’m saying. I take pride in my game. There’s a lot of stuff that I believe I can do, just besides football.”
42004AFC East41590 Passing offense-1.1+2.22720 92008NFC East41581 Rushing defense+2.5-0.5527 Rushing offense-1.6-1.82023 61976AFC Central41583 Passing defense+4.8+5.711 EXPECTED PTS ADDED/GAMERANK Offense-2.6+0.72518 How the 2015 and 2016 Broncos compare 71975AFC Central41581 Based on average Elo rating of the division’s teams.Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com And the rest of the AFC West has improved — by leaps and bounds, in some cases. After Week 12 of the 2015 season, the Broncos’ division rivals — the Chiefs, Raiders and San Diego Chargers — had an average Elo rating of 1489, well below the NFL-wide average of 1505. K.C.’s Elo rating ranked seventh in the league, and the Chiefs were five victories into what would eventually be an 11-game winning streak. But the Raiders and Chargers were each in the league’s bottom third, and the AFC West was fourth among the NFL’s eight divisions in overall average Elo.This year’s AFC West, by contrast, easily ranks first in all of football in average Elo. The Chiefs’ Elo rating has improved by 32 points from where it was this time last season, the Chargers’ by 68 points and the Raiders’ by a stunning 139 points — that makes Oakland the league’s second-most-improved team over that span (trailing only the Dallas Cowboys). With an average Elo of 1578, the 2016 AFC West is on pace to be the NFL’s 10th-best division since the league merged with the AFL before the 1970 season. 12013NFC West41624 CATEGORY2015201620152016 2015 numbers are for the full season; 2016 numbers are as of Nov. 27.Offensive and defensive EPA won’t necessarily match the sum of rushing and passing EPA on each side of the ball because penalties are tracked in a separate category.Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group 22007AFC South41608 All of this has conspired to make the Broncos’ bid for a championship repeat far more daunting than it seemed before the season began. Only 12 teams with an Elo rating as high as Denver’s current mark have missed the playoffs since the merger,2Most recently, the 2008 New England Patriots. but right now, it’s basically a tossup as to whether the Broncos will become No. 13. And because the Broncos’ playoff odds would have been much higher if they’d won or tied Sunday night, their playoff fate might end up depending on — of all things — the few inches that determined where Santos’s kick went after glancing off the goalpost in overtime.Check out our latest NFL predictions. Share on Facebook For most of the season, the Denver Broncos’ bid to repeat as Super Bowl champs looked like it would be relatively smooth sailing. The Broncos opened the season as the best team in the NFL according to FiveThirtyEight’s Elo ratings, and before this weekend, our playoff predictions (which are based on Elo) never gave the team less than a 74 percent chance of making it to the postseason. Going into Sunday night’s game against the division-rival Kansas City Chiefs, Denver had a healthy 76 percent chance of punching a return ticket to the playoffs.But after losing to K.C. when Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos banked in a game winner off the left upright as time expired, Denver unexpectedly finds itself in a precarious situation. The Broncos are in third place in the AFC West, a game behind the Chiefs and two behind the Oakland Raiders, and our model gives Denver only a 54 percent chance of returning to the playoffs. All of a sudden, the Broncos’ title defense is in doubt.How did Denver get into this predicament? For one thing, the team’s quality of play has slipped ever so slightly compared with last season. At this stage of the 2015 season, Denver ranked fourth in the NFL with a 1661 Elo rating, and our model assigned them a 10 percent probability of winning the Super Bowl. This year, despite competing with fewer great teams, the Broncos rank fifth with a 1606 Elo and a 4 percent Super Bowl probability. If they instead sported that 1661 rating from last season, this year’s Broncos would be second in the NFL, nipping at the New England Patriots’ heels for the right to be No. 1.For a while this season, the Broncos’ defense looked like it might be able to keep steady with the all-time great D the team assembled last season, and Denver still has the best defense in football according to expected points added. But like most of history’s dominant defenses, the Broncos’ D has experienced some reversion to the mean, and the team is now getting 4.8 EPA per game out of its defense rather than the 6.6 they got last season. As expected, Denver’s offense has improved under first-year starting QB Trevor Siemian (it would have been hard not to, given how poorly Peyton Manning played last season), but it hasn’t been enough to offset that defensive regression and a drop-off on special-teams after adjusting for strength of schedule.1If you add up Denver’s EPA on offense, defense and special teams, you’ll find that the Broncos have a better per-game point differential this seaon than they did in 2015. (By definition, EPA is designed to add up to a team’s points-per-game differential.) But the Broncos have also played an easier schedule this season; according to Pro-Football-Reference.com’s simple rating system, the 2016 Broncos (+5.4 SRS) are running slightly behind their 2015 form (+5.8) after adjusting for strength of schedule. As a result, the Broncos are no better off now than they were last year. The NFL’s strongest divisions, 1970-2016 Special teams-0.3-1.42526 102016AFC West41578 YEARDIVISIONTEAMSAVG. ELO 52014NFC West41588 81970NFC Central41581 31984AFC West51600 Defense+6.6+4.811
Washington3.627.92614 After more than a decade of tearing teams to shreds through the air, the New Orleans Saints made a stunning change this season to their offense: They grounded their arsenal. The 2017 Saints are the most dominant rushing team in football, comfortably leading the league in yards gained by running backs. So the obvious solution for the Carolina Panthers in Sunday’s wild-card game is to stack the box with too many defenders for the Saints offensive line to block.But this won’t happen. And here’s what makes the New Orleans offense something that previously existed only in a defensive coordinator’s night terror: Drew Brees is still one of the NFL’s most effective passers, even when he’s leading the game’s best rushing attack. To put it another way, the Saints are winning because of their running game, and the Saints running game is winning because of Brees.Despite racking up more than 2,000 rushing yards by mostly Mark Ingram (1,124) and Alvin Kamara (728), the running backs and the team’s offensive line rarely had to account for eight or more defenders near the line of scrimmage. Saints’ opponents have been unwilling to commit to stopping the run — which is what you generally do against great running teams. To measure this fairly across the league, we first need to get rid of all the obvious pass or run scenarios based on down and distance or game situation.1We threw out any play where there were more than two wide receivers in the formation or an offense was down two or more scores because this suggests to a defense that a pass is coming. We also dumped all short-yardage plays (1 yard from a first down) and goal-line situations (3 or fewer yards from the end zone). Lastly, we ignored the final six minutes of the game because an offense’s intentions here are frequently obvious — whether it’s to play catch-up (pass) or to kill clock (run). Looking at what’s left, the Saints faced stacked fronts of eight or more defenders on just 37 of their 172 rushing plays, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group — a rate of 21.5 percent that’s 25th in the league. The average for all NFL teams is 28 percent. Miami4.128.01513 NY Giants4.033.9168 Houston3.824.82419 Minnesota4.028.31912 Cleveland4.123.21022 The Saints weren’t the only team that seemed to be preventing defenses from loading the box, but they had by far the most running success. Like the Saints, the Chiefs and Falcons ranked in the top five in yards per pass, which was enough to keep defenses from committing to stopping the run. While the Rams appear to fit this profile too, they played so many three-plus WR sets that teams simply could not commit that many defenders to the line of scrimmage.Playing against conventional fronts even when employing run-friendly personnel (no more than two WRs) is the key to the Saints’ success in generating yards before contact. Their running backs led the NFL in 2.85 yards on average before encountering a defender. Yes, a lot of this is good vision by the backs and effective offensive line blocking. But the fact that there weren’t often too many defenders at the line of scrimmage was Kamara and Ingram’s secret weapon.On paper, Brees’s role in the offense seems more minimized than ever: 23 touchdown passes after nine straight years of 30 or more, just 536 pass attempts after averaging 656 the prior seven seasons, and a Saints career low of 4,334 yards. But this isn’t 2015 Peyton Manning clearly wheezing to the finish line and needing the team to dominate in other areas in order to win. Brees, 38, led the NFL this year in yards per pass attempt, and his 103.9 passer rating was his best since 2013.Look no further than the Saints’ opponent on Sunday for an example of a team that has to deal with stacked fronts because defenses don’t fear the passing game. Carolina running backs had to face at least eight defenders in the box on 42 percent of the rushing plays in our sample, the second-highest rate in the league. And why not? Cam Newton ranks 21st in passing yards per attempt and 24th in passer rating, and he’s more a threat when he’s running himself.But even Ben Roethlisberger’s Steelers (37.2 percent) and Tom Brady’s Patriots (27.7 percent) were forced to send running backs into defenses with extra run-stoppers at the line of scrimmage far more often than the Saints. Maybe defenses have been slow to adjust to the Saints’ new offensive model, but Brees’s presence helping the running game find room is no recent phenomenon. Since 2010, the Saints’ average of 4.5 yards per rush by their running backs is the third-best rate in football.The even worse news for Carolina on Sunday is that perhaps no team has been more flustered by the multidimensional Saints than these Panthers. In their two prior meetings, both Saints wins, Carolina allowed 149 and 148 rushing yards. Those are the two worst performances by the Panthers’ run defense all year. And it’s not like they’re stopping Brees either: The future Hall of Famer posted a 117.8 passer rating with four TD passes in those two contests. The Panthers seem to have been caught in between the new Saints and the old-model Saints — and able to stop neither.Check out our latest NFL predictions. Pittsburgh4.037.2174 LA Chargers3.924.12221 Denver4.021.21826 Philadelphia4.534.547 Seattle3.318.23230 Chicago4.119.51429 Arizona3.444.0301 Oakland4.137.5113 Detroit3.318.03131 San Francisco4.127.31316 Dallas4.336.665 NY Jets4.030.52010 Cincinnati3.719.62528 Excludes plays that are obvious passing or rushing situations: when a team is down by at least two scores, is in a short-yardage situation, is at the goal line or is showing three or more WRs; or when the game is in the final six minutes.Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group Kansas City4.722.9223 Buffalo4.028.92111 Green Bay4.124.61220 Indianapolis3.620.02727 LA Rams4.522.6324 New Orleans5.121.5%125 Carolina3.642.0282 RANK Teams don’t crowd the line to stop New OrleansNFL teams by rushing yards from running backs in 2017, with how often each offense faced at least eight defenders in the box Baltimore4.227.0817 Tennessee3.931.0239 Atlanta4.217.3732 Tampa Bay3.525.22918 Jacksonville4.236.296 New England4.427.7515 TeamYards/Rush8+ Box RateYards/Rush8+ Box
In 15 tries since the NBA adopted its modern playoff structure in 1984, only one team has gotten out of an 0-2 Finals hole: the 2006 Miami Heat. That team clawed its way back when Dwyane Wade put on maybe the greatest individual performance in Finals history, the kind of thing LeBron James is also capable of doing. But those Heat hadn’t played anywhere near as poorly as the Cavs have through two Finals games.It gets worse: If we expand our view to include all best-of-seven series since 1984, we find that 6 percent of teams with an 0-2 deficit have gone on to win the series, none of which were dominated as thoroughly as the Cavs. The smart money says it probably isn’t happening. Elo gives Cleveland a mere 11 percent chance of winning now, and it doesn’t even know that Kevin Love’s Game 3 status is up in the air after suffering a concussion in Game 2. But talk of a sweep might be premature. The same historical data that underscored the grim state of Cleveland’s title chances also shows that there’s little to no relationship between an 0-2 team’s margin of defeat in games 1-2 and the eventual length of the series. First and foremost among the exceptions: the 1995 Houston Rockets. Despite being defending champs, the Rockets went into their second-round series against the Phoenix Suns as underdogs, and were beaten by 46 combined points in games 1 and 2. Back in Houston for Game 3, they rolled over the Suns by 33. But they lost Game 4 at home and had to gut out three consecutive victories, the last of which was sealed with Mario Elie’s “Kiss of Death”: Never underestimate the heart of a champion, indeed.Cleveland needn’t go back so far in the history books for the other team to bounce back from a remotely comparable hole. This year’s Portland Trail Blazers were beaten by 41 combined by the Los Angeles Clippers in games 1 and 2 of their first-round series before storming back to win four straight. But it’s worth mentioning that the Clippers lost point god Chris Paul to a season-ending injury late in Game 4, significantly lowering the difficulty of a Portland comeback. By contrast, the Cavs would have to perform a revival the hard way — unless there’s another Steph Curry injury. Listen to the latest episode of our sports podcast Hot Takedown. More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed Embed Code By Neil Paine Before the NBA Finals tipped off last Thursday, I and others thought the Cleveland Cavaliers might give the Golden State Warriors a better fight this year than last. Unfortunately for Cleveland — as usual — that notion is quickly vanishing. Fresh off an easy 15-point victory in Game 1, the Warriors crushed the Cavs by 33 in Game 2 on Sunday night, burying the Cavs in the most demoralizing 0-2 hole in championship history. Before this year, no team had ever beaten an opponent by 48 combined points in the first two games of the Finals.If we account for the fact that the first two Finals games this year were played on the Warriors’ home court — meaning we subtract from the home team’s margin its built-in advantage of about 3.6 points per game, in accordance with our Elo ratings — the Cavs have been running about 20 points per game behind the Warriors in the series so far. Even among teams sporting 0-2 Finals deficits, that’s just embarrassing: Although no team that was dominated as utterly as the Cavs has gone on to win a series from an 0-2 deficit, just as many forced a sixth game as were swept. In fact, of the 30 teams in our 0-2 sample to be beaten by an average location-adjusted margin of at least 15 points in games 1-2, only a third were swept; 30 percent lost in five games, 23 percent lost in six, 7 percent bowed out in seven — and 7 percent went on to win the series.And if they’re looking for inspiration to avoid the brooms, the Cavs should look at themselves, but in reverse. Early in the Eastern Conference finals, Cleveland built a 2-0 lead, whipping the Toronto Raptors by an adjusted average of 21.4 points per contest. That was a start so dominant that it had us speculating on the Cavs’ place in history, and it made the idea of the Raptors winning even a single game feel remote. But the Raptors promptly won two straight to tie the series (before eventually being closed out in six games). Faint consolation for Cleveland, but in dire times, it may have to serve.Check out our latest NBA predictions.
3Kansas City4487719468.8 Distance from team’s stadium to St. Louis, in miles0.94 Top teams by Blythe’s most heavily weighted criteria More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed Embed Code Suspensions of players since 2007; extra weight to crimes against women1.98 Not all of these are perfect — for instance, the NFL suspends players for all manner of benign behavior — but imperfections like that should wash out somewhat in the aggregate. When the dust settled on the data analysis, my 2016 team was unveiled: the Green Bay Packers. OK, I could deal with that. My football memory didn’t include a lot of anger toward the team or its fans (which always helps), and I don’t mind having the chance to cheer for a winner. Their appearance at the top wasn’t altogether surprising, partly because of their unique ownership structure. They also scored high in player likability, future wins and team tradition, with above-average marks in off-field behavior as well.Green Bay was followed by the Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills. In dead last? The Tennessee Titans.5Oh, hey, former Oilers. (Check out our 2016 NFL predictions for every team.) Here were my top 10 rankings, along with each team’s score in the four categories I gave the most weight: Stylishness of uniform, according to Uni Watch’s Paul Lukas0.12 Players’ effort on the field and likability off it1.74 Projected wins over next five seasons1.62 Wins per fan dollars spent1.16 10Baltimore690904256.8 Courtesy toward fans; how well a team uses technology to reach them1.02 Thanks a lot, Kroenke, you’ve put my niece fully in the Packers’ camp. 7Seattle299410010062.8 Are the team’s next five years likely to be better than their previous five?1.28 Size of market in terms of population, where bigger is better0.04 Strength of on-field leadership0.42 Quality of venue; fan-friendliness; frequency of promotions0.46 By Blythe Terrell Blythe’s criteria for a perfect team Overall includes rankings from all criteria, not just those listed here. What do you do when your pro sports team goes away? It’s a question fans have had to ask again and again, when a Colts or an Oilers or a SuperSonics or an Expos team closes up shop and hits the road. This year, it was a question I had to ask myself.I’ve been a St. Louis Rams fan since they rolled into my hometown in 1995. I was 12 years old and knew next to nothing about football, but my mom, who loves the sport almost as much as she loves college basketball, was more than ready to board the Rams bus. My parents shelled out the cash for the personal seat licenses and then the tickets, and my siblings and I took turns eating nachos and learning the game in domed comfort1I was extremely jealous of all the teams with open-air stadiums. over the ensuing two decades. I was introduced to football by Jerome Bettis and Isaac Bruce, and was fully immersed by the time Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and the Greatest Show on Turf rolled through town. After the boom times, we stuck it out through seasons of weak, sometimes atrocious, football (what’s up, 2009?). And we had a next-generation fan in the making: My toddler niece went to her first — and last — St. Louis Rams game last season.2My brother-in-law is a Packers fan, so don’t worry, she has a backup.So when hometown villain Stan Kroenke3Did you know his first name is Enos, and he was named after Cardinals baseball legends Enos Slaughter and Stan Musial? Fun fact that is in no way infuriating to St. Louisans. pulled the plug and hauled the Rams back to California — leaving behind some choice words that left fans fuming — my fellow fans and I were left to puzzle out what’s next. The way I saw it, these were my options:Support the Los Angeles Rams (nope).Give up the NFL, or, the lite version, be the person who watches solely to cheer for the dudes on her fantasy team but has no real loyalty.Back my husband’s team, the cross-state Kansas City Chiefs — the NFL equivalent of the nice Midwestern boy I knew as a kid but who went to a different high school.Pick the more appealing New York team, since I live in the city, and even bars with, like, two TVs would probably be showing the game.Turn it into a math problem.Since I’m an editor at FiveThirtyEight, the choice was clear.In search of the analysis, I went hat in hand to my colleague Neil Paine. Could we figure out the ideal team for me to support? A team with less terrible ownership that was unlikely to leave me (and a city full of supporters) feeling like a fool? And could I pick a team based also on other factors that matter to me, such as whether a team’s players are publicly known or suspected to have committed violent crimes against women?It was all possible, and Neil was on board. I pledged to support the team dictated by the data for at least one full season, even if it was the Seahawks or — deep breath — the Patriots.Neil’s analysis graded each team in 16 categories — some of which were taken from ESPN the Magazine’s long-running “ultimate standings” (which use surveys conducted by opinion research firms in a similar attempt to quantify the benefits of rooting for each pro franchise in the U.S. and Canada), and some we calculated ourselves. Each reflected a component of a team’s identity, including ownership, uniforms, the club’s fan-friendliness and winning tradition. Plugging those factors into the website All Our Ideas, he created a form that would be able to weight each category by its importance to my own fandom. 2Pittsburgh6997848172.9 6Carolina4474779064.0 Ownership honesty and loyalty to core players and the community1.92 Then it was my turn. I went through randomly generated head-to-head matchups among those 16, selecting the factor that mattered more to me in each case. For example, I might have to choose between player behavior and fan relations, and then uniforms versus ownership. I repeated this exercise with different randomly selected permutations until I had voted 3,352 times,4This took me most of six hours. There’s no significance to this number; we just wanted a big sample. at which point I had personalized rankings of — and weights for — each of the 16 factors. Here they are, sorted by the amount of influence each had on the team-picking process; you can find a sample version here. 8Indianapolis1648872660.1 1Green Bay69100977779.7 Price of tickets, parking and concessions0.62 Podcast: Listen to Blythe discuss how she discovered her new team. Size of market in terms of population, where smaller is better0.52 TEAM RATING CRITERIAWEIGHT Distance from team’s stadium to New York, in miles1.00 TEAMPLAYER SUSPENSIONSOWNERSHIPPLAYER EFFORT AND LIKABILITYPROJECTED WINSOVERALL Championships/division titles/wins in team’s entire history1.20 4New England7765948768.4 9Arizona5671818459.8 5Buffalo6977586866.5 (If you’d like to run this exercise yourself, you can find a list of every team’s rating in every category on GitHub.)So the data has spoken: I’m trading in the blue and gold for the green and gold. As for the fans in L.A., congratulations. I hope your experience with the Rams is a good one, and I’m sure many of you are excited to have them back. I’m just sorry they came attached to this guy.Neil Paine contributed data analysis.[VIDEO: How one spurned Rams fan found a new team