Newcastle 0-1 Sunderland: Johnson the hero as late strike wins Tyne-Wear epic

first_imgAdam Johnson struck a last-minute winner to secure victory for Sunderland in an epic Tyne-Wear derby against fierce rivals Newcastle United.It was a frantic clash at St James’ Park, with both sides having a host of chances and referee Anthony Taylor having plenty to do as the tackles flew in.But, just as the Magpies pushed for a winner in the closing stages, Johnson capped off a late counter-attack with a furious finish, sealing the Black Cats’ fourth consecutive win over their derby rivals.It’s a tie famed for rarely finishing with all 22 men on the pitch, and Sunderland’s Lee Cattermole wasted no time in setting the tone for the clash by upending Daryl Janmaat with a charging tackle after just ten seconds and, remarkably, escaped without a booking.And Magpies captain Fabricio Coloccini was very lucky to then avoid an early sending off when he led with his knee as he flew into the back of Steven Fletcher, with the Argentine defender only handed a yellow card much to Gus Poyet’s outrage.In a frenetic opening period, the hosts started on the front foot with Sammy Ameobi and Moussa Sissoko driving into the Black Cats’ box.But it was Sunderland who had the best chance to open the scoring, Sebastian Larsson sending a brilliant 35-yard Hollywood pass over the top for Fletcher, with the Scot beating his man but crashing a first-time volley against the crossbar.Amid the host of chances for both sides, referee Taylor was certainly kept busy, dishing out bookings to five players in the opening half alone, including Jack Colback, who hacked down former team-mate Jordi Gomez in his first game against Sunderland since switching for Newcastle in the summer.Meanwhile, the visitors maintained pressure on the hosts with Connor Wickham stinging the gloves of Jak Alnwick with a fierce long-range drive, the rookie goalkeeper just managing to tip the strike around his post.And the furious pace continued with Magpies forward Ayoze Perez starting to cause Sunderland problems at the back, firing a curling effort from 25 yards just past the post and then forcing Sebastian Coates into a decent last-ditch tackle.But the momentum was forever changing at St James’ Park, with Alnwick again forced into a save from Wickham’s towering header and the striker then dribbling a shot just wide just before the break.The second-half began in the same fashion as the first, and there was drama shortly after the restart when Newcastle were reduced, temporarily, to ten men.Steven Taylor was forced off for stitches after colliding with the post as he heroically denied Sunderland the opener, heading Wickham’s cross away on the goal line with Fletcher ready and waiting to dash in.Strangely, as the game continued, Pardew decided to wait for the defender to make his way back rather than making the change.Sunderland failed to make their short-lived man advantage count as ten minutes later Taylor eventually returned, with Gomez guilty of a shocking miss as he, under no pressure, shanked a shot horribly wide from the centre of the box after patient build-up play from the Black Cats.Gus Poyet’s side soon had goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon to thank for a superb save that kept the hosts in the contest, the former Manchester City man getting his fingertips to Perez’s curling effort which seemed destined for the top corner.In another feisty period, Magpies substitute Adam Armstrong broke through but hit tamely at Pantilimon, while Johnson missed another great chance for the Black Cats when he slid a shot poorly past the far post after deceiving his marker with a neat turn in the box.Desperate not to become the first Newcastle manager to slump to four derby defeats in a row, Pardew introduced both Papiss Cisse, who didn’t start the game due to illness, and Remy Cabella in the final 15 minutes.The changes made a difference as the hosts dominated the closing stages looking for that winning goal, but instead it was heartbreak for the Toon Army as, after Pantilimon denied Sissoko from long-range, Sunderland broke.Newcastle twice attempted to halt the move with fouls but desire kept the Black Cats moving, with Will Buckley’s lay-off hammered in by Johnson in the 90th minute to send the away end, together with manager Poyet on the touchline, into raptures. Sunderland celebrate Adam Johnson’s winner against Newcastle 1last_img read more

Allardyce hails side after Hammers win

first_imgWest Ham boss Sam Allardyce paid tribute to his players after their 2-1 victory at QPR.First-half goals from Matt Jarvis and Ricardo Vaz Te put the east London side in the driving seat and they were worthy winners despite QPR rallying after the break.“We’ve achieved our first Premier League away win which is no mean feat for a newly promoted team. To come to QPR and dominate the game was great for me to see,” said Allardyce.“Our resilience and defensive qualities came to the fore. We eventually saw the game out to win and I’m absolutely delighted.“It’s a geat result for us and we have 11 points now, are seventh in the league, and it’s a really great start by the players who are going out and playing to their very best.”See also:Struggling Rangers beaten by West HamFollow West London Sport on TwitterFind us on Facebooklast_img read more

1975: The Cup is born

first_imgIt was an altogether different world in which One-day cricket took its first baby steps. Not many teams took the format too seriously.West Indies captain Clive Lloyd holds the trophy after his team won the final in the 1975 Prudential World Cup as the then MCC president Prince Philip looks on.White clothing, red ball and prize money (4,000 for the winners), which was a tiny fraction of that at stake these days, bear testament to the fact that ODIs had not evolved fully as a separate format in itself. In fact, there were just 18 ODIs played worldwide before the first World Cup in 1975.Sixty overs an innings meant that most sides went with Test match field placements and innovative stroke-play, such an integral part of the game today, was rare.England, where limited overs cricket was an integral part of the domestic season, were supposed to cash in on the home advantage. Other powerhouses such as the West Indies, Australia and Pakistan were also fancied due to their all-star lineups, many of whom played on the county circuit.The men from the Caribbean, led by Clive Lloyd, who beat the Aussies by 17 runs in the inaugural final at Lord’s on June 21, the longest day of the year, stamped their superiority on the nascent format.The summit clash, till this day regarded as one of the most exciting ODIs ever played, made sure that One-day cricket and the World Cup was here to stay.There were altogether eight teams in the fray, with the six Test- playing nations joined by East Africa and Sri Lanka. They were divided into two groups with the top two advancing to the semi- finals. There were only 15 games in total, a far cry from these days when the tournament seems to go on and on.advertisementEngland and New Zealand advanced from Group A while Australia and West Indies made it from the other group. Both semi- finals were played on the same day – something which would be inconceivable now.There were few close games in the 1975 World Cup, but ironically, eventual champions West Indies needed a 64- run 10th wicket stand between Deryck Murray and Andy Roberts to seal a one- wicket win over Pakistan.Once there, the team from the Caribbean made short work of the Kiwis with a five- wicket win at The Oval to seal their place in the final.The other semi- final pitted traditional rivals England and Australia and Gary Gilmour did the star turn for Ian Chappell’s side on a seaming Headingley track to take six wickets for 14 as the hosts were bundled for 93.Even that seemed enough at one stage when the Aussies were reduced to 39 for six. It was left to Gilmour himself and Doug Walters to do the repair job and take the team home.The final will be remembered as much for Lloyd’s 102 off 85 balls after the West Indies had lost three quick wickets, as for Viv Richards effecting three of the five runouts, including those of the Chappell brothers.Chasing 292 for victory, Australia were reduced to 233 for nine before Jeff Thomson and Dennis Lillee gave them hope with a 41- run stand. The game ended when Thomson was run- out while taking a bye to wicketkeeper Murray in the penultimate over. As far as individual performances went, New Zealand’s Glenn Turner was the highest run- getter with 333 runs in four matches, including two hundreds. Gilmour was the most successful bowler with 11 wickets from just two games.The Indian angleThe abiding memory for India from the 1975 World Cup would be Sunil Gavaskar batting 60 overs to score 36 not out against England in the inaugural match.Chasing 335 for victory, Gavaskar took 174 balls himself which shows that at that point in his career, he did not pay too much regard to the upstart format.After a 202- run defeat, India coasted to a 10- wicket win over minnows East Africa. They needed to beat New Zealand to seal a semi- final spot, but Turner came up with a hundred as the Kiwis chased down 231.Highlights of 1975 CupEngland and New Zealand advanced from Group A while Australia and West Indies made it from the other group. Both semifinals were played on the same day.Named the Prudential Cricket World Cup, there was no Man of the Tournament for the event.The abiding memory for India would be Sunil Gavaskar batting 60 overs to score 36 not out against England in the inaugural match.Australia were chasing 292 runs in the final against the West Indies and fell short by 17 runs.advertisementlast_img read more

Beats headsets prove to be popular at the FIFA world cup despite ban

first_imgBrazil’s Neymar wearing Beats headphones.Beats by Dr Dre in the last weeks has been in the limelight as Apple acquired it. Now it has kicked up yet another storm as the headphones made by it have been banned at the 2014 FIFA world cup, which is currently being held in Brazil.The headphones have proven to be popular with star players like Neymar, Wayne Rooney and Luis Suarez, but the players are banned from wearing them as FIFA has a deal with Sony, which also makes headphones.The colourful headphones have become a fashion icon of sorts. This was also a reason Apple decided to shell out $3 billion for the company, the highest it has ever spent on an acquisition.While pundits have often criticised the sound quality of the Beats headphones, they have proven popular with celebrities.Even at the world cup, players are forced to use Sony headphones inside the world cup stadiums due to FIFA’s contractual obligations, but players like Neymar and Suarez have been seen using their personal Beats’ headphones in practice sessions.In a way, this lends them a discrete level of authenticity as the players are not forced to use them unlike the Sony headphones.In the lead up to the world cup, Beats even released a video with Neymar, Luis Suarez, Mario Goetze, Robin Van Persie, and Javier Hernandez, which received 10.6 million views on YouTube, highlighting the popularity of the brand.last_img read more

Houston moves into Sweet 16 for first time in 35 years

first_imgFor the complete collegiate sports coverage including scores, schedules and stories, visit Inquirer Varsity. Colombia protesters vow new strike after talks hit snag View comments Google Philippines names new country director Bloomberg: US would benefit from more, not fewer, immigrants Houston’s Galen Robinson Jr., right, heads to the basket past Ohio State’s Keyshawn Woods during the first half of a second round men’s college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament Sunday, March 24, 2019, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)TULSA, Okla. — Houston’s fans chanted “Sweet 16” in the final minute of the Cougars’ NCAA Tournament win over Ohio State.The celebration was long overdue — it’s been 35 years since the Cougars have made this trip.ADVERTISEMENT Wesson had five turnovers, mostly after getting double-teamed. He made 7 of 10 free throws, but he didn’t leave the imprint he left on the Iowa State game in the first round.HE SAID ITSampson, on the halftime altercation: “Just being competitive. Ohio State’s kids are classy, great kids great coaching staff. Our kids are classy. Just nothing.”UP NEXTHouston will play Kentucky in the Sweet 16. Trump attends World Series baseball game in Washington DC PLAY LIST 01:04Trump attends World Series baseball game in Washington DC01:37Russian envoy: Putin accepts Duterte’s invitation to visit PH01:1355,000 early birds flock at Manila North Cemetery02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City01:07Trump talks impeachment while meeting NCAA athletes02:49World-class track facilities installed at NCC for SEA Games02:11Trump awards medals to Jon Voight, Alison Krauss Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next Heartbreak for UCF dad, son as Aubrey Dawkins game-winner rolls out Wintry storm delivers US travel woes before Thanksgiving Private companies step in to help SEA Games hosting LATEST STORIES Houston (33-3) advanced to face Kentucky.C.J. Jackson scored 18 points, and Kaleb Wesson added 15 for Ohio State (20-15).Ohio State started off hot from 3-point range, hitting seven of its first 12. But Houston burned the Buckeyes in transition to go on a 14-6 run and close the half with a 39-31 lead.There was a brief skirmish right after the end of the first half. Ohio State’s Keyshawn Woods and Houston’s DeJon Jarreau were issued technical fouls after the teams jawed at midcourt. Houston’s Fabian White was held back by teammates and coaches.A dunk by Chris Harris put the Cougars up 52-44 with just over 10 minutes remaining. A floater in the lane by Armoni Brooks pushed Houston’s lead to nine and led to a timeout by Ohio State. A transition layup by Davis pushed the advantage to 11, and the Cougars maintained control for good.ADVERTISEMENT MOST READ Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. The Buckeyes finished 8-12 in Big Ten play and were seeded eighth in the conference tournament, so getting this far was an accomplishment.“I told them in the locker room, I don’t know if I’ve ever been a part of a team where we’ve faced as many challenges and had come through on the other end in such a positive way,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “It just really speaks to the quality of our players and the quality of people that they are.”BIG PICTUREOhio State: The Buckeyes lost four of five heading into the NCAA Tournament before upsetting Iowa State in the first round. The future looks bright — Brothers Kaleb and Andre Wesson will be back next year to provide a solid foundation.Houston: The Cougars continue to rebuild a program that had a 13-19 record in 2014-15. Houston hurt the Buckeyes inside and outside, overwhelmed the Buckeyes with depth and speed and pounced when Ohio State’s 3-point shooting came back down to Earth.STAT LINESOhio State made 8 of 17 3-pointers in the first half, but just 2 of 12 in the second half. Houston, the nation’s leader in field-goal percentage defense heading into the weekend, held the Buckeyes to 32 percent shooting in the second half.CROWDING WESSONKaleb Wesson scored 15 points, but the 6-foot-9, 270-pound forward struggled against Houston’s Brison Gresham. Wesson only had seven field-goal attempts, and six of those were 3-pointers.“That means we won that battle,” Sampson said. “If we got him taking 3s, that’s a good thing for us.” Trump tells impeachment jokes at annual turkey pardon event Panelo: Duterte ‘angry’ with SEA Games hosting hassles Cayetano: Senate, Drilon to be blamed for SEA Games mess “I saw a lot of proud Cougars up there behind us tonight,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said, “and the ones I was happiest for were the guys that’s been supporting this program since those days.”Corey Davis scored 21 points to help Houston beat the Buckeyes 74-59 in a second-round Midwest Region game Sunday night. It marked the Cougars’ 33rd win of the season — breaking the school’s season record set by the 1983-84 team. That was the last Houston squad to reach the Sweet 16.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSPrivate companies step in to help SEA Games hostingSPORTSPalace wants Cayetano’s PHISGOC Foundation probed over corruption chargesSPORTSSingapore latest to raise issue on SEA Games food, logisticsThe win was especially significant for Robinson, a senior who has played in a school-record 135 games. He watched teams celebrate reaching the Sweet 16 on social media Saturday night and wanted his own moment. He scored 13 points to help make it happen.“When I went to bed last night, all I was thinking about was winning just so we can do that, so I can see how it feels,” he said. “It was exactly — to be going to the Sweet 16, it feels amazing.”last_img read more

Low Pay Limits Player Experience in National Womens Soccer League

The second season of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) starts April 12, which will be about the time people ask, “There’s a professional women’s soccer league?” Yes, there is: It’s the third attempt since 1999 at professionalizing women’s soccer in the U.S. The previous two leagues both folded after only three seasons, so to say that Year 2 is crucial for the NWSL’s survival would be an understatement.This season also carries the added pressure of needing to be really competitive in the run-up to summer 2015’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada. If the U.S. national team hopes to have the best shot at the World Cup, it needs to be playing at the highest level. That means the rest of the players in the league (those who won’t be going to the World Cup) need to be very good. But it isn’t easy to entice international talent (or even domestic talent) with the lurking ghost of two failed leagues and a salary that typically ranges from $6,000 to $30,000 (with most players seeing the lower end of that range).Herein lies the biggest problem for the NWSL: To keep the league afloat, it is paying preposterously low salaries. And who can afford to play professional soccer for $6,000 per year? Mostly women in college or only a few years out, as well as those with minimal national-team-level experience. And though this modest budget has helped the league’s bottom line, it has made it more difficult to attract high-level players — well, high-level players who are not members of the U.S. national team.When the NWSL was organized, U.S. Soccer, the sport’s governing body, agreed to subsidize the salaries of U.S. national team players — typically the best and most expensive players in the league. Last year, the Canadian and Mexican federations agreed to do the same, so the league evenly allocated all national team players among the eight teams. (A ninth team, the Houston Dash, was added this year, so many players were reallocated.)With a roster squad of 20 — assuming each team has the maximum three “free” U.S. national team players and three “free” Canadian or Mexican national team players — this leaves 14 roster spots to be filled. Last year’s salary cap was $200,000, so, divided evenly, pay would be less than $15,000 per player for the entire season.On Wednesday, each team had to cut its roster to 25 players, with five more cuts to come before the season begins. We wanted to look at the distribution of talent in this season’s player pool to see who is trying to play professional women’s soccer. Below is a chart that illustrates the relative experience and age of the 228 players who remain (not all teams had released their roster cuts by Wednesday’s deadline):We counted one year out of college as finishing collegiate soccer in 2013, although technically these players are still in college (most are just about to graduate). For national team experience, we counted the number of consecutive years a player appeared in the full national team player pool. This data does not reflect international players who did not play college soccer and also probably over-represents younger players who are more likely to be released when the final rosters are cut to 20 in the coming weeks.Still, it’s interesting that the NWSL pool is dominated by players two years out college with zero years of national team experience — there are currently 42 of these women. The median number of years of national team experience is zero, which makes sense because the national team pool is very small — typically about 30 players per year. Almost half of the player pool is made up of women only one or two years out of college.This data doesn’t speak to the longevity of a player’s career, which varies wildly by individual. The data also doesn’t mean that a freshly graduated collegiate player is any worse or better than Christie Rampone, the league veteran with 17 years of national team experience. There are wunderkinds in every sport, but overall we think that more professional experience probably means more talented players.The main thing the data illustrates is that the NWSL is skewing young and inexperienced, which might have more to do with finances than soccer ability. For most players, and people in general, there are only so many years you can do the thing you love on a $15,000 annual salary before you have to move on. read more

Skeptical Football Special Midterm Edition

It’s been a busy midterm week at FiveThirtyEight. Which is to say, a busy week evaluating the NFL at its mid-term point. After nine weeks of action, every team has played at least eight games, which means it’s time for the inaugural Skeptical Football Midterm Awards.Most Valuable PlayerAlso known as the “Best Combination of Passing Yards and Touchdowns by a Quarterback, Unless You’re a Running Back Who Rushes for 2,000 Yards or Breaks a Touchdown Record” Award.That MVPs are nearly always QBs is OK with me. Really, players at other positions can be extremely impressive, but the odds of the true “most valuable” player not being a QB in any given year are small — and even if some other player were theoretically more valuable, the odds that there’d be enough data to be confident of it are virtually nil. Imagine your team is lucky enough to have the best quarterback in football (whoever that might be) — is there any chance you would trade him for any other player, ever?1If you want to be nitpicky about the hypothetical: Assume all alternate players are average or replacement level, and that all players would cost the same amount. And that it would be for one year so age wouldn’t be a factor. And you are actually trying to win that year. Etc.Maybe it’s possible,2One of the best candidates I can think of for this kind of trade would be Randy Moss on the 2007 Patriots. He had a demonstrated record of turning mediocre QBs into superstars. but this definitely isn’t one of those years — there are probably five to 10 QBs right now whom you would never want your team to trade for any non-QB.So let’s talk about most valuable players. The fundamental metric for evaluating players of all positions should be some version of wins produced.3Ideally, championships. But typically this overlaps with wins. Because we can model the chances of a team winning at any point in a given game, we can determine how much those odds change on each play that a player is involved in — also known as WPA or Win Percentage Added. But this stat is extremely noisy and susceptible to huge influence from very random situations (a whole season can come down to whether the QB throws an incomplete pass or not on a single down with the game on the line).Since we can also model how many points a team ought to score — on average — from a particular starting position (down/distance/yard line), we can measure how much a player contributes to his team’s expected points. Since this is more granular than wins, it makes for a powerful proxy. But points can be skewed, too — mostly from plays during garbage time at the end of games, but also from very high-value but unpredictable plays such as fumbles.Then there’s the additional complication of who gets credit for what. It takes a village to complete a pass. And the running game — traditionally credited to running backs — is frequently set up by the pass. Plus, in some cases QBs even call plays themselves — so why shouldn’t they get credit for the entire offense?Chart of the weekSo to get a better look at the big picture, I’m plotting WPA against expected points added (EPA).4For balance, I’ve included the total win percentage above expectation per drive (including the running game) for WPA, but points above expectation from the QB’s passes alone for EPA. You can think of it as “raw passing contribution” on the x-axis and “overall effect on the bottom line” on the y-axis:The trend line is a quarterback’s expected effect on his team’s chances of winning based on his EPA. There are a number of reasons why a QB might be beating it, such as when the rest of his offense is strong (e.g., Alex Smith with Jamaal Charles), or he might contribute a lot with his running (Russell Wilson), or he’s just gotten lucky (or been better) at the right times.I’ve given Aaron Rodgers a fair amount of flak around here for not “slinging” it enough. In my estimation, he hasn’t taken the necessary risks to improve his team’s chances of winning in the situations that can make such risks worthwhile. But he’s a great QB, no doubt. He’s third behind Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers for EPA/drive, and leads WPA/drive by a wide margin. In fact, his WPA/drive is nearly twice Manning’s.But as I said, WPA can be deceiving. About 40 percent of Rodgers’s WPA for the entire season comes from a single touchdown scoring drive against the Dolphins, and about three-quarters of that comes from the last two plays of the drive alone. Dare I say? So far this season, Rodgers has been a “clutch” quarterback, coming through at the right times for the 5-3 Packers. That’s great for him, and Packers fans should be happy about it.But I’m still going to risk the Green-and-Yellow wrath and give the award to Manning anyway.Why? Because come on, the most valuable player in the NFL doesn’t just up and change from year to year because one QB has a few more good days than another. If Manning has been the MVP five times in the last 11 years, and there’s no evidence of him getting any worse whatsoever, what are the odds that someone has surpassed him?It’s like instant replay5Or any other situation involving a high burden of proof.: The ruling on the field is that Manning is still the best player in the NFL, and to overturn that ruling takes (nearly) indisputable evidence. That caliber of evidence rarely even exists in the NFL, and it certainly doesn’t in this case.Defensive Player of the Mid-YearFor all the complexity involved in statistically evaluating quarterbacks, it’s practically tic-tac-toe compared to evaluating defensive players. Sure, we record tackles, sacks, interceptions and forced fumbles (and now even more advanced things like how often a cornerback is targeted by the opposing offense), but for any given player these touch on a tiny fraction of plays he’s involved in.And allocating responsibility on defense is even harder than it is on offense. Football is a dynamic game. An advantage may be created in one spot and realized in another. If one of a team’s interior linemen draws a lot of attention, that may lead to a defensive end getting an abnormally high number of sacks. The effect of an advantage might also be distributed diffusely, such as when a cornerback is so good that he constantly single-covers the opponent’s best receiver, freeing up other options for the other defenders.6The even worse scenario is that a defensive player could be so good that his team chooses to spend less money on defense.In other words, I’m flying pretty blind. I’m pretty sure Deion Sanders was good. But, say, Reggie White, I don’t know. Probably. So rather than try to solve the impossible, let me fall back on a classic cop-out: Who’s the best player on the league’s best defense?Which brings me to…Twitter question of the week It doesn’t matter whether the Dolphins are “underestimated.” But it does matter that the Dolphins’ defense has been really, really good this year.Dolphins opponents have scored about half a point per drive less than their expectation (and Miami has faced a tougher-than-average schedule).7It’s such an offensive year that a defense holding par versus the models is good for ninth-best in the league. While there is still variance to deal with, we don’t have to caveat the results as much as we do with QBs: The sample sizes are relatively big, and the measurement is more direct. However, the Dolphins’ WPA still takes a pretty big hit from that one Aaron Rodgers comeback drive in Week 6 (take that out and they’d be almost 10 percentage points higher in WPA).In other words, as good as it’s been, Miami’s D somewhat underperformed in the first half of the season. As always, I’d expect some regression to the mean in the second half of the season, but there’s good reason to expect the team not to regress as much as normal.So who’s the best player on the Dolphins’ defense? Based on stats alone, I have no idea. But I can consult the most objective authority on player value that I know: “Madden 15.” According to the game, Cameron Wake is the best player on the Dolphins (defensive or otherwise) by a wide margin:So there you go, Wake wins my DPOY award by virtue of being the most respected Dolphin among video-game programmers (aka the Hacker Gods of the worlds we simulate.)Rookie of the Mid-YearI love tracking rookie quarterbacks, but mostly because predicting their future performance is an interesting endeavor that has little to do with their quality of play. Unlike the contenders for “most valuable player” awards, rookie QBs are rarely very good — or if they are, we probably can’t tell because the best ones tend to play for crappy teams. So it is this year, where the most efficient rookie QB is still well below league average.Rookie “of the year” is also different from “most valuable” rookie, because it opens the door for rookies who may be incredibly good at their position even though their position isn’t the most important.One rookie is not only good for his position, but has arguably been the best in the league. My Rookie of the Year (so far) award goes to Chandler Catanzaro, placekicker for the Arizona Cardinals:Catanzaro has yet to miss this year — one of only four perfect kickers remaining8The others are Adam Vinatieri, Nick Novak, and Josh Brown. — and he has the highest points above expectation per attempt of all kickers. And unlike other stats in football, delivering the points expected of them is basically 95 percent of what kickers do (occasionally they have to tackle), and they’re 95 percent responsible for it (they can get bad snaps or the offensive line can let through a blocker). This is why I love kickers: They’re some of the only entities in the NFL we can evaluate with any precision.There’s still a fair amount of variance, of course, but it’s all very measurable and predictable.9For example, in Week 8 the NFL had a great week of kicking (14th-best in 14 years), but this past week kickers were pretty bad, putting up the 190th-best week (of 230) in that period. For the diehards: Skeptical Football’s most valuable kicker from Week 9 was Billy Cundiff, and its least valuable was Patrick Murray: And it’s not like it would be shocking for a young kicker to be among the best in the league.Comeback Player of the Mid-YearIsn’t it a bit weird that Peyton Manning has five MVP trophies, and also has a Comeback Player of the Year award? Like, his mantle wasn’t crowded enough, so they had to give him another award for having neck surgery. Other winners include Matthew Stafford, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and … Chad Pennington? Twice?How I could approach this award empirically was bugging me, but then it was staring me right in the face: Practically half of what I write is about QB “comebacks.”Incidentally, I keep coming back to this issue10For continuity, I’m giving Gunslinger of the week to the Oakland Raiders’ Derek Carr, who had two interceptions in a Week 9 comeback effort that ultimately fell just short against the defending NFL champion Seattle Seahawks. not because I’m enthralled by the quasi-mystical power of the comeback clutch-osity, but because it’s where I think a lot of QBs are too conservative — and their teams’ chances suffer as a consequence. It’s sort of like the NFL statisticians’ obsession with coaches not going for it enough on fourth down.Given my own obsessions, then, this is the award that’s most important to get right. So, to aid my analysis, I’ve created a chart to profile each quarterback’s comeback game. But instead of focusing on specific comeback thresholds (like the normal 9-point second-half deficit I often work with), I compared how each quarterback did relative to expectation for all scenarios, based on his expectation in each scenario. (E.g., if a QB has a 10 percent chance of winning, I’ll treat it the same whether that 10 percent is due to being down a small amount in the fourth quarter or a large amount in the first quarter.)11To do this, I first took every play that the quarterback was involved with, then plotted whether his team won or not (relative to his team’s expected win rate before the play). Unfortunately, since there are thousands of data points, that just led to two black lines. So to see what was going on I used R to create a smooth curve. (Using geom_smooth() in ggplot2. Since each QB has more than 1,000 data points, R uses a generalized additive model.) That gave me the regression’s estimate for how often the QB would typically win given a prior probability.I plotted a handful of Skeptical Football’s favorite QBs for comparison …Experimental chart of the weekAdmittedly, this is an unfair comparison: QBs who play for stronger teams are going to win more often than ones who play for weak teams, so that will certainly affect their “curves.” But what’s fascinating to me are the shapes.To start with, Peyton Manning not only wins a larger percentage of games than he is “supposed” to, but he exceeds that rate with just about the most perfect curve of anyone in the entire data set. It’s as if his game is starting to approach a mathematical ideal of good quarterbacking.12It also makes Manning a great point for comparison. For other QBs, we see more variation — some of it random, and some of it following pretty clear patterns:Tom Brady and the Patriots have basically matched Manning in situations where they ought to have a low probability of winning, but in games they were supposed to win 80 percent of the time, they’ve only won 80 percent of the time. For shame.Aaron Rodgers (as expected), has a pretty unremarkable record (relative to his own high standard) in situations where his team is expected to lose, but does very well in competitive games or games in which his team is front-running.Philip Rivers is sort of a less extreme version of Brady. This surprised me because I’ve previously thought of him as a slightly less good but slightly less gun-shy version of Rodgers. But it looks like they’re actually quite the opposite (notice how the blue and yellow lines make an X shape).And that brings us to Matthew Stafford and Tony Romo. Perhaps not coincidentally, both are Gunslinger of the Week recipients this year (Stafford has won twice), and both have extremely lopsided curves: Note how Stafford wins about as much when his team has a 40 percent chance of winning as when it has a 75 percent chance. This suggests, as I theorized last week regarding Tim Tebow, that Stafford’s comeback success may not be as much a conscious adjustment to sling it more when trailing. Instead, it could be that his perma-risk game is naturally calibrated to extracting as much win as possible from underdog scenarios, but also leads to a lot of blunders that cost his team wins otherwise.13Or it could just be that the Lions are terrible and only win at all because of Stafford’s superhuman efforts. You decide. If you combined the way Stafford plays when his team is down with the way Rodgers plays with his team ahead, you’d have a heck of a QB!Tony Romo’s curve is a little less dramatic than Stafford’s is, but it’s still pretty clear. Let’s look at it on a scale of 0 to Manning:Romo’s practically Tony Manning when his team is way behind. But then he’s more like a normal quarterback in more even situations, and makes more mistakes when his team is ahead.But the “comeback” award doesn’t care how a quarterback plays when he’s ahead, and this season Romo has played great when trailing. He has taken the kinds of risks I like to see (high touchdown rates and high interception rates when trailing), and those have translated into wins. His average passes go more than 10 yards downfield when Dallas is trailing by a large amount, and he has added roughly 3 percent to his team’s chances of winning every drive — good for third-best in the league. (I’ve posted a plot of air yards vs. win percentage added on Twitter). Moreover, when you factor in DeMarco Murray’s WPA troubles because of fumbles, almost all of the Cowboys’ success on offense has come from Romo.Oh, and he came back to play in the fourth quarter with a broken back.So Romo wins my Comeback Player of the Mid-Year Award, and hopefully he can come back from his back troubles to sling it up some more. (In which case, could he win the actual comeback trophy as well? Can you come back in the same year that you go out?)And one more thingWith the awards handed out, let’s part ways with the win curves for some other quarterbacks as well. Again, I’d consider Manning the high baseline — Andrew Luck’s curve looks slightly better than Manning’s, though it’s over a much shorter career. I’ll leave you with the results and you can find your own narratives.Reminder: If you tweet questions to me @skepticalsports, there is a non-zero chance that I’ll answer them here.Charts by Reuben Fischer-Baum. read more