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Thread: Statistical analysis of Seahawk Penalties (discussion of real football)

  1. #1
    Senior Member CroMagnon's Avatar
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    Statistical analysis of Seahawk Penalties (discussion of real football)

    Seahawk world is rife with conspiracy theories that the NFL is out to get Seattle. It makes me crazy as I have a hard time believing the NFL, despite the obvious shortcomings of Goodell, would actually be stupid enough to engage in purposeful rigging of games. That said there may be other interesting explanations for the disparity in the number of penalties called on teams that play the reigning Super Bowl champ, as apparently it's not just a Seattle phenomena. Here's an article that tries to show the disparity. It uses too many statistical terms that I'm not familiar with to follow how he's generating his numbers and making his comparisons, but I can read the chart that shows the disparity between the Hawks and their opponents and it looks like the Absolute Poker cheats chart that showed it was an aberration to have such a win rate.

    http://www.fieldgulls.com/seahawks-a...ed-team-in-nfl

    This is not about the number of penalties called against the Hawks. It's about he number of penalties called on their opposition. If his numbers are correct and do show a statistical aberration it could be explained by chance and be the result of small sample size. It could also be explained by Refs being subtlety influenced by a combination of Seattle having been the most penalized team last year and being the Super Bowl champs and so they're watching the Hawks...like a hawk, and missing penalties on the opposition.

    I am not a conspiracy theory kind of guy and thought some of the stats minded folks here might find this analysis interesting as well as be able to poke some holes in it.

    Thanks,
    Cro

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    There are a couple of problems that jump out at me. The first is that most of his statistical analysis uses the underlying assumption that penalties are normally distributed, when it is fairly obvious that they are not. So his whole z-score/P-value analysis is not mathematically sound except to argue that the difference is very unlikely to arise purely from chance. So the differential is either due to bias or to some intrinsic quality of the Seattle defense that causes fewer offensive penalties. I believe that most offensive penalties are either pre-snap motion type penalties or holding penalties. Both are most frequently caused by defenses that shift their personnel packages or use exotic blitz packages. Those type of defenses cause offenses a lot of presnap problems as they struggle to identify the pass rushers and result in holding penalties when the lineman realizes too late that his assigned rusher is not who he expected. It is well known that the Seahawks use very few blitz packages and tend to rely on very predictable 4 and 5 man rush packages where they get excellent pressure from their base pass rush package. They also play a lot of cover 1 and cover 3 with tight pressure coverage from the cornerbacks. Much like the Giants of super bowl fame, they don't do exotic defenses, they just beat you with talent and speed doing exactly what you expect them to do.

    FWIW, this explanation also accounts for why the Redskins get so many penalties. They hired Jim Haslett who loves overload blitzes and exotic blitz packages. They blitz the second most of any other NFL team and far more of it in exotic disguised packages than any other team in the NFL.

  4. #3
    Senior Member CroMagnon's Avatar
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    Very interesting. From the defensive side that makes sense. On offense we are also very vanilla. Most often we run the ball, next are pass plays that break down and become scramble drills (plays where we are more likely to commit a holding penalty, though it does result in a number of defensive PI calls as well), and then a few actual pass plays. I could see our offense not creating a lot of penalties as well. The one area where it's really impossible to get good data is non calls. That's where most of the tin foil types live. Every play has penalties that could be called. Add in that many are judgement calls that are not clear cut like false starts and you have a cornucopia of paranoia.

    Thanks nside.

    Cro

  5. #4
    There might be some subtle shading on the non-calls too, just not enough to put them into the extreme outlier zone that the graph suggests. This season, I am more or less baffled by the defense holding/illegal contact/pass interference calls and non-calls.You see some plays that look blatent which are no-calls and some that look like nothing that get called. Many people think that the rules emphasis was more or less directly aimed at the Seattle coverage scheme, which might lead to them getting called more often and their opponents getting called less often. However, I assume that isn't the case, or it would have been featured in the article.

    Don't even let yourself think about the random stuff called on O-line guys.

  6. #5
    Senior Member CroMagnon's Avatar
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    So much of the pass defense stuff is subjective that I too am mystified as to what constitutes a penalty. The word was that the emphasis was aimed at the Hawks, but we haven't been flagged for it as often as other teams. There was a bit of a drop off in pass defense/yards given up in the first 6 or 7 games or so, but that has tightened up in the last 3 or 4. I'm guessing it took a while to adjust to the new rules. I don't know how you take the subjectivity out of these calls. You have two big guys running hard, being physical, there's going to be some contact. Not sure if it needs a better definition, replay or it's just the way it is with physical fast game like football.

    One of our linemen was being interviewed on local radio and was asked, so how often do you hold. He answered every play to big laughs from everyone. You could call a penalty on every play and this year there seems to be more flags than ever. Just an impression not a verified number. If so it really puts too much influence in the refs hands. Which is not to imply they are rigging or throwing games, just that the subjectivity will come into play and sway outcomes.

    Cro

  7. #6
    Given that we have an annual Llan thread, I suppose one about hawk was bound to come along sooner or later...

  8. #7
    Senior Member CroMagnon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogs View Post
    Given that we have an annual Llan thread, I suppose one about hawk was bound to come along sooner or later...
    I see what you did there.

    Cro

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