NFC West: John Kasay

BOSTON -- Good morning, NFC West. I'm actually in AFC East country through the weekend for a sports conference.

Not just any sports conference. It's the annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, where a placard to my immediate left carries a headline reading, "Going for three: Predicting the likelihood of field goal success with logistic regression."

The placard summarizes findings from MIT's Torin Clark, Aaron Johnson and Alexander Stimpson regarding how certain field goal kickers performed from 2000 through 2011 in relation to expectations, and to what degree certain stadiums were more likely to facilitate successful tries.

Rob Bironas, Robbie Gould, Connor Barth, John Kasay and Dan Carpenter topped the list for added points per attempt. Wade Richey, Jose Cortez, Tim Seder, Nick Novak and Steve Christie were at the bottom.

Anyway, the point isn't to go on forever about field goal regressions, but rather to provide a glimpse into the sort of work that's on display here. I'll be attending presentations throughout Friday and Saturday.

In the meantime, we've got another item scheduled to appear at noon ET. That one touches on every team in the NFC West.

But if you're really interested in that kicker information, here you go.

Sebastian Janikowski, Carpenter, Ryan Succop, Josh Scobee and Mason Crosby were considered most underrated by raw field goal percentage. That means they attempted longer field goal tries on average, affecting their percentages. Stephen Gostkowski, Mike Vanderjagt, Gary Anderson, Shayne Graham and Lawrence Tynes were considered most overrated by raw percentage. They benefited from shorter tries.

Former Arizona Cardinals kicker Neil Rackers owned the second-best single season during the period in question. That was in 2005, when he added 18.7 expected points. Only Janikowski's 2009 season (plus-19.4) was better.

Final Word: Saints vs. 49ers

January, 13, 2012
Divisional Final Word: Saints-49ers | Broncos-Patriots | Texans-Ravens | Giants-Packers

Three nuggets of knowledge about Saturday's Saints-49ers divisional game:

[+] EnlargeBrees
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireNew Orleans QB Drew Brees has recorded 18 TDs and two interceptions in playoff games.
Cracking the code on Brees: The 49ers led the NFL in turnover differential at plus-28 this season. They tied for second in interceptions with 23. Carlos Rogers, Dashon Goldson and Tarell Brown have combined for 16. But in Saints quarterback Drew Brees, the 49ers are facing the all-time record holder for consecutive postseason passes without a pick. Brees' streak is at 215 pass attempts and counting. This stat, provided by the NFL, seemed improbable. The Saints lost to Seattle in the wild-card round a year ago, after all. But the numbers are even better than the 215-attempt streak would indicate. Brees has 13 TD passes without an interception in his past five playoff games. He has 18 TDs with two INTs in eight career playoff games. Brees last threw a postseason pick during a Jan. 21, 2007, defeat at Chicago. Detroit missed a couple of chances in the wild-card round.

About the contrasts in style: The Saints' 626-yard total against the Lions last week exceeded by 41 yards the 49ers' combined yardage totals for their games against Dallas (206), Seattle in Week 1 (209) and Baltimore (170). Fortunately for the 49ers, the Saints will not have the Dallas, Seattle or Baltimore defenses on their side. The Saints allowed 18 touchdowns in 18 red zone possessions against Green Bay, Chicago, Carolina (Week 5), Tampa Bay (Week 6), Indianapolis, St. Louis and Detroit (wild-card round). Those shortcomings proved critical in defeats to the Packers, Bucs and Rams. The 49ers' red zone touchdown percentage bottomed out during a six-game stretch with only three TDs in 18 such possessions. The 49ers need to build on recent improvement in that area by featuring Vernon Davis and their ground game.

If it comes down to a kicker: We've broken down this matchup from the major angles. Special teams are another consideration. The 49ers have dominated in that area most of the time. Their kicker, David Akers, made the most of the team's red zone issues, setting a league record for field goals in a season. The 49ers battled high-scoring teams to close finishes. If it happens again, the kickers could prove decisive. We know about Akers. He was sensational amid trying circumstances. The Saints' kicker, John Kasay, has been around, too. He broke into the league with Seattle in 1991. Kasay has made a higher percentage outdoors (14 of 16) than indoors (14 of 18) this season. Those numbers correlate with his totals on grass (13 of 15) and turf (15 of 19). Kasay has made a higher percentage when the Saints were trailing (7 of 7) than when they were leading (17 of 21). He has made 4 of 6 kicks in fourth quarters, and both misses were from 50-plus yards. Kasay, 42, has made 1 of 4 tries on the road from 50-plus yards. He has attempted two kicks from 40-49 yards in tie games, missing both.
The NFC West is heading into a potential lockout with Chester Pitts, Adam Goldberg, Takeo Spikes and Jay Feely as its player union reps.

A few notes on the 32 reps, as identified by the NFL Players Association:
  • Offensive linemen stress solidarity and teamwork in their on-field jobs. These ethics might make them suited for union duty. Twelve of the 32 reps are offensive linemen. That is 37.5 percent representation, about double the percentage of offensive linemen on the typical 53-man roster.
  • Vonnie Holliday (Washington) and Kyle Vanden Bosch (Detroit) are the only defensive linemen among reps.
  • Feely leads a contingent of three kickers, joining John Kasay (Carolina) and Robbie Gould (Chicago). No punters are reps.
  • Kasay is the oldest rep. He is 41. Oakland's Zach Miller is the youngest. He is 25. Average age: 31.6 years old. Teammates elect reps. Veterans command more respect. Their experience suits them for the role.
  • Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers is the only quarterback on the rep list.
  • The list is sometimes in flux. For example, the union still lists Erik Coleman as the Atlanta Falcons' rep, but the team released him. Coleman subsequently signed with Detroit.

The chart breaks down union reps by position across divisions, counting Coleman.

Posted by's Mike Sando

A trick question to test your divisional knowledge on a May Saturday: Which veteran head coach has led teams in three of the four current NFC West cities?

Hint: He's a current head coach.

(Read full post)