The data said this Lions-Vikings game would be higher-scoring than it was:
I'll be honest: my gut is calling this one a Lions romp, something like 35-10. However, the data’s telling me to be far more cautious, so I will be—to a point. According to my projections, the most likely outcome of the game is a 23-17 Lions victory. And, if I’m right, the worst decade in Lions history—arguably, in NFL history—will truly be a thing of the past.
By The Watchtower's offensive-scoring-only reckoning, this game's score was 20-6, so I was in the ballpark on the Lions’ score, but way, way off on the Vikings’. Most of this was due to the phenomenal job the Lions did of bottling up Adrian Peterson: 14 carries needed him just 31 yards—that’s a vanishingly low 2.12 YpC average. Contrast this to Week 3, where All Day picked up 160 yards on 23 carries. It’s true that 80 yards came on one play, but even 22-for-80 is slightly subpar rate of 3.63 YpC. There’s no other way to put it: the Lions defense did a masterful job of clamping down on Adrian Peterson.
They dared the Almighty Joe Webb to beat them, and—even though he’s like just as fast as Mike Vick or whatever—Webb was completely ineffective. In 35 dropbacks, Webb was sacked three times, threw a pick, and completed only 20 passes; his average YpA was a wretched 4.53. I loved the way the Lions switched schemes in the second half: they moved to a 3-3-5 nickel, often dropping eight, getting pressure anyway, and leaving Webb with no options.
Offensively, the Lions fell short of expectations—but a goal-line fumble from Tony Scheffler cost the Lions a touchdown they’d driven 75 yards to score. Of course, him breaking the plane with possession would have resulted in my projection being short by four instead of long by three—but the point is, the numbers were fairly accurate here. Other than the admittedly brutal pick-six, Shaun Hill displayed his burgeoning mastery of the offense: he went 28-of-39 (71.8%) for 258 yards (6.62 YpA), while distributing to eight different Lions—none of whom was Calvin Johnson.
On a meta note, I’m going to be doing some heavy modifying of the Watchtower formula over the course of the summer. After a season-long Watchtower Review that looks at the process entire for this season, I’ll move on to exploring new stats, new approaches, and trying to incorporate special teams/turnover scores in one way or another . . .