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April-12-2006,
NFL EUROPE THRU WEEK 4 (With Week 5 Previews)...By Blogguy

We may have a preview of the "World Bowl" this week, or whatever they call the championship game in this league. The two best teams so far square off Saturday when Rhein (4-0) visits Amsterdam (3-1).

If you're not following the league this year, we've been putting together some stats and power ratings to help put things into context...and to see if we can find some edges that the oddsmakers are missing. Last week "ovrund" posted his power ratings in the thread...and those numbers led to a 2-0 ATS record that included a relatively easy straight up winner with an underdog.

The stats we've been compiling have lined up pretty well with those power ratings, so we're interested to see what develops in the coming weeks.

First, let's get you caught up with some of the numbers we've been looking at. "Ovrund" said he wouldn't be changing his ratings after last week's games because nothing happened on the field that suggested any adjustments. So, here are those numbers first. Please correct them in a post "ovrund" if you have decided to make changes.

NFL EUROPE POWER RATINGS (Gold Sheet style...lower #'s are better) Rhein: 4 Amsterdam: 7 Frankfurt: 11 Cologne: 11 Hamburg: 13 Berlin: 14

You can see that Rhein and Amsterdam are the best teams. In the league standings, those two are currently the only teams with a record better than .500

This summer I've been calculating something I called "relevant yardage" in a prior writing gig. That's simply yards gained when the two teams in a game are within one score (8 points) of each other. This weeds out stuff that happens in garbage time, and ONLY focuses on what happens when it's till a ballgame. I use the drive charts from the boxscores at nfleurope.com to calculate the numbers.

Here are the positive or negative differentials for each team through four games Rhein: +391 Amsterdam: +116 Frankfurt: +75 Cologne: -84 Hamburg: -235 Berlin: -263

It was heartening to see that they lined up with the power ratings. That means it's a stat that has some gravity to it. I only came up with the idea during the most recent NFL playoffs...so I don't have "standards" to use yet that say if the big differences really mean anything. Obviously Rhein looks to be light years better than the rest of the league in this data. I'm not sure if I believe that. But, as a general rule quality does line up with relevant yardage. This was extremely clear in the NFL playoffs...and did have predictive value at least in the Pittsburgh game over Denver. We'll be learning in future weeks if there are insights to be garnered from these numbers. At the very least, it's a good stat for helping separate the good from the bad in ways that other stats like raw yardage or turnovers can pollute.

We've also been looking at "yards-per-minute" as a shortcut stat for categorizing the teams. I calculated these from the stats at the league's website. I was thinking that as a league they should add up to zero. They don't. Maybe that has something to do with rounding off...the scoreless overtime game...but I spent so much time trying to figure it out that I lost interest! Here's how the teams rank in per game yards-per-minute differential (gained vs. allowed), with their full season turnover differential in parenthesis.

Amsterdam: +3.0 (minus 4 in turnovers) Cologne: +1.1 (plus 3 in turnovers) Rhein: even (plus 12 in turnovers) Franfkurt: -0.3 (minus 3 in turnovers) Berlin: -0.5 (minus 3 in turnovers) Hamburg: -2.4 (minus 5 in turnovers)

This gives us a bit of a different look. Amsterdam has an explosive offense and has been outgaining people big time. But, they've had some turnover issues. Rhein, the class of the league, shows up as even here, but with a massive turnover advantage. Rhein's conservative play has given them a roughly 35-25 edge in time of possession every game. This is one reason their stats look big overall, but not in yards per minute. That turnover differential is allowing them to control the clock. In a 30/30 game in time of possession, they won't look like world beaters. Amsterdam would if they could avoid the turnovers.

Also note that Hamburg falls off the map here, and looks to be worse than Berlin...even though we've got Berlin as being worse in the prior data.

So...where does that leave us for this week? Let's look at the games:

RHEIN AT AMSTERDAM Amsterdam is a 3.5 point favorite, with a total of 44.5 Notes: It's the classic up tempo offense vs. great defense kind of matchup. Imagine the Indianapolis Colts prior to this past season for Amsterdam, or maybe the St. Louis Rams just as they started getting TO prone a few years back...and probably the Baltimore Ravens at their BEST for Rhein (maybe Tampa Bay in its Super Bowl year). Rhein will try to run clock and force turnovers. Amsterdam will try to light up the scoreboard. History made it EXTREMELY clear in the NFL that the defensive team typically wins this kind of game. They do force the turnovers...they do run clock...and they do take the up-tempo team out of their preferred style. It had to be a 2-1 advantage in regular season and playoff meetings for the defensive style back whenever that style played either St. Louis or Indy. Tampa Bay in fact taught the world how to defend Warner, and he hasn't had a good year since. The power ratings from "ovrund," the relevant yardage numbers, and my own personal bias for defenses would point to Rhein here. The line may be overreacting to Amsterdam's offensive numbers. Or, there may be an injury I haven't uncovered yet (haven't had time to look). The raw percentages suggest the underdog. We'll see what happens. Amsterdam certainly has the capability to win big if they don't give the ball away. That happened surprisingly rarely when these styles clashed in the NFL in recent years.

FRANKFURT AT HAMBURG Hamburg is a 1.5 point favorite, with a total of 39 Notes: The line is right on the power ratings from "ovrund." In my mind the relevant yardage and yards per minute numbers show an edge to Frankfurt. Note that these teams played each other back in week two, with Frankfurt winning 31-14. They won total yardage in that game 454-259, and relevant yardage 233-17. So...I think the evidence is pretty good that Frankfurt is the better team. If you like revenge, that's a factor pointing the other way. Both teams had tough games last week. But, it should be noted that Hamburg hung tough with Rhein until the very end. That had to be a physical game because Rhein has the stats of a physical team. I've talked myself into the dog here...but that doesn't mean you have to.

COLOGNE AT BERLIN Berlin is a 6.5 point favorite, with a total of 40.5 Notes: This line is kind of a head scratcher. The power ratings of "ovrund" would have it pick-em. The stat differentials in relevant yardage and yards per minute make it pretty clear that Cologne is the better side. Their relevant yardage edge is -84 to -263. Berlin does have an edge in the standings with a 1-2-1 record vs. a 1-3 record. What's worth noting though is that Berlin played Amsterdam twice...and Amsterdam is the king of yardage. That could be penalizing Berlin too much in my own numbers. I still think the line of 6.5 is overstating things here...suggesting possible value on the underdog.

Both teams visited Hamburg: Cologne won by 4 Berlin tied in overtime

Both teams hosted Amsterdam: Cologne lost by 5 Berlin lost by 7

Both teams hosted Rhein Cologne lost by 10 Berlin lost by 22

The line is saying that Berlin is at least a field goal better. I can't get that no matter how much I adjust for having to play Amsterdam twice. Maybe there's a big injury we don't know about...or some other development overseas. This isn't a pointspread that can be justified with anything from the reality of the games that have already been played.

If you're a fan of this league, please share your thoughts below. "Ovrund," if I made any mistakes, or put words in your mouth accidentally, please feel free to correct me at your convenience.

At the very least, these studies of NFL Europe will keep our football minds sharp as we get ready for the return of college and pro action in the Fall. Good luck everyone!



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