Is There Any Stopping Another Alabama-Clemson Title Game?

gfoster (Geoff Foster, sports editor): After weeks of crunching every possible playoff scenario, we finally got our two matchups for the College Football Playoff: Clemson vs. Notre Dame and Alabama vs. Oklahoma. We have to wait until Dec. 29 to see those games. But in the meantime, we have some 37 bowl games to distract us from our families over the holidays.

Let’s start with the big two. Were you surprised by the playoff selections? I think the committee avoided all of the doomsday scenarios as the conference championships played to form.

neil (Neil Paine, senior sports writer): Yeah, they mostly got out of the woods compared with some of the scenarios we talked about here. Only thing that would have helped them more would be if either Oklahoma or Ohio State lost, but that didn’t happen.

To your question, I wasn’t too shocked about the picks. Much was made of Georgia potentially making it, but it seemed very unlikely that they’d take a two-loss nonconference champ over a pair of one-loss conference champs — even if UGA was probably better talent-wise. I was really only slightly surprised they took Oklahoma over the Buckeyes. If you look at the power ratings like Football Power Index or Simple Rating System, or something like ESPN’s Strength of Record, Ohio State was the superior team. But the committee probably held OSU’s strength of schedule against it — as well as that bad loss to Purdue and the near-loss against Maryland.

sara.ziegler (Sara Ziegler, general editor): It helped for the Sooners that, in the Big 12 title game, they beat the only team to have beaten them.

neil: Yes — you definitely heard the phrase “they beat every team on the schedule” thrown around.

sara.ziegler: And I feel like the committee members had Ohio State’s near-loss to Maryland on their minds.

(I know I did.)

Josh Planos (Josh Planos, contributor): I wasn’t all that surprised either. Three were shoe-ins, and if the playoff format has taught us anything it’s that most of college football’s elite programs hog all the playoff spots, and the committee will do everything in its power to eschew controversy. Ohio State certainly wasn’t lacking in that department this season.

gfoster: Oddly, I think blowing out Michigan in such ugly fashion actually hurt Ohio State, because most people seemed to write off that game (rightly) as UM being overrated rather than Ohio State beating a team ranked fourth in the country.

neil: And yet the Wolverines were allowed to (easily) be Notre Dame’s most signature win… 🤔🤔🤔

sara.ziegler: Notre Dame getting its special dispensation, as per usual.

neil: It was funny during the selection show to hear the note about how Vegas would have the Irish as underdogs against every other team in the playoff conversation (except UCF, I guess).

Josh Planos: During Northwestern’s third-quarter scoring run on Saturday night, while Gus Johnson was firing off catch phrases, you could almost hear the committee scratching out the Buckeyes. Would a 40-point win in the Big Ten championship game even have gotten Ohio State over Georgia?

gfoster: Last year, if it hadn’t lost to Stanford, Notre Dame could have easily finished the season with one loss and would have not have made the playoff. In that spot, not having a conference championship would have really worked against the Irish because they wouldn’t have had another opportunity for a signature win. But this year, we see the advantage for ND. Win all your regular season games, as easy as they may be, and you are in.

But likewise, Northwestern didn’t really give Ohio State much of a resume boost. So … it’s Wisconsin’s fault for being lousy I guess.

sara.ziegler: But of course, Geoff, that’s only the case for ND — not for any other non-Power Five teams. (😢 UCF)

gfoster: UCF needs to boost its strength of schedule if it wants to be taken seriously.

sara.ziegler: For sure. And I don’t think the Knights should have gotten in. But it’s not like Notre Dame’s schedule was off the charts.

gfoster: For all we knock ND, they are playing teams like NC State, USC, Syracuse — all of whom would be one of the hardest games on UCF’s schedule.

neil: How can they improve their SOS, short of joining a better conference? (Or is that basically it?)

I don’t think any real power team wants to play them nonconference. No upside there, only downside.

gfoster: You could get a mid-tier Power-Five team that would take them at home, no? When Notre Dame was playing Michigan in Week 1, UCF had UConn — quite possibly the worst team in FBS.

neil: Defensively, at least.

sara.ziegler: Though that UConn game was a conference game.

Josh Planos: They followed it up by playing South Carolina State, too.

sara.ziegler: They scheduled North Carolina, but that was canceled because of the hurricane.

gfoster: North Carolina is also terrible.

sara.ziegler: And that’s the other problem: You can schedule a mid-tier Power-Five team, but you can’t guarantee they’ll be good.

neil: Or if you’re Notre Dame, you can schedule prestige Power 5 teams and not know if they’ll be good.

sara.ziegler: UCF did schedule and beat Pitt, which was good enough to get trampled by Clemson in the ACC title game.

gfoster: Truth is, maybe UCF does need to move conferences? TCU managed to do that when it was facing similar problem.

sara.ziegler: Or we could solve this with an eight-team playoff!

neil: This.^^

gfoster: Well, yes.

sara.ziegler: Solve it for this year, anyway.

LOL

gfoster: NO ONE is against that.

neil: Except conference and university presidents.

gfoster: As for this year, this is the first time both playoff games have double-digit spreads. Which falls in line with some lopsided lines in the conference championships. Any reason to like the underdogs here?

Or is this destined for Clemson vs. Alabama again?

neil: Maybe if Tua is still hurt? (He won’t be. And they will destroy Oklahoma.)

sara.ziegler: And it’s hard to see Notre Dame doing much against Clemson.

neil: Clemson vs. Bama Part IV is pretty redundant at this point. But at least there’s a chance it doesn’t play out according to chalk. Under the old BCS system, they’d automatically be slotted in at 1-2. (Although that would have been very uncontroversial.)

gfoster: It’s hard to see any team doing much against the Tigers’ defense. Look at the line of Pitt QB Kenny Pickett in the ACC title game: 4 of 16 for … wait for it … 8 YARDS.

That’s 0.5 yards per pass attempt. (538 math skills, folks.)

Josh Planos: Yeah, we don’t know about Tua’s health. Oklahoma’s offense puts up video game numbers, so you’d expect Alabama to need to bring at least something to the table in that regard. Trevor Lawrence is playing the best secondary he’s seen all season. Brian Kelly is probably pretty motivated that his team’s recent struggles were broadcast on a Showtime series.

sara.ziegler: If Tua plays, you gotta think he’ll go to town on the Oklahoma defense.

Will he actually have to play all four quarters? LOL

Josh Planos: Have we ever seen the likely two top vote-getters in the Heisman race square off in the postseason? Is this the best QB battle in terms of single-season QBR that we’ve ever seen? Each is on pace to set the single-season record (though that will change, I’m sure).

gfoster: It might not change for Tua against that Oklahoma defense that gave up 700 yards to West Virginia.

The Sooners also might be without their best receiver: Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, which would be a significant blow to Kyler Murray.

neil: Josh, we almost got 1-2 Heisman QBs in the 2008 title game: Tebow vs. Bradford.

(But Tebow finished 3rd in the voting.)

(Colt McCoy finished 2nd????)

sara.ziegler: Wow

gfoster: If we had an eight-team playoff, my guess is that it would be Alabama-UCF (lol), Clemson-Washington (I’m thinking they must include a token Pac-12 in this new world), Notre Dame-Ohio State, Oklahoma-Georgia.

neil: What would the line be on that Tide-vs.-Knights game?

gfoster: 28.5

Josh Planos: Without McKenzie Milton? 30+

neil: Isn’t that the same line they gave the Buffalo Bills vs. Alabama?

gfoster: The Bills are like the sixth worst team in the NFL now. Shows how misguided those types of stories are.

sara.ziegler: Would a Pac-12 team even make an eight-team playoff this year? The committee had Michigan at No. 7.

Which is kind of amazing — another two-loss Power-Five team above poor UCF.

neil: I would guess an eight-team playoff would have an automatic berth for a Pac-12 champ.

sara.ziegler: There’s obviously no way to do this without some controversy.

neil: Then we can get into those fun March Madness arguments about “at-large” bids.

gfoster: Right … and one token non-Power Five. (Or in this case two, because of ND.)

neil: Notre Dame is Power Five! (According to our tier system.)

gfoster: Let’s talk about the other bowl games. Any others you are particularly excited for?

neil: UGA-Texas should be fun, I think.

Josh Planos: Maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for the nostalgia of Big 8 football, but Missouri vs. Oklahoma State. FPI is really high on the four-loss Tigers (like, higher on the Tigers than UCF and LSU), and each of Oklahoma State’s past five games have been decided by no more than 7 points. If nothing else, there will be a lot of points.

sara.ziegler: Missouri never should have left the Big 12.

neil: I always forget they aren’t in the Big 12 now.

sara.ziegler: Wisconsin vs. Miami in the Pinstripe Bowl is kind of a fun throwback.

gfoster: That should be called the Pinstripe Lack Of Motivation Bowl.

sara.ziegler: Haha

Josh Planos: Fun is an interesting word.

Is this the underachieving bowl? And did any team underachieve more than Wisconsin? All we heard throughout the preseason was that Jonathan Taylor could win the Heisman, they returned the entire offensive line, and Alex Hornibrook was returning for a 12th year of eligibility.

gfoster: In the bowl games, it’s always fun to identify the games where one team is really pumped to be there and the other has zero interest. For instance, Purdue vs. Auburn in the Music City.

You think Auburn is getting up for that?

Josh Planos: If they couldn’t get up to bully UCF last year, they’re not getting up to try and corral Rondale Moore.

neil: Also, the biggest early spread in a lower-tier bowl might be the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. ESPN has BYU as a 14-point favorite over Western Michigan

I always root for the Directional Michigans though.

gfoster: Sad that Alabama-Oklahoma might be the most lopsided bowl game.

Also a 14-point spread.

sara.ziegler: I’m actually pretty interested in how UCF does against LSU.

LSU is a good proxy for a playoff team, since the Tigers did OK against Bama (at least early on) and pounded Georgia.

gfoster: I actually think LSU will get up for UCF, mainly because of what happened to Auburn and all this chatter.

neil: Although I wish UCF had gotten one of the just-missed-it playoff contenders like UGA or Ohio State, just for experiment’s sake.

sara.ziegler: Yeah, that would have been better.

Though maybe it’s all moot with no Milton.

neil: True. It wouldn’t have settled the debate.

gfoster: LSU is actually still playing that game against Texas A&M. They are in their 134th overtime.

sara.ziegler: 🏈 💤

gfoster: But Neil, didn’t we see kinda see that the year they let Hawaii play UGA?

neil: Hah, yes I was thinking of that exactly. Poor Colt Brennan.

Josh Planos: Should’ve known that a haircut like this didn’t stand a chance.

gfoster: OMG

sara.ziegler: Why … would … you … do … that?

gfoster: He even has the little island that they don’t let anyone on.

neil: The run-n-shoot makes you do crazy things.

gfoster: OK, what’s the worst bowl game.

This answer is two parts.

Worst name and worst game.

neil: Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl

Can anything top that?

Short of bringing back the Poulan Weed Eater Bowl?

sara.ziegler: I love the Boca Raton Bowl.

Congrats, teams! You’re going to … Boca Raton!

gfoster: That’s the Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl, Sara.

Josh Planos: Best bowl experience: The Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl, FIU vs. Toledo.

Last season, folks could bring beer into the stadium. There were also archery opportunities near the concession stand.

I apologize for not answering the question, Geoff.

neil: I do miss the Popeye’s sponsorship for that one. Gave us an excuse to pick up fried chicken at Times Square and eat it in the office.

sara.ziegler: As if you needed an excuse for that, Neil.

neil: (Sorry again about the spicy tenders, Geoff.)

gfoster: The DXL Frisco Bowl is a rare short name that is terrible.

Jared Birmingham Bowl? It sounds like its named after someone named Jared Birmingham.

neil: I think “Jared Birmingham” is UCF’s backup QB.

Josh Planos: LOL

gfoster: I will say. I’m a big fan of the Cheez-It Bowl

I wish I had a bowl of Cheez-Its right now.

sara.ziegler: We didn’t talk about the best game of the weekend.

neil: Iowa State!

sara.ziegler: A dominant (not at all) win over powerhouse (not at all) Drake!

Josh Planos: I think Washington State could beat Iowa State by 40 points. Or the Cyclones could ride the Matt Campbell relevancy train to a 13-10 win.

sara.ziegler: That’s quite a range.

neil: And nothing in between.

sara.ziegler: LOL

neil: I’m also kinda intrigued by the Peach Bowl: Michigan vs. Florida. Feels like that is a constant matchup in the tier of bowls just below the prestige level.

That has happened in many Citrus Bowls, for instance.

Josh Planos: How. Do. These. Teams. Keep. Playing.

gfoster: Harbaugh’s only bowl win at Michigan was a romp of Florida. And Lloyd Carr’s final win was an upset of Tim Tebow Florida.

neil: And don’t forget about the 2003 Outback Bowl!

sara.ziegler: Who can forget?

neil: Grossman vs. Navarre.

gfoster: I’m excited for West Virginia vs. Syracuse in the Camping World. That feels like a 100-point game. I also am oddly interested in Boca Raton bowl! UAB is an amazing story. They won Conference USA just a few years removed from having their football program eliminated.

It’s at this time where I’d normally ask for predictions. But I imagine no one is picking an upset in the first two playoff games?

So let’s skip to the final predictions.

sara.ziegler: It’s pretty hard to pick against Alabama.

neil: Alabama 27, Clemson 24

sara.ziegler: Clemson has been dominant, obviously, ever since squeaking by Syracuse. But Bama is just too good.

Alabama 30, Clemson 18

gfoster: Clemson 35, Alabama 28

This isn’t (entirely) me being the contrarian. I think the Crimson Tide are kinda vulnerable to an upset. They start slow every game (tied with Citadel at halftime, remember) and it’s going to catch up to them at some point. Clemson defense can keep Tua off the field enough to win.

(Assuming they beat ND, who I think will make a game of it against Clemson.)

Josh Planos: Alabama over Oklahoma 35-14

Clemson over Notre Dame 21-7

Alabama over Clemson 28-14

sara.ziegler: I guess there’s nothing left to do but watch the games!

The Republican Party Has Changed Dramatically Since George H.W. Bush Ran It

George H.W. Bush, whose death at 94 was announced on Friday by his family, was a hugely influential figure in the Republican Party: chairman of the Republican National Committee, vice president, president and father of another GOP president. But the GOP has changed dramatically since it nominated Bush for the presidency in 1988 — a fact reflected in the ex-president’s strained relationship with the GOP’s new standard-bearer, President Trump.

So, I think Bush’s death is another moment to highlight what my colleague Clare Malone described in the summer of 2016 as “The End Of A Republican Party.” Let’s run through some of the big shifts that have occurred within the GOP:

The GOP was once a more moderate party

Ideology is complicated to measure. By some standards, the Republican Party has moved to the left. In a poll conducted last year, 42 percent of Republicans backed same-sex unions; it’s safe to assume that number was far lower during George H.W. Bush’s presidency. In 1992, one of South Carolina’s senators was Republican Strom Thurmond, who ran a 1948 presidential campaign featuring his opposition to civil rights for blacks. Today, one of South Carolina’s senators is Republican Tim Scott, who is African-American.

But by most other measures, the GOP is far more conservative than it used to be. The General Social Survey, for example, shows self-identified Republicans moving far more toward the “extremely conservative” end of its scale (as opposed to “extremely liberal”) over the past several decades.1

Political scientists, using DW-Nominate scores,2 have concluded that the Republicans now in Congress are much further to the right of congressional Republicans in the 1970s and 1980s. And even anecdotally, figures like former House Speaker John Boehner, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and the late Arizona Sen. John McCain — considered solid conservatives in the George H.W. Bush era — found themselves cast as insufficiently right-wing by the party’s base in recent years.

In Bush’s era, Fox News did not exist. Deeply conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch and their allies had not created a huge network of right-wing groups that constitute basically an alternative political party. There was no tea party or House Freedom Caucus. Trump may be personally more conservative than Bush, but even if he weren’t, the forces that push a Republican president to the ideological right are stronger now than they were in the 1980s.

Bush himself famously signed a tax increase to help reduce the federal budget deficit, a move that angered the party’s conservative base. His two GOP successors (George W. Bush and Trump) never even really considered tax hikes, aware of the power of the party’s conservative coalition.

The GOP used to be more in line with the nation demographically

Trump’s rallies include lots of older white people, as the stereotype goes. But that is the Republican Party of today. The country has become older, more diverse and more educated. The GOP, meanwhile, has grown even more disproportionately old. And while its voters grew more diverse along with the country through the 1980s (though at a bit of a lag), that shift stalled in the party in the 1990s. Same with education: The share of non-Hispanic white voters without a college degree fell throughout the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s — in the electorate overall and the GOP. But beginning in the 1990s, it stopped falling among Republicans.

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In 1992, according to the Pew Research Center, about 38 percent of registered voters who identified as Republicans were 50 years or older. By 2016, that number had grown to 58 percent. In 1992, 61 percent of Republicans were under 50, compared with 41 percent today.3

Republicans were once competitive on the coasts but weak in the South

The ideological and demographic shifts described above have corresponded with big changes in the GOP’s geographic coalition. In 1988, Bush won California — the sixth straight election in which the Republican presidential candidate carried the Golden State. Bush also won Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, New Jersey and Vermont. The Republican caucus in the U.S. Senate from that era included two members from New Hampshire, two from Oregon and one from both Delaware and New York. There were zero Senate Republicans from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana and Tennessee.

All but one of the 16 Senate seats I just described are now held by the opposite party that controlled them in 1992, as the GOP gained ground in the South but lost power on the coasts. Trump, reflecting the growing weakness of Republicans in California, lost there in 2016 by 30 percentage points. Bush lost West Virginia in 1988 by 5 percentage points. Trump’s 42-point win in West Virginia in 2016 was his second-biggest margin in any state.4

In short, today’s Republican Party is centered in the South and almost completely out of power on the West Coast.


Let me not overstate the changes in the Grand Old Party. It still loves to cut taxes, like it did in the George H.W. Bush era. It’s still overwhelmingly white. The majority of its voters are still whites without college degrees. White evangelical Protestants are still about a third of the party. It still deploys negative racial stereotypes about non-white Americans to appeal to white voters. (Remember the Willie Horton ad of the 1988 Bush campaign?)

But the changes highlighted here have dramatically altered the power dynamics in Washington. Presidents Nixon, Reagan and George H.W. Bush always had to share power with Democrats, who controlled the House from 1949 to 1994.5 But since the GOP won the House in 1994, the party has held the chamber for all but four years.6 (They won’t be in control in 2019, of course.)

When George H.W. Bush won 53 percent of the national popular vote in 1988, it was not that remarkable. Richard Nixon had won more than 60 percent in 1972, and Ronald Reagan breached 50 percent in both 1980 and 1984. But 1988 was a watershed moment for the Republican Party — it was about to start a measurable decline in terms of its national standing. In the seven presidential elections since then (including Bush’s 1992 defeat), Republicans have won more votes nationally than Democrats just once (2004).

The tensions between Trump and the Bush family, and between Trump and McCain, speak to this broader narrative. Trump is a different kind of Republican — and he is changing the party in his image in ways they don’t like. But he is also the product of a different Republican Party than the one that the Bushes and McCain ascended in. Trump got the GOP nomination in some ways by embracing what the Republican Party had become, not what the Bushes wished it were.

CORRECTION (Dec. 1, 2018, 1:30 p.m.): An earlier version of this article said President Trump’s largest margin of victory in any state in the 2016 election was in West Virginia. It was in Wyoming.

What Reddit Can Tell Us About NBA Fan Bases

The highs and lows of being an NBA fan aren’t necessarily dependent on wins and losses. When your team has been bad for a while, small victories — like upsetting a better team during the regular season — can be your version of winning a championship. Conversely, when your team is a finals contender every year, some setbacks can feel like signs of the end times.

One way to quantify the ups and downs of a fan base is to look at how active they are: After all, the only fans worse than angry fans are uninterested ones. To help with that, we have Reddit — the discussion-based website with more than a million communities, or subreddits, each devoted to a different subject.

Over the years, basketball fans have flocked to /r/nba, the site’s professional basketball subreddit, to discuss games in progress, seek meaning in the latest trade rumors and debate the legality of surrounding Steph Curry in a moving ring of teammates with locked arms. With more than 11 million comments made from January through October, /r/nba is the third most active subreddit this year, trailing only /r/AskReddit and /r/politics. It’s also far and away the busiest sports subreddit: Through October, /r/nba had received 3 million more comments this year than /r/soccer, the next most active sports-related subreddit.

One noteworthy aspect of /r/nba is that users have the option to publicly display their allegiance to teams through “flairs,” which appear as icons next to usernames in posts and comments. Although flairs are optional, roughly 80 percent of comments made on /r/nba since October 2011 have been made by users with those icons.

We used those flairs on comments made since Oct. 1, 2011,1 to chart the activity of each NBA fan base. To normalize for the growth of Reddit over time, we calculated the total number of daily comments made by a fan base divided by the total number of daily comments made by all users (flaired or not). In addition, we used a 30-day rolling average2 indexed to each team’s highest point in order to make the trends for teams in small markets as clear as the trends for teams in large markets. Indexing allows us to show all 30 teams at once, but cross-team comparisons must be made with caution because the y-axis for each team’s chart is unique.

In other words, each fan base’s activity is relative only to itself. We can infer from the data that 76ers fans on Reddit were more active earlier this year than they had ever been, but we shouldn’t infer that 76ers fans were more active than Warriors fans.

The spikes on the charts often correlate with playoff runs, blockbuster trades or better-than-expected starts to a season. For example, the fever of Atlanta Hawks fandom peaked during their 60-win season in 2014-15, which culminated in an appearance in the Eastern Conference finals. The spike on Minnesota’s chart lines up with the summer the Timberwolves traded for Jimmy Butler. Meanwhile, Sacramento Kings fans were most active during the start of the 2014-15 NBA season, when the team jumped out to a 9-5 record (they finished 29-53).

To understand the landscape of fandom on /r/nba, it’s worth examining in detail the comment activity for fans of the Philadelphia 76ers, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Los Angeles Lakers and the New Orleans Pelicans.

76ers

No team has had a more linear increase in comment activity over the past seven years than the Philadelphia 76ers. Sixers fans have grown more active on /r/nba each year, in part because their team has gotten incrementally better each year.

But the 76ers also have two players on their roster who are a lightning rod for discussion on /r/nba. Hardly a day goes by without a post on the latest Joel Embiid sound bite or Markelle Fultz lowlight (when he’s not injured or involved in trade rumors). So long as those two players are on the team, Philly fans will have plenty to talk about.

Because the data is available only through Oct. 31, 2018, the chart does not capture the reaction to Philadelphia’s trade for Butler earlier this month. But given that the replays of Butler’s game winners against Charlotte and Brooklyn are two of the most-upvoted, or highest-rated, posts of the season thus far on r/nba, 76ers fans are likely just warming up.

Cavs and Lakers

When LeBron James returned to Cleveland in the summer of 2014, Cavaliers fans instantly became more active on /r/nba. With their teammate squabbles, midseason trades and postseason heroics, the Cavaliers were a constant topic of conversation from 2014 to 2018 — and never more so than during their championship run in 2016.

But when James left to join the Lakers this offseason, he took the conversation with him. We charted the comment activity for fans of the Lakers and Cavaliers together, without indexing the shares so that we could make a cross-team comparison.

The most-upvoted post of all time on /r/nba is the announcement that LeBron would sign with the Lakers. Ever since then, the L.A. fan base, which is one of the largest on /r/nba, has been more active than usual. Meanwhile, comment activity among Cleveland fans is the lowest it’s been since the first post-LeBron era.

Pelicans

The New Orleans Pelicans exist in one of the smallest media markets in the NBA. Their team-specific subreddit, /r/NOLAPelicans, has the second fewest subscribers among all 30 teams (/r/memphisgrizzlies has the fewest). And yet, their fan base is in the middle of one of its most active periods. For every subscriber to /r/NOLAPelicans, Pelicans’ fans made more than 1.2 comments on /r/nba in the month of October, the highest mark of any fan base.

The NBA’s most talkative fans

Number of subscribers to team subreddits and comments made by users with that team’s flair on r/nba, October 2018

Comments from flaired fans on r/nba
team subreddit Subscribers Total Per subscriber
NOP r/NOLAPelicans 6,595 8,131 1.23
TOR r/torontoraptors 52,289 58,935 1.13
MIA r/heat 15,170 16,933 1.12
UTA r/UtahJazz 16,157 17,789 1.10
POR r/ripcity 15,955 17,139 1.07
CHA r/CharlotteHornets 7,918 8,402 1.06
DEN r/denvernuggets 10,394 11,007 1.06
SAS r/NBASpurs 25,673 27,127 1.06
OKC r/Thunder 23,646 24,898 1.05
SAC r/kings 12,846 12,836 1.00
BRK r/GoNets 9,449 9,430 1.00
LAL r/lakers 84,137 82,127 0.98
PHO r/suns 14,302 13,872 0.97
DET r/DetroitPistons 10,695 10,072 0.94
DAL r/Mavericks 19,264 17,858 0.93
MEM r/memphisgrizzlies 5,520 4,838 0.88
MIN r/timberwolves 21,578 18,544 0.86
MIL r/MkeBucks 20,869 17,430 0.84
LAC r/LAClippers 10,418 8,250 0.79
BOS r/bostonceltics 61,601 48,665 0.79
IND r/pacers 9,358 7,102 0.76
PHI r/sixers 44,368 32,824 0.74
WAS r/washingtonwizards 17,926 13,178 0.74
CLE r/clevelandcavs 36,850 25,861 0.70
NYK r/NYKnicks 35,482 24,294 0.68
ATL r/AtlantaHawks 12,110 8,131 0.67
ORL r/OrlandoMagic 10,186 6,799 0.67
HOU r/rockets 35,090 23,237 0.66
CHI r/chicagobulls 41,935 21,248 0.51
GSW r/warriors 113,331 48,315 0.43

Subscribers were counted on Oct. 9. Subscribers to r/warriors are likely inflated because of a feature of Reddit’s mobile app.

Source: Reddit

If Anthony Davis decides to stay in New Orleans beyond his current contract, it’s likely to be in part because of the small but passionate fan base that supports him.

It’s worth pointing out that Golden State Warriors fans rank dead last in comments per subscriber. But this is probably misleading because of the inflated subscriber count of /r/warriors. During the summer of 2017, those who downloaded Reddit’s mobile app were subscribed to the Warriors subreddit by default if they selected the NBA as a category they were interested in. This resulted in a spike in subscribers to /r/warriors and created a gap between them and the rest of the league.

Check out our latest NBA predictions.

Alice And Bob Fall In Love

Welcome back to The Riddler — I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Every week, I offer up problems related to the things we hold dear around here: math, logic and probability. There are two types: Riddler Express for those of you who want something bite-size and Riddler Classic for those of you in the slow-puzzle movement. Submit a correct answer for either,14 and you may get a shoutout in next week’s column. If you need a hint or have a favorite puzzle collecting dust in your attic, find me on Twitter.

Riddler Express

From Graydon Snider, road race intimidation tactics:

Two runners, Alice and Bob, are participating in a footrace. The route is a straight line out some distance and the same straight line back — the starting point and the finish line are the same. As the starting gun is about to go off, Alice hatches a race plan: Her legs feel good and she wants to run fast enough compared to Bob that after the U-turn, they are staring face-to-face for as long as possible. How much faster than Bob should Alice run to spend the maximum amount of time facing Bob before they pass each other going in opposite directions? Assume that, on the advice of their coaches, they’ve each committed to running at a constant speed the whole time, and that the turn-around time at the halfway point is negligible.

Submit your answer

Riddler Classic

From Dan Johnston, in which Alice and Bob then fall in love:

After their Riddler Express footrace, Alice and Bob fell in love and got married. Now they want lots of kids. However, as you may know, having one child, let alone many, is a lot of work. But Alice and Bob realized children require less of their parents’ time as they grow older. Alice and Bob, romantics that they are, decided to calculate how this relationship worked. They figured out that the work involved in having a child equals one divided by the age of the child in years. (Yes, that means the work is infinite for a child right after they are born. That may be true.)

Anyhow, since having a new child is a lot of work, Alice and Bob don’t want to have another child until the total work required by all their other children is 1 or less. Suppose they have their first child at time T=0. When T=1, their only child is turns 1, so the work involved is 1, and so they have their second child. After roughly another 1.61 years, their children are roughly 1.61 and 2.61, the work required has dropped back down to 1, and so they have their third child. And so on.

(Feel free to ignore twins, deaths, the real-world inability to decide exactly when you have a child, and so on.)

Five questions: Does it make sense for Alice and Bob to have an infinite number of children? Does the time between kids increase as they have more and more kids? What can we say about when they have their Nth child — can we predict it with a formula? Does the size of their brood over time show asymptotic behavior? If so, what are its bounds?

Submit your answer

Solution to the previous Riddler Express

Congratulations to 👏 Chris Sears 👏 of Maysville, Kentucky, winner of the previous Riddler Express!

The World Chess Championship ended this week after 12 straight draws followed by a series of speedier tie-breaking games. That’s fitting, because two weeks ago we posed this question: What are the chances that the better player wins a 12-game match? Specifically, suppose one of the players is better than his opponent to the degree that he wins 20 percent of all games and loses 15 percent of games; the other 65 percent end in draws.15 What are the chances the better player wins a 12-game match? How many games would a match have to be in order to give the better player a 75 percent chance of winning the match outright? A 90 percent chance? A 99 percent chance?

That better player wins a 12-game match about 52 percent of the time. The number of games required for those larger thresholds are, in order, 82, 248 and 773. (Call me crazy, but I’m totally game for a two-year-long World Chess Championship.)

So how do we get there? Solver Dan Swenson suggested this tidy approach. Consider the following expression:

\begin{equation*}\left(0.2x + 0.65 + 0.15x^{-1}\right)^{12}\end{equation*}

The coefficients 0.2, 0.65 and 0.15 are the probabilities of the three outcomes of an individual chess game, and the whole thing is raised to the 12th power because of the 12 games of the match. Expand that expression, multiplying it all out and grouping its like terms. Then, the coefficient on \(x^r\), where the exponent \(r\) is some integer, is the probability that the better player wins the match by \(r\) games. Finally, add the coefficients on all the positive powers of \(x\), which gives the probability that the better player wins the match. The result is about 0.5198, or about 52 percent.

For the second part of the problem, we can use that same approach, and just change the “12” in the exponent of the expression, and then, the same as before, expand it and sum the coefficients on the positive powers of \(x\). The smallest exponent that gives a 75 percent chance or better is 82, the smallest that gives a 90 percent chance or better is 248, and the smallest that gives a 99 percent chance or better is 773.

Solver Chris Sears illustrated how the probability that the better player wins the match increases as the number of games increases.

Somebody get FIDE on the phone!

Solution to the previous Riddler Classic

Congratulations to 👏 Scott Wu 👏 of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, winner of the previous Riddler Classic!

Two weeks ago, we presented you with a sort of Riddlerified version of beer pong. You had an infinite supply of ping-pong balls, each labeled with some number 1 through N. There was also a group of N cups, labeled 1 through N, each of which could hold an unlimited number of ping-pong balls. The game was played in rounds that had two phases: throwing and pruning. During the throwing phase, you draw balls randomly, one at a time, from the supply and toss them at the cups. The phase ends when every cup contains at least one ball. Next comes the pruning phase, in which you go through all the cups and remove any ball whose number does not match the number on its cup. Every ball drawn had a uniformly random number, every ball landed in a uniformly random cup, and every throw landed in some cup. The game was over when, after a round was completed, there were no empty cups.

How many balls would you expect to need to draw and throw to finish this game? How many rounds would you expect to need before finishing this game?

The first question — how many throws would you expect to need — is like a “coupon collector’s problem,” and versions of it have appeared in this column before, for example in a problem about collecting Riddler League football cards. In this case, we’re filling cups instead of collecting coupons.The solution to this problem is well-known and stems from the fact that as we collect coupons — or fill cups — it becomes more and more difficult to collect or fill the ones that remain. The specific solution is quite mathy and involves something called the Euler-Mascheroni constant, but the main takeaway is that the more coupons or cups there are, the more and more time we can expect to spend collecting coupons or throwing balls.

Solver Laurent Lessard illustrated how the expected number of throws increases roughly quadratically as the number of cups (and numbers on the balls) increases:

The second question — how many rounds would you expect to play — turns out to be much trickier. Lessard also illustrated his mathematical approach when playing with three cups. The cups in his diagram are either empty (white), filled with a correct ball (green), or filled with an incorrect ball (red). The arrows and the numbers next to them represent transition probabilities — the chances a cup goes from empty to correctly filled, for example, are 1/N. Our goal, of course, appears in the bottom right of the diagram, where all three cups are correctly filled and the game is over.

From there, Laurent describes how to turn this diagrammatic approach into an answer. He uses a Markov chain, which describes probabilistic sequences of events that depend on the current state of events — such as the balls currently in our cups. And from there he invokes a holy Riddler trinity: absorbing states and limiting distributions and nilpotent matrices.

The result of all this is that while the number of throws required grows roughly quadratically, the number of rounds required grows roughly linearly.

Of course, this is also a problem that admits programmatic, simulation-based approaches. Solver Robert Chin shared Python code for a Monte Carlo simulation, and Michael Branicky shared his code as well. Finally, solver Tim Book shared the results of his computer simulations, which illustrate how the expected number of rounds increases as the number of cups (and the number of numbers on the balls) increases — roughly linearly:

Happy tossing!

Want more riddles?

Well, aren’t you lucky? There’s a whole book full of the best puzzles from this column and some never-before-seen head-scratchers. It’s called “The Riddler,” and it’s in stores now! Consider your holiday shopping done.

Want to submit a riddle?

Email me at [email protected]

CORRECTION (Nov. 30, 2018, 11:50 a.m.): An earlier version of this article misstated the name of one of the solvers. It is Robert Chin, not Robin Chin.

Should You Go After That Keyword

Determining When You Have A Chance At A Keyword

So as I was reading for fun I stunbled across an often cited and well referenced Neil Patel article.  So this isn’t my work but I wanted to share the excerpt from his much bigger article on how long it takes to rank.

6. Decide which keywords you should win before building out content based on those keywords.

Some content marketers set out to win ranking for a given keyword, without doing their due diligence on that keyword.

This can be a mistake.

Why? According to our data, websites that sought rank for a given keyword had difficulty ousting a competitor site that had a similar link profile.

Let’s say we have two websites, yours and Mr. Competitor.

chart 2

Mr. Competitor already ranks in the number one position for “top 10 types of grass to feed your zebra.”

Should you try to rank for this keyword as well?

Yes. Your sites are equal and you have a fighting chance.

But, should you compete for the term “zebra?”

Probably not.

Why not? Because the websites that rank first in the SERPs for this term have a DR that exceeds yours by a considerable margin.

image09

How should you know whether or not to pursue ranking for a certain keyword?

There’s a simple method. It’s the “If they can rank, I can rank” method.

Look at your competitors and ask yourself the following questions:

    1. Are they in the same niche? If yes, proceed to question 2.

    2. Do they rank for your chosen keyword? If yes, proceed to question 3.

    3. Is their domain rating within 5 points of mine? If yes, then you are on a firm competitive footing.

So there is a good take away in that piece. He is referencing Domain Rank which is similar but a different metric than Moz Domain Authority but both attempt to predict how well your content will rank. And thats the take away I wanted to make…pick a keyword or phrase you want. Find out what your Domain Authority is or Domain Rank and if your site is a DA 19 and you want to out rank a site on the same keyword that is a Domain Authority 66 … you need to focus on building your Domain Authority because its gonna be hard to reach that top spot.

Publish Content Often

Another take away which I use already … if you want to rank for a keyword don’t rely on old content to do it.

Web content is NOT like cheese or wine. Think of content as a jello mold at a picnic, the longer it’s out the less likely anyone is going to take a bite, unless encouraged by others. Those encouragements are the backlinks of other sites. So if you want to rank for keyword x and you wrote this content 2 months ago and no one linked to it…you need to move on from that content and post something new thats still relevant. It’s also going to help you in the long run, if your site has 20 articles on say Nuclear Propulsion you’re going to be seen as more of an authority than someone who has 3 articles.

Keep in mind that when you post your first article on a topic seeking that top spot…you’re likely that site that has 3 articles wondering why you aren’t out ranking someone who has published many times more content on the topic.  You’re going to have to put your time in and build your authority.

How do you build authority?  Well I’ll publish an article on that again here shortly.  It really is the secret sauce.

https://www.matthewleffler.com/should-you-go-after-that-keyword/

Michael Cohen Is The 33rd Person Mueller Has Charged — And Could Be Among The Most Important

After a quiet period, there was a potential blockbuster development in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign this morning, when the president’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, made a surprise appearance in a Manhattan courtroom to plead guilty to making false statements to Congress.

According to the formal charging document, Cohen lied about a Trump real-estate deal in Russia — specifically, the “Trump Tower Moscow” project. This doesn’t prove that members of Trump’s 2016 campaign coordinated with Russia. But according to the document, discussions of the Trump Tower Moscow project went on for longer than Cohen had previously indicated, and Trump was aware of the discussions. According to Cohen’s plea deal, he is cooperating with the special counsel investigation.

This brings the total number of people charged in Mueller’s investigation to 33.

In the document describing Cohen’s alleged conduct, Mueller’s team says that contrary to Cohen’s congressional testimony in 2017 that the deal to build Trump Tower Moscow had concluded early in 2016, negotiations around Trump Tower Moscow were still going as late as June 2016, when Trump was the presumptive Republican nominee.

Cohen also testified that he only spoke to Trump about the project on three occasions and didn’t brief the Trump family on it, that he never personally agreed to travel to Russia or considered a Russia trip for Trump in relation to the project, and that he didn’t recall any response from the Russian government to the project — all of which was challenged in the Mueller team’s charging document. According to the document, the “status and progress” of the project was discussed more than three times with then-candidate Trump and that Cohen also talked to family members about the project’s trajectory. It also says that Cohen did agree to go to Russia (although the trip never happened) and even considered a potential trip to Russia by Trump. And the document says that Cohen reached Russian President Vladimir Putin’s personal spokesperson to ask for help reviving the deal.

Speaking to reporters on the White House lawn this morning, Trump repeatedly said that Cohen was lying in the hope of receiving a shorter prison sentence.

This is the first time that the Trump Tower Moscow project has been mentioned in a charge filed by Mueller’s team. The deal ultimately collapsed but has been scrutinized as a possible point of connection between Trump and high-level Russian operatives. According to some reports, Cohen has provided more than 70 hours of testimony to the special counsel, including about contacts between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia, questions related to obstruction of justice by the president, and Trump’s previous business dealings in Russia.

Mueller hasn’t charged Cohen before, but this is the second time in three months that Cohen has appeared in a Manhattan courtroom to plead guilty to a federal crime. In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight federal charges filed by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, including a violation of campaign finance laws that appeared to implicate Trump.

Now, Cohen’s cooperation could have big implications for the way Mueller’s investigation continues to unfold. Trump submitted written answers to questions from Mueller’s team last week; they reportedly included queries about the Trump Tower Moscow project. If Trump’s responses differ from Cohen’s testimony to Mueller, that could spell trouble for the president.

The Patriots Aren’t Quite Their Usual Dominant Selves This Year

Here’s a surprise: The New England Patriots are 8-3, leading the AFC East, with some of the best odds in the conference of winning the Super Bowl.

Oh, right. I’ve just described basically every Pats season in recent memory. This is the ninth consecutive season that New England has won at least eight of its first 11 games. The team’s current Elo rating of 1641, however, is the lowest it’s been through the same stage of the season since 2009 (and we don’t talk about that season).

So what are we to make of these Patriots, then? After overcoming the typical early season hiccups, is this year’s version ready to build championship momentum down the stretch like normal? Or is there still something a little bit off about a team that was showering its punter (of all players) with praise after an uncharacteristically modest win over the lowly New York Jets last week?

In advance of New England’s showdown Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, let’s take a look at some of the Patriots’ calling-card metrics to see whether this season is business as usual in Foxboro.

Road warriors?

One of the Pats’ most eye-catching statistics during Bill Belichick’s time as head coach has been their near-invincibility at home, where they’ve won 87 percent of their games this decade. But their road record — winning more than 70 percent of the time away from Gillette Stadium — could be even more remarkable. From 2010 to 2017, the Pats’ winning percentage on the road was about 10.5 percentage points higher than what we’d expect from their home record — the third biggest gap in the NFL (behind the Cowboys and Eagles):

This year, though, New England is a perfect 5-0 at home but only 3-3 on the road — respectable but nowhere near the league’s best. (The Pats have also been outscored by 11 points in away games, against a road schedule that ranks just 28th in average opposing Elo.) And this might come up in the playoffs, unlike so many seasons in which the Pats had home-field advantage through the AFC title game.1 Right now, New England is in line for the AFC’s No. 2 seed behind the Kansas City Chiefs, but only a half-game separates them from the fourth-seeded Steelers.

Owning the turnover battle

Turnover margin is one of the most important factors in determining who wins or loses any football game. Conventional stathead wisdom, though, tells us that outlier turnover seasons — whether avoiding them on offense, forcing them on defense, or both — are unsustainable. While there are some ways a team can influence its tendency to have more takeaways than giveaways, a lot of it also comes down to luck.

Unless, of course, you’re the Patriots. New England perennially dominates this category, ranking first by a mile from 2010 through 2017 with a +116 turnover differential, almost double that of the next-best team. A lot of that is a function of having Tom Brady at QB; he’s tied for the second-lowest interception percentage of any passer in NFL history. But the Pats are also great at avoiding fumbles — only the Falcons had coughed it up fewer times since 2010, and no team had lost fewer fumbles than the Pats. And their defense had forced the second-most turnovers of any team this decade (behind the Giants), ranking second in interceptions and tied for third in fumbles recovered.

Such opportunism has historically paid big dividends for New England, but this year’s squad is still trying to recapture that formula. The Pats are currently +5 in turnovers, which ranks ninth in the league but is nothing special by their standards. Brady has his highest interception rate since 2013 (his seven picks already are only one off of his full-season total from last year), driving a big overall increase in giveaways per game, though the team is being more careful in recent weeks. And while the Pats have forced at least one turnover in all but one game this season, they are tied for eighth-to-last in the league in games with three or more takeaways, six behind the league-leading Bears.

Yards and points

In addition to — and correlated with — their dominant turnover differential, the Patriots have always had another trick up their sleeves in terms of winning extra games. It involves their yards per point (YPP): essentially, how efficiently they turn field position into scores on offense and how inefficiently they force opponents to do the same. By definition, when you have a lower YPP than the opponent, you will win more often because you’re trading field position for points at a more favorable rate than they are.

Like turnover margin, YPP is supposed to be pretty inconsistent from year to year, bouncing around with a team’s luck at picking up key first downs and converting red zone chances, along with the all-important knack for “bending but not breaking” on defense. Yet the Pats dominate this category so thoroughly and so consistently, it might be the single biggest factor in their ongoing success. Not only had they ranked first in both offensive and defensive YPP since 2010, but their net YPP differential of +5.6 was more than double the No. 2 Packers’ +2.5 mark over that span.

(This is one of the big reasons that worries about the Patriots’ defense always need to be tempered. Belichick’s team has traditionally punched above its weight in terms of points allowed, just because it always makes opponents work so hard to turn gains on the field into rewards on the scoreboard.)

This season, the Pats remain among the top net YPP teams, ranking fourth, but they are not quite dominating like usual. They rank just seventh in offensive YPP and sixth on defense, with a net YPP of +2.8, which trails the Bears, Saints and Chiefs. On top of the increase in turnovers per game from above, New England’s efficiency rankings on third down and in the red zone are worse, and the team has slipped in those same “situational” categories on defense. And if you want another cause for the Patriots’ YPP decline, their net starting field position is -2.6 yards per drive this season (meaning the opponent starts 2.6 yards closer to the end zone than the Pats), after a decade in which that number was a league-best +4.6.

In other words, many of the little things that usually add up to that massive YPP advantage for New England aren’t quite working as well so far this year. But the good news for the Pats is that their turnover margin and net YPP tend to improve radically from this point in the season onward, in no small part because Belichick specifically tries to build a tough, physical team that thrives in bad weather. So even in a relative down season by their key indicators, don’t be surprised if the Patriots build them up at least some before season’s end.

Gronk smash!

Tight end Rob Gronkowski has long been the Pats’ not-so-secret weapon on offense, helping the team transition seamlessly from the powerful Randy Moss-Wes Welker offense of a previous era to the version that’s been terrorizing the league for most of this decade.

But the famously fragile Gronk has appeared to show his age and mileage this season more than perhaps ever before. He’s missed three games with various ailments, and when he has played, he’s been limited to just 63.0 yards per game with a career-low 0.25 touchdown catches per contest. Gronkowski’s reduced mobility has hurt his trademark ability to rumble after the catch for spectacular gains, and it’s made him much less of a focal point in the offense than he’s accustomed to being. When on the field, Gronk has seen only 18.7 percent of the targets in the Pats’ passing game, his lowest number since getting 17.7 percent as a rookie.

But Gronk’s influence on the Patriots’ offense remains undeniable. In the eight games the star tight end has played in 2018, Brady’s passer rating is 98.2; in the three he missed, it dropped to 91.6 (league average is 94.9). Even with Gronkowski playing in a more limited physical condition than usual, producing less of a statistical footprint than before, this is confirmation that he’s still one of the biggest engines driving the Patriots’ success. The biggest question might simply be what kind of durability Gronkowski’s banged-up body will have over the rest of the season.

Brady stays ageless … sort of

Along with Belichick, the one constant in New England’s dynasty has been No. 12 under center. Brady has probably been the single most valuable player in the NFL this century, and he’s been crucial in engineering five Super Bowl titles for the Patriots with his consistency, leadership and ability to rally the team back from seemingly insurmountable deficits.

But at 41 — an age at which almost no other QB has ever been productive — there is a near-constant watch for any sign of slippage in Brady’s performance. And he has been a bit less sharp statistically than in years past. His adjusted net yards per attempt index at Pro-Football-Reference.com, which measures passing efficiency relative to the league (where 100 is average), is 111 this year, down from 117 last season and 138 the year before that. It hadn’t been so low since Brady was barely above average (102) in 2013.

Of course, there are reasons for Brady’s decline that go beyond his advanced age, from Gronk’s aforementioned absences to a four-game suspension for top target Julian Edelman at the start of the season and a WR corps in flux early on before adding Josh Gordon and shuffling roles for the likes of Phillip Dorsett and (WR-turned-RB) Cordarrelle Patterson. But Brady has managed to work around weird receiving situations before — and, in fact, his passer rating was better over the season’s first four games (94.0) than it’s been over the four most recent ones (90.8).

Combine that with a ProFootballFocus grade that’s down a bit from last season (though still sixth-best among QBs) and those ubiquitous stats about Brady’s off-target throws (at 22.1 percent, no qualified passer has thrown an errant pass more frequently this year), and it’s fair to ask whether Brady is playing at quite the same level as he did over the past few seasons. Whether because of Brady or the receivers, the Pats are currently tied for eighth in adjusted net yards per attempt — their worst showing since (again) 2013, a season that saw New England fall short in the AFC title game.2


Taken altogether, these numbers reveal a Patriots squad that is not fully playing at the level it’s used to at this stage of the season. And that shows up in big-picture indicators such as Elo or even point differential, where the Pats’ +58 margin is its weakest of the decade through 11 contests. But even so, a lessened version of the Patriots still ranks among the league’s top teams. And as we mentioned above, the Vikings will be a good opponent for Belichick to use as a measuring stick for his roster. According to our combination of matchup quality (i.e., the harmonic mean of the teams’ Elo ratings in each game) and game importance (how likely it is to swing either team’s odds of making the playoffs), this will be the fourth-best game of the week:

The best matchups of Week 13

Week 13 games by ranking of average Elo ratings (using the harmonic mean) plus ranking of total potential swing for the two teams’ playoff chances, according to FiveThirtyEight’s NFL predictions

Playoff % Playoff %
Team A Current Avg. Chg* Team B Current Avg. Chg* Total Change Game Quality
WSH 38.9% +/-19.5 PHI 23.7% +/-11.1 30.6 1525
BAL 46.1 18.0 ATL 4.2 3.1 21.0 1539
DAL 60.3 13.3 NO >99.9 0.1 13.3 1635
MIN 62.8 13.6 NE 99.1 1.0 14.6 1610
LAC 88.2 7.0 PIT 93.9 5.6 12.6 1619
CAR 30.9 14.9 TB 0.7 0.8 15.7 1492
IND 29.5 14.5 JAX 0.1 0.1 14.7 1468
DEN 13.0 10.7 CIN 6.4 5.3 16.0 1453
DET 1.3 1.6 LAR >99.9 <0.1 1.6 1550
SEA 74.9 10.5 SF <0.1 <0.1 10.5 1460
CHI 96.3 3.9 NYG <0.1 <0.1 3.9 1474
HOU 95.7 3.8 CLE 1.3 1.4 5.2 1462
KC 99.9 0.2 OAK <0.1 <0.1 0.2 1479
TEN 20.5 7.2 NYJ <0.1 <0.1 7.2 1417
MIA 5.1 3.9 BUF 1.3 1.3 5.2 1425
GB 6.1 3.0 ARI <0.1 <0.1 3.0 1412

Game quality is the harmonic mean of the Elo ratings for the two teams in a given matchup.

*Average change is weighted by the likelihood of a win or loss. (Ties are excluded.)

Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group

While the game has a lot more at stake for Minnesota, whose spot in the playoffs is still not fully locked in, there is still plenty for the Patriots to play for as well. Not only will this game affect seeding for the postseason (Elo says the Pats currently have a 60 percent chance of securing a first-round playoff bye), but it will also be another telling data point as to whether the Pats can get back to their mega-dominant form of the recent past, or if they’ll be merely good — but mortal — according to their signature metrics.

FiveThirtyEight vs. the readers

If you want to know where your team stands, FiveThirtyEight’s Elo ratings are a good indicator. You can check them out in our NFL prediction interactive, which simulates the rest of the season 100,000 times and tracks how often each team should make the playoffs and win the Super Bowl. Did you know you can also pick against the Elo algorithm in our prediction game? Try it out, and maybe you can climb up our giant leaderboard.

Here are the games in which Elo made its best — and worst — predictions against the reader picks last week:

Elo’s dumbest (and smartest) picks of Week 12

Average difference between points won by readers and by Elo in Week 12 matchups in FiveThirtyEight’s NFL prediction game

OUR PREDICTION (ELO) READERS’ PREDICTION
PICK WIN PROB. PICK WIN PROB. Result READERS’ NET PTS
CIN 75% CIN 63% CLE 35, CIN 20 +13.4
CAR 62 CAR 57 SEA 30, CAR 27 +4.1
CHI 53 CHI 59 CHI 23, DET 16 +2.9
HOU 58 HOU 63 HOU 34, TEN 17 +2.3
NE 77 NE 82 NE 27, NYJ 13 +0.4
PIT 70 PIT 69 DEN 24, PIT 17 +0.0
DAL 65 DAL 67 DAL 31, WSH 23 -0.5
IND 68 IND 70 IND 27, MIA 24 -0.6
NO 81 NO 83 NO 31, ATL 17 -0.9
LAC 84 LAC 85 LAC 45, ARI 10 -0.9
BAL 83 BAL 81 BAL 34, OAK 17 -2.3
TB 63 TB 58 TB 27, SF 9 -5.7
PHI 80 PHI 69 PHI 25, NYG 22 -8.1
MIN 71 MIN 60 MIN 24, GB 17 -10.0
BUF 56 JAX 55 BUF 24, JAX 21 -13.0

Home teams are in bold.

The scoring system is nonlinear, so readers’ average points don’t necessarily match the number of points that would be given to the average reader prediction.

On average, Elo beat our readers by 18.9 points in the game last week, bringing its record to 11 wins and one loss so far this season. Readers had the best pick of Week 12 — rightly pumping the brakes on Cincinnati’s chances of beating the Browns — but they were punished for picking against Elo in the Bills’ upset over the Jaguars, and they didn’t show enough faith in the victorious Vikings, Eagles and Bucs.

Among individual users who did better than average, congrats are in order to Ryan Gnizak, who led all users in Week 12 with 263.5 points, and to Greg Chili Van Hollebeke, who held on to a slim lead for the entire season with 934.5 points. Thanks to everyone who has been playing — and if you haven’t, be sure to get in on the action! You can make picks now and still try your luck against Elo, even if you haven’t played yet.

Check out our latest NFL predictions.

Adding A User To Bing Ads

Adding A User To An Existing Bing Account

 

Adding A User To Bing Ads

Adding A User To Bing Ads

You can add an Admin to your account in Bing by clicking on the green gear next to your email address in the upper right-hand corner of the screen after you’re logged in.

Adding A User

Adding A User

Notice on the left-hand side of the main menu the second option is Users.

Select Users

Bing Ads

Bing Ads

Click the green button “Invite user”

You’ll be asked to enter First and Last Name as well as Email address.  Choose a role.

My Information

Adding Matt Leffler

Adding Matt Leffler

  • Advertiser Campaign Manager. This role has permissions to view selected accounts and add, edit, or delete campaigns within the selected accounts.
  • Standard User. This role has permissions to manage campaigns, perform some billing activities on selected accounts, and manage users (except Super Admins).

It’s likely best to start off with the most restrictive and if you need to give more access you can later.  I suggest Advertiser Campaign Managerthis role has less permissions than Standard and Super Admin

Click Send

https://www.matthewleffler.com/adding-a-user-to-bing-ads/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=adding-a-user-to-bing-ads

Adding a User to Google Adwords as an Admin

The easiest way to allow someone else to administer your Google Adwords campaigns is likely to add them as an Admin to your existing account. This allows you to own the campaigns and keep the records long after the user has ended their work on your project. It also leaves you still in charge of the budget and keeps you in an oversight role of your campaign.

Google has made it easy

to add an Admin to Adwords.

Step One. In Adwords click the wrench, labeled “TOOLS” you’ll be able to then select “Account Access”

Adwords Account Access For Adding An Admin

Adwords Account Access For Adding An Admin

From the Account Access screen click the blue circle with the plus in it on the left-hand side of the page. A lightbox opens with four options.
To add an Admin who will be able to manage the accounts campaign you will likely need to select “Standard”
This gives them access to the make changes to the campaigns but doesn’t allow them to manage who has access to the account, that stays with you.

After selecting “Standard” you can enter their email address. If you’ve hired me, you can add me using the following email address:

Giving Rights To An Adwords User

Giving Rights To An Adwords User

Once you have completed this all you need to do is set back and keep up with what’s happening. Don’t be afraid to ask why someone is doing something either…

Common Metrics

As a general rule of thumb these are the metrics people consider good.

CTR = Click Through Rate = 2%
Video View Rate = 15%
CPC = Cost Per Click and CPI = Cost Per Interaction are variable and what is good depends on the product or service you are engaged in…

Remember that your Ads are ranked for quality 1-10 10 being the best quality. The higher that number the less you will have to pay to present your ad. It makes sense, if someone has a good highly effective ad and another person wants to show their low-quality ad more they have to pay a premium. You either need quality or more money to get your message out. If you have both then watch the Impression Share metric. This number tells you how much of the supply you are taking advantage of for your keywords. Obviously if you have a high-quality ad, that doesn’t cost a lot you’ll want to run that even more often. If someone else has a low-quality ad they’ll have to pay for the right to push you down on the page.

Friendly advice

You should make lots of ads for the same keywords, Google will find which gets the best reaction and show it more and more.
Use negative keywords. Its actually almost more important to know what you don’t want to advertise towards as it is to know what you do. Common negative keywords for almost any Adwords campaign include:

Common Negative Keywords:

-craigslist
-directions
-ebay
-facebook
-free
-free sample
-game
-games
-lyrics
-map
-maps
-myspace
-nude
-porn
-recipe
-samples
-sex
-sexy
-utube
-you tube

https://www.matthewleffler.com/adding-adwords-as-an-admin/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=adding-adwords-as-an-admin

Carlsen’s Bizarre Decision Has Sent The World Chess Championship To Overtime

For hours, the play in Monday’s Game 12 of the World Chess Championship was filthy. Then it was weird. Things did not look drawish! But because of a remarkable decision by the world’s top grandmaster, they ended in a draw anyway.

Over more than two weeks, more than 600 moves, 48 hours of play, one scandalous video and one black eye, the world’s top two grandmasters have now fought to a dozen straight draws. The World Chess Championship match between Norway’s Magnus Carlsen and the U.S.’s Fabiano Caruana remains deadlocked at the end of regulation, and the title will be now be decided by speedy tie-breaking games including, perhaps, a sudden-death format known as Armageddon.

But before the tiebreakers came a wild, oscillating Game 12. Carlsen, with the black pieces, and Caruana, with the white, began with the Sveshnikov Sicilian, just as they had in Game 8 and Game 10. Carlsen was the first to deviate from the earlier contests, perhaps a stratagem to take Caruana out of his seemingly excellent preparation for the championship, and to angle for a decisive result at last. By the 12th move, the two were in uncharted territory, looking at a board that that no two people had created before at this level of chess.1

r2qkb1r/pp3pp1/3p2n1/1N1Ppb1p/1QP4P/8/PP3PP1/R1B1KB1R w KQkq – 0 0
You must activate JavaScript to enhance chess diagram visualization.

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“This is going to get really dirty, really soon,” said Levon Aronian, the world No. 11, on a Chess.com broadcast. Sharp, gnarly and double-edged attacks appeared to be arriving soon, and the game was surely bound to be the first decisive result of the match. Surely!

Caruana thought for about 25 minutes before making his 17th move. It’s hard to blame him, as the position on the board was very complicated. Worse for Caruana, it soon became complicated in a way that favored the Norwegian. “It looks like black is having all the fun in the position,” the grandmaster Robert Hess said after Caruana’s 21st move. All of black’s cavalry was mounted and armored and ready to charge. Black had more space in which to prepare its plans, and its bishops would likely soon eye an attack on the kingside.

Undeterred, with his 21st and 22nd moves — rook to h2 and castling on the queenside, readying a heavy battery — Caruana signaled his willingness to fight.

2r2rk1/1pqnbpp1/p2p4/3Ppb1p/1QP1N2P/3BBPP1/PP5R/2KR4 b – – 0 0
You must activate JavaScript to enhance chess diagram visualization.

jQuery(document).ready(function($) { var selector = ‘#’ + “rpbchessboard-5bfc739d7b531-2” + ‘ .rpbchessboard-chessboardAnchor’; $(selector).removeClass(‘rpbchessboard-chessboardAnchor’).chessboard({“position”:”2r2rk1\/1pqnbpp1\/p2p4\/3Ppb1p\/1QP1N2P\/3BBPP1\/PP5R\/2KR4 b – – 0 0″,”squareSize”:32,”showCoordinates”:true,”colorset”:”original”,”pieceset”:”cburnett”}); });

It was a willingness that led to real trouble. After Caruana’s 25th move, he was down more than 30 minutes on the clock and the equivalent of nearly two pawns, according to a supercomputer analyzing the game. The middlegame became a wild rumpus, and a scary one for fans of the American, one that neither human grandmasters nor chess superengines could make all that much sense of. Swings in advantage were wild, and time pressure was mounting. After Carlsen’s 31st move, Caruana had less than nine minutes remaining and faced this position.

r3brk1/1pq5/3p1bp1/2nP1p1p/pQP1pP1P/4B1P1/PPR1BN2/1K1R4 w – – 0 0
You must activate JavaScript to enhance chess diagram visualization.

jQuery(document).ready(function($) { var selector = ‘#’ + “rpbchessboard-5bfc739d7b531-3” + ‘ .rpbchessboard-chessboardAnchor’; $(selector).removeClass(‘rpbchessboard-chessboardAnchor’).chessboard({“position”:”r3brk1\/1pq5\/3p1bp1\/2nP1p1p\/pQP1pP1P\/4B1P1\/PPR1BN2\/1K1R4 w – – 0 0″,”squareSize”:32,”showCoordinates”:true,”colorset”:”original”,”pieceset”:”cburnett”}); });

An attack was coming Caruana’s way, his time was dangerously low, and he was about to make the eight most important moves of his life2 under various flavors of high pressure. But Carlsen reached out his hand before Caruana could move and offered a draw — a pacifistic bolt from the blue. Caruana happily shook it.

I’m not a grandmaster — far from it — but the position above looks nothing like a draw to me. There are, to put it professionally, soooooo many pieces left, including a ton of firepower, plus a pawn rolling down the left flank for black and various pieces that are under attack. And yet, a draw. Another draw.

“I wasn’t in a mood to find the punch,” Carlsen said by way of explanation after the game.

“I should be really happy with a draw,” Caruana said. “My position had no chances to win.”

Caruana said he was surprised by the draw offer. So was everyone else.

Let’s leave a deeper discussion of whether Carlsen’s shocking gesture is good for chess for later (it’s absolutely not) and take a look at how we got here.

Our championship computer analysis chart is now completed, but its contents weren’t enough to determine a winner. According to the match rules, here’s what the grandmasters will do on Wednesday:

  • They’ll play a mini-match of four rapid games, in which each player gets 25 minutes plus 10 bonus seconds after each move. Points will be awarded as they were during regulation: 1 point for a win, half a point each for a draw.
  • If the score is still tied after those four games, they’ll play a mini-match of two blitz games, in which each player gets five minutes plus three bonus seconds after each move. If that’s tied, they’ll play another and another and so on, for up to five mini-matches, or 10 total blitz games.
  • If all of those two-game blitz matches are tied, they’ll play a single game of Armageddon. In this format, white gets five minutes, black gets four minutes, and a draw counts as a win for black. Lots are drawn (no pun intended) to determine who gets which color.

For the risk averse grandmaster, there was an incentive to head to tiebreakers: The 1 million pound prize fund is divided 60-40 to the winner, unless the match is decided in tiebreakers, in which case, it’s 55-45.

But who will win 55 percent of the money? Probably Carlsen, and the faster the tiebreakers get, the bigger Carlsen’s advantage.

To see why, let’s do a little math to calculate each player’s win probability in each potential round of tiebreakers. First, we need some measure of the players’ strengths in the speedier formats — I’ll use FIDE’s Elo ratings. Carlsen’s rapid rating is 2880, and his blitz rating is 2939; Caruana’s rapid rating is 2789, and his blitz rating is 2767. We also need a measure of how likely draws are in these faster formats. I’ll use historical data. In last year’s World Rapid Championship, for example, about 30 percent of the games were draws. In last year’s World Blitz Championship (which Carlsen won), about 20 percent of the games were draws.

Combining those facts and running a bunch of simulations give the following probabilistic picture of the world championship tiebreakers. Carlsen is a roughly 80 percent favorite — again, based only on the quantitative factors mentioned above. These simulations do not care about Caruana’s strong form in the 12 lengthy games that have been played so far or his confident utterances during recent post-game press conferences. (In real life, the two have played 23 speedier games against each other, according to Chessgames.com — Carlsen won 13, Caruana won six and four were draws.)

When will the chess end? And will it end in Armageddon?
Cumulative chance of winning championship
Tiebreak Round Chances of playing Carlsen 🇳🇴
Caruana 🇺🇸
Rapid game 1 100.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Rapid game 2 100.0 0.0 0.0
Rapid game 3 100.0 31.6 5.5
Rapid game 4 62.9 63.8 17.1
Blitz match 1 19.1 76.2 19.0
Blitz match 2 4.8 79.3 19.5
Blitz match 3 1.2 80.1 19.6
Blitz match 4 0.3 80.3 19.6
Blitz match 5 0.1 80.4 19.6
Armageddon 🔥
0.0 80.4 19.6

While I hate to disappoint, these somewhat crude calculations suggest only a 0.02 percent — or 1-in-5,000 — chance of Armageddon at the World Chess Championship.

Then again, maybe the conventional wisdom is all wrong. For what it’s worth, the longtime world champion Garry Kasparov reassessed his own prediction of the tiebreakers following Monday’s draw.

The tie-breaking games begin Wednesday at 10 a.m. Eastern, and a world champion will be crowned. I’ll be covering them here and on Twitter.