LeBron James Launches I PROMISE Program to Help AtRisk

LeBron James’ I PROMISE school in Akron, Ohio, is slated to open its doors in the fall of 2018. (Photo by Angelo Merendino/Corbis via Getty Images)As part of his ongoing commitment to help students reach their fullest potential, Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James on Tuesday, April 11, announced a partnership between the LeBron James Family Foundation and Akron Public Schools to create a new I PROMISE school in his hometown of Akron, Ohio.Eligible students will be selected via a lottery system to attend the elementary school, which will start with the first grade, Cleveland.com reported.“We’ve learned over the years what works and what motivates them, and now we can bring all of that together in one place along with the right resources and experts,” James said in a statement. “If we get to them early enough, we can hopefully keep them on the right track to a bigger and brighter future for themselves and their families.”The three-time NBA champion launched the I PROMISE program in 2011 with the goal of tackling the city’s high school drop-out rate. Each year, APS identifies a group of third-graders who’ve fallen behind academically. Through an expanded curriculum focused on hands-on learning and STEM activities, the I PROMISE program aims to help these students by providing them with the resources, encouragement and mentorship they need to make it to graduation.In addition, the program sponsors after-school programs, Hometown Halls for local parents and caregivers, and a week full of activities each August to accomplish its goals of aiding at-risk youth. Students who stick with the foundation’s program are promised a full-ride to the University of Akron upon graduation, according to Cleveland. com“We’ve seen the positive influence of the LeBron James Family Foundation on our students and we look forward to continuing to do everything we can to put our students in a position to be successful,” said David James, superintendent of Akron Public Schools.Details on the new I PROMISE school will continue to be worked out in the coming months, but the learning hub is expected to utilize specialized programming to foster an environment that promotes social-emotional learning. The school will apply a continued focus on both academics and character building, while the University of Akron’s LeBron James Family Foundation College of Education offers support, research and regular assessments for the new institution.A master plan is slated to be submitted to the Board of Education for approval in October, after committees of local leaders, teacher, parents and other experts come to an agreement on logistics.Upon approval, the I PROMISE School will open in fall 2018 with newly identified third- and fourth-grade classes, Cleveland.com reported. First- and second-grade classes will be added by 2019, and the school hopes to house students through the eighth grade by 2022.“We know this is going to be successful,” said Michele Campbell, the foundation’s executive director, “because LeBron James has brought a community of partners, resources and expertise, and with the help of these partners, we’re ready to take this next huge step.” read more

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Should Terrell Owens Be In The Hall of Fame

Embed Code FiveThirtyEight More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed Here’s a list of all the records that were set or tied in Super Bowl LI.The Washington Post’s Neil Greenberg picks eight numbers that highlight why this year’s Super Bowl was so shocking.Despite all the memes, Nate Silver notes that Super Bowl LI wasn’t really like the election.Across the NFL, players reacted to Terrell Owens’s Hall of Fame snub.SB Nation’s Harry Lyles Jr. argues that it’s ridiculous that Terrell Owens isn’t in the Hall of Fame.Significant Digit: 26.1, the player efficiency rating of Elena Delle Donne last season. Last week, Delle Donne was traded from the Chicago Sky to the Washington Mystics. Delle Donne said she would be willing to sit out the 2017 season if Chicago did not trade her. Welcome to the latest episode of Hot Takedown, FiveThirtyEight’s sports podcast. On this week’s show (Feb. 7, 2017), we do a super-sized segment breaking down the record-smashing Super Bowl LI. The New England Patriots clipped the Atlanta Falcons’ wings in a 34-28 come-from-behind victory featuring the first overtime in Super Bowl history. Next, in his second year of eligibility, Terrell Owens did not make the Hall of Fame — does his #FlawedProcess claim have merit? We investigate. Plus, a significant digit on the WNBA’s Elena Delle Donne.Links to what we discussed: read more

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The Stats Say Washington Should Have Signed Colin Kaepernick And Its Still

28Nick Mullens1700.1570.478 17Dak Prescott4180.2300.492 35Cody Kessler970.1190.491 15Mitch Trubisky3520.2480.522 47Sam Bradford81-0.1560.329 42Tyrod Taylor84-0.0010.354 27Matthew Stafford4640.1700.482 2Drew Brees4160.4320.589 30Colt McCoy520.1340.492 21Andrew Luck5330.2050.52 37Case Keenum4520.1060.449 39Josh Allen2280.0790.435 24Derek Carr4520.1760.511 Kaepernick has outperformed Johnson, tooAttempts, yards per attempt, expected points added per play, success rate and yards after catch EPA per play for Kaepernick and Johnson, 20tk-18 41Nick Foles800.0240.398 3Matt Barkley250.4310.44 Josh Johnson1936.1-0.040.46+0.60 Data includes two-point conversions but does not include kneel downs. 11Carson Wentz4000.2810.535 31Joe Flacco3770.1320.454 44Sam Darnold314-0.0600.427 1Patrick Mahomes4830.4410.561 Colin Kaepernick1,9417.2+0.170.45+0.67 22Cam Newton4440.2010.521 25Andy Dalton3620.1750.508 Show more rowsSource: Elias Sports Bureau So what about moving forward? Could Kaepernick help Washington win? Our best predictors of future performance at the QB position are career efficiency measures like yards per attempt and EPA per play — far more useful than looking only at Kaepernick’s most recent season.The table below shows every player who has attempted at least 20 passes this season, sorted by total expected points added per play. Total EPA includes both passing and rushing production, and gives a full picture of a player’s offensive contribution. Kaepernick’s career numbers would put him 26th among quarterbacks this season, ahead of Matthew Stafford and Kirk Cousins — who are being paid a combined $50.5 million. 7Russell Wilson3390.3210.513 PasserAttemptsYARDS/ ATTEMPTEPA/PLAYSUCCESS RATEYAC EPA/PLAY 5Matt Ryan5050.3290.547 The contest wasn’t a contest at all. Kaepernick is superior to Sanchez over his career by a large margin and across a wide spectrum of metrics. Kaepernick’s career yards per pass attempt is higher than Sanchez’s by more than half a yard. His career EPA per play is on the order of 40 times better than Sanchez, despite their yards after catch EPA per play being relatively close.Kaepernick has been far from perfect. His career yards per attempt is no better than league average, and his career completion percentage is low at 59.8 percent. His greatest flaws as a passer show themselves at the intermediate depths, where his completion percentage is well below average. Whether this is because he struggles to make reads or because his decision making on slower developing routes is poor is an open question. What is clear is that neither Kaepernick nor Sanchez is particularly accurate across most depths of target. 18Jeff Driskel1010.2140.46 34Ryan Tannehill1960.1200.479 13Deshaun Watson3970.2620.526 14Aaron Rodgers4940.2550.49 Most starting quarterbacks with NFL experience did indeed create value per play above what we might expect from Kaepernick, but Kaepernick’s worst season is still better than 26 percent of the quarterbacks who have attempted a pass in the NFL in 2018. Kaepernick may be a fringe starting NFL talent, but he is likely better than many of the quarterbacks who have seen playing time this season, including even Alex Smith.It’s probable that Kaepernick could start for Washington and produce enough with his arm and his legs to salvage their playoff hopes. There remains the opportunity for Washington to sign him and find out for certain. Instead he continues to languish in free agency.Check out our latest NFL predictions.CORRECTION (Dec. 15, 2018, 11:45 a.m.): A previous headline on this story misspelled Colin Kaepernick’s name. 51Mark Sanchez35-0.6270.361 26Colin Kaepernick1,9410.1710.464 50Nathan Peterman82-0.5890.315 19Eli Manning4610.2130.462 33C.J. Beathard1710.1220.463 43Blaine Gabbert61-0.0150.453 After starting quarterback Alex Smith broke his leg in Week 11, the Washington Redskins rode their journeyman backup, Colt McCoy, to two losses and a 7-3 deficit against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 13 before he also broke his leg. Struck with misfortune at the most important position in professional sports, Washington trotted out Mark Sanchez, a player signed off the street to back up McCoy.This obviously didn’t work out well. Sanchez had not played an NFL game since 2015, and he went on to record the worst expected points added (EPA) per play (-0.627) of any NFL QB in 2018 with at least 20 pass attempts. This includes Nathan Peterman. Sanchez was promptly benched in a blowout 40-16 loss to the Giants in Week 14. His replacement: Josh Johnson, a 32-year-old journeyman who has played for 12 different NFL teams and who reportedly had to play Madden to learn the names of his new teammates.Hindsight is 20-20, but it’s worth asking if this skid could have been avoided — or at least somewhat mitigated — had Washington signed free agent Colin Kaepernick instead of Sanchez. It’s even worth wondering if they still should sign him. A playoff berth for the Redskins is highly unlikely, but they are still not mathematically eliminated. Could signing Kaepernick help the team win out, finish 9-7, and give them a shot at the postseason?Let’s look at this as a purely football decision and put aside any public relations baggage that would come with signing Kaepernick. Let’s also assume that Kaepernick is in decent enough shape to put on a jersey right now and play at the levels we have seen from him in the past. (For what it’s worth, he has said that he’s remained in game shape.)I looked at standard measures of quarterback performance like yards per attempt along with more advanced stats like EPA per play and success rate, which measures how often a player keeps his team “on schedule” or on track for a first down. The first question — “Should Washington have signed Sanchez or Kaepernick?” — is straightforward to answer.Using data from Ron Yurko’s EPA model, I analyzed both of the QBs over their careers to see which one has been better at creating expected value per pass. I also broke out the contribution of yards after the catch to help with the comparison. Yards after catch is probably best thought of as the product of scheme and wide receiver skill, but passes that are on time and on target from a QB surely help as well. 23Lamar Jackson1010.1910.519 Sanchez-0.05 4Philip Rivers4140.4240.541 29Kirk Cousins5250.1460.51 PasserAttemptsYards/ AttemptEPA/PlaySuccess RateYAC EPA/Play Career expected points added per rush for Colin Kaepernick and Mark Sanchez, 2009-18 32Baker Mayfield3790.1240.479 Kaepernick has easily outperformed SanchezAttempts, yards per attempt, expected points added per play, success rate and yards after catch EPA per play for Kaepernick and Sanchez, 2009-18 6Jared Goff4600.3280.517 9Tom Brady4760.2900.526 Mark Sanchez2,4036.6+0.000.45+0.60 12Ryan Fitzpatrick2480.2750.523 Kaepernick, however, has also affected game outcomes with his legs. He is not exactly young anymore, though, at 31 years old; we might expect a decline in rushing effectiveness that typically accompanies NFL QBs as they age. Still, Kaepernick’s legs are fresh, and Sanchez has never shown the ability to add value on the ground. 10Ben Roethlisberger5480.2830.517 8Jameis Winston2700.2910.542 38Brock Osweiler1780.1010.44 45Josh Rosen314-0.0870.425 49Derek Anderson70-0.3250.429 Kaepernick+0.21 EPA/Rush 20Marcus Mariota3000.2130.51 46Chase Daniel76-0.0960.47 36Alex Smith3270.1130.457 40Blake Bortles3700.0400.463 Colin Kaepernick1,9417.2+0.170.45+0.67 48Josh McCown109-0.2190.383 Meanwhile, Kaepernick adds roughly equal value to his team whether he runs or passes the football, making him a legitimate dual threat. It was this ability that took the San Francisco 49ers within 5 yards of winning the 2012-13 Super Bowl. What’s more, the league has become more open to the air raid concepts Kaepernick ran at the University of Nevada, as evidenced by the ascendancy of Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, who played in an air raid system at Texas Tech. There are legitimate reasons to believe that Kaepernick could still fit in the league.Kaepernick’s path to snaps in Washington is blocked by current quarterback Johnson, who has just 193 total career pass attempts to his name and, like Sanchez, is a year older than Kaepernick. When we look at his career efficiency numbers compared with Kaepernick’s, we can see why Johnson hasn’t been allowed much opportunity to throw. Plays with Johnson under center have resulted in negative value for his teams. Kaepernick would be in the middle of the pack this yearEvery quarterback with a minimum of 20 pass attempts this season in the NFL, compared with the career numbers of Colin Kaepernick PlayerPass AttemptsTotal EPA/PLAYSuccess Rate Data includes two-point conversions but does not include kneel downs.Source: Elias Sports Bureau 16Jimmy Garoppolo900.2310.52 read more

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The Best Players And Biggest Upsets Of 2018 In Almost Any Sport

2NFLJan. 14JacksonvillePittsburgh24.33 Elo’s biggest playoff upsets of 2018Top postseason upsets of the 2018 calendar year, based on winners with the lowest Elo-generated pregame win probabilities, compared with other playoff upsets in the same sport since 2000 32018Mike TroutMLB10.0 WAR9 12018Mookie BettsMLB10.6 WAR4 SportDateUnderdogFavoritePregame Win prob.Rel. Rank Since 2000 4CFBSept. 22Old DominionVirginia Tech2.57 42018Jacob deGromMLB9.6 WAR15 * Current season still in progress† mWS = Modified Win Shares, a version of win share that also blends in a player’s VORP and PER to create a consensus statistical rankingPlayers qualified if their season either started or ended in 2018. NFL rankings include only skill-position statistics.Sources: Baseball-Reference, FanGraphs, Pro-Football-Reference, Basketball-Reference 82018-19*James HardenNBA20.4 mWS†30 62017-18James HardenNBA21.2 mWS†24 Among teams in MLB, the NFL, the NBA, NCAA football and NCAA men’s basketball.MLB pregame win probabilities take into account the starting pitchers for each team in a given matchup.Source: ESPN 102018-19*Anthony DavisNBA19.1 mWS†39 52017-18LeBron JamesNBA22.5 mWS†19 Elo’s biggest upsets of 2018Top upsets of the 2018 calendar year among sports with Elo ratings, based on winners with the lowest Elo-generated pregame win probabilities, compared with other upsets in the same sport since 2000 rankSeasonPlayerSportValue MetricRelative Rank Since 2000 3MLBJuly 28Kansas CityN.Y. Yankees22.43 6CBBMarch 16MarshallWichita St.12.913 6MLBJune 22Kansas CityHouston24.411 4MLBOct. 7AtlantaL.A. Dodgers35.310 Now, I know what you’re all thinking: The first 16-over-1 win in NCAA men’s tournament history isn’t the top upset of the year? Perhaps surprisingly, Maryland-Baltimore County’s stunner over Virginia — which had a 2.5 percent probability of happening, according to Elo — was only the sixth-biggest college basketball upset of the 2017-18 season alone. (In terms of raw upset odds, St. John’s knocking off Villanova was about 23 percent less likely.) But it’s still a fair point; there are a ton of random regular-season upsets every year, but far fewer come in the postseason. So here’s a version of the ranking above that looks solely at playoff upsets (excluding the College Football Playoff, which has existed only since 2014): 5MLBJune 8Chi. White SoxBoston23.38 92018Max ScherzerMLB8.7 WAR34 NFL MVP favorite Patrick Mahomes was a very close second behind Betts, having produced one of the top individual skill-position seasons of the millennium while leading the Kansas City Chiefs’ explosive offense. (And he’s still going, of course.) Behind Mahomes is a mix of familiar names — Trout, LeBron James — and players whose award-winning 2018 performances propelled them into historic territory, such as Mets ace Jacob deGrom and Rockets star James Harden.Mahomes’s season isn’t the only great individual campaign still unfolding. Saints QB Drew Brees has also produced MVP-type numbers, though they have flagged a bit since the end of November. And amid speculation about where he might play next, Anthony Davis currently leads the NBA in win shares and player efficiency rating, while ranking second in value over replacement player. Finally, despite Houston’s disappointing start, Harden has quietly been playing nearly as well as he did last season, leading the league in VORP.Still, this is a case where the limits of our analysis — leagues for which we have Elo ratings — miss a lot. If you expand the search beyond the sports in which we track Elo, as ESPN’s Peter Keating did, American gymnast Simone Biles would give Betts a run for the No. 1 slot. In 2018, Biles won gold in every category at the U.S. championships, then fought off a kidney stone to win four more golds (plus a silver and a bronze) at the World Championships. Between Biles’s stellar performance and those of snowboarder Chloe Kim, WNBA star Breanna Stewart, top-ranked golfer Ariya Jutanugarn and swimmer (and FiveThirtyEight favorite) Katie Ledecky, we saw an outstanding crop of dominant female athletes this year.Biggest upset of 2018Baltimore Orioles 10, Boston Red Sox 3 — Sept. 26 (No. 1 upset in MLB since 2000)It’s fitting that the top upset of the year featured our worst team of 2018, the Baltimore Orioles, beating the best, the Boston Red Sox. In baseball, most games are pretty close to a coin flip, with only the most extreme mismatches (usually aided by a disparate starting-pitching matchup) straying very far from 50-50. But in the second leg of a late-season double-header, the Red Sox sent staff ace Chris Sale to the hill against rookie Jimmy Yacabonis. Boston was looking for its 108th win of the season; Baltimore was looking to avoid loss No. 113. Going into the game, our pitcher-adjusted Elo model gave the O’s a mere 18.8 percent chance of winning. And yet, Baltimore hung seven runs on the Sox bullpen in the last three innings (including four on closer Craig Kimbrel) to break a 3-3 tie and seal the historic upset.It was one of four upsets in 2018 that ranked among baseball’s 10 most improbable since 2000, helping MLB dominate the upset ranking below.2Granted, perhaps that is driven as much by tanking — which creates the sheer prevalence of record-setting mismatches — as anything else. 7MLBAug. 30DetroitN.Y. Yankees24.916 After making that change, we do see UMBC’s win rise to the top of the list as the most impressive postseason upset of the year. In fact, it was a pretty good year for underdogs all around, from the Philadelphia Eagles’ dog mask-fueled Super Bowl victory to the Vegas Golden Knights’ Stanley Cup Final run as an expansion team (and 200-1 title shot).While the Warriors won again and baseball’s best got even better, there was still room in 2018 for plenty of surprises and inspiring performances. Here’s hoping 2019 brings fans even more moments to enjoy on the fields, courts, rinks and everywhere else our favorite games are played. 1CBBMarch 16UMBCVirginia2.5%2 The best MLB, NBA and NFL players of 2018Top players of the 2018 calendar year, based on relative value metrics compared with other player-seasons in the same sport since 2000 9NBAMarch 16SacramentoGolden State7.218 SportDateUnderdogFavoritePregame Win prob.Rel. Rank Since 2000 5NBAApril 16MiamiPhiladelphia17.710 8NBANov. 23PhoenixMilwaukee7.116 As 2018 draws to its conclusion, we wanted to look back at the year in sports — the best (and worst) teams, the results that surprised us most and the athletes who inspired us. On Friday, we covered the best and worst teams of 2018, so now it’s time to look at the best players and upsets of the year.You can read that first article for more detail on the methodology behind our rankings — but the “best players” are derived by taking a similar approach, this time using an all-in-one value metric of choice in each pro sport for which we have Elo ratings1I used Approximate Value for the NFL, wins above replacement for MLB (averaging together the versions of WAR found at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs) and a mix of value over replacement player (VORP), win shares and player efficiency rating for NBA players (with those numbers for current NBA seasons prorated to 82 games). and ranking every player relative to other individual seasons since 2000. (Again, this includes all stats from seasons that either started or ended in the 2018 calendar year, so some numbers included in those seasons may have been compiled in 2017.) We’re also tracking the best upsets in the same manner, measuring the winner’s Elo-predicted win probability against the most unlikely wins in that sport over time.Without further ado, I give you the best professional player of 2018 in the NBA, NFL and MLB …Best player of 2018Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox (fourth-best MLB season by wins above replacement since 2000)In a year that featured a number of standout performances, none was better than that of Boston’s 26-year-old right fielder. Betts earned American League MVP honors by becoming just the fifth player of the 21st century to crack 10.0 WAR in a single season — and he was the rare player to outduel WAR machine Mike Trout for the top slot in the league. Add in Boston’s World Series victory (which Betts punctuated with a home run in the clinching contest), and Betts had himself a year for the ages in 2018. 22018-19*Patrick MahomesNFL21 AV5 3NFLJan. 6TennesseeKansas City24.84 Among teams in MLB, the NFL, the NBA and NCAA men’s basketball. College football upsets weren’t included in the ranking because the College Football Playoff has existed only since 2014.Source: ESPN 8NBAMay 1ClevelandToronto21.827 10CBBMarch 18Texas A&MNorth Carolina19.536 7NBAMay 14Golden StateHouston21.725 2MLBJuly 15DetroitHouston21.42 10MLBApril 25MiamiL.A. Dodgers25.119 9NBAMay 3ClevelandToronto23.333 1MLBSept. 26BaltimoreBoston18.8%1 72018-19*Drew BreesNFL19 AV29 read more

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Week 15 NFL Elo Ratings And Playoff Odds

Remember the Seattle Seahawks? For all 137.6 decibels of noise at CenturyLink Field, they’ve been relatively quiet this year. The Seahawks have been one of the most consistent teams in the NFL, rarely blowing anybody out and rarely getting blown out.Seattle’s 24-14 win in Philadelphia on Sunday was typical of its season. The Seahawks faced an excellent opponent — they’ve had one of the league’s tougher schedules — and they won clearly and cleanly, although not overwhelmingly. It was their sixth win in seven games. During that time, the Seahawks have gone from modest underdogs to make the playoffs to 94 percent favorites to do so.Seattle has also nearly regained the top spot in FiveThirtyEight’s NFL Elo Ratings. The New England Patriots, who scored their own impressive victory over the San Diego Chargers, remain in No. 1, but it comes down to decimal points. The Patriots’ Elo rating is 1717.1; the Seahawks’ is 1716.6. The Denver Broncos remain in third and the Green Bay Packers in fourth.But although the Seahawks’ playoff chances were once imperiled, the Elo ratings were never down on their quality. Seattle started the season at No. 1 and fell only as far as No. 3 in the league before moving back into a near-tie for first place. Seattle didn’t fall that far, in part, because Elo factors in a team’s preseason standing. (Preseason estimates are based on where the teams stood at the end of 2013.)Seattle isn’t the only team that testifies to the value of accounting for preseason expectations. Among Elo’s preseason top four, Denver has remained in the top four every week of the season, and the Patriots have remained in the top four during all but two weeks.Meanwhile, teams that looked average to start the year before making a charge up the standings, such as the Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs, have since fallen back into the middle of the pack. The only real exception has been the Packers, and Elo has a good excuse for them, because the system doesn’t account for the injury to Aaron Rodgers that harmed their 2013 performance and depressed their preseason rating.The Seahawks still have some regular-season work left: They’d much rather enter the playoffs as division winner, which would allow them to play as many games as possible at CenturyLink Field and probably get a first-round bye. Our simulation has Seattle with a 23 percent chance of repeating as Super Bowl champions if they win the NFC West, but just a 10 percent shot if they enter the playoffs as a wild card team.But Seattle’s situation is a little more favorable than it might appear from the NFC West standings. Although they’re a game behind the Arizona Cardinals, the Seahawks have beaten them once this season and will play them again Dec. 21. If Seattle wins that game, it’ll make up the game against Arizona and also clinch the head-to-head tiebreaker. Seattle rates as a slight favorite in that game even though it’s being played in Arizona, so it’s a slight favorite to win the division, too, per Elo.Here are the playoff odds for the Seahawks and the other 31 NFL teams:No team has clinched a playoff berth so far, although some are all but certain to make it. The Packers reached the playoffs in 98.7 percent of our simulations this week. And both the Broncos and the Patriots made it 99.9 percent of the time.Some other team will make the playoffs in far less glorious fashion. The 5-8 Atlanta Falcons, 5-8 New Orleans Saints and 4-8-1 Carolina Panthers are still competing for the division title in the NFC South; the “champion” will not only make the playoffs, but host a home game. The best the NFC South champion can do is an 8-8 record; there’s a 31 percent chance of that, according to our simulations. There’s a 59 percent chance the division winner finishes with just seven wins, and a 10 percent chance they’ll have only six wins (either a 6-10 record or 6-9-1 in the case of Carolina). For the rundown on everyone else — including this week’s extremely high-leverage games in the NFC East and AFC South — check out Mike Beuoy and Reuben Fischer-Baum’s playoff implications column.Elo point spreadsRecord against point spread: 105-86-3 on season (10-5 in Week 14)Straight-up record: 144-63-1 on season (12-4 in Week 14)Elo has been on a hot streak in Las Vegas; the point spreads the system spits out have been on the right side of the closing Vegas line about 55 percent of the time this year.This is almost certainly just blind luck. The system isn’t as sophisticated as what bookmakers use, and Elo only beat the point spread 51 percent of the time in our backtesting of it — not enough to make a profit after the casino’s take.But this has been a fairly predictable NFL season; for the most part, the teams that looked best when it began look the best now.CORRECTION (Dec. 11, 10:29 a.m.): A previous version of this article incorrectly said New England has remained in Elo’s top four every week of the season. It has remained in the top four during all but two weeks. read more

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Listen To Hot Takedown Our Sports Podcast Pilot

Some of what we mentioned on this week’s show:Benjamin Morris breaks down Pete Carroll’s call.Nate Silver: Are the Patriots the greatest dynasty ever?Did the Hawks put together the greatest month in NBA history?Grantland’s ode to Atlanta Hawks forward Al Horford.(This is part of the prelaunch experimentation for the FiveThirtyEight podcast. We’ll be posting audio of different kinds on SoundCloud and then launching the actual podcast this spring. Stay tuned! And let us know what you think by tweeting our podcast producer/host, @jodyavirgan, or emailing us.) By Jody Avirgan More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS Loyal FiveThirtyEight readers: This week we recorded a trial run of our new sports podcast “Hot Takedown,” and we’re eager for you to take a listen. We’re trying to add a little data perspective to the major storylines — and arguments — of the week.This episode, editor Chadwick Matlin, sportswriter Neil Paine and visual journalist Allison McCann discuss the Super Bowl and winning streaks in the NBA. FiveThirtyEight’s Reuben Fischer-Baum also stops by to provide this week’s “significant digit” — a historically bad free-throw performance in Brooklyn.Take a listen or download it below. read more

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Columbus Police sting operation led to Adolphus Washington solicitation citation

OSU senior defensive tackle Adolphus Washington speaks to the media during Big Ten Media Days in Chicago in July 2015. Credit: Kevin Stankiewicz | Assistant Sports EditorNewly released court documents show it was a Columbus Division of Police sting operation that led to the citation of senior defensive tackle Adolphus Washington.Washington was charged and released by the Columbus Police Vice Squad Unit on Wednesday night with a first-degree misdemeanor charge of solicitation for prostitution. The incident took place at the Extended Stay America hotel in Worthington, Ohio.An affidavit filed Friday by Columbus Police stated Washington first contacted an officer who was acting as a “decoy prostitute” in response to an ad posted by detectives on the classified advertising website Backpage.com.The advertisement was posted in the “escorts” section, stating “New to Columbus, Experience the Best.”Washington called the officer with a request to visit and asked for the address, before following up with a text message just after 10 p.m., according to the document. Washington texted again about 20 minutes later, stating he had arrived at the hotel.At 10:36 p.m., Washington entered the hotel room, where the decoy asked how long Washigton intended to visit, to which he responded, “a short stay.”The officer told Washington that a visit of that length would cost $60. However, after the officer stated she did not have change for Washington’s $100, Washington began to negotiate, asking, “Well, what will $100 get me?”The officer responded that $100 would pay for a one-hour visit. Washington agreed to the new price before placing his cash on the hotel dresser.The officer then offered Washington ”some head.” Upon agreeing to receive fellatio, Washington was detained by detectives, according to the document.OSU coach Urban Meyer announced that Washington has been suspended for the Jan. 1 Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame. The game was scheduled to be Washington’s last with the Buckeyes.In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, Washington expressed remorse for his actions.“I want to sincerely apologize to my family, to coach Meyer and the coaching staff, to my teammates and my friends for my lack of judgement (Wednesday) night and for my actions that I truly regret. I have wanted to be a high-character teammate, a contributor to the success of this program and, most importantly, someone my family can be proud of,” he said in the statement. “I am extremely disappointed in myself, and I can honestly say I will learn from my mistake and I will accept the consequences that deservedly will come my way. And I hope that people will know that I am truly sorry and that I sincerely do apologize.”Washington’s arraignment is scheduled for Dec. 17.Wednesday’s citation was the second in less than two months for the Buckeyes, as redshirt sophomore J.T. Barrett was cited for operating a vehicle while intoxicated early in the morning of Oct. 31. read more

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Emma Baranski adds solo title to résumé for Ohio State synchronized swimming

OSU junior Emma Baranski won the solo national title on April 16. Credit: Courtesy of OSUAnother Ohio State athlete, synchronized swimmer Emma Baranski, has made a splash in the national circuit, as the junior won the solo national title during the U.S. Collegiate Championships.But this was not Baranski’s first brush with collegiate success. Last season, the OSU synchronized swimming team, which finished in second place this year, won the team title for the 29th time. The feelings following the victories, Baranski said, are different.“With team, you’re working together with seven other girls, so it’s amazing to get the team title,” Baranski said. “But as solo, it’s a lot more pressured because everyone’s eyes are right on you. Individually, it felt really good, and I was proud of myself just getting through it.”OSU coach Holly Vargo-Brown’s sentiments mirrored Baranski’s, saying that the sense of pride she receives from coaching an individual champion versus a team champion has its differences. “We are fortunate in that last year we had a team title, and we didn’t have an individual one,” Vargo-Brown said. “I think this year to have done that is some extra pride because in the midst of everything not necessarily going Ohio State’s way, to know that this person that worked so hard was rewarded, I think that was extra special.”In addition to the second-place team finish, the Buckeyes also placed second in the duets and had two trios tie for third. Baranski, who dabbled in figure skating and dance before becoming involved in synchronized swimming, is studying arts management with minors in dance and business. She said hopes to own a dance studio one day. A desire to participate in a team sport pushed the Hamden, Connecticut, native toward synchronized swimming, but she said her dance background has helped her in solo routines.“In the team routine, you’re swimming a lot sharper, and your goal is to be synchronized with everyone else. With a solo performance, you’re trying to be one with music almost,” she said. “From the very beginning of when you start to train a solo, you’re training almost a story and an emotional piece. “It’s more of a dance routine in the water.”The Buckeyes’ coaching staff assigned a primary coach for Baranski to help her build a bond with the choreography. That, alongside Baranski’s work ethic and skill set, is what Vargo-Brown said she believes helped the junior to find success.“Emma is amazing. She’s a very hard worker, and she really brings a passion to whatever part of the synchronized swimming that she’s working on,” Vargo-Brown said. “Because she is a dancer, she has really been able to improve on the expression that she brings to the performance, which I really think has helped her achieve the success that she has.” While synchronized swimmers are rewarded for making their routines look effortless, Vargo-Brown said she does not want the athleticism of the swimmers to go unnoticed.“Synchronized swimming is not what you see in the movies or the renditions of people making fun of it; these are athletes, and they train like athletes,” said Vargo-Brown, a former OSU synchronized swimmer who is in her fourth season at the helm. “They lift weights, they’re in the water and they can’t touch the bottom, they’re holding their breath and they really do have to be in the most-fit shape possible to accomplish all of that.”  The level of work that goes into synchronized swimming is not lost on Baranski, who said that staying ahead of the competition is the hardest part. With a dream to participate in Cirque du Soleil’s synchronized swimming show in Las Vegas, she knows it won’t come easy.“It’s pretty competitive and it’s very international. You have the best talent from all over the world coming to Cirque du Soleil, so the competition is first,” Baranski said. “You really can’t stop training, it’s just go, go, go all the time.” read more

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Urban Meyer Ohio State enter first game week of 2013

Lantern file photoThen-sophomore Ryan Shazier overlooks the sidelines during a game against Michigan State on Sept. 29, at Spartan Stadium. OSU won, 17-16.It is officially game week for the 2013 edition of the Ohio State Buckeyes football team, and coach Urban Meyer said football is all he wants to talk about.“I just can’t wait to play football,” Meyer said Monday, deflecting a question asking if he is the same guy he was when he coached at the University of Florida. “All due respect, I just want to answer questions about football.”A constant throughout camp has been talk about how impressive younger players such as freshmen Dontre Wilson, Ezekiel Elliot, Jalin Marshall and Joey Bosa have been performing and how they are expected to contribute right away. Meyer said a few of those freshmen will see the field against Buffalo.“For sure, Dontre Wilson and Ezekiel Elliot will play,” Meyer said. “On defense, Joey Bosa for sure will play.”Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman said OSU would “be foolish” not to let Wilson touch the ball on offense, but doing so is a delicate balance.“I think that you have to be careful with a true freshman that has to play some running back, has to play some wide receiver, has to flex out and run routes,” Herman said. “So the package will be small to start the year off, and let him become an expert at the few things we are asking him to do.”Meyer said Wilson is “going to return the opening kickoff of the 2013 football team,” but is more “anxious” to see how he reacts to being in front of a large crowd at Ohio Stadium.“I think coaches have a tendency to devalue what happens when you jog out that tunnel, especially at a place like Ohio Stadium,” Meyer said. “There will be a lot of deep breaths being taken and you just can’t create that animal until you get that opportunity.”Senior safety C.J. Barnett called the feeling he got when he ran out onto the field for the first time at the Horseshoe “unexplainable,” but has simple advice for Wilson for Saturday’s opening kickoff.“The only thing I could tell him is just take a deep breath and he’s out there for a reason,” Barnett said. “We all have confidence in him that he can get the job done, so just relax.”Another position that younger, more inexperienced players could see time at is running back, due to both senior Carlos Hyde and redshirt-junior Rod Smith being suspended for three and one games, respectively. Meyer, however, said he is not worried about the spot, thanks to the return of redshirt-senior Jordan Hall from the injuries that plagued him in 2012.“Jordan Hall is the best running back on our team right now, and so he’ll have to lose that spot,” Meyer said. “Bri’onte Dunn and Warren Ball are the next two in, and we want to get Ezekiel (Elliot) in to see how he responds in that kind of environment.”Meyer also said Wilson could see some time at running back, depending on the offensive sets they go with, but for the time being, Hall is the guy.“Jordan is a little smaller but he is arguably one of the toughest guys pound-for-pound on our team,” Meyer said.During OSU Media Day Aug. 11, Meyer spoke about how there were four or five units on the team that were causing him to be uncomfortable as fall camp came to a close. His thoughts on those units have since changed.“Offensive line, I feel very good about (it),” Meyer said. “Quarterback, feel very good about. The receivers (are) probably one of the most improved areas on our team. Running back feel very good about.”There is one position, however, that Meyer believes the team is still lacking at: linebacker.“The area we are still trying to solidify is linebacker,” Meyer said. “Curtis Grant has not really played a whole lot of Mike (middle) linebacker, but he’s catching up quick.”Meyer noted how Grant is behind because he suffered a concussion during training camp, but is doing his best to get on the same level as his teammates before Saturday.Defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, Luke Fickell said Grant is in a tough position, because even though he is a junior, he has yet to see consistent playing time.“A guy that’s a junior in college maybe wouldn’t miss a beat because he’s been here for two years and had a lot of experience,” Fickell said. “But the reality is he has not had a whole (lot) of game experience.”Junior linebacker Ryan Shazier echoed his position coach, but said the inexperience goes beyond just Grant.“I feel like the biggest concern right now is because we have a lot of inexperience and a lot of young guys,” Shazier said. “When we get a lot of guys that haven’t played together, it’s kind of a struggle.”Fickell said even though the concussion set the starting middle linebacker back, he still has confidence in him.“The reality is if that was a freshman that missed 10 or so days or 10 practices or something like that, you would be much more worried,” Fickell said. “I’m not worried about Curtis Grant, because his passion and his energy is what’s going to show.”According to Meyer, the team held a meeting Monday afternoon to decide the 2013 captains. An OSU athletics spokesman told The Lantern that the decision has not been made as of late Monday evening.Kickoff against Buffalo is scheduled for 12 p.m. Saturday at Ohio Stadium. read more

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Commentary Battle of Ohio splits Ohio State students

Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer (6) attempts a pass in the second quarter against the Minnesota Vikings. The Cleveland Browns defeated the Minnesota Vikings, 31-27, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Sunday, September 22, 2013. Credit: Courtesy of MCTOn Sunday afternoons on Ohio State’s campus during the fall, chances are that plenty of people will be wearing brown and orange in support of their favorite NFL team.The Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals play each other twice every year in a rivalry known as the “Battle of Ohio.”  Columbus is located roughly between the two cities, 127 miles southwest of Cleveland and 97 miles northeast of Cincinnati.The “Battle of Ohio” began in 1970 after the AFL/NFL merger and the two teams have played 79 times. The Bengals lead the series, 42-37.The Bengals have held an advantage since the new Browns franchise joined the NFL in 1999, after the original franchise relocated to Baltimore.  The Bengals have won 18 of 28 games in this time span, giving Cincinnati fans reasons to brag to Clevelanders.Last season, the Bengals finished 10-6 with a spot in the playoffs while the Browns finished 5-11, a typical record for the team in recent years.The histories of these two teams are very closely related. The Browns were formed in 1946 and named after their first head coach, Paul Brown.  Brown, who was the head coach at Ohio State for three seasons, including their 1942 National Championship year, continued his success as he led the Browns to seven league championships in their first 10 seasons.Brown’s time in Cleveland came to an unexpected end when he was fired by the new owner Art Modell in 1963.  He wasted no time returning to football, and joined the newly-formed Cincinnati Bengals as their first head coach in 1968, bringing many of his own traditions, such as similar uniforms of dark brown jerseys and orange helmets as well as tactics like the two-minute drill and player intelligence tests that he created in Cleveland.The rivalry has been very tense for players and fans both on and off the field. An example of this was during a game between the Bengals and Seattle Seahawks in 1989 when Bengal fans threw snowballs at Seahawk players, prompting Cincinnati coach Sam Wyche to grab a microphone and say, “Will the next person who sees anyone throw anything on the field point them out, so we can get them out of here! You don’t live in Cleveland; you live in Cincinnati!” Cleveland fans took this shot personally, and the next time the Bengals played in Cleveland, Wyche was booed by Browns fans.Both teams have had successes and failures, and the number of fans supporting either one may depend on who is having the better season.The “Battle of Ohio” will be played twice this year, on Sept. 29 at First Energy Stadium on the Cleveland lakefront and on Nov. 17 at Paul Brown Stadium in downtown Cincinnati.Football fans at Ohio State will proudly wear scarlet and gray on Saturday afternoons in support of the Buckeyes, but the brown and orange many wear the next day depends on where they are from, and which Ohio team they are rooting for. read more

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