The Ravens took the Steelers out to the old woodshed for a good old-fashioned shellacking in week 1. This is obviously cause for optimism. However, there are those who would temper their enthusiasm by noting that the division is far from won. The Ravens will travel to Pittsburgh on November 9th for Sunday Night Football. In the buildup to that game, everyone will point to the 35-7 win as a source of motivation for the Steelers. I’ve always been dubious about the validity this thinking, especially in tougher rivalries. Do the Steelers really need any extra motivation to play the Ravens? Does the fact they got pounded in their last meeting even matter? I wantto find out. With apologies to Ross Gore (who I beat in BSR fantasy this week, sorry Ross) I present to you the latest craze in advanced football statistics: B.E.A.T.D.O.W.N.
Over the past five seasons, 69% of NFL games have been decided by two touchdowns (14 points) or less. We’re going to characterize anything above that between rivals an”B.E.A.T.D.O.W.N.” (Beating Exceeding Average Touchdown Differential of Opponent With Nastiness) Let’s examine the Ravens-Steelers series through this lens. Did the losing team come back the next time for blood? Or, was one team simply better, and no amount of bad blood could tip the scales? How often was a decisive victory followed up by another decisive victory? Let’s find out.
The Ravens and Steelers have been divisional and cultural rivals since the Ravens’ inception in 1996. Pittsburgh has the upper hand in the all-time series with a 21-12 record. The Steelers have also won 6 of the last 10 meetings, Sunday included.
In the history of the series there have been 8 BEATDOWNs between Baltimore and Pittsburgh (detailed below). Surprisingly, Baltimore has handed out the majority of them, with 5 to their credit. So what can we learn from examining the history of these thrashings? Despite the small sample size, we can at least identify a few trends. For starters, the team that delivers the beatdown is only 37.5% likely to win the next game.
Obviously, there is then a 62.5% likelihood that the team who got shellacked will come back and recover from the previous beating with a win. While statistically it seems likely that the losing team will recover in a matter of months or weeks for a win, there is actually a 1 in 4 chance that they will respond with a 14-point plus beating of their own.
While this may be a small sample size, it is notable to see how often this series swings back and forth when one team asserts dominance. Consider the fact that Pittsburgh has won 64% of the teams’ meetings outright. That makes it pretty interesting that Baltimore has handed in the largest margin-of-victory wins and, if Pittsburgh were to deal them a 3-touchdown trouncing, the Ravens would be more likely to come back and win the following contest.
I’ll concede that these drastic statistical swings don’t prove a lot about this year’s rematch. The game is played on the field, not on paper, as the old saying goes. Still, it’s worth noting that one of the best rivalries in sports ebbs and flows as violently as the players of these two clubs hit one another.
Rejoice, Ravens fans. The first blood has been drawn. Beware the BEATDOWN.
A History of B.E.A.T.D.O.W.N.s
- November 9th, 1997 the Steelers defeated the Ravens 37-0 in Pittsburgh. Jerome Bettis and Kordell Stewart absolutely had their way with the Ravens.
- Revenge Game: Week 1 the following season, 1998. The Ravens turn in a more respectable 13-20 loss at home.
- September 3rd, 2000 the Ravens shut out the Steelers in Pittsburgh, 16-0, en route to the Super Bowl.
- Revenge game: A month and a half later, the Steelers came into Baltimore and won a 9-6 rockfight.
- January 20th, 2002 the Ravens played catchup the entire game and got bounced from the playoffs, 27-10.
- Revenge game: October of the following season, the Ravens lost another game where they were trailing the entire time, 31-18.
- September 7th, 2003 the Steelers defended Heinz Field admirably, getting up 27-0 before settling for a 34-15 whupping.
- Revenge game: December of the same year, the Steelers came back to Baltimore and the Ravens won 13-10 in overtime.
- September 19th, 2004 Baltimore continued off of the momentum from the Sunday night OT win the year before and tore into Pittsburgh 30-13 in Ben Roethlisberger’s first game against Baltimore.
- Revenge game: The Steelers took the crown back in Pittsburgh, winning 20-7.
- November 26th, 2006 the Ravens defense forced 3 turnovers and pitched a 27-0 shutout at home.
- Revenge game: A month later on Christmas Eve, Baltimore traveled to Pittsburgh and followup up their BEATDOWN with another BEATDOWN, 31-7.
- Revenge of the revenge game: November 5, 2007, Baltimore went back to Pittsburgh and got served up a BEATDOWN of their own, 38-7.
- Revenge of the revenge of the revenge game: December 30th, the Steelers came into Baltimore and the Ravens defeated them 27-21 for their 5th win of the season.
Nice research work here. My sense of the rivalry was that one game did not usually indicate a trend. And I remember Baltimore giving Pittsburgh more than a fair share of BEATDOWNS. I do think this game was more important, psychologically, for the Ravens and their fans: http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=ycn-9113819 Hated to see the Steelers play so poorly and get beat so soundly.
I really like the idea of the BEATDOWN. Over at fangraphs they have started tracking Shutdowns (SD) and Meltdowns (MD) are two new statistics that were created as an alternative to traditional baseball statistic Saves. Shutdowns and Meltdowns strip away all the complicated rules regarding the applicability of a save and try to provide and a simple answer to the question: did a relief pitcher help or hinder his team’s chances of winning a game? If they improved their team’s chances of winning, they get a Shutdown. If they instead made their team more likely to lose, they get a Meltdown.
I’d be curious if we could extent the idea of BEATDOWN to within a football game. By The Numbers enthusiasts and Win Column Zealots, stay tuned for more on this . Also look forward to me avenging my close fantasy football loss.
Sean, I read your linked article. If it helps your own psyche to justify this lopsided loss by saying that the ravens needed this game more, that’s fine. But I’m not sure anyone was celebrating like they’d won the super bowl or that fans would have sold their tickets had the ravens not dominated the game and lost. Gift interceptions? Going for two point conversions as a sign of needing the game more? Questionable analysis, to be sure. Let’s just agree that while the ravens can’t rest comfortably on just one game, you’d have to be legitimately concerned about your team after being on the receiving end of such an arse whooping. Plenty of football to be played, for sure, but contenders don’t roll over like that.
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