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2018-01-21T16:16:43.488Z
0
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The last time the Jacksonville Jaguars came into Heinz Field, the 7.5-point underdogs embarrassed quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his Pittsburgh Steelers so badly, Roethlisberger wondered aloud if he didn’t “have it anymore.”

Roethlisberger threw 55 passes in that Week 5 matchup, netting just 5.67 yards per attempt with no touchdowns and a whopping five interceptions. The Steelers managed just three field goals on 12 offensive possessions. The Jaguars didn’t throw the ball well either, but they didn’t need to: Tailback Leonard Fournette rumbled for 181 yards and two touchdowns, while two Jaguars defenders returned interceptions for touchdowns.

On Sunday, the Jaguars will return to the scene of their triumph. Yet they opened as 6.5-point underdogs, with Vegas bookmakers not believing they can do what they did to the Steelers a second time.

So just what did they do to the Steelers?

On the Jaguars’ first defensive play of the game, at least, they didn’t do much. With second-year cornerback Jalen Ramsey lined up tight on All-Pro wideout Antonio Brown, Roethlisberger tested Ramsey by going long — and completing a 49-yard bomb.

But if Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley had faith in Roethlisberger and his wide receivers, Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash had faith in his athletic secondary.

Early in the game, Jacksonville showed a lot of tight man and off-man looks, with a single high safety. They also flashed different blitzes, but according to the ESPN Stats & Information Group, they only blitzed once. After the snap, the Jaguars frequently dropped back into...

Liberal activists and some congressional Democrats want the party to oppose any government funding bill that does not address DACA — even if that leads to a government shutdown. But the party can’t actually block a funding bill unless basically all the Senate Democrats are on board. And it doesn’t look like they are.

Negotiations between the White House and congressional Republicans and Democrats are ongoing on both immigration policy and government funding, and a compromise on one or both issues could be announced at any point. But for now, the basic dynamic is that current government funding expires on Jan. 19 — this Friday. And Democrats, in exchange for backing the government funding bill, want Republicans and President Trump to agree to create some kind of law along the lines of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which offered work permits and protection from deportation to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.

Most Democratic members of Congress voted against two short-term funding bills in December because they did not include a DACA-style provision. If Republican leaders this week write another temporary funding bill to avert a government shutdown that does not address DACA, as is expected, an even larger bloc of Democrats is likely to oppose this provision.

But remember, Republicans have a huge majority in the House. So the Democratic opposition there is somewhat irrelevant. What really matters is the Senate, where Democrats have actual power to...

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the numbers tucked inside the news.

13.5 percent

Cape Town, South Africa, has fewer than 90 days left of water in its reservoirs. It’s projected that by April 22 the city will have to shut down the municipal water supply except for essential services, as reservoirs will be down to 13.5 percent capacity. [Time]


14 prototype shirts

(Sponsored by Mott & Bow) Quality shirts aren’t built in a day. From shirt length to button placement, every detail needs to be taken into consideration. It took 14 prototypes to create these shirts, which eliminate constraint via a well-placed bottom button, and can be worn tucked or untucked thanks to carefully thought-out shirt lengths.


15 percent

A study monitoring pollution in the vicinity of a 100-meter-high experimental air purifier outside the Chinese city of Xian in the Saanxi province found encouraging results during times of heavy pollution, with the most dangerous fine particles found in smog down 15 percent. [South China Morning Post]


27 percent

Percentage of Americans who said they were very confident that they were capable of telling if a news source was reporting factual news rather than opinion. That is way too low for comfort. [Knight Foundation]


47 percent

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies took a serious tumble on Tuesday, with Bitcoin’s value dropping almost 25 percent in 24 hours and down by 47 percent from its all-time high in December. There were similar double-digit drops for Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, Dash, Monero...

Welcome to FiveThirtyEight’s weekly politics chat. The transcript below has been lightly edited.

micah (Micah Cohen, politics editor): Welcome, everyone, to our final chat before the one-year anniversary of President Trump’s inauguration!!!

Or is it just “the anniversary of President Trump’s inauguration”?

In any case … we’re going to mark the occasion by looking back on what’s been most surprising about Year One of the Trump epoch.

My first question: What did Trump do in his first year that you found the most surprising?

Nate, you answer first.

natesilver (Nate Silver, editor in chief): I was surprised by the lack of surprises.

micah: That’s a cop-out.

natesilver: It’s also super annoying, like when people ask you what your greatest weakness is in a job interview and your response is, “I’m too hard on myself.”

micah: I’m a perfectionist.

clare.malone (Clare Malone, senior political writer): I’m gonna call bullshit here. You did NOT foresee him firing FBI Director James Comey.

micah: (I love when things get acrimonious less than three minutes into a chat.)

clare.malone: Actually, I went back and looked at a timeline of events, and I agree with Nate to a certain extent — a lot of the things I was surprised at weren’t policy things, but modes of communication things.

natesilver: Of course there have been some surprises, but there have been fewer surprises than I would have thought.

micah: Well then … WHAT WAS THE MOST SURPRISING?!?!?!?!?!?

natesilver: I mean, Comey does come to mind. Plus a Democrat winning a U.S. Senate race...

Sarah Hargrove didn’t expect to be on the front lines of a national emergency after getting a master’s degree in forensic science. But the opioid crisis has put her there. A Chicago native, she moved to Louisville, Kentucky, in 2012 to work as an autopsy technician in the office of the state’s chief medical examiner. She prepared bodies for examination and assisted doctors with death investigations. She loved doing the hands-on work and helping to answer questions about what caused a person’s death. “I’ve always been very interested in puzzles,” she told me recently.

In the past few years, Hargrove has been given a puzzle that officials across the country are finding difficult to solve. Her work has been overwhelmed by Kentucky’s opioid epidemic, to the point that she is now helping a state-backed research institute try to find a solution. By the end of her time as an autopsy technician, Hargrove said, it wasn’t abnormal to see one or two overdose deaths each day. “Every single death we see is terrible,” Hargrove said. “But the drug overdose cases, you just got so immune to seeing them — it was just over and over and over again.”

You may think of politicians, first responders and physicians as the people best-equipped to stop the opioid crisis. And they do have an important role to play. But so do coroners and medical examiners. The government and media generally quantify the nation’s opioid problem on only one dimension:...

FiveThirtyEight  

Democrats and Republicans are at an impasse over immigration policy, with a potential government shutdown looming. Anna Maria Barry-Jester joins the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast crew to talk about the partisan divisions at play and whether an agreement is likely.

The team also weighs Democrats’ odds of winning the Senate this fall, after Nate wrote an article arguing that their current chances could be overrated.

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast publishes Monday evenings, with occasional special episodes throughout the week. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.

The Vegas Golden Knights are only halfway through their inaugural season, and they’ve already redefined what anyone thought was possible for an NHL expansion franchise. Against all odds, the Knights are currently 29-10-3 with 61 points, good for the best record in the Western Conference — and only 4 points shy of the Tampa Bay Lightning for the best record in the entire league. It’s enough to make the Knights hockey’s greatest debut team ever, hands down.

But that’s not all: Vegas is also lapping the field of expansion teams across every major pro sport. Even after adjusting for the way records are distributed in other sports, no other brand-new club in modern history came close to doing what the Knights have done so far. Expansion teams just aren’t supposed to have this kind of success this early.

Constructed as a Frankenstein’s monster of unwanted parts from the rest of the league, a new club is usually very bad indeed. In a franchise’s first season, merely being “competitive” — code for losing but keeping things close most nights — is an admirable goal. And going into this season, there were plenty of people who had trouble seeing the Knights even reaching that modest level of success. Most outlets picked Vegas to finish either last or next-to-last in the Pacific Division.

That was a reasonable expectation based on the past performance of first-year clubs. Our own analysis found that Vegas...

If someone punched you in the nose, what would you do? Does your answer change if he has a nuclear bomb? What if you do, too?

President Trump’s war of words with North Korea over its ever-improving nuclear program is a battle dictated by the tenets of game theory. Each side postures, responds and anticipates, trying to convince the other that it’s willing to fight and unwilling to back down. So far, it has been only a war of words.

But last week, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed officials, that “U.S. officials are quietly debating whether it’s possible to mount a limited military strike against North Korean sites without igniting an all-out war on the Korean Peninsula.” The limited strike, the article says, would target a North Korean facility as punishment for one of the country’s nuclear or missile tests. South Korea says that Trump told its president that the Journal’s report was “completely wrong,” and that there would be no military strike while the two Koreas were in ongoing diplomatic talks.

But despite Trump’s reported denial, the plan, which is nicknamed the “bloody nose” option, has prompted a fierce debate about its merits. And while it would change the state of play, it is also consistent with a “game” where convincing your opponent of your intentions is paramount.

The thing that keeps us all from blowing up during a nuclear standoff is something called deterrence: No country carries out an attack against any other because each is...

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the numbers tucked inside the news.

35 years

Saudi Arabia has lifted its 35-year ban on commercial movie theaters, and the Saudi government anticipates 300 theaters by 2030. Last week saw a number of screenings for the public, and they’ve wasted no time in catching up with the American classics of the past 35 years, such as “The Emoji Movie.” [The Verge]


36 percent

The number of times a garment was worn before disposal dropped 36 percent between 2000 and 2015, one symptom of fast fashion changing the way the marketplace works in the apparel industry. [Bloomberg]


910 carats

A diamond weighing 6.4 ounces has been unearthed in Lesotho and will make the London-based Gem Diamonds a boatload of money. It’s the fifth-largest gem quality diamond ever found. [The New York Times]


46 million

Average viewership for Sunday’ Vikings-Saints game was around 35.6 million, but toward the end of the hard-fought game — just about when one of the craziest finishes to an NFL playoff game ever went down — viewership peaked at around 46 million. [Frank Pallotta]


$2 billion

Dogecoin, an early 2013-era cryptocurrency designed as a tongue-in-cheek skewring of more prominent alternative digital currencies like Bitcoin, briefly hit a market cap of $2 billion. A joke coin with a Shiba Inu dog on it is now a multibillion dollar cryptocurrency, that’s how hot the market is in crypto five years later. In the interest of full disclosure, I own like...

President Trump and congressional Republicans are expected to make the country’s infrastructure (think airports, bridges, cellphone towers, public schools and roads) one of their major legislative priorities this year. It’s a big opportunity for Republicans — particularly the president. But I’m pretty sure they’re not going to be able to take advantage of it.

Let me start by explaining the opportunity. Republicans’ two most important legislative proposals last year — taxes and health care — were opposed almost universally by congressional Democrats, disdained by policy experts, and disliked by most of the public. Polls suggest that even GOP voters were not very enthusiastic about the health care proposal. So Republicans basically spent all of 2017 on legislation that will do little to help them politically.

But infrastructure could be different — bipartisan, popular with the public and good politics for the GOP and Trump. Why?

First — on infrastructure policy, Trump and congressional Republicans aren’t as boxed in by existing GOP orthodoxy, so they have more freedom to write a bill that is popular with the public and sellable to Democrats. Republican members of Congress, particularly in the House, basically coalesced behind proposals on taxes and health care in the summer of 2016 — back when few people thought Trump had a chance of winning the White House. These proposals represented long-held views of top GOP lawmakers like House Speaker Paul Ryan and key interest groups in the party: that...

After three straight years of finishing 7-9, the New Orleans Saints seemed headed to another year of mediocrity when they began the season 0-2. But since Week 3, when New Orleans routed a 2-0 Carolina Panthers team on the road, the team has peeled off 12 wins in 15 games, including another win over the Panthers in the wild card round last Sunday.

And yet there’s reason to believe the franchise revival didn’t begin in late September. It began in April, at the NFL Draft.

There are lots of reasons for the Saints’ success this season — including the ageless Drew Brees and the historically good running back duo he’s been handing the ball off to — but the team’s terrific rookie class is perhaps the driving force behind it all. The Saints had just seven draft picks in the 2017 NFL draft, slightly less than the NFL average of 7.9 picks per team, and nearly every one of the picks can be viewed as either a solid addition or a huge success.

Cornerback Marshon Lattimore, taken 11th overall, has helped revitalize a defense that last year ranked as the second worst in the league in terms of points allowed. Third-round running back Alvin Kamara has accumulated more than 1,500 yards from scrimmage while leading the NFL with 6.1 yards per carry. Thanks in no small part to a number of ridiculous highlight plays like Kamara’s juggling touchdown and Lattimore’s butt interception, the duo were...

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup. Today’s theme song is “Ordinary Girl” from the television show “Clueless.”

Poll of the week

The anniversary of President Trump’s inauguration is Saturday, and he is ending his first year on an upswing. The FiveThirtyEight Trump job approval tracker puts his approval rating at about 40 percent — matching its high-water mark since his first few months in office. His disapproval rating is 55 percent. That’s not good, but it has markedly improved over the past few weeks.

Trump’s rise mirrors GOP fortunes on the generic congressional ballot, which now has the Democrats’ lead down to 8 percentage points. Again, that’s not a good number for Republicans, but it is greatly improved.

All of that doesn’t mean that Republicans can suddenly exhale and relax about the coming midterm elections. Those still look like they’ll be very good for Democrats. But if Trump’s approval rating were to continue to improve, it could help mitigate GOP losses — and maybe save the Republican majorities in the House and Senate.

So now that we’re one year into the Trump era, let’s take a step back and put Trump’s approval rating in a historical context.

Based on approval ratings one year into a first term, Trump is the most unpopular president since at least...

Things That Caught My Eye Best 2 minutes ever

With 2 minutes and five seconds to go in the fourth quarter, the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings had even chances of winning the NFC divisional playoff game. New Orleans had just scored a touchdown to take a 21-20 lead. What happened next was the stuff of legend: two field goals and a last second touchdown throw this one to Minnesota. The win probability swings were whiplash inducing: At 1:55 remaining, Minnesota had a 65 percent chance of winning; at 40 seconds left, New Orleans had a 66 percent chance; with 14 seconds to go, the Saints had a 96 percent chance; and with no time on the clock, Minnesota pulled it off. [ESPN]

Congratulations Mr. Bortles

“Blake Bortles had the highest Total Quarterback Rating of the divisional round of the playoffs after beating the Pittsburgh Steelers,” is a true sentence that you are reading in the year 2018. “Blake Bortles had a higher Total QBR than Tom Brady and his number ranks the 21st best in the stat for playoff games going back to 2006” is also inexplicably a true thing as well. Go Blake! [ESPN]

Vegas is the GOAT of newcomers

The Las Vegas Golden Knights have the best winning percentage of not only any NHL expansion team but — when adjusted to a normalized score differential and win percentage — by far the best debut season of any expansion team in any major North American league. [

Alexander Zverev, the 20-year-old tennis wunderkind now ranked fourth in the world, has everything a future champion could hope for. He’s tall — 6 foot 6 — yet coordinated. He has a strong serve and hits deadly forehands and backhands. Zverev already has six ATP titles, including two Masters titles he won by beating Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in finals. There’s just one problem: At Grand Slam tournaments, he’s a dud.

There’s no obvious reason why: Zverev looks and trains like a Grand Slam contender. His serve and steady strokes should dominate in best-of-five-set matches, and by all accounts he’s in excellent physical shape. Yet at major tournaments, he struggles and, inevitably, stumbles. In his career as a pro, Zverev has never gone beyond the fourth round at a major, and he only got that far once. He never reached higher than the third round at the Australian Open and French Open, and he topped out at just the second round in the U.S. Open.

When you compare Zverev to other current tennis stars, his Slam failures stand out. Active men’s pros who have won majors produced a range of results in their early years.1

Rafael Nadal, the most astonishing youngster of the bunch, won 17 ATP tournaments through his age-20 season, including one French Open title. Nadal leads top pros with the...

When the Knicks finally traded Carmelo Anthony last offseason, both he and the organization itself viewed it as an opportunity to get out from under a cloud. With the Oklahoma City deal, Melo joined a contending team that already had two All-Stars and left the club that fumbled his prime — one that then gladly handed the keys to the franchise to 22-year-old Kristaps Porzingis.

For awhile, that experiment was going swimmingly. Porzingis averaged 30 points per contest through his first 11 outings of the season, a highly impressive, if clearly unsustainable, rate. Yet that hot start to the campaign probably camouflaged something that’s come into clearer focus as both the big man and his team have cooled down: For all the trouble New York went through to move on from Anthony and his ball-dominant tendencies, Porzingis launches many of the same heavily contested shots that prompted so much head-scratching and frustration among Knicks fans.

https://espnfivethirtyeight.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/badshots.mp4

Going into the Knicks’ nationally televised game in Utah Friday, Porzingis has taken far more heavily contested jumpshots than any other NBA player this season. The majority of those attempts come from the antiquated midrange part of the floor, where New York continues to take more shots than any other team despite the firing of team president Phil Jackson, who insisted on using an unpopular triangle offense. Porzingis takes...

The odds of a government shutdown have gone up.

This is a fast-developing story, so stay tuned, but a bloc of Senate Democrats has shifted towards a more aggressive stance on including an immigration provision in the government funding bill, increasing the possibility that the party will block any measure that does not create some kind of program along the lines of former President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. There will be a government shutdown starting at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday if funding is not approved.

There is still some doubt over whether the House will pass a short-term funding bill. (GOP leaders are currently proposing an agreement that extends funding for one more month.) The House can pass a bill without any Democratic support, but members of the hard-to-please GOP Freedom Caucus there are balking right now. So that’s one hurdle towards avoiding a shutdown.

Another hurdle is what’s taking place in the Senate, where legislation can be stopped if it doesn’t have 60 votes. There are only 51 Republicans, and some of them are saying they don’t support a funding bill without the immigration provision either. Some Republicans are also frustrated that Congress keeps passing short-term measures. But the bigger challenge is Democrats. Even if all the Republicans vote for some kind of short-term extension, at least nine Democrats must back it.

Party activists have been imploring Democrats for months to stop supporting government funding bills that don’t replace DACA, which provided protection from...

By Neil Paine, Chris Herring and Kyle Wagner, Neil Paine, Chris Herring and Kyle Wagner and Neil Paine, Chris Herring and Kyle Wagner  

Welcome to The Lab, FiveThirtyEight’s basketball podcast. On this week’s show (Jan. 18, 2018), tensions between players and referees across the NBA remain high as a slew of high-profile calls and ejections are making headlines. Neil, Chris and Kyle take a look at the data to figure out if this year is one for the record books or just a statistical anomaly. Plus, we get reactions to the news that Kawhi Leonard will be out indefinitely, and we speculate on what it might mean for the Spurs’ Western Conference chances. Next, we’re joined by The Washington Post’s Candace Buckner, who reports on the Washington Wizards, to take a look at the team, which is not quite as good as it thinks it is. Plus, a small-sample-size segment on the Los Angeles Clippers’ Lou Williams....

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the numbers tucked inside the news.

1 team

North Korea and South Korea will field one unified Korean women’s hockey team at the upcoming Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. North Korea will also send 230 cheerleaders, 140 musicians and 30 taekwondo athletes. [BBC]


-88.6 degrees

Temperatures in Yakutia, Russia, dropped Tuesday to minus 88.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Students routinely go to school there when it’s 40 below zero, but minus 88 was enough for a snow day. [The Associated Press]


1,000 subscribers

YouTube is raising its standards on which users are eligible to monetize their channels, increasing the requirements from just 10,000 overall views to 4,000 hours of watchtime within the past year and 1,000 subscribers. [YouTube]


$7 billion

Amount Ford is shifting out of engineering for cars and into SUVs. Right now American automakers are earning money off of SUVs and trucks while struggling with sedans. It appears that several of the major U.S. brands will discontinue some of the sedans they now produce while leaning into the SUV market, potentially ceding car manufacturing to Asian automakers like Toyota, Nissan and Honda. [Bloomberg]


4.4 trillion yen

Japanese intellectual property is generating a ton of income for the nation, with IP revenue up 74 percent in the past five years to 4.4 trillion yen, or about $40 billion, through the first 11 months of 2017. [Bloomberg]


Check out Besides the Points, my new sports newsletter.

If you see a significant...

President Trump’s disparaging comments in an Oval Office meeting last week about Haiti and “shithole” (or “shithouse”) African countries felt like the immigration debate had reached a new place. It has — but not just because of that meeting.

There’s been a massive conservative shift in the ongoing debate over immigration. With Republicans in control of the White House and Congress, and some of the party pushing a hard anti-immigrant stance, Democrats and immigration advocates have had to greatly temper their hopes for reform.

The last big effort at immigration reform came five years ago, in a bill written by a bipartisan group of senators known as the Gang of Eight. It included a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. at that time. That pathway to citizenship was offered in exchange for about $40 billion over 10 years to pay for 20,000 new border patrol agents, 3,500 new customs agents, 700 miles of border fencing and other security enhancements. The plan also would have included an increase in H-1B visas, which are reserved for educated, specialized workers; created a new guest worker program; and shifted away from family visas toward a skills-based system that would have raised the caps on visas for some immediate family members in exchange for getting rid of visas altogether for siblings and many adult children.

In other words, it was a compromise, offering a way for those already in the U.S. to obtain legal status while shifting...

On Sunday, the New England Patriots will make their 12th AFC Championship Game appearance under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, and the legendary coach/QB combo will be gunning for a record eighth Super Bowl appearance together against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Cut through all the drama, the speculation about Brady getting old and questions about the Pats’ defense, and it has been a pretty vintage championship-caliber season in Foxborough: another year, another seemingly effortless trip to the Super Bowl.

They’ve had a little help, though. According to our Elo ratings, which estimate a team’s strength at any given moment, the Pats will have faced the easiest pair of opponents of any conference title-game participant with a first-round bye since 1990 (when the NFL established its current playoff structure). Given who they’ve played, it would have been much more surprising for New England to not make the Super Bowl than to return to it for a third time in four seasons.

For one thing, the AFC was exceptionally weak this year. In inter-conference play during the regular season, NFC teams went 41-23 against their AFC counterparts, which was the second-best record for one conference against the other in a season since 1990. (Only the 2004 season, in which the AFC went 44-20 against the NFC, saw a wider split.) As a result, the AFC playoff field contained only two teams with more than 10 regular-season wins, as opposed to five in the NFC. That...