Blind Power Rankings Week 11: Cohesion, Projecting Wins and Passer Identity

Otto Greule Jr

As the season hits the final stretch, we can take our first stab at projecting win totals as well as finally seeing some cohesion among the different types of rankings. We also look at passer identity to see who truly is the most pass-happy team in the league.

This week, a surprising win from Jacksonville was obviated by wins from Tampa Bay and Minnesota, allowing both the Buccaneers and Jaguars to continue competing for the top spot in the draft (or more accurately, compete out of that top position of the draft, a supposition that we here at the Daily Norseman agree on).

The biggest difference between performance and result may have had to have been the Cincinnati Bengals-Baltimore Ravens game, where the Bengals were a far more efficient team (a near identical turnover rate, a running game that was twice as successful and a passing game that was more than twice as efficient) but couldn't hold on in high-leverage situations.

Interestingly, the Colts-Rams game also was a big mismatch, but not because the Colts were more efficient—they were evidently twice as efficient as the score indicated, where the efficiency result of the teams would have predicted a nearly 60 point loss! Of course, the efficiency/point conversion rate falls apart at the extremes, so this is actually unsurprising.

Of note, Tampa Bay's win coincided with more efficient play than their opponents, while Jacksonville and Minnesota's did not (a surprising result, given how well Minnesota passed the ball in that game).

This isn't particularly odd. While efficiency scores have done a good job predicting future success, they do not do a particularly good job describing a current game score (just above 50%)—this similar to the difference between passer rating (highly explanatory and with a high correlation to the game that they are measured in, but a terrible statistic for predicting future performance) and yards per attempt (the opposite).

That's OK—if I wanted a statistic that counted current wins instead of future wins, I'd probably just use "wins," which is below. Otherwise I'd use quarterback kneels.

Power Rankings

Ranks below, first organized without recency bias. Again, if you want to get a primer on what these shortcut words mean, take a look here.

Like always, I strongly prefer the efficiency ranks over anything else, even the average I have presented below.

Remember, all headers are sortable:

Power Rankings - No Bias
Team Efficiency Points Wins Average Average Rank
Seattle Seahawks 2 4 2 2.67 1
Denver Broncos 5 1 3 3.00 2
New Orleans Saints 3 3 4 3.33 3
Kansas City Chiefs 4 6 1 3.67 4
Carolina Panthers 1 2 9 4.00 5
San Francisco 49ers 8 5 6 6.33 6
New England Patriots 11 7 5 7.67 7
Indianapolis Colts 9 10 7 8.67 8
Detroit Lions 10 12 8 10.00 9
Arizona Cardinals 7 13 11 10.33 10
Dallas Cowboys 6 11 15 10.67 11
Cincinnati Bengals 15 8 10 11.00 12
Green Bay Packers 12 9 14 11.67 13
Chicago Bears 14 14 13 13.67 14
Philadelphia Eagles 13 15 16 14.67 15
Tennessee Titans 16 18 17 17.00 16
St. Louis Rams 18 16 20 18.00 17
Cleveland Browns 22 21 18 20.33 18
Buffalo Bills 17 22 24 21.00 19
New York Jets 23 28 12 21.00 19
Miami Dolphins 25 20 19 21.33 21
Baltimore Ravens 29 17 21 22.33 22
San Diego Chargers 27 19 21 22.67 23
Washington Redskins 20 26 25 23.67 24
Houston Texans 21 25 27 24.33 25
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19 23 32 24.67 26
Atlanta Falcons 24 24 29 25.67 27
New York Giants 26 30 23 26.33 28
Pittsburgh Steelers 31 27 28 28.67 29
Oakland Raiders 30 31 26 29.00 30
Minnesota Vikings 28 29 31 30.00 31
Jacksonville Jaguars 32 32 30 31.33 32

Because of the relative wins of the other teams (or by playing a strong team, in the Falcons' case), Minnesota stays at 31 in the "wins ranking" despite having more wins than the team above it, as is often the case in SOS-adjusted ranks. Jacksonville's losses "meant less" and its win "meant more".

The rankings are converging, which is nice to see. In Week 8, the average difference between "efficiency" and "wins" in the rankings was about seven ranks. This week, the difference is about five ranks.

One thing these rankings don't signify is magnitude. I used a tier system recently to convey an interesting quirk of the rankings, but here we can use it to group teams in order of efficiency to mark how significant the differences between teams really are.

Tier One: Carolina Panthers
Tier Two: Seattle Seahawks
Tier Three: New Orleans Saints
Tier Four: Kansas City Chiefs
Tier Five: Denver Broncos, Dallas Cowboys, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Indianapolis Colts
Tier Six: Detroit Lions, New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers
Tier Seven: Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee Titans
Tier Eight: Buffalo Bills, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tier Nine: Washington Redskins, Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns
Tier Ten: New York Jets
Tier Eleven: Atlanta Falcons, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, San Diego Chargers
Tier Twelve: Minnesota Vikings
Tier Thirteen: Baltimore Ravens, Oakland Raiders
Tier Fourteen: Pittsburgh Steelers
Tier Fifteen: Jacksonville Jaguars

It really is that stratified at the top. The efficiency numbers indicate that Carolina walks into every game with a nearly 20-point advantage over an average opponent (although this would be mitigated by the fact that Carolina has the fewest drive per game of any team in the NFL, making their differences seem smaller by about 4.5 points).

I'm not entirely sure what to make of the fact that the Denver Broncos are in the "fifth tier" of efficiency, as that feels wrong. The efficiency scores at Football Outsiders and Advanced NFL Stats consistently rank the Denver Broncos in the top two, which feels more correct.

I suspect the incorporation of drive stats (an inverse "first down counter" that counts punts and field goals) will resolve a lot of this. I also think the Bengals' statistics would have them ranked higher, especially after their 49-9 win over the Jets (who beat the Saints, most notably) but you get what you get.

One unusual fact of the rankings is that the Packers do not drop all that much. Take a look at the recency-adjusted rankings (headers sortable, etc):

Power Rankings - Recency Bias
Team Efficiency Points Wins Average Average Rank
Carolina Panthers 1 1 5 2.33 1
Seattle Seahawks 2 5 2 3.00 2
New Orleans Saints 3 4 4 3.67 3
Kansas City Chiefs 4 6 1 3.67 3
San Francisco 49ers 5 2 6 4.33 5
Denver Broncos 8 3 3 4.67 6
New England Patriots 10 7 7 8.00 7
Arizona Cardinals 7 10 10 9.00 8
Green Bay Packers 9 9 12 10.00 9
Dallas Cowboys 6 12 13 10.33 10
Cincinnati Bengals 14 8 11 11.00 11
Indianapolis Colts 12 13 9 11.33 12
Detroit Lions 15 11 8 11.33 12
Philadelphia Eagles 11 15 14 13.33 14
Chicago Bears 13 16 15 14.67 15
St. Louis Rams 16 14 20 16.67 16
Tennessee Titans 17 18 19 18.00 17
New York Giants 20 23 17 20.00 18
Cleveland Browns 23 21 18 20.67 18
Miami Dolphins 24 20 23 22.33 20
San Diego Chargers 27 19 22 22.67 21
Baltimore Ravens 29 17 22 22.67 21
Washington Redskins 18 28 24 23.33 23
Buffalo Bills 21 24 26 23.67 24
New York Jets 25 30 16 23.67 24
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19 22 32 24.33 26
Houston Texans 22 25 29 25.33 27
Atlanta Falcons 26 26 28 26.67 28
Pittsburgh Steelers 31 27 27 28.33 29
Oakland Raiders 30 31 25 28.67 30
Minnesota Vikings 28 29 31 29.33 31
Jacksonville Jaguars 32 32 30 31.33 32

I looked at that case a bit more closely, and it is interesting for two reasons: the first is that the Packers' Week 6 performance (against Baltimore, not a well-regarded opponent in these rankings) was pretty poor and already weighed them down. The second interesting thing is that the Packers defense had been pretty good in Weeks 7, 8 and 9 (Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears—all against QBs with fewer starts than there have been weeks in their schedules), as their offense started diving, hiding their issues.

I doubt Matt Flynn will revive their passing fortunes, Lions game aside. So we may see a more precipitous drop in the future.

Of note, the Panthers' recent wins have allowed their win totals to converge quickly with their efficiency in recent weeks and could signal the Panthers' ability to take the top spot in efficiency by season's end.

Naturally, there are no promises, as the Jaguars amply demonstrated this last week.

The models produce a few teams to watch for and a few teams to be wary of. Right now, the "most undervalued" teams are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (I've mentioned in the past that the disconnect between coaching and talent can speak to the difference between efficiency and wins), the Dallas Cowboys, the Buffalo Bills and the Carolina Panthers (still). The "overvalued teams" are the New York Jets (who do in fact have a number of good wins), the Baltimore Ravens, the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins (but you already knew that).

In general, I may have to increase the overall value of passing and decrease the importance of running in these models to consistently create predictive value, but the models are not doing too badly so far.

Against the Spread

Week 10 ATS

Efficiency: 7-7
Efficiency ("What Have You Done For Me Lately"): 9-5
Points: 7-7
Points (WHY4DML): 5-9

Overall ATS

Efficiency: 34-35
Efficiency (WHYD4ML): 39-30
Points: 34-35
Points (WHY4DML): 33-36

The more I think about it, the more OK I am with the mediocre showing against the spread, given the haphazard nature of the construction of the efficiency scores and the unusual amount of injuries in the league this year, especially at QB. Next year should be better for a number of reasons.

Also, the models are doing a pretty decent job of picking the winner

Straight Up

Betting Market: 39-30
Efficiency: 43-26
Efficiency (WHYD4ML): 41-28
Points: 37-32
Points (WHY4DML): 37-32

As of right now, the efficiency model would do well on moneyline bets, and would come out ahead if you only bet the Vegas underdogs the model thinks would win outright (hitting them ten out of twenty-one opportunities, more than enough to make money on only underdogs, even with the vig).

Picks ATS


Indianapolis over TENNESSEE (+3)
BUFFALO (-1) over New York Jets
CHICAGO (-2) over Baltimore
CINCINNATI (-6) over Cleveland
PHILADELPHIA (-3.5) over Washington
Detroit over PITTSBURGH (+1.5)
TAMPA BAY over Atlanta (+0)
Arizona over JACKSONVILLE (+7)
Oakland over HOUSTON (-7)
San Diego over MIAMI (-1)
San Francisco over NEW ORLEANS (-3.5)
Green Bay over NEW YORK GIANTS (-7)
SEATTLE (-14) over Minnesota
Kansas City over DENVER (-8)
CAROLINA (-1) over New England

Efficiency (WHYD4ML)

Indianapolis over TENNESSEE (+3)
BUFFALO (-1) over New York Jets
CHICAGO (-2) over Baltimore
CINCINNATI (-6) over Cleveland
Washington over PHILADELPHIA (-3.5)
Detroit over PITTSBURGH (+1.5)
Atlanta (+0) over TAMPA BAY
Arizona over JACKSONVILLE (+7)
Oakland over HOUSTON (-7)
San Diego over MIAMI (-1)
San Francisco over NEW ORLEANS (-3.5)
Green Bay over NEW YORK GIANTS (-7)
SEATTLE (-14) over Minnesota
Kansas City over DENVER (-8)
CAROLINA (-1) over New England


TENNESSEE (+3) over Indianapolis
BUFFALO (-1) over New York Jets
CHICAGO (-2) over Baltimore
CINCINNATI (-6) over Cleveland
PHILADELPHIA (-3.5) over Washington
Detroit over PITTSBURGH (+1.5)
TAMPA BAY over Atlanta (+0)
Arizona over JACKSONVILLE (+7)
Oakland over HOUSTON (-7)
MIAMI (-1) over San Diego
NEW ORLEANS (-3.5) over San Francisco
Green Bay over NEW YORK GIANTS (-7)
SEATTLE (-14) over Minnesota
Kansas City over DENVER (-8)
CAROLINA (-1) over New England

Points (WHYD4ML)

TENNESSEE (+3) over Indianapolis
BUFFALO (-1) over New York Jets
CHICAGO (-2) over Baltimore
CINCINNATI (-6) over Cleveland
PHILADELPHIA (-3.5) over Washington
Detroit over PITTSBURGH (+1.5)
TAMPA BAY over Atlanta (+0)
Arizona over JACKSONVILLE (+7)
HOUSTON (-7) over Oakland
MIAMI (-1) over San Diego
San Francisco over NEW ORLEANS (-3.5)
Green Bay over NEW YORK GIANTS (-7)
SEATTLE (-14) over Minnesota
DENVER (-8) over Kansas City
CAROLINA (-1) over New England

This is a great week of games. I look forward to San Francisco vs. New Orleans, Denver vs. Kansas City and Carolina vs. New England for competitiveness, with teams at the top of the rankings against each other. I also look forward to Washington vs. Philadelphia simply for the offensive gameplanning involved in either game and expect some serious points in that game (the over/under is 53 points, which I would consider taking the "over" on).

Average MOV

Once again, rankings of teams where their point differential is averaged out over every second of every game, adjusted for strength-of-schedule (concept stolen from Chase Stuart at Football Perspective, with a small additional calculation for SOS):

Rank Team Average MOV
1 Carolina Panthers 6.8
2 San Francisco 49ers 6.1
3 Denver Broncos 4.7
4 New Orleans Saints 4.6
5 Green Bay Packers 4.0
6 Seattle Seahawks 3.8
7 Dallas Cowboys 2.9
8 Kansas City Chiefs 2.5
9 New England Patriots 2.1
10 Cincinnati Bengals 1.4
11 Philadelphia Eagles 1.4
12 Arizona Cardinals 0.8
13 Detroit Lions 0.4
14 Atlanta Falcons 0.2
15 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0.0
16 San Diego Chargers -0.4
17 St. Louis Rams -0.6
18 Chicago Bears -0.6
19 Cleveland Browns -1.1
20 Buffalo Bills -1.3
21 Miami Dolphins -1.5
22 Baltimore Ravens -1.6
23 New York Giants -1.7
24 Indianapolis Colts -1.8
25 Oakland Raiders -1.9
26 Tennessee Titans -2.5
27 Minnesota Vikings -2.5
28 Houston Texans -2.7
29 Washington Redskins -3.8
30 New York Jets -3.9
31 Pittsburgh Steelers -4.7
32 Jacksonville Jaguars -9.6

The Jaguars have moved themselves out of the "unbelievably bad" area and are now competing not to be the worst team in average MOV. Thanks to Chase Stuart, we can approximate the (raw, unadjusted for SOS) average point differentials for the worst teams in history and see where the Jaguars rank (sorted from worst-to-least-worst):

Rank Team Average MOV
1 1952 Dallas Texans -12.4
2 1944 Chicago Cardinals -11.3
3 1943 Brooklyn Dodgers -10.9
4 2013 Jacksonville Jaguars -10.8
5 1949 New York Bulldogs -10.2
6 1972 New England Patriots -10.1
7 1954 Chicago Cardinals -9.8
8 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers -9.5
9 1967 Atlanta Falcons -9.5
10 1990 Cleveland Browns -9.4
11 2000 Arizona Cardinals -9.3
12 1970 Boston Patriots -9.3
13 1960 Dallas Cowboys -9.3
14 1981 Baltimore Colts -9.3
15 1949 Green Bay Packers -9.2
16 1973 Houston Oilers -9.0
17 1990 New England Patriots -8.8
18 1945 Chicago Cardinals -8.7
19 2011 Tampa Bay Buccaneers -8.7
20 1944 Boston Patriots -8.7

If they try hard enough, the Jaguars could be the worst team in NFL history. It certainly seems like they're still on pace for the worst average point differential since the merger, despite a win where they were averaging a 9.1 point differential!

We also could have included an AAFC team—the 1948 Chicago Rockets, who were abysmal—but it was a stretch to include pre-1960 teams in the first place (no AFL team was bad enough to get on the list either way) given our conception of modern football and its place in history.

The 2011 Buccaneers may be a surprise until we remember that the scores above are not adjusted for strength-of-schedule, and the Bucs had to go up against Drew Brees' record-setting season twice, along with an efficient year from Matt Ryan.

If you'll remember, that 2011 Buccaneers team DID beat the 2011 Minnesota Vikings.

Notable absences on that list are the 2012 Kansas City Chiefs, who were known for not having a second of gametime with a lead until late in the season, despite a win (it occurred in overtime against the New Orleans Saints, so no seconds were played with a lead as the game ended as soon as points were scored), the 2011 Indianapolis Colts (who were awful) and the 2008 Detroit Lions.

The most useful thing about these "game scripts" may be their ability to determine run-pass balance. It's a fairly simple method that doesn't seem to work quite as well at the extreme margins of point differential, but otherwise is really good at parsing out the fact that teams run when they're ahead and pass when they're behind.

Taking that into account, we can look at a team's run-pass balance from the perspective of their response to the clock. The scores are modified to treat "100" as average and every change in movement by 15 to be one standard deviation:

Rank Team Passer ID Score
1 Denver Broncos 134.7
2 Dallas Cowboys 131.8
3 New Orleans Saints 131.7
4 Atlanta Falcons 124.3
5 Kansas City Chiefs 115.6
6 Cleveland Browns 115.4
7 New England Patriots 111.6
8 Detroit Lions 111.0
9 Green Bay Packers 109.7
10 Miami Dolphins 109.6
11 Cincinnati Bengals 109.2
12 Carolina Panthers 106.0
13 Chicago Bears 105.5
14 San Diego Chargers 101.4
15 Pittsburgh Steelers 101.2
16 Baltimore Ravens 101.0
17 Arizona Cardinals 100.2
18 Indianapolis Colts 96.4
19 St. Louis Rams 94.9
20 New York Giants 94.2
21 Minnesota Vikings 92.5
22 San Francisco 49ers 92.2
23 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 91.3
24 Philadelphia Eagles 89.3
25 Houston Texans 88.6
26 Seattle Seahawks 87.5
27 Oakland Raiders 86.3
28 Tennessee Titans 86.0
29 Buffalo Bills 78.9
30 Washington Redskins 75.2
31 New York Jets 63.6
32 Jacksonville Jaguars 62.9

What this means is that the Denver Bronco and the Dallas Cowboys are particularly pass-heavy, while the Jets and Jaguars are very run-heavy, once you take into account time left and the score. For the most part this is very unsurprising. Run-heavy teams like the Eagles, 49ers, Texans and Seahawks are near the bottom of passer ID score, although as a Vikings fan you'd expect them to be even lower given that Adrian Peterson is the best running back in the league and their QB of the Week isn't really the focal point of their offense.

You can also use this to see what offenses are choosing to do against certain defenses.

Rank Team Passer ID Against
1 New York Jets 136.7
2 Arizona Cardinals 125.6
3 Minnesota Vikings 119.5
4 Washington Redskins 119.3
5 Detroit Lions 119.3
6 New York Giants 115.8
7 Philadelphia Eagles 113.0
8 Jacksonville Jaguars 112.2
9 Cleveland Browns 112.1
10 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 107.3
11 Dallas Cowboys 106.2
12 Baltimore Ravens 104.7
13 San Diego Chargers 102.4
14 Oakland Raiders 100.7
15 Miami Dolphins 100.3
16 Buffalo Bills 99.9
17 Kansas City Chiefs 97.8
18 Cincinnati Bengals 97.0
19 Atlanta Falcons 95.0
20 St. Louis Rams 92.4
21 Carolina Panthers 92.2
22 Tennessee Titans 90.9
23 Denver Broncos 89.3
24 Pittsburgh Steelers 88.7
25 Indianapolis Colts 87.9
26 New Orleans Saints 85.8
27 Houston Texans 85.0
28 Green Bay Packers 84.5
29 New England Patriots 83.0
30 Chicago Bears 82.0
31 Seattle Seahawks 80.9
32 San Francisco 49ers 72.6

Roughly this reads like this: people would much prefer to pass on the New York Jets and run on the San Francisco 49ers.

For the most part this makes sense: teams want to keep "quarterbacks off the field' (I have my own issues with that, but whatever), so teams with the top quarterbacks (although not necessarily the most efficient passers this year) rank "low" in passer identity against: the Broncos (23rd), Saints (26th), Packers (28th) and Patriots (29th).

It seems odd that the 49ers have such a heavy identity of teams running against them, but they have had a schedule against the Colts (18th), Rams (19th), Seahawks (26th), Titans (28th) and Jaguars (32nd). On average, teams run 26.9 running plays a game and 35.7 passing plays a game. The 49ers have had to deal with nearly exactly that despite ranking first overall in unadjusted game script—where you would expect significantly more passes.

Projecting Wins

Last week, we touched on "remaining strength of schedule" to look at what was upcoming for teams. With the efficiency scores, we can project future wins as well using that model:

Projected Wins
Team Current Wins Future SOS Rk Projected Wins Total Rank
Kansas City Chiefs 9 19 5.6 14.6 1
Seattle Seahawks 9 12 5.3 14.3 2
Carolina Panthers 6 8 6.4 12.4 3
Denver Broncos 8 16 3.9 11.9 4
Detroit Lions 6 30 5.7 11.7 5
New England Patriots 7 17 4.3 11.3 6
New Orleans Saints 7 1 3.5 10.5 7
Indianapolis Colts 6 18 4.3 10.3 8
Green Bay Packers 5 23 4.4 9.9 9
San Francisco 49ers 6 5 3.6 9.6 10
Chicago Bears 5 23 4.8 9.9 11
Dallas Cowboys 5 24 4.4 9.4 12
Arizona Cardinals 5 9 4.1 9.1 13
Cincinnati Bengals 6 32 2.9 8.9 14
Philadelphia Eagles 5 11 3.5 8.5 15
New York Jets 5 26 3.3 8.3 16
Tennessee Titans 4 20 4.0 8.0 17
Cleveland Browns 4 31 3.1 7.1 18
Buffalo Bills 3 29 4.0 7.0 19
Miami Dolphins 4 21 2.8 6.8 20
Houston Texans 2 28 4.0 6.0 21
San Diego Chargers 4 15 2.0 6.0 22
Washington Redskins 3 13 2.9 5.9 23
Baltimore Ravens 4 25 5.6 5.6 24
St. Louis Rams 4 2 1.4 5.4 25
New York Giants 3 7 1.6 4.6 26
Oakland Raiders 3 10 0.4 3.4 27
Pittsburgh Steelers 3 22 0.4 3.4 28
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1 4 2.4 3.4 29
Atlanta Falcons 2 3 1.0 3.0 30
Minnesota Vikings 2 6 0.7 2.7 31
Jacksonville Jaguars 1 14 0.0 1.0 32

You won't expect teams with significant differences in their makeup from the first week and the most recent week to continue at this pace (Green Bay, Chicago, Minnesota, Cleveland, etc.) but this should be a decent approximation of future win totals when blind to context.

I was surprised to see the New Orleans Saints as low as they were given their newfound defensive prowess, but a quick look at their schedule reveals why: a game against the 49ers, Seahawks and two games against the Panthers. In addition, the model overvalues Tampa Bay. Tough row to hoe.

On the other hand, it should be disappointing for the Bengals if they get the record that they are projected to get given the strength of their schedule, even if 9-7 is supposed to be respectable (and good enough for a playoff berth in that division). Ditto Browns.

This projects the strongest division to be the NFC West (huge surprise) and the weakest division to be the AFC North, who have dropped as quickly as the NFC West has risen, it seems. The AFC South seems sorry as well, and the poor Texans only would have one year in the limelight as the Colts return to prominence.

Without taking into account the actual tiebreakers for the playoffs, here are the projected playoff teams:


(1) Kansas City Chiefs
(2) New England Patriots
(3) Indianapolis Colts
(4) Cincinnati Bengals
(5) Denver Broncos
(6) New York Jets


(1) Seattle Seahawks
(2) Carolina Panthers
(3) Detroit Lions
(4) Dallas Cowboys
(5) New Orleans Saints
(6) Green Bay Packers

Like I've said, I doubt Green Bay makes it with Matt Flynn/Scott Tolzien and fully expect San Francisco to take that spot. The AFC's top four teams are very strong, but two of them are in the same division, so two "weak" AFC teams enter as a result (Bengals and Jets). The NFC would only have one "weak" team in the Cowboys.

But they don't play the games on my computer, so it will be interesting to see how the games actually develop.

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