≡ Menu

The Browns Are 0-12…. In the ANY/A Battle, too

You know the Browns are 0-12, and you know that the Browns are not very good at passing or stopping the pass.  Cleveland is 31st in the league in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt (ahead of only the Texans), and 31st in the league in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt allowed (ahead of only the Colts).

But did you know that Cleveland has had the worse ANY/A in every game this season? Take a look at the ANY/A for Cleveland’s offense (in brown) and defense (in orange) from each game this year: [click to continue…]


Today at 538: The Cowboys started the year 9-1 against the spread; the Browns, meanwhile, can’t seem to beat anyone, even with the help of Las Vegas:

On the other end of the spectrum are the Cleveland Browns, who have the league’s worst record against the spread. Cleveland has been an underdog in all the games it’s played so far this season (12), the only team in the league with that distinction. (On average, the Browns have been underdogs by 7.1 points.) It’s been an ugly season for Cleveland — remarkable not only because the Browns have failed to win a game but also because they are just 2-10 against the spread!

Since 1978, 20 teams (including this year’s Browns) have been underdogs in every game. And the majority of those teams were even larger underdogs, on average, than Cleveland has been. So these were really bad teams. But none was as bad against the spread as Cleveland has been so far this season: Among those 19 other teams, the worst record was a more respectable 5-11, set by another Browns team, the one from 16 years ago:

You can read the full article here.


Today at 538:

First downs per route run

Gaining a first down is one of the most important things a wide receiver can do, and he has a chance at it whenever he runs a route. Yards per route run is the wide receiver version of yards per pass, but by replacing yards with first downs in the numerator, we can focus on a less-popular (but very important) statistic that shows us which guys move the chains.

Evans ranks first in this category: He has picked up a first down on a remarkable 15.3 percent of his routes. One reason for that is that Evans runs deeper routes, and he easily leads the league with 62 first-down receptions (no other player has more than 50).

You can read the full article here.


Checkdowns: Jason Lisk on Overtime

A good article today from Jason Lisk with his thoughts on the best overtime proposal:

My concept is that the team with the last clear chance to avoid overtime kicks off. Here were the rules I put forth then:

1. Eliminate the coin flip at the start of overtime. The team with the “last clear chance” to avoid overtime must kick off to start the overtime period.

2. If either team has scored in the final five (5) minutes of regulation, and regulation ends in a tie, then the last team to score in regulation was the team with the “last clear chance”, unless that team scored the maximum number of points possible on that possession of 8 points (resulting from a touchdown and 2-point conversion). In the event the last team to score did score 8 points on the final scoring drive, then the other team kicks off to start overtime.

3. If neither team scored in the final five (5) minutes of regulation, and regulation ends in a tie, then the last team to punt the football was the team with the “last clear chance”, and must kick off to start overtime.

Ties are going to become more common under the new overtime structure, where teams can trade field goals and soak up much of the 15 minute period. I don’t know if we are at the point where we need to have another rules change for overtime, but Jason’s is interesting because the main goal is preventing games from ever getting there.

What do you think of the current overtime rules? What would you propose?


Week 12, 2016: Gameday Thread

Let’s fire up the weekly game thread. As always, post whatever you find interesting or noteworthy during today’s games.

I’ll start with a surprising Jets anecdote.  New York’s pass defense was disastrous the first five weeks of the season: opponents averaged 9.24 yards per attempt (excluding sacks), easily the worst in the league.  In fact, only Oakland (8.48) was within a half-yard of the Jets futility.

But since then? The Jets pass defense ranks first in yards per attempt, at 5.99 (the Broncos are second at 6.01), over six weeks and five games. Here’s the game-by-game look:


I used Y/A because of the crazy split, going from last over the first 5-game sample to first over the last 5-game sample. But the trend holds if we use ANY/A, too. Here is the same graph, but with ANY/A plotted in orange, along with an orange best-fit trend line:


Of course, the Jets pass defense faces a very tough today, as the Patriots are coming to town.


The 0-11 Browns Are Looking To Challenge History

The Browns have lost their first 11 games of the season, becoming just the sixth team since 2000 to begin the season 0-11.

  • In 2008, the Lions went 0-16.
  • In 2007, the Dolphins began the year 0-13, and ended the streak with an overtime win against Baltimore in game fourteen.

I’m short on time today, so here’s a quick look at all teams that began the season 0-10, along with how long that streak continued, and which opponent broke the streak.

TeamYearFirst WinOppRecord
Cleveland Browns2016Game ??????
Oakland Raiders2014Game 11KAN3-13
Indianapolis Colts201114TEN2-14
Detroit Lions2008n/an/a0-16
Miami Dolphins200714BAL1-15
Detroit Lions200113MIN2-14
San Diego Chargers200012KAN1-15
Indianapolis Colts199711GNB3-13
Cincinnati Bengals199311RAI3-13
Indianapolis Colts198614ATL3-13
Buffalo Bills198412DAL2-14
Houston Oilers198411KAN3-13
Houston Oilers198311DET2-14
New Orleans Saints198015NYJ1-15
Tampa Bay Buccaneers197713NOR2-12
Tampa Bay Buccaneers1976n/an/a0-14
San Diego Chargers197512KAN2-12
Buffalo Bills197111NWE1-13
Philadelphia Eagles196812DET2-12
Oakland Raiders196214BOS1-13
Washington Redskins196114DAL1-12-1
Dallas Cowboys1960n/an/a0-11-1
Chicago Cardinals195312CHI1-10-1
Chicago Rockets194711BCL1-13
Brooklyn Tigers1944n/an/a0-10
Chi/Pit Cards/Steelers1944n/an/a0-10
Chicago Cardinals1943n/an/a0-10
Detroit Lions1942n/an/a0-11
Pittsburgh Pirates193911PHI1-9-1
Oorang Indians192311LOU1-10

The Chiefs have been the streak-breaker four times, but sadly for Cleveland fans, Kansas City is not on the schedule this year.


538: Are the Giants Going To Do It Again?

Today at 538: Are the Giants going to do it again?

It’s easy to dismiss the success of the 7-3 New York Giants. The team ranks 23rd in scoring, tied with the 49ers, and is 11th in points allowed; overall, the Giants have outscored opponents by only 4 points all year. In fact, the Giants haven’t won a single game by more than 7 points. Meanwhile, they rank 20th in yards per game and 16th in yards allowed per game and have benefited from a favorable schedule: The team has played only three true road games this year.1

Ahead of Week 11’s games, the Giants ranked 16th in both ESPN’s NFL Power Rankings and Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, and their 6-point home win against a bad Bears team is unlikely to move those needles. And even after Sunday’s win, the Giants rank only 17th in FiveThirtyEight’s NFL Elo ratings.

You can read the full article here.

{ 1 comment }

Week 11, 2016: Gameday Thread

What’s on your mind today? Philadelphia/Seattle is probably the best game on the slate, although Arizona/Minnesota is one I will definitely keep an eye on. I’m also excited to watch some Titans football, which is not a misprint.

Tennessee is on the franchise’s best six-game scoring streak since 1961. No, really: here is the trailing one, three, and six game points totals for every streak in Titans/Oilers history:


As always, leave your thoughts/notes in the comments. With the Jets on a bye, this is shaping up to be a terrific Sunday.


Blair Walsh In Perspective: Game-By-Game EPA

Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh was released by the Vikings this week, and given his struggles this year, it’s hard to argue with Minnesota’s decision. Walsh will be infamously remembered for missing a chip shot in the playoffs against the Seahawks last year, and those demons have carried over to his 2016 performance.

How much so? I looked at every kick of Walsh’s career, beginning in his rookie season of 2012. For every made extra point in 2012, 2013, or 2014, I gave him +0.01 points, and +0.06 points for every made extra point in 2015 or 2016. Then, for every miss, he received -0.99 or -0.94 points, as applicable.

Extra points were easy; field goals were slightly harder. The graph below shows the average success rate on field goals in 3-year increments, from 2012 to week 10 of 2016:


I used those numbers to give Walsh points for each field goal attempt, too. For example, 48-50 yard kicks have been made 70% of the time over the last five years, so if Walsh attempted a 49-yard field goal, I gave him +0.9 points if he made it, and -2.1 points if he missed it.

Using that methodology, here is how Walsh has fared in every regular season game of his career:


As a rookie, Walsh was at +11.4 in this system, and would be even higher if I era-adjusted in sample (for convenience, I treated 2012 games the same as 2015 games, which probably is not appropriate). In 2016, he had -7.1 points by this system, including two miserable games in weeks 1 (missed extra point, missed 37-yarder, missed 56-yarder) and 9 (missed extra point, missed 46-yarder in a game the Vikings lost in overtime).


ANY/A Differential, Through 10 Weeks (and TNF) (2016)

The average pass attempt this year, including sacks, has traveled 6.37 ANY/A. On offense, the Falcons and Patriots pace the lead, as both teams are averaging 9.0 ANY/A. The Cowboys, behind rookie Dak Prescott, are third at 8.3, and no other team is within half a yard of the Cowboys. That’s a good reason why Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, and Prescott are three of the frontrunners for MVP.

At the bottom of the offensive rankings? The Ravens, Jets, and Texans. The struggles of Brock Osweiler and Ryan Fitzpatrick have been well-documented, while Joe Flacco‘s decline hasn’t been as widely discussed (other than here, of course).

Below are the Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt averages for each team, on both offense and defense, through ten weeks and last night’s game: [click to continue…]


Are the Texans The Worst 6-3 Team Ever?

Regular readers are familiar with Pythagenpat Records, and using them to see how much of an outlier teams are in a given season.

You can read the link for background information, but here is the quick summary.

The Texans have scored 161 points and allowed 188 in 9 games this year. We use this formula to determine the appropriate exponent for Texans games:

(Points Scored + Points Allowed)/(Games Played)^0.251

This helps to control for things like pace of games, and scoring frequency. For Houston, that exponent is 2.50. Then, we use that to calculate the team’s Pythagenpat Record using this formula:

(Points Scored ^ 2.50) / (Points Scored ^ 2.50 + Points Allowed ^ 2.50)

[click to continue…]


Today at 538: the Steelers and Seahawks had some interesting two-point conversion decisions in week ten.

According to ESPN Stats & Information Group, there have been 1,045 two-point conversion attempts since 2001, with teams converting 501 of those tries. That’s a 47.9 percent conversion rate; given that a successful attempt yields 2 points, that means the expected value from an average 2-point try is 0.96 points.

Interestingly, that’s almost exactly what the expected value is from an extra point these days. Since the NFL moved extra-point kicks back to the 15-yard line last season, teams have a 94.4 percent success rate, which means that an extra point has an expected value of between 0.94 and 0.95 points.

This means that, all else being equal, the average team should be indifferent between going for two or kicking an extra point. Unless the game situation (i.e., late in the second half) or team composition (e.g., a bad kicker, or an offense or an opposing defense that is very good or very bad) changes the odds considerably, the decision to go for two or kick an extra point shouldn’t be controversial. In the long run, things will even out, because the expected value to the offense is essentially the same in both cases.

That’s the long run. In the short run, there will be ugly outcomes. And we saw two of those play out this weekend.

You can read the full article here.


Week 10, 2016: Gameday Thread

What’s on your mind today? Is it the highly-anticipated AFC East/NFC West showdown between the Jets and the Rams, or perhaps Patriots/Seahawks?  Post whatever you see today, or just whatever is on your mind, in the comments below.


Adam Steele is back for another guest post. You can view all of Adam’s posts here. Adam is now on Twitter, and you follow him @2mileshigh. As always, we thank him for contributing.

In 2014, Football Perspective ran a pair of crowd sourcing exercises to determine the greatest quarterbacks and running backs of all time. These experiments were a lot of fun and generated a great deal of debate amongst the participants, so I thought it would be worthwhile to give crowd sourcing another shot. NFL quarterbacks are the most discussed and analyzed athletes in America, but we can’t properly debate the merits of the league’s famous signal callers without considering the effects of their supporting casts. As of today, there is no mathematically accurate way to measure the strength of a QB’s teammates and coaches, but there are plenty of people around who possess the football knowledge to make educated guesses. Basically, this is the perfect candidate for crowd sourcing. I want to keep things simple to maximize reader participation, so there are just a handful of guidelines I expect participants to follow:

1) Please rate a QB’s supporting cast based on how they affected his statistical performance, not his win/loss record or ring count. The supporting cast umbrella includes the direct effect of skill position teammates, offense lines, coaches, and system, but also the indirect effect of defense, special teams, ownership, and team culture. You’re free to weigh these components however you see fit. The rating for each supporting cast will account for the quarterback’s entire career, using a 0-100 scale. As a rule of thumb, a 100 rating equates to an all star team, 75 is strong but not dominant, 50 is average, 25 is weak but not terrible, and 0 is equivalent to the 1976 Buccaneers.

2) Ratings should be roughly weighted by playing time. The years in which a QB is the full time starter should count more heavily than seasons where he’s a backup or spot starter. And this almost goes without saying, but supporting casts are best evaluated in the context of their respective eras.

3) You may rate as many supporting casts as you wish. Since I will be compiling the results by hand, it doesn’t matter how you order your list, as long as it’s easy to read. I ask that you refrain from rating the supporting casts of quarterbacks you’re not reasonably familiar with; if you don’t know anything about a QB’s career, don’t guess! Any quarterback with at least 1,500 pass attempts is eligible to be rated, and I’ve provided a list of these quarterbacks here. Feel free to break up your ratings into multiple posts on different days, but just be sure to post with the same username each time so I can properly count the results. I plan on keeping the poll open for one week, but reserve the right to extend the duration if interest from new participants remains high enough.

Have fun!


538: Mid-Season Awards (2016)

Today at 538: my mid-season awards column!

Offensive Player of the Year: David Johnson, RB Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals running back leads the league with 1,112 yards from scrimmage through eight games. He’s averaging over 80 yards rushing and 50 yards receiving per game, which has only been accomplished by four other players in NFL history. But what’s most impressive has been his consistency: Johnson has gained at least 100 yards from scrimmage in every game this year, making him just the 12th player since 1960 to do that in each of his team’s first eight games. Every other player this year has at least three team games in which they failed to gain 100 total yards.4 He’s also averaging 4.5 yards per run and 11.6 yards per reception while scoring eight touchdowns, showing that Johnson’s season hasn’t been fueled only by a heavy workload.

You can read the full article here.

For the 49ers, run defense is more of a suggestion

For the 49ers, run defense is an aspirational thing.

In 2013, the Bears allowed 100-yard rushers in six straight games: those players were Eddie Lacy, Reggie Bush, Ray Rice, Benny Cunningham, Adrian Peterson, and DeMarco Murray. Chicago was the 5th team since 1960 to allow such a streak.

In 2007, the Browns began the season by allowing 100-yard games to Willie Parker, Rudi Johnson, LaMont Jordan, Willis McGahee, Sammy Morris, and Ronnie Brown.

In 2006, the Rams had their own six-game stretch of allowing opposing running backs to hit the century mark: those backs were LaDainian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson, Maurice Morris, DeAngelo Williams, Frank Gore, and Edgerrin James.

In 1998, the Bengals allowed an opposing runner to hit the 100-yard mark in six straight games: Priest Holmes, Kordell Stewart, Eddie George, Napoleon Kaufman, Terrell Davis, and Fred Taylor were the stars there.

The first time, since at least 1960, that a team allowed a player to rush for at least 100 yards in six straight games came in 1979, against the Raiders.  Oakland only allowed six 100-yard rushers all season, but it happened in consecutive weeks  by Paul Hofer, Earl Campbell, the 7th best player named Mike Williams in NFL history, Rob Lytle, Chuck Muncie, and Mike Pruitt.

But now, for the first time in NFL history, the San Francisco 49ers have allowed a 100-yard rusher in seven straight games. Fozzy Whittaker went 16-100 in week 2, Christine Michael had 20-106 in week 3, Ezekiel Elliott had 23-138 the next week, David Johnson went off for 27-157 in week 5, LeSean McCoy ran roughshod 19-140-3 the following week, and Jacquizz Rodgers had 26-154 last week.

Today? Mark Ingram had 15 carries for 158 yards.  Up next week? A rematch against David Johnson and the Cards.


Week 9, 2016: Gameday Thread

Let’s fire up the gameday thread. Two articles from this week of note in preparation of Sunday Night Football:

  • At 538, is the Broncos pass D better than ever?
  • At 538, are the Raiders penalties part of the reason for the team’s success?

Tonight’s game should be really fun to watch, if nothing else because it’s cool to see both of these teams playing well at the same time. In Elo ratings parlance, 1500 is the rating of an average team. Well, this is the first time since 2003 that both the Raiders and Broncos are above-average in Elo ratings.

That’s crazy, although largely because of Oakland’s below-average play. Just once, in 2011, was Oakland above 1500 and Denver below 1500. The graph below shows the Elo ratings for both teams entering all Raiders/Broncos games since 1960, along with the average rating of the two teams. It includes tonight’s game as the last data point: [click to continue…]


On average, the fumbling team has recovered 56% of all fumbles this year. But that hasn’t been the case with the Giants. New York has fumbled 11 times this year, which means you would expect them to recover 6.2 of those fumbles. But the Giants have 8 lost fumbles this year, which means the team has recovered only 3 of those 11 fumbles, or 3.2 fewer fumbles than expected.

That’s really bad, although not the worst in the league. Carolina has fumbled 7 times, so we would expect the Panthers to have recovered 3.9 of those fumbles. Instead? Carolina is 0-for-7, so the Panthers have recovered 3.9 fewer fumbles than expected.

But the Giants haven’t recovered the ball frequently when their opponent fumbles, either. New York’s opponents have 8 fumbles, so you would expect the Giants to have recovered 3.5 of them (or, stated another way, that their opponents should have recovered 4.5 of them). But Giants opponents have lost just one fumble this year, so New York has recovered 2.5 fewer fumbles than expected in this area of the game, too. Add it up, and that means the Giants have recovered 5.7 fewer fumbles than you would think. And that New York has recovered just 21% of all footballs to hit the ground in their games, regardless of the fumbling team

Here’s the data for all 32 teams through week 8 plus Thursday night. Here’s how to read the Steelers line. Pittsburgh has 9 fumbles of its own, but has only lost 2 fumbles, so the Steelers own fumble recovery percentage is a robust 78%, and Pittsburgh has recovered 2.0 more fumbles than expected. Meanwhile, Steelers opponents have 10 fumbles, and Steelers opponents have lost 5 of them, so the Steelers have recovered 50% of all fumbles here, too.1 This means the Steelers have recovered 0.6 more fumbles than expected of their opponents, and therefore 2.6 more fumbles overall than expected. The final column shows that Pittsburgh has recovered 63.2% of all fumbles in play this year, second most to those always-lucky Browns. [click to continue…]

  1. Note that “Opp FR%” means percentage of opponents fumbles that your team recovers. So Denver, at 72.7%, has recovered a lot of those fumbles. []

538: Is Denver’s Pass Defense Even Better? 

Today at 538: yes, really, Denver’s pass defense is even better this year.

Football studies have generally shown that offenses are more consistent from year to year than defenses, and regression to the mean is always a key part of any analysis for a historically great unit. As a result, we wouldn’t expect Denver’s 2016 pass defense to be anywhere near as good as the 2015 one. And that’s exactly what you see with most of the other teams on the list above.

The other pass defenses on the top 20 list above were, on average, 1.53 net yards per attempt better than average against the pass in their dominant season; however, in their first eight games of the following season, they were just 0.52 NY/A better than average. That’s a sign of how difficult is it for dominant defenses to sustain that level of excellence over a long period. Defensive backs and pass rushers are two of football’s most health-dependent roles, and even one player losing a step or leaving in free agency can sink a unit. But so far this season, the Broncos have been even better that last season, jumping from 1.30 NY/A better than league average to 1.73.

You can read the full article here.


The Washington Redskins have made five Super Bowls in their history:

  • To conclude the 1972 season, with Republican Richard Nixon in office as President of the United States;
  • At the end of the 1982, 1983, and 1987 seasons, with Republican Ronald Reagan as the sitting POTUS;
  • In January 1992, during the final year of Republican George H. W. Bush’s presidency.

During the Super Bowl era, Washington has gone 272-180-3 while a Republican is in office. That translates to a .601 winning percentage, the best of any team.

But the Redskins have been a lot worse with a Democrat in office. In fact, Washington has a lowly 150-201-5, a 0.428 winning percentage that is the fourth worst of any team during the Super Bowl era. Washington’s best years came under Reagan, Bush, Ford, and Nixon, while the franchise’s worst years have been under Obama, Clinton, and LBJ.  Take a look: [click to continue…]


Week 8, 2016: Gameday Thread

It’s time to fire up the gameday thread for another week.


Most Plays Without Scoring a Touchdown

One of my favorite boxscores comes from a Steelers-Texans game in 2002. The Jets played at 4:15 that day, and I was living in Pennsylvania at the time, so I got to watch that game in its entirety. And the game was baffling on every level.

The expansion Texans had just three first downs the entire game. Three! David Carr completed 3 of 10 passes for 33 yards, with all three going to tight end Billy Miller. He was sacked four times, so Houston had 10 net passing yards on 14 dropbacks.

The Texans weren’t much better on the ground, running 26 times for 37 yards. That’s 47 total yards of offense with no touchdowns! In an entire game! And when you hear that the final score was 24-6, one would have to assume that Houston lost. But the didn’t. They won! They won 24-6!! In a game where they had 47 yards of offense and no touchdowns! That remains the fewest yards ever gained by a team in a winning effort. Steelers linebacker Joey Porter said it best:

Hold a team to under 50 yards offense, you’d think you’d have a chance to win at least….To get blown out when that happens, it’s tough.

Houston, of course, scored three defensive touchdowns, including two by former Jet Aaron Glenn. But what made watching the game even more confusing was that the Pittsburgh was pretty productive on offense, with 422 yards. Then again, the Steelers also had 15 drives and a whopping 95 plays, thanks due Houston recording eight 3-and-outs.

So why am I bringing that game up now? After watching the crazy Seahawks/Cardinals game last week, I was stunned by how Arizona was somehow kept out of the end zone all night. The Cardinals ran a whopping 90 plays, but the game ended in a 6-6 tie.

So I ran the numbers, and guess what? The only time in NFL history that a team ran more plays and failed to score a touchdown was Pittsburgh in that game against Houston.

The table below shows every game in NFL history where a team had 80 plays and zero offensive touchdowns: [click to continue…]


In week 1, the Chargers lost to the Chiefs despite a Game Script of +10.3. San Diego led 21-3 at halftime and 24-3 in the third quarter, but the Chiefs ultimately won in overtime.

It’s pretty unusal to lose with a +10 Game Script, or stated another way, it’s pretty unusual to win with a -10 Game Script. But that’s exactly what San Diego did in week seven, beating Atlanta with a Game Script of -10.2. The Chargers trailed 27-10 in the first half, but won in overtime, 33-30. The Chargers still had an element of balance in the game — Melvin Gordon had 22 carries for 68 yards and two touchdowns — while the Falcons were done in by the team’s last three drives ending on an interception, a missed field goal, and a turnover on downs.

Below are the week seven Game Scripts data. As is customary around these parts, I’ve lowlighted the Seahawks/Cardinals game in blue as a result of their tie (you can move your cursor over that row to see it more clearly, not that I know why you would want to). [click to continue…]


Adam Steele is back for another guest post. You can view all of Adam’s posts here. As always, we thank him for contributing.

Previously, I introduced my new metric — Adjusted Points Per Drive — for measuring team offense. I thought it would be fun to apply the same methodology to quarterbacks, which I what I’m doing today. I highly encourage you to go back and read the previous post if you haven’t already, because I don’t want to clutter today’s post by repeating all of the calculation details.

Unfortunately, I don’t have drive stats for individual games, so there’s going to be some approximation here. To calculate a quarterback’s career Adjusted Points Per Drive (AjPPD), I simply take his team’s AjPPD from each of his playing seasons and weight those seasons by games started. This will give us a measure of a quarterback’s scoring efficiency, but it doesn’t account for volume or longevity. That’s where Adjusted Offensive Points (AjPts) comes in handy.

I assign each QB a portion of his teams’ Adjusted Points, then compare that to league average to calculate Points Over Average (POA). The formula for calculating a given season’s POA = (Tm AjPts – 315) * (GS / 16). The 315 figure is derived from multiplying my normalized baselines of 1.75 AjPPD by 180 drives per year, meaning the average team scores 315 Adjusted Points per season.

I’ll use Ben Roethlisberger’s 2015 season as an example: Pittsburgh scored 400 Adjusted Points and Ben started 11 games, so his 2015 campaign is worth (400 – 315) * (11 / 16) = 30 POA. Do this for every season and we have Career POA, which is the primary metric I’ll be using here. However, some people prefer to rank quarterbacks based on their peak years rather than their entire career, so I added the “Peak” column which is the sum of each quarterback’s three best POA seasons.

This study includes all QB’s who started their first game in 1997 or later, and made at least 40 starts between 1997 and 2015 (partial numbers from 2016 are not included). These criteria leaves us with 56 quarterbacks. Before we dig into the results, it’s worth noting that the correlation between Career POA and ANY/A+ is a healthy 0.92. We all know that the NFL is a passing league, but drive efficiency is even more dominated by the passing game than I thought. According to r2, 85% of the variance in Adjusted Points Per Drive is explained by a basic measure of passing efficiency. That doesn’t leave much room for the running game to have an impact. In fact, I’ll go as far to say that rushing efficiency has no appreciable impact on scoring for the majority of teams. That’s not to say running the ball is useless; offenses must run occasionally to keep the defense honest, and running comes in handy for converting short yardage and bleeding the clock. But, to quote Ron Jaworski, “Points come out of the passing game!”

Time for the rankings… [click to continue…]


538: There Are No Great Teams This Year

Today, at 538: a look at how there are no great teams in the NFL this year.

The opening week of this NFL season featured a record number of close games that provided more than a hint of things to come. Because after Minnesota’s loss on Sunday to Philadelphia, there are no remaining undefeated teams. For reference, this time last year, there were five undefeated teams.

Sharon Katz at ESPN Analytics wrote Monday that every NFL team is flawed. Using Expected Points Added as her preferred measure of offensive and defensive efficiency, she showed that no team is excelling on both sides of the ball this season.

You can read the full article here.


Week 7, 2016: Gameday Thread

Let’s fire it up again this week!


2016 ANY/A Update

Matt Ryan is having a career year, in a not disimilar way from what Carson Palmer did last season. Thanks to a superstar receiver and an offensive coaching staff that is drawing rave reviews, Ryan is having the sort of once-in-a-career year expected from a top-3 pick.  In fact, Ryan is even ahead of Palmer’s pace from last year:

Rk Age Year Lg Tm G W L Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int Rate Sk Yds ANY/A
1 Matt Ryan 31 2016 NFL ATL 6 4 2 143 210 68.10 2075 15 3 117.9 15 98 9.52
2 Carson Palmer 35 2015 NFL CRD 6 4 2 125 193 64.77 1737 14 5 106.9 8 42 8.71

The Falcons ranked 17th in ANY/A last year, and 1st this year; Atlanta’s offensive ANY/A has jumped by 3.34 ANY/A, the biggest leap in the league. You might think the Jets — 14th in ANY/A last year, 32nd this year — would have the biggest decline, but New York’s dip is only the second worst. That’s because Palmer, who had a very lofty perch from which to fall, has been far below-average this season: [click to continue…]


The Green Bay Packers run defense has been insanely dominant this season, allowing just 1.99 yards per carry and 157 rushing yards through four games. Since 1940, only one team — the 1995 49ers — have allowed fewer rushing yards through four games. And Green Bay is the first team since 1953 to allow less than two yards per carry through four games!

Making this all the more remarkable is that the Packers run defense was bad last season, ranking in the bottom half of the league in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, and 29th in yards per carry. From a snap count perspective, LB Nick Perry (76%), LB Jake Ryan (73%), DT Mike Daniels (64%), and LB Blake Martinez (52%) are the only front seven defenders to have appeared in at least 50% of the team’s plays! In other words, it’s not like guys like Clay Matthews (47%) and Julius Peppers (44%) are having monster seasons.

Frankly, I haven’t watched enough of the Packers defense to weigh in on what’s going on — I don’t know if Perry or Ryan is having a breakout season.  So instead, here’s what I’ll do.  The graph below shows the percentage of running plays against the Packers that have gone for X yards, and also against the rest of the NFL.  Here’s the key: the Packers have been incredible at dropping opposing carries for a loss (28%) compared to the rest of the NFL (13%).  Meanwhile, 11% of all runs against the other 31 teams have gone for at least 10+ yards, compared to just two percent of all runs for the Packers (with a long of just 14 yards).


So what’s the takeaway? Does this graph make you think the Packers’ run defense success is more or less fluky (given that there’s always a large amount of flukiness present in such an outlier result)?


Today at 538: A look at season long Game Scripts and Pass Identity data, through week 5:

As we enter mid-October, the identity of each NFL team’s offense has begun to emerge. Some teams, like the San Francisco 49ers, want to run the ball no matter the situation. Others, like the Indianapolis Colts, are pass-happy even when most other teams wouldn’t be. How do we know what teams’ preferred style is? It’s not as easy as looking at their basic stats: Those are shaped by factors outside of their control, like being forced to pass more when trailing. So I’ve created a way to adjust for external forces and classify teams based on how they choose to play offense regardless of the numbers on the scoreboard.

You can read the full article, and see the cool chart and table, here.


538: Cowboys, Powered by Rookies, Are Back On Top

Today at 538: a look at how Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott are powering the Cowboys offense.

The Cowboys’ strong running game has made life easy on the rest of the team: Dallas ranks second in the NFL in time of possession, and the defense is facing just 9.6 drives per game, the fewest in the NFL. That makes life simple for the rookie quarterback, too. Dak Prescott has attempted just 34 passes while trailing in the second half of games this year, and none when trailing by more than four points.

You can read the full article here.

{ 1 comment }
Previous Posts