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A couple of years ago on the July 4th holiday, I looked at each team’s franchise nemesis in a number of statistics. Let’s revisit that, beginning today with passing yards and passing touchdowns.

You won’t be surprised to know that John Elway has thrown for more yards against the Chiefs, Chargers, Raiders, and Seahawks — his four division rivals — than any other player has gained against those four teams. Similarly, Dan Marino has thrown for more yards against the Bills, Jets, Patriots, and Colts than any other quarterback. Brett Favre threw for more yards than anyone else against the Lions, Bears, and Vikings (but not the Bucs), and Peyton Manning is the top nemesis for the Oilers/Titans franchise, the Jaguars, and the Texans.

Drew Brees is the big enemy of the Bucs, Panthers, and Falcons, while Ben Roethlisberger is the top passer against the Ravens, Bengals, and Browns. Perhaps more surprising is that Eli Manning has already thrown for more yards against Philadelphia, Washington, and Dallas than any other quarterback: that’s particularly surprising since he wasn’t #1 against any of those teams two years ago.

One that always kind of surprises me is seeing Johnny Unitas as number 1 against the 49ers, but it does make some sense. My guess is you could win quite a few bar bets with that one. Here’s the full list, which includes all passing yards thrown by each quarterback against each of the 32 teams (and includes playoff games): [click to continue…]


Yesterday, I looked at the best defenses in football history in terms of (estimated) points allowed on an (estimated) per drive basis. Today, the reverse: the worst defenses in history, at least, without adjusting for era, in terms of points allowed per drive.

The 1981 Colts take the top spot, and that’s not going to be a surprise to any fan of NFL history. Those Colts teams were terrible, particularly on defense. In ’81, Baltimore beat New England 29-28 in week 1, beat New England 23-21 in the last game of the season, and lost every game in between. In ’82, Baltimore finished 0-8-1. In fact, beginning in December 1980, over the team’s next 31 games, the Colts went 3-1 against the Patriots and 0-26-1 against the rest of the NFL! And beginning in ’81, the Colts went 24 straight games without being favored.

The ’81 Colts finished last in just about every defensive category, including points, yards, turnovers, first downs, passing touchdowns, rushing touchdowns, and net yards per attempt. Baltimore’s defense ranked in the bottom three in both rushing yards and passing yards, too. Baltimore allowed 533 points, which remains the most in a single season in NFL history, undisturbed by the modern era. [click to continue…]


The Purple People Eaters

The Purple People Eaters

The 1969 Minnesota Vikings were really good on defense. It began with the defensive line, as that Minnesota squad was the only team in NFL history to send all four defensive linemen to the Pro Bowl. Alan Page, Carl Eller, Jim Marshall, and Gary Larsen may have been the greatest combination of defensive linemen playing together in their primes in NFL history. The Vikings also had Hall of Fame safety Paul Krause playing in the prime of his career.

Minnesota was quarterback by Joe Kapp, but propped up by the defense: after the season, Kapp was traded to the Patriots, and proceeded to suffer the second worst decline in passer rating in NFL history. The Vikings went 12-2 that season, losing on opening day and in a meaningless game at the end of the year.

Minnesota allowed just 133 points, or 9.5 points per game, in 1969. That’s the 2nd fewest in a season since World War II, trailing only the Gritz Blitz 1977 Falcons. The Vikings allowed 16 touchdowns in 1969, but four came on returns (two on interceptions, one fumble, one interception)! Exclude those, and the Vikings allowed just 84 points on touchdowns and 21 points on field goals, for a total of 105 points allowed to the opposing offense. [click to continue…]


Single-Season Cellar Dwellars in OPPED

On Sunday, I looked at the single-season leaders in estimated offensive points per estimated drive. Today, let’s look at the reverse: the teams since 1950 with the fewest points per estimated drive.

The 1977 Bucs ranked last in the NFL in points, yards, first downs, passing yards, passing touchdowns, net yards per attempt, rushing yards, and rushing yards per carry. The team ranked third from last in rushing touchdowns and interceptions. It was that kind of year for Tampa Bay, as the team was shut out 6 times in 14 games, and held to just a field goal in three others.

Tampa scored just 103 points, but the defense scored four touchdowns! As a result, the Bucs get credit for just 76 estimated offensive points (the offense does get credit for one missed extra point), the fewest of any team since 1950. [click to continue…]


As regular readers know, PFR’s Approximate Value statistic uses Offensive Points Per Estimated Drive (OPPED) as its base statistic. Given the discussion yesterday regarding estimates drives and scoring, I thought it would be useful to provide a list of the single-season leaders since 1950 in this metric.

Let’s use the 2007 Patriots as an example. For modern teams, we have the data available on how many drives each team had, but for historical teams, it’s not so easy. There are two ways we can measure drives for all teams. One is to measure the end of drives. For example, the ’07 Patriots had:

  • 50 passing touchdowns;
  • 9 interceptions;
  • 17 rushing touchdowns;
  • 24 field goal attempts;
  • 45 punts;
  • 6 fumbles lost; and
  • 0 safeties (i.e., the offense was never sacked in the end zone)

That gives us a total of 151 estimated drives. What we’re missing here are drives that end when the clock runs out and turnovers on downs. Unfortunately, that data is simply not out there historically, although it’s probably not all that important (and, at least with respect to the former, those drives arguably should be excluded, anyway).

We can also measure the start of drives.  The ’07 Patriots:

  • Played 16 games, which means 16 times where the team received the ball at the start of each half;
  • Recorded 0 safeties recorded on defense (which would lead to a possession);
  • Allowed 23 passing touchdowns;
  • Forced 19 interceptions;
  • Allowed 7 rushing touchdowns;
  • Faced 14 opponent field goal attempts;
  • Forced 76 punts;
  • Forced and recovered 12 fumbles.
  • In addition, New England also had 3 pick sixes and returned 3 fumbles for touchdowns.  as a result, we need to subtract 6 from our total, since those turnovers did not lead to drives for the offense.

This method of estimating drives isn’t perfect, either, but if we average the two results, hopefully we get something pretty close.  New England’s offense had 161 estimated drives by this metric, giving them an averaged of 156 estimated offensive drives.1

What about estimated points? That one is relatively simple:

  • Award 7 points for each rushing touchdown or passing touchdown;
  • Award 3 points for each made field goal

There are flaws here, well, but this is probably the best we can do.  By this method, New England had 532 estimated offensive points, and 3.41 OPPED.  That is the most of any team since 1950.  The full list:

RkTeamYrLgEst Drive (End)Est Drive (St)Est OptsOPPED
1New England Patriots2007NFL1511615323.41
2New Orleans Saints2011NFL1621675183.15
3Green Bay Packers2011NFL1621735133.06
4Minnesota Vikings1998NFL1681685113.04
5Indianapolis Colts2004NFL1581704872.97
6Denver Broncos2013NFL1901995722.94
7New England Patriots2010NFL1491684582.89
8St. Louis Rams2000NFL1701875132.87
9San Diego Chargers1982NFL991022862.85
10New England Patriots2012NFL1721815002.83
11Green Bay Packers2014NFL1521634452.83
12New England Patriots2011NFL1661764832.82
13Miami Dolphins1984NFL1651874962.82
14Indianapolis Colts2007NFL1511554262.78
15San Francisco 49ers1994NFL1601754652.78
16Indianapolis Colts2006NFL1441594142.73
17Kansas City Chiefs2004NFL1631764572.7
18San Francisco 49ers1993NFL1551684332.68
19St. Louis Rams2001NFL1731774682.67
20Indianapolis Colts2005NFL1461634122.67
21Dallas Cowboys2014NFL1661694462.66
22San Diego Chargers2009NFL1501644182.66
23Denver Broncos1998NFL1741874752.63
24San Francisco 49ers1992NFL1491644112.63
25San Diego Chargers2006NFL1711874702.63
26Dallas Cowboys1995NFL1541594102.62
27New Orleans Saints2008NFL1611794442.61
28New England Patriots2014NFL1641714342.59
29Green Bay Packers1962NFL1501563952.58
30San Diego Chargers2008NFL1531654102.58
31Kansas City Chiefs2002NFL1601844402.56
32Washington Redskins1983NFL1962055122.55
33Washington Redskins1991NFL1721814502.55
34Houston Oilers1961AFL1871974892.55
35San Diego Chargers2004NFL1651744312.54
36New Orleans Saints2009NFL1701854512.54
37Houston Oilers1990NFL1491613922.53
38San Francisco 49ers1984NFL1731814462.52
39St. Louis Rams1999NFL1741804452.51
40San Diego Chargers2010NFL1661664172.51
41Minnesota Vikings2009NFL1721864492.51
42Indianapolis Colts2003NFL1661754262.5
43Denver Broncos2014NFL1731934572.5
44New England Patriots2008NFL1531694022.5
45New England Patriots2004NFL1601624012.49
46Jacksonville Jaguars2007NFL1461643852.48
47New England Patriots2009NFL1571714072.48
48Dallas Cowboys2007NFL1681774282.48
49Cincinnati Bengals2005NFL1601744132.47
50San Francisco 49ers1989NFL1671814302.47
51New York Giants2012NFL1621684072.47
52Green Bay Packers2009NFL1721784312.46
53San Diego Chargers2011NFL1531603852.46
54Oakland Raiders2002NFL1581734072.46
55New Orleans Saints2013NFL1611774152.46
56Cincinnati Bengals1988NFL1671764212.45
57San Francisco 49ers1987NFL1721814332.45
58San Diego Chargers1981NFL1892014772.45
59Buffalo Bills1990NFL1561683962.44
60San Diego Chargers2013NFL1551643892.44
61Kansas City Chiefs2003NFL1761854402.44
62Atlanta Falcons2012NFL1631714072.44
63San Francisco 49ers1998NFL1872024742.44
64New York Giants2008NFL1581724022.44
65Buffalo Bills1991NFL1731884392.43
66Minnesota Vikings2004NFL1481673832.43
67Indianapolis Colts2009NFL1581703982.43
68San Francisco 49ers1953NFL1461563662.42
69Green Bay Packers1961NFL1471533632.42
70Miami Dolphins1986NFL1701834272.42
71Seattle Seahawks2005NFL1761824322.41
72Detroit Lions1995NFL1681864272.41
73Baltimore Colts1976NFL1641764102.41
74Los Angeles Rams1950NFL1801804342.41
75New Orleans Saints2014NFL1591734002.41
76Minnesota Vikings2000NFL1601683952.41
77San Francisco 49ers1995NFL1611683962.41
78Baltimore Colts1964NFL1641764082.4
79Indianapolis Colts2014NFL1831904472.4
80Kansas City Chiefs1966AFL1711774162.39
81New Orleans Saints2012NFL1741834252.38
82Oakland Raiders2000NFL1721874262.37
83Buffalo Bills1975NFL1651774052.37
84Miami Dolphins1972NFL1521633732.37
85Indianapolis Colts2008NFL1361523402.36
86Los Angeles Rams1951NFL1611573752.36
87Dallas Cowboys1966NFL1711754082.36
88Carolina Panthers2011NFL1641713952.36
89Cleveland Browns1966NFL1561703842.36
90Pittsburgh Steelers2014NFL1581723882.35
91Indianapolis Colts2010NFL1681734002.35
92Denver Broncos2000NFL1701894212.35
92Denver Broncos2012NFL1741854212.35
94Houston Texans2010NFL1551773892.34
95Green Bay Packers2012NFL1691784062.34
96Baltimore Colts1958NFL1481643652.34
97New York Giants1963NFL1731794112.34
98San Diego Chargers2005NFL1731754062.33
99Washington Redskins2012NFL1601783942.33
100San Francisco 49ers2001NFL1621733902.33
101Green Bay Packers1995NFL1641773962.32
102Detroit Lions1972NFL1361523332.31
103Chicago Bears2013NFL1671733932.31
104Cincinnati Bengals1982NFL91972172.31
105Baltimore Ravens2014NFL1571803882.3
106Seattle Seahawks2012NFL1541703732.3
106New York Giants1967NFL1561683732.3
108New York Jets1982NFL1001052362.3
109Indianapolis Colts2000NFL1691824042.3
110Cincinnati Bengals1985NFL1771964292.3
111New England Patriots2013NFL1821854222.3
112Cleveland Browns1960NFL1321433162.3
113Philadelphia Eagles2013NFL1811904262.3
114Carolina Panthers1999NFL1751834112.3
115Seattle Seahawks2014NFL1541713732.3
116Miami Dolphins1995NFL1681713892.29
117Denver Broncos1997NFL1651833992.29
118Cleveland Browns1964NFL1501643602.29
119Dallas Texans1962AFL1621803922.29
120Green Bay Packers2007NFL1681763942.29
121Dallas Cowboys2006NFL1631773892.29
122Denver Broncos2008NFL1511603552.28
123Denver Broncos1995NFL1631703802.28
124Baltimore Colts1959NFL1401583402.28
125Chicago Bears1995NFL1591723772.28
126Green Bay Packers2003NFL1791894192.28
127Baltimore Colts1968NFL1551633622.28
128Arizona Cardinals2008NFL1631803902.27
129Carolina Panthers2008NFL1711803992.27
129Dallas Cowboys2013NFL1721793992.27
131San Francisco 49ers1965NFL1691723872.27
132Minnesota Vikings2003NFL1601783832.27
132Cleveland Browns1968NFL1641743832.27
134Baltimore Colts1967NFL1541653612.26
135Miami Dolphins1975NFL1531603542.26
136Miami Dolphins1994NFL1671703802.26
137Miami Dolphins1985NFL1771924162.25
138San Diego Chargers1963AFL1721723872.25
138New Orleans Saints2010NFL1611673692.25
140Pittsburgh Steelers2007NFL1581713702.25
141Kansas City Chiefs2005NFL1641763822.25
142Green Bay Packers2013NFL1691813932.25
143Green Bay Packers2004NFL1681773872.24
144Atlanta Falcons2010NFL1651723782.24
145Green Bay Packers1996NFL1681883992.24
146Detroit Lions2011NFL1851924222.24
147Chicago Bears1965NFL1621743762.24
148San Francisco 49ers1991NFL1631753782.24
149Dallas Cowboys1968NFL1681723802.24
150New York Jets1998NFL1691813902.23
151San Francisco 49ers2000NFL1581783742.23
152Philadelphia Eagles2010NFL1821944182.22
153Indianapolis Colts1999NFL1691813892.22
154Cincinnati Bengals1981NFL1791894092.22
155Dallas Cowboys1980NFL1832004252.22
156Washington Redskins1999NFL1771924092.22
157St. Louis Rams2003NFL1831884112.22
158Atlanta Falcons2011NFL1651803822.21
159Los Angeles Rams1973NFL1581773702.21
160Atlanta Falcons2008NFL1561703602.21
161New York Jets2008NFL1611713662.2
162San Diego Chargers1985NFL2022094532.2
163Dallas Cowboys1993NFL1541693562.2
164New York Giants1962NFL1651793792.2
165New Orleans Saints1987NFL1771874002.2
166New Orleans Saints2006NFL1721843912.2
167Dallas Cowboys1971NFL1711783832.19
168Jacksonville Jaguars1997NFL1621783732.19
168Dallas Cowboys1992NFL1631773732.19
170Cincinnati Bengals1989NFL1671843852.19
170Denver Broncos1996NFL1711803852.19
172Oakland Raiders1972NFL1561653522.19
173Atlanta Falcons1998NFL1731843912.19
174Seattle Seahawks2013NFL1711823862.19
175San Francisco 49ers2012NFL1661703672.18
176Dallas Cowboys1994NFL1691803812.18
177Denver Broncos2002NFL1601813722.18
178New York Jets1972NFL1581673542.18
179Kansas City Chiefs1967AFL1691723712.18
180Denver Broncos2005NFL1641793732.17
181Tennessee Titans2003NFL1711833832.16
182Buffalo Bills1998NFL1711873862.16
183Miami Dolphins2014NFL1581763602.16
184Cleveland Browns1987NFL1631753642.15
185Chicago Bears1956NFL1421583232.15
186Cincinnati Bengals1986NFL1771903942.15
187San Francisco 49ers1983NFL1711863832.15
188Minnesota Vikings2002NFL1781803842.15
189Los Angeles Rams1989NFL1821964052.14
189New England Patriots2006NFL1681823752.14
189Green Bay Packers2010NFL1631733602.14
192Dallas Cowboys1973NFL1601753582.14
193New York Giants2009NFL1691823752.14
194Atlanta Falcons2002NFL1751843832.13
195Cleveland Browns1980NFL1661753632.13
196Pittsburgh Steelers2005NFL1631813662.13
197Philadelphia Eagles2004NFL1691843752.12
198Seattle Seahawks1987NFL1631753592.12
198Baltimore Colts1965NFL1641743592.12
200Atlanta Falcons2014NFL1621773602.12
  1. Note that the Patriots went 15/21 on 4th down attempts that year. FWIW, Football Outsiders has New England with 158 offensive drives. []

The 1972 Detroit Lions Offense

There are lots of ways to measure a team’s offensive production.  But if a drive does not end in a punt or a turnover, it’s probably a pretty good drive.  Last year, the Packers had just 64 possessions end in a punt (51) or turnover (6 interceptions, 7 fumbles lost).  The Raiders led the way with 138 Bad Drives — defined as possessions that ended in a punt or turnover — so this metric passes the sniff test.

Here’s some more positive evidence for this statistic: Since 1970, the team with the fewest Bad Drives was the 2007 Patriots at 60.1  That New England team was followed by the ’14 Packers, the ’11 Saints (66), the ’06 Colts (67), the ’10 Patriots (68), the ’72 Lions (68), the ’11 Packers (69), and the ’09 Chargers (69. The Colts from ’04 to ’08 were extremely consistent and extremely strong in this metric, with 71 Bad Drives in ’04, 71 in ’05, ’67 in ’06, 71 in ’07, and 70 in ’08. [click to continue…]

  1. And excluding 1982. []

In 2008, Jamaal Charles had 67 carries and averaged 5.33 yards per carry. Those 67 carries represent 5% of Charles’ career attempts to date (excluding playoffs). That season, the NFL league average was 4.20 yards per carry, which means Charles was 1.12 (after rounding) YPC above average in 2008, or 1.12 YPC above average on 5% of his career carries.

In ’09, Charles had 190 carries, representing 15% of his career YPC. He averaged 5.89 YPC, and the league average was 4.24, which means Charles was 1.65 YPC above average for 15% of his career carries.

In 2010, those numbers were 230, 18%, 6.38, and 4.21, so Charles was 2.17 YPC above league average on 18% of his career carries.

I performed that analysis for every season of Charles’ career — and every other player in NFL history — to determine each player’s career YPC average relative to league average. The table below shows the 200 running backs (by default, only the top 10 are shown) in pro football history with the most carries. The table is sorted by YPC over league average. Here’s how to read it. Jamaal Charles ranks 1st in YPC over league average. His first year was 2008 and his last year (so far) was 2014. For his career, Charles has 1,249 career rush attempts, which ranks 118th in pro football history. He has 6,856 yards, giving him a 5.49 career YPC average. His “expected” career yards per carry average — based on the league average YPC in each season of his career, weighted by his number of carries — is 4.21. Therefore, Charles has averaged 1.28 YPC above league average for his career, the highest rate in football history. [click to continue…]


Three years ago on Father’s Day, I posted a trivia question about the first quarterback to get to 100 losses. I won’t spoil that for new readers, and older readers have bad memories so you can try your hand at that trivia question again.

Today, a different trivia question: Who was the first quarterback to get to 100 wins?

Trivia hint 1 Show

Trivia hint 2 Show

Trivia hint 3 Show

Click 'Show' for the Answer Show

Unitas was the career record holder for about nine years. Then, on October 1st, 1978, Fran Tarkenton and the Vikings beat the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay. That marked the 119th victory of Tarkenton’s career, breaking the tie with Unitas set one week earlier. Tarkenton would win five more games in ’78, his final season in the NFL.

Tarkenton was the NFL’s winningest quarterback for 18 years. On December 1st, 1996, John Elway and the Broncos crushed the Seahawks, 34-7. In the process, Elway picked up his 125th career victory. When he set the record, Elway held only a narrow lead in the wins department over Dan Marino. But the ’97 and ’98 seasons were good to him, and Elway retired with 148 career wins. Marino played for one more year, but retired one shy, with 147 career wins.

Elway held the record for just over ten years. That was until Brett Favre, in a 35-13 win over the Giants, won his 149th career game.

Favre retired with 186 wins. And right now, Peyton Manning enters the 2015 season with 178 wins. It would be a surprise if Manning doesn’t edge out Favre this season, which would make Favre — at 8 years — the man who held the title of ‘winningest quarterback’ for the shortest amount of time. How long will Manning hold the record? That will depend on Tom Brady, who has 160 wins. Will Brady play long enough to eclipse Manning? Whichever of the two winds up on top will hold the record for the foreseeable future, especially if they extend it out to 200 wins.


The 2014 Cowboys had a lot of continuity on offense. Each of the team’s 11 main starters on offense started at least 11 games. Quarterback Tony Romo started 15 games, while running back DeMarco Murray, wide receivers Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams, and tight end Jason Witten each started 16 games. The sixth non-lineman starter was usually James Hanna who started 12 games, but even that sells the team short. Hanna played in all 16 games, but started only 12; in four other games, Dallas instead started off with either slot receiver Cole Beasley, third-string tight end Gavin Escobar, or fullback Tyler Clutts on the field over a healthy Hanna.

On the offensive line, Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin each started 16 games and made the Pro Bowl; left guard Ronald Leary started 15 games, with the most major injury hitting right tackle Doug Free, who missed three games in the middle of the year with a foot injury, and the final two games (and both playoff games) with an ankle injury.

Things were only slightly hairier on defense. In the secondary, safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox started every game, while cornerback Brandon Carr also played the full slate. Orlando Scandrick started the final 14 games of the year at corner after being suspended for the first two games of the year.

On the defensive line, Jeremy Mincey and Nick Hayden started 16 games, Tyrone Crawford started 15, and George Selvie started 13 games (but played in all 16). The most serious injuries came at linebacker: Rolando McClain started 12 games, Anthony Hitchens started 11, and Bruce Carter started 8 games. Of course, Sean Lee also missed the entire season after tearing his ACL in May.

If you sort the Cowboys roster by number of starts, the top 22 players started 318 games, or 14.5 games per play. That, as you might have guessed, was the most of any team last season:

RkTmAvg of Top 22

While Dallas looks pretty good in this analysis, it’s far from exceptional historically.1 Since 1978, 185 teams have had their top 22 starters average at least 14.5 starts.

The table below lists the top 56 teams (a 9-way tie at 48 enlarged a top-50 list) by this metric since 1978. I’ve also displayed each team’s winning percentage in Year N and in Year N+1, with Year N being the initial year in question.

RkTmAvg of Top 22YearWin %N+1 Win %

As you might suspect, these teams tended to fare better in Year N than they did the following year. While some regression to the mean is expected, these 56 teams had an average winning percentage of 0.640 in Year N, and then 0.519 in Year N+1. This is too general a study from which to conclude much, if anything, about the 2015 Cowboys. It should go without saying that “starts” are not a perfect proxy for “team health” and even if it were, “team health” is not a good proxy for “amount by which a team was helped/harmed by injuries.” But I did find today’s results interesting enough to share.

  1. This, at least in part, is due to more specialization in today’s games, and teams being more likely to change the starting lineup (going with three receivers or a fullback instead of two tight ends, starting in nickel rather than a traditional base defense, etc. []
A key cog, but not the only one, in the GSOT

A key reason, but not the only one, for the GSOT’s success

In 1999, Marshall Faulk set the NFL record for yards from scrimmage in a season with 2,429. That mark still stands as the 2nd best in NFL history, and Faulk was truly dominant that season.

But while Faulk may have been the key cog in the St. Louis machine, he wasn’t the whole machine. St. Louis led the NFL in total yards, and had the most talented offense in the NFL. Faulk accounted for 36.6% of the Rams total offensive output that year,1 a huge number — but not a historically incredible one.

Consider what Maurice Jones-Drew did in 2011. The Jaguars were 5-11, and finished last by a mile in terms of total yards. Yet, somehow, Jones-Drew led the league in rushing with 1,606 yards, and ranked 2nd with 1,980 yards from scrimmage. No other Jaguar came within 1500 yards of Jones-Drew that year! The Jacksonville star was responsible for an incredible 44.2% of the team’s offensive output that season, the 2nd most in NFL history.

Now, what’s more impressive: being responsible for 44.2% of a bad offense, or 36.6% of a dominant one? That’s up to each reader to decide, but today, I wanted to look at workhorse yardage producers. The table below, which is fully sortable and searchable, shows the top 400 players in the statistic “percentage of team’s total yards from scrimmage”: [click to continue…]

  1. Receiving Yards + Rushing Yards, or Net Passing Yards + Sack Yards Lost + Rushing Yards. []

In 2014, Julio Jones led the NFL with 31 catches of at least 20+ yards. He also was tied for 3rd with 25 receptions on either 3rd or 4th down that picked up a first down for his team. Those are two pretty different skill sets, but Jones fared well in both areas.

I thought it would be fun to try to see which wide receivers were big outliers in one of those two metrics relative to the other.1 There were 56 players with at least 10 receptions of at least 20+ yards last season. I ran a simple linear regression using “20+ Yard Receptions” as my input and “1st down receptions on 3rd/4th down” as my output. The best-fit formula was:

1st down receptions on 3rd/4th down = 6.77 + 0.63 * 20+ Yard receptions

Let’s use Jones as an example. With 31 big play catches, he’d be “expected” to pull in 26.3 first downs on either 3rd or 4th down; as noted above, he came pretty close to hitting that exact number.

Then there are players like Washington’s DeSean Jackson. He had 16 “big play catches” last year, which means we’d “project” him to have about 16.8 first down grabs on 3rd/4th down. In reality, he had just five, falling 11.8 catches short of expectation. As it turns out, that’s the most extreme player in that direction from the 2014 season. The narrative meets the numbers: Jackson is a great deep threat, but not a move-the-chains receiver (or, at least, he’s not being used like one).

In the other corner, we have Anquan Boldin. The crafty veteran had 14 receptions of at least 20+ yards, which means we’d expect him to have recorded about 15.6 first down catches on 3rd or 4th down. In reality, he had 27, giving him 11.4 more than expected. That makes him the most extreme “possession receiver” by this methodology.

The full list, below: [click to continue…]

  1. The original inspiration for this post came from this Mike Tanier article. []

Yesterday, we looked at the career leaders in yards from scrimmage over “worst starter.” Today, let’s look at the single-season list.

Chris Johnson set the single-season record for yards from scrimmage in 2009, when he totaled an incredible 2,509 yards. But that’s not the record for YFS in a season on a per-game basis. That ranks only third in NFL history, behind O.J. Simpson in 1975 (not his more famous ’73 season) and Priest Holmes in 2002.

Holmes missed two games due to injury that season, while Simpson set his during a 14-game schedule. As it turns out, Simpson — who set the record for rushing yards over “worst starter” in 1973 — is your single-season yards from scrimmage over “worst starter” king based on his work in 1975.

In ’75, the 26th-ranked player in YFS gained 890 yards, while Simpson rushed for 1,817 yards and gained another 426 yards through the air. With a total of 2,243 yards from scrimmage, Simpson therefore gained 1,353 more yards than the “worst starter” or 1,546 more yards once we pro-rate to a 16-game season.

RkPlayerYearTmLgRush YdRec YdYFSTmsBaselineDiffLgGmPro-Rated
1O.J. Simpson1975BUFNFL18174262243268901353141546
2Walter Payton1977CHINFL18522692121288541267141448
3Chris Johnson2009TENNFL200650325093211571352161352
4Jim Brown1963CLENFL18632682131149671164141330
5O.J. Simpson1973BUFNFL2003702073269471126141287
6Marshall Faulk1999STLNFL1381104824293111471282161282
7LaDainian Tomlinson2003SDGNFL164572523703211081262161262
8Tiki Barber2005NYGNFL186053023903211461244161244
9Barry Sanders1997DETNFL205330523583011211237161237
10DeMarco Murray2014DALNFL184541622613210771184161184
11Otis Armstrong1974DENNFL14074051812267841028141175
12Eric Dickerson1984RAMNFL210513922442810701174161174
13Jamal Lewis2003BALNFL206620522713211081163161163
14Adrian Peterson2012MINNFL209721723143211541160161160
15James Wilder1984TAMNFL154468522292810701159161159
16Thurman Thomas1992BUFNFL14876262113289661147161147
17Marcus Allen1985RAINFL175955523142811691145161145
18Ahman Green2003GNBNFL188336722503211081142161142
19Le'Veon Bell2014PITNFL136185422153210771138161138
20Jim Brown1958CLENFL1527138166512817848121131
21Steven Jackson2006STLNFL152880623343212091125161125
22Harry Clarke1943CHINFL55653510911052956281124
23LaDainian Tomlinson2006SDGNFL181550823233212091114161114
24Arian Foster2010HOUNFL161660422203211091111161111
25Jim Brown1965CLENFL1544328187214909963141101
26Marshall Faulk1998INDNFL131990822273011301097161097
27Terrell Davis1998DENNFL200821722253011301095161095
28Emmitt Smith1992DALNFL17133352048289661082161082
29Barry Foster1992PITNFL16903442034289661068161068
30Lydell Mitchell1977BALNFL1159620177928854925141057
31Deuce McAllister2003NORNFL164151621573211081049161049
32Barry Sanders1994DETNFL188328321662811271039161039
33Jamal Anderson1998ATLNFL184631921653011301035161035
34Eric Dickerson1983RAMNFL180840422122811921020161020
35Beattie Feathers1934CHINFL100417411781148369510.91019
36Don Hutson1942GNBNFL41211121510515700111018
37Thurman Thomas1991BUFNFL140763120382810201018161018
38Priest Holmes2001KANNFL155561421693111601009161009
39Priest Holmes2003KANNFL142069021103211081002161002
40Chuck Foreman1975MINNFL107069117612689087114995
41Edgerrin James1999INDNFL1553586213931114799216992
42Priest Holmes2002KANNFL1615672228732129699116991
43Larry Johnson2006KANNFL1789410219932120999016990
44Marshall Faulk2001STLNFL1382765214731116098716987
45Jim Brown1964CLENFL144634017861492386314986
46Edgerrin James2000INDNFL1709594230331131798616986
47William Andrews1983ATLNFL1567609217628119298416984
48Walter Payton1984CHINFL1684368205228107098216982
49Charley Hennigan1961HOUAFL017461746888885814981
50Garrison Hearst1998SFONFL1570535210530113097516975
51Frank Gore2006SFONFL1695485218032120997116971
52Lydell Mitchell1975BALNFL119354417372689084714968
53Earl Campbell1980HOUNFL193447198128101896316963
54Elroy Hirsch1951RAMNFL3149514981277772112961
55Lenny Moore1958BALNFL59893815361281771912959
56O.J. Simpson1976BUFNFL150325917622893183114950
57LeSean McCoy2013PHINFL1607539214632119794916949
58Larry Johnson2005KANNFL1750343209332114694716947
59Lydell Mitchell1976BALNFL120055517552893182414942
60Wilbert Montgomery1979PHINFL1512494200628106993716937
61Eric Dickerson1988INDNFL1659377203628110293416934
62Roger Craig1988SFONFL1502534203628110293416934
63Brian Westbrook2007PHINFL1333771210432117293216932
64Jim Brown1961CLENFL1408459186714105381414930
65Eric Dickerson1986RAMNFL1821205202628110092616926
66Emmitt Smith1995DALNFL1773375214830122492416924
67Ricky Williams2002MIANFL1853363221632129692016920
68Tiki Barber2006NYGNFL1662465212732120991816918
69Herschel Walker1988DALNFL1514505201928110291716917
70Terrell Davis1997DENNFL1750287203730112191616916
71Chet Mutryn1948BUFAAFC8237941617882379414907
72Billy Sims1980DETNFL1303621192428101890616906
73Chuck Foreman1976MINNFL115556717222893179114904
74Lorenzo White1992HOUNFL122664118672896690116901
75Ray Rice2011BALNFL1364704206832117189716897
76Roger Craig1985SFONFL10501016206628116989716897
77Emmitt Smith1993DALNFL1486414190028100689416894
78Tiki Barber2004NYGNFL1518578209632120689016890
79William Andrews1981ATLNFL1301735203628114788916889
80Ray Rice2009BALNFL1339702204132115788416884
81Larry Brown1972WASNFL121647316892691877114881
82Walter Payton1978CHINFL139548018752899887716877
83LaDainian Tomlinson2002SDGNFL1683489217232129687616876
84Marshall Faulk2000STLNFL1359830218931131787216872
85John David Crow1960STLNFL107146215331388365012867
86Gene Roberts1949NYGNFL63471113451069664912865
87Walter Payton1985CHINFL1551483203428116986516865
88Marcus Allen1984RAINFL1168758192628107085616856
89Frank Gifford1956NYGNFL81960314221278064212856
90Walter Payton1979CHINFL1610313192328106985416854
91Ottis Anderson1979STLNFL1605308191328106984416844
92Jim Benton1945RAMNFL0106710671054352410838
93Lawrence McCutcheon1974RAMNFL110940815172678473314838
94Walter Payton1983CHINFL1421607202828119283616836
95Barry Sanders1991DETNFL1548307185528102083516835
96Fred Taylor2003JAXNFL1572370194232110883416834
97Don Woods1974SDGNFL116234915112678472714831
98Jamaal Charles2010KANNFL1467468193532110982616826
99Edgerrin James2004INDNFL1548483203132120682516825
100Tony Dorsett1981DALNFL1646325197128114782416824
101Ahman Green2001GNBNFL1387594198131116082116821
102Ron Johnson1972NYGNFL118245116332691871514817
103Gerald Riggs1985ATLNFL1719267198628116981716817
104Marcus Allen1982RAINFL6974011098286394599816
105Shaun Alexander2005SEANFL188078195832114681216812
106Calvin Johnson2012DETNFL01964196432115481016810
107Maurice Jones-Drew2011JAXNFL1606374198032117180916809
108Walter Payton1980CHINFL1460367182728101880916809
109Thurman Thomas1990BUFNFL1297532182928102180816808
110Greg Pruitt1977CLENFL108647115572885470314803
111Emmitt Smith1991DALNFL1563258182128102080116801
112Clinton Portis2003DENNFL1591314190532110879716797
113Gale Sayers1966CHINFL123144716781598469414793
114Thurman Thomas1989BUFNFL1244669191328112478916789
115Don Hutson1944GNBNFL87866953115054489.1788
116Jamaal Charles2013KANNFL1287693198032119778316783
117Clem Daniels1963OAKAFL109968517848110168314781
118LaDainian Tomlinson2007SDGNFL1474475194932117277716777
119William Andrews1982ATLNFL5735031076286394379777
120Wilbert Montgomery1981PHINFL1402521192328114777616776
121Herschel Walker1987DALNFL89171516062888172515773
122Doug Martin2012TAMNFL1454472192632115477216772
123Jim Brown1960CLENFL125720414611388357812771
124Jim Brown1959CLENFL132919015191294257712769
125Matt Forte2014CHINFL1038808184632107776916769
126Barry Sanders1990DETNFL1304480178428102176316763
127Adrian Peterson2008MINNFL1760125188532112576016760
128Wes Chandler1982SDGNFL3210321064286394259756
129Ricky Watters1996PHINFL1411444185530110075516755
130Lawrence McCutcheon1977RAMNFL123827415122885465814752
131Billy Hillenbrand1948BCLAAFC5109701480882365714751
132Terrell Davis1996DENNFL1538310184830110074816748
133William Andrews1980ATLNFL1308456176428101874616746
134Chris Warren1994SEANFL1545323186828112774116741
135Billy Sims1981DETNFL1437451188828114774116741
136Bill Brown1964MINNFL86670315691492364614738
137Charley Taylor1964WASNFL75581415691492364614738
138Billy Cannon1961HOUAFL9485861534888864614738
139Matt Forte2013CHINFL1339594193332119773616736
140Curtis Martin2004NYJNFL1697245194232120673616736
141Rick Casares1956CHINFL112620313291278054912732
142Timmy Brown1965PHINFL86168215431490963414725
143Curt Warner1986SEANFL1481342182328110072316723
144Earl Campbell1979HOUNFL169794179128106972216722
145Ron Johnson1970NYGNFL102748715142688363114721
146Steve Van Buren1949PHINFL11468812341069653812717
147Ottis Anderson1984STLNFL1174611178528107071516715
148Terry Allen1992MINNFL120147816792896671316713
149Andy Farkas1939WASNFL5474379841049648811710
150Brian Westbrook2006PHINFL1217699191632120970716707
151Tony Dorsett1978DALNFL132537817032899870516705
152Abner Haynes1962DTXAFL104957316228100961314701
153Jim Benton1946RAMNFL09819811050148011698
154Emmitt Smith1994DALNFL1484341182528112769816698
155Edgerrin James2005INDNFL1506337184332114669716697
156Thurman Thomas1993BUFNFL1315387170228100669616696
157Walter Payton1976CHINFL139014915392893160814695
158Gerald Riggs1984ATLNFL1486277176328107069316693
159Tiki Barber2002NYGNFL1387597198432129668816688
160LaDainian Tomlinson2005SDGNFL1462370183232114668616686
161Jim Taylor1964GNBNFL116935415231492360014686
162Dorsey Levens1997GNBNFL1435370180530112168416684
163Cliff Battles1933BOSNFL7371859221043548711.4684
164Marshall Faulk1994INDNFL1282522180428112767716677
165Barry Sanders1995DETNFL1500398189830122467416674
166Curtis Martin2001NYJNFL1513320183331116067316673
167James Brooks1986CINNFL1087686177328110067316673
168Arian Foster2011HOUNFL1224617184132117167016670
169Leroy Kelly1968CLENFL123929715361695258414667
170Ray Rice2010BALNFL1220556177632110966716667
171Jerome Bettis1993RAMNFL1429244167328100666716667
172Larry Brown1970WASNFL112534114662688358314666
173Adrian Peterson2009MINNFL1383436181932115766216662
174Chuck Foreman1974MINNFL77758613632678457914662
175Cliff Battles1937WASNFL874819551050145411660
176Shaun Alexander2004SEANFL1696170186632120666016660
177Jerry Rice1995SFONFL361848188430122466016660
178Johnny Strzykalski1948SFOAAFC9154851400882357714659
179Steve Van Buren1945PHINFL8321239551054341210659
180Charles White1987RAMNFL137412114952888161415655
181Jerome Bettis1997PITNFL1665110177530112165416654
182George Rogers1981NORNFL1674126180028114765316653
183Jim Nance1966BOSAFL14581031561999057114653
184Dalton Hilliard1989NORNFL1262514177628112465216652
185Franco Harris1975PITNFL124621414602689057014651
186Barry Sanders1998DETNFL1491289178030113065016650
187Joe Morris1986NYGNFL1516233174928110064916649
188Chuck Foreman1977MINNFL111230814202885456614647
189Eddie George2000TENNFL1509453196231131764516645
190Ottis Anderson1980STLNFL1352308166028101864216642
191Jim Musick1933BOSNFL809788871043545211.4634
192Delvin Williams1976SFONFL120328314862893155514634
193Antonio Brown2014PITNFL131698171132107763416634
194Mark van Eeghen1977OAKNFL127313514082885455414633
195Marshawn Lynch2012SEANFL1590196178632115463216632
196Barry Sanders1989DETNFL1470282175228112462816628
197Shaun Alexander2003SEANFL1435295173032110862216622
198Lawrence McCutcheon1976RAMNFL116830514732893154214619
199Charlie Garner1999SFONFL1229535176431114761716617
200Eric Dickerson19872TMNFL128817114592888157815617
201Ottis Anderson1981STLNFL1376387176328114761616616
202Spec Sanders1947NYYAAFC1432131445890653914616
203Michael Turner2008ATLNFL169941174032112561516615
204Ricky Williams2003MIANFL1372351172332110861516615
205Eddie George1999TENNFL1304458176231114761516615
206Walter Payton1986CHINFL1333382171528110061516615
207Barry Sanders1992DETNFL135222515772896661116611
208Otis Armstrong1976DENNFL100845714652893153414610
209Ted Brown1981MINNFL1063694175728114761016610
210Maurice Jones-Drew2009JAXNFL1391374176532115760816608
211Billy Sims1982DETNFL639342981286393429608
212Charlie Garner2002OAKNFL962941190332129660716607
213Sam Cunningham1977NWENFL101537013852885453114607
214O.J. Simpson1972BUFNFL125119814492691853114607
215Jim Taylor1962GNBNFL1474106158014104953114607
216O.J. Simpson1974BUFNFL112518913142678453014606
217Barry Sanders1996DETNFL1553147170030110060016600
218Leroy Kelly1966CLENFL114136615071598452314598
219Mike Pruitt1979CLENFL1294372166628106959716597
220Marshawn Lynch2014SEANFL1306367167332107759616596
221Ricky Williams2001NORNFL1245511175631116059616596
222Billy Howton1952GNBNFL0123112311278444712596
223Freeman McNeil1982NYJNFL786187973286393349594
224Torry Holt2003STLNFL51696170132110859316593
225Jamaal Charles2012KANNFL1509236174532115459116591
226Lydell Mitchell1974BALNFL75754413012678451714591
227Matt Forte2008CHINFL1238477171532112559016590
228Freeman McNeil1985NYJNFL1331427175828116958916589
229Joe Perry1954SFONFL104920312521281144112588
230Mack Herron1974NWENFL82447412982678451414587
231Tony Dorsett1985DALNFL1307449175628116958716587
232Clinton Portis2005WASNFL1516216173232114658616586
233Mike Thomas1975WASNFL91948314022689051214585
234Neal Anderson1989CHINFL1275434170928112458516585
235Abner Haynes1961DTXAFL8415581399888851114584
236Curt Warner1983SEANFL1449325177428119258216582
237Joe Cribbs1980BUFNFL1185415160028101858216582
238Steven Jackson2009STLNFL1416322173832115758116581
239Clinton Portis2008WASNFL1487218170532112558016580
240Hoyle Granger1967HOUAFL11943001494998750714579
241Tony Dorsett1984DALNFL1189459164828107057816578
242Clinton Portis2002DENNFL1508364187232129657616576
243Curtis Martin1999NYJNFL1464259172331114757616576
244Napoleon Kaufman1997OAKNFL1294403169730112157616576
245Tom Tracy1958PITNFL71453512491281743212576
246Don Hutson1943GNBNFL41776817105292888576
247Isaac Bruce1995STLNFL171781179830122457416574
248Floyd Little1971DENNFL113325513882688650214574
249Steve Owens1971DETNFL103535013852688649914570
250LaDainian Tomlinson2004SDGNFL1335441177632120657016570
251Domanick Williams2004HOUNFL1188588177632120657016570
252Lenny Moore1960BALNFL37493613101388342712569
253Tiki Barber2003NYGNFL1216461167732110856916569
254Jerry Rice1993SFONFL691503157228100656616566
255Joe Washington1979BALNFL884750163428106956516565
256Bobby Mitchell1963WASNFL24143614601496749314563
257LeSean McCoy2010PHINFL1080592167232110956316563
258Don Hutson1945GNBNFL608348941054335110562
259Leroy Kelly1967CLENFL120528214871699649114561
260Lenny Moore1957BALNFL48868711751275741812557
261Bob Margarita1945CHINFL4973948911054334810557
262Darren McFadden2010OAKNFL1157507166432110955516555
263Calvin Hill1973DALNFL114229014322694748514554
264Raymond Berry1960BALNFL0129812981388341512553
265Joe Cribbs1981BUFNFL1097603170028114755316553
266Robert Smith2000MINNFL1521348186931131755216552
267Calvin Hill1972DALNFL103636414002691848214551
268Lance Alworth1965SDGAFL-12160215908110848214551
269C.J. Spiller2012BUFNFL1244459170332115454916549
270Don Hutson1939GNBNFL268468721049637611547
271Steve Van Buren1947PHINFL10087910871067741012547
272John Riggins1975NYJNFL100536313682689047814546
273Peyton Hillis2010CLENFL1177477165432110954516545
274Greg Pruitt1975CLENFL106729913662689047614544
275Billy Howton1956GNBNFL0118811881278040812544
276Demaryius Thomas2014DENNFL01619161932107754216542
277Randy Moss2003MINNFL181632165032110854216542
278Jerry Rice1986SFONFL721570164228110054216542
279Neal Anderson1990CHINFL1078484156228102154116541
280Ricky Watters2000SEANFL1242613185531131753816538
281Tony Reed1978KANNFL105348315362899853816538
282Tom Matte1969BALNFL90951314221695247014537
283Josh Gordon2013CLENFL881646173432119753716537
284Ottis Anderson1983STLNFL1270459172928119253716537
285Alfred Morris2012WASNFL161377169032115453616536
286Bob Boyd1954RAMNFL0121212121281140112535
287Steve Slaton2008HOUNFL1282377165932112553416534
288Wendell Tyler1982RAMNFL564375939286393009533
289Maurice Jones-Drew2010JAXNFL1324317164132110953216532
290Corey Dillon2004NWENFL1635103173832120653216532
291Art Malone1972ATLNFL79858513832691846514531
292Gale Sayers1965CHINFL86750713741490946514531
293Don Maynard1967NYJAFL1814341452998746514531
294Jim Brown1962CLENFL996517151314104946414530
295Adrian Peterson2010MINNFL1298341163932110953016530
296Clem Daniels1966OAKAFL8016521453999046314529
297Mike Thomas1976WASNFL110129013912893146014526
298MacArthur Lane1970STLNFL97736513422688345914525
299Curtis Martin1995NWENFL1487261174830122452416524
300Curtis Martin1998NYJNFL1287365165230113052216522
  • Walter Payton and Barry Sanders lead the way with 9 seasons apiece in the top 300, although as you learned yesterday, Payton still has a big edge over Sanders. That’s because of the top 10 seasons by the duo (all in the top 125), 7 came from Payton.
  • O.J. Simpson has two top-5 seasons; no one else has two in the top 15. Jim Brown has three top-25 seasons; no one else has three in the top 40, and Priest Holmes and Marshall Faulk are the only others with three top-50 seasons. Brown is the only player with 4 top-50 seasons; and Eric Dickerson is the only other player with four top-75 seasons. Brown has five top-65 seasons; Payton is the only other player with five top-100 seasons (next is Emmitt Smith, whose fifth best season is all the way down at 154). But that’s when Brown passes the baton to Payton: the Bears legend has six top-100 seasons, which nobody else can match (Brown’s 6th best year was #123).
  • The Texans have four seasons in the top 300, which puts the following in some perspective. The Bengals have just one season — James Brooks, 1986 — in the top 300. Brooks ranked 3rd in yards from scrimmage that season, the only time any Bengal has ever ranked in the top 3 in that category. The Dolphins have just two top-300 seasons: Ricky Williams in ’02 and ’03. In fact, the single-season YFS leaders for Miami is just a really weird-looking list. Tampa Bay also has just two top-300 seasons, and only two times when a player gained 1,650 or more yards from scrimmage.

Last week, we looked at the career leaders in rushing yards over worst starter; today, we use the same methodology but with yards from scrimmage. Let’s use Walter Payton’s 1977 season as an example.

That season, the NFL had 28 teams, and the 28th-ranked player in yards from scrimmage gained 854 yards.  But Payton, in his best season as a pro, rushed for 1,852 yards and picked up another 269 yards through the air, for a total of 2,121 yards from scrimmage.  That gave him 1,267 yards above the baseline of “worst starter.”  But remember, in ’77, the NFL had a 14-game schedule; pro-rate that to 16 games, and Peyton is credited with 1,448 yards over the baseline.  That’s the 2nd best season ever by this formula.

While 1977 was by far Payton’s best year, he dominated in this metric for most of his career, posting the 48th, 82nd, 87th, 90th, 94th, 108th, and 157th best seasons. And while Emmitt Smith finally edged past Payton on the career yards from scrimmage last in the final games of his career, Payton has a big edge in this metric because we are removing “junk” seasons. In fact, Payton has a big edge over just about everyone. Nobody forgets about Walter Payton, of course, but I wonder if sometimes his dominance in this metric is overlooked: he led the NFL in YFS in ’77 and ’78, then finished 2nd in the category in ’79. He ranked 3rd in YFS in ’80 and in ’83, ’84, and ’85. Add in a 4th-place finish in ’76 and a 5th-place in ’86, and that gives Payton a whopping 9 finishes in the top 5 in yards from scrimmage.

If we use the methodology described above for every season of a player’s career, we get what I think is a better version of the career yards from scrimmage leaders (at least for running backs) because we are removing junk seasons. Below are the career grades for the top 200 players (note that by default, the table only displays the top 25). I have also listed for each back his career yards from scrimmage and his rank in that category. [click to continue…]


On Friday, I looked at the career rushing leaders in “yards over worst starter.” Today, let’s look at the single-season list.

In 1963, Jim Brown rushed for 1,863 yards in a 14-team NFL. The baseline that year was 541 yards, which represents the 14th highest individual rushing total that year. So Brown exceeded that number by a whopping 1,322 rushing yards. Given that 1963 was a 14-game NFL season, that translates to a pro-rated value of 1,511 yards, the third best ever. The table below shows the top 300 single seasons. [click to continue…]


Last year, DeMarco Murray led the NFL with 1,845 rushing yards. The 32nd-ranked rusher last season rushed for 570 yards, which means Murray rushed for 1,275 yards more than the Nth-ranked rusher, with N representing the number of teams in the NFL. That’s obviously excellent, although not quite the best of all time.

That honor, as regular readers could have guessed, belongs to O.J. Simpson. In 1973, Simpson rushed for an incredible 2,003 yards, while the 26th-ranked rusher in the 26-team NFL rushed for 655 yards. As a result, Simpson is credited with 1,348 yards over the Nth-ranked rusher. Then again, remember that this was a 14-game NFL season; we need to pro-rate that number to 16 games to make for a fairer comparison. That brings Simpson’s season up to +1,540, slightly edging out Adrian Peterson‘s 2012 season (2,097, 564, +1533).

What if we use that methodology for every player during every season of his career? That, to me, is an improvement on just a list of the career rushing leaders, since we don’t give players any benefit for junk seasons. That may be the only thing this list is an improvement on — after all, it is still based on only one statistic — but hey, it’s Friday. Below are the career grades for the top 150 running backs (note that by default, the table only displays the top 25). I have also listed for each back his career rushing yards and his rank in that category. [click to continue…]


Quarterback Rushing Data Since 1950

The 2007 season was the ultimate fantasy of the immobile quarterback lover. No quarterback rushed for 400 yards, after at least one quarterback did so in each of the ten prior seasons. Just as importantly, the top quarterbacks were all pocket passers: Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Tony Romo (only 129 rushing yards that season), Brett Favre, Jon Kitna, Peyton Manning, Matt Hasselbeck, Derek Anderson, Jay Cutler, Kurt Warner, and Eli Manning were the top 12 leaders in passing yards. As a group, those dozen quarterbacks rushed for just 67 yards, led by Cutler’s staggering 205 rushing yards.

But it was only seven years earlier that the mobile quarterback wave was taking the NFL by storm. Six quarterbacks hit the 400-yard rushing mark: Donovan McNabb (629), Rich Gannon (529), Daunte Culpepper (470), Kordell Stewart (436), Jeff Garcia (414), and Steve McNair (403). Of the top ten leaders in passing yards, only Vinny Testaverde and Kerry Collins failed to rush for at least 100 yards, and the top 12 leaders in passing yards rushed for an average of 236 yards.

Since 2012, the mobile quarterback has re-emerged. So how do we test how much each quarterback has run since 1950? Here’s what I did. [click to continue…]


The Jerick McKinnon/Matt Asiata Time Share

Last year, I looked at the unusual running back by committee in Arizona in 2013.  Rashard Mendenhall was the team’s primary back, but he averaged 3.17 YPC that season, while Andre Ellington averaged 5.53 YPC. To measure how “unusual” the split was, I came up with the following methodology: calculate the difference between the YPC of the top two running backs (as measured by carries) on each team, and multiply that difference by the number of carries given to the running back with fewer carries. So for the 2013 Cardinals, the difference between Ellington and Mendenhall in terms of YPC was -2.36; we multiply that by 118 to get a value of -278. For 2014, the most extreme result along this line came in Minnesota.

Matt Asiata had 164 carries for the Vikings but gained just 570 yards, for a 3.48 YPC average. Meanwhile, Jerick McKinnon rushed only 113 times but picked up 538 yards, a 4.76 YPC average. So McKinnon averaged 1.28 more yards per carry than Asiata. Then, we multiply -1.28 by 113, which produces a value of -145, the most extreme of the 32 teams last year.

The reason for this two-step process is that when dealing with backup running backs, you sometimes get small sample sizes. For example, Latavius Murray averaged 5.17 YPC on his 82 carries, but the Raiders split doesn’t count quite as extreme as the Vikings split based on this method.  Also, the Cowboys split would look pretty funky if you didn’t penalize RB2s that had only a handful of carries: [click to continue…]


A quick data dump today. Since 1960, players who record 20+ carries in a game were on the winning side of things 72.7% of the time. Steven Jackson, however, is just 30-31-1 in his 62 games where he has had at least 20 carries. Given that we would “expect” a player to win 45.1 games given 62 games with 20 carries, Jackson’s 30.5 wins falls 14.6 wins shy of expectation. That, perhaps not surprisingly to regular readers, is the worst record relative to expectation among all running backs since 1960.

The table below shows all running backs who had at least 20 games with 20+ carries over the last 55 years, including the postseason. Thurman Thomas is on top of the table because he had 71 games with 20+ carries, and his teams went 63-8 in those games for an incredible 0.887 winning percentage. That gave Thomas 11.4 wins over expectation, the most ever. If you want to sort by a different category (say, win%), you can: the table is fully sortable and searchable. [click to continue…]


Comparables To Ryan Tannehill

In 2012, Ryan Tannehill averaged 5.23 ANY/A, which was 0.70 ANY/A below the league average.

In 2013, Tannehill averaged 5.00 ANY/A, which was 0.87 ANY/A below league average.

In 2014, Tannehill averaged 5.83 ANY/A, which was 0.30 ANY/A below league average.

I thought it would be interesting to look for comparables to Tannehill using just those metrics. I ran a query for all quarterbacks since 1970 who were within a 0.5 ANY/A of Tannehill’s Relative ANY/A in three consecutive seasons: that is, quarterbacks who averaged between -1.20 and -0.20 Relative ANY/A in Year N-2, between -1.37 RANY/A and -0.37 RANY/A in Year N-1, and between -0.80 RANY/A and +0.20 RANY/A in Year N, with a minimum of at least 200 pass attempts in all three seasons.

As it turns out, there were just 12 quarterback seasons that met that criteria, with one quarterback meeting those criteria twice over a four-year span. Making the data set even less helpful, just six of those 12 seasons came by players in their 20s, and even one of those came by an over-the-hill Joey Harrington in his final season at age 29: [click to continue…]


You probably have not given much thought to Ty Law since he retired, and you almost certainly haven’t given much thought to what Law did as a member of the Jets in 2005. But it was a pretty remarkable season.

Law had 10 interceptions that year. That number may not sound like a lot to you — it’s not a record, and we rarely focus on interception totals — but no player has had more than 10 interceptions in a season since 1981. Since Everson Walls of the Cowboys recorded 11 interceptions in 1981, eleven players have intercepted exactly ten passes in a single season. Of those, Law played on the team that faced by far the fewest passes, and he did so in an era where it was very difficult to record interceptions. That’s why, by the metric I’ll describe below, it’s the most impressive interception season in NFL history.

First, I calculated each player’s individual interception rate, defined as his number of interceptions divided by his team’s pass attempts faced.1 The record here was set in 1946 by Pittsburgh’s Bill Dudley, a former first overall pick. That year, Dudley led the NFL in rushing… and punt return yards… and interceptions! Dudley intercepted 10 passes, while the Steelers faced just 162 pass attempts, giving him an interception on 6.2% of opponent dropbacks. Perhaps most amazing, the Steelers leading receivers each had just ten catches, which means Dudley caught as many passes on defense as any Pittsburgh player did on offense in 1946.

Law’s 10 interceptions came against 463 opponent pass attempts, giving him an interception on 2.2% of opposing pass plays. That remains the highest rate in a single season since Walls picked off a pass on 2.4% of opponent pass plays in 1982. But obviously interception rates have been sharply declining, which is what makes Law’s accomplishment so remarkable. [click to continue…]

  1. Perhaps in a future version, I will adjust for games missed due to injury. []

Previously on “take away his X [best/worst]” plays:

In April, I noted that you would need to take away Peyton Manning’s best 19 passes in order to bring his stellar Net Yards per Attempt average to below league average. Today, we look at the reverse question: How many of Derek Carr’s worst dropbacks would we need to erase to bring his NY/A above league average? I’ll give you a moment to think about the answer. [click to continue…]


In April, I looked at how each defense fared at recording sacks. Today, we flip things around and look at it from the offensive perspective.

In 2014, there were 17,879 pass attempts in the NFL, and another 1,212 dropbacks that ended up as quarterback sacks, translating to a sack rate of 6.35%.

Peyton Manning offenses are always excellent, and they’re always particularly excellent at avoiding sacks. In 2014, the Broncos had 624 dropbacks; given the league average, we would “expect” that Denver’s quarterbacks would have been sacked 39.6 times. In reality, Manning was sacked just 17 times, of 22.6 fewer sacks than “expected” last season. Only one other team, the Joe Flacco and the Ravens at 17.4, had 15 fewer sacks than expectation.

The worst team, by over 10 expected sacks, was Jacksonville. The Jaguars had 628 dropbacks and were sacked an incredible 71 times. Using the league average as our guide, we would have expected Blake Bortles and the Jaguars quarterbacks to have been sacked 38.4 times, which means the Jaguars were sacked 31.1 more times than “expectation.” [click to continue…]


Justin Houston had 22 sacks last year for the Chiefs, just one sack shy of breaking the modern NFL record. Houston did it while playing a full slate of games for the Chiefs, and Kansas City faced 591 pass attempts last year (including sacks). That means Houston recorded a sack on 3.7% of Kansas City’s opponent dropbacks.

That’s very good, although it’s just the 11th best rate since 1982. But we have to remember that sack rates have been steadily declining over the past few decades. For example, from 1982 to 2014, the average sack rate was 6.87%, but the 2014 rate was just 6.35%. In other words, we would need to increase the sack rate last year by 8.2% in order to adjust for era. So if we adjust for Houston’s 3.7% average by multiplying that average by 108.2%, his adjusted sack rate jumps to 4.03%. And that’s the second best rate since 1982. [click to continue…]


Andrew Healy, frequent contributor here and at Football Outsiders, is back for another guest post. You can also view all of Andrew’s guest posts at Football Perspective at this link, and follow him on twitter @AndHealy.

For a stats guy, the Wells Report is gripping reading, particularly the appendices provided by the consulting firm Exponent. The conclusion there is pretty simple. Compared to referee Walt Anderson’s pregame measurements, the Patriots’ footballs dropped significantly further in pressure than the Colts’ footballs did. Therefore, even if Tom Brady’s involvement is unclear, a Patriots’ employee probably deflated the balls.

At first glance, that evidence seems pretty convincing, maybe even strong enough to conclude more definitively that tampering occurred. And it is kind of awesome that the officials even created a control group. But there is a problem with making firm conclusions: timing. As Exponent acknowledges, the measured pressure of the balls depends on when the gauging took place. The more time that each football had to adjust to the warmer temperature of the officials’ locker room at halftime, the higher the ball pressure would rise.

And, not surprisingly given the Colts’ accusations, the officials measured the Patriots’ footballs first. This means that the New England footballs must have had less time to warm up than the Indianapolis footballs. Is that time significant? We will get to that, but it does make for a good argument that the Indianapolis footballs are not an adequate control group for the New England footballs. Given the order of events, we would expect the drop of pressure from Anderson’s initial measurements to be lower for the Colts’ balls that had more time indoors at halftime. As the Wells report notes, the likely field temperature was in the 48-50 degree range, compared to the 71-74 degree range for the room where the footballs were measured.

So, how much lower? Here it gets a little fuzzy. The report is clear that the Patriots footballs were gauged first during halftime, but it is unclear about whether the second step was to reinflate the Patriots’ balls or to measure the four Colts’ balls. In Appendix 1 (see p. 2 of the appendix), Exponent notes “although there remains some uncertainty about the exact order and timing of the other two events, it appears likely the reinflation and regauging occurred last.” If events unfolded this way, it would make the Indianapolis footballs at least a better sort of control group. [click to continue…]


2014 AV-Adjusted Team Age

NFL: Preseason-Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Jacksonville JaguarsIn each of last three years, I’ve presented the AV-adjusted age of each roster in the NFL. Measuring team age in the NFL is tricky. You don’t want to calculate the average age of a 53-man roster and call that the “team age” because the age of a team’s starters is much more relevant than the age of a team’s reserves. The average age of a team’s starting lineup isn’t perfect, either. The age of the quarterback and key offensive and defensive players should count for more than the age of a less relevant starter. Ideally, you want to calculate a team’s average age by placing greater weight on the team’s most relevant players.

My solution has been to use the Approximate Value numbers from Pro-Football-Reference.com.  The table below shows the average age of each team, along with its average AV-adjusted age of the offense and defense. Here’s how to read the Jaguars line. In 2014, Jacksonville was the youngest team in the league, with an AV-adjusted team age of 25.8 years (all ages are measured as of September 1, 2014). The average AV-adjusted age of the offense was 24.5 years, giving the Jaguars the youngest offense in the NFL (and by over a year!). The average age of the defense was 26.6 years, and that was the 10th youngest of any defense in football in 2014. [click to continue…]


Bryan Frye, owner and operator of the great site nflsgreatest.co.nf, is back for another guest post. You can also view all of Bryan’s guest posts at Football Perspective at this link, and follow him on twitter @LaverneusDingle.

Last week, I posted a quarterback performance metric that accounts for both passing and rushing. The base stat, Total Adjusted Yards per Play, is easy to comprehend and easy to figure out yourself with basic box score data. My original post only included performance that occurred during or after the 2002 season, because I don’t have spike and kneel data going back further than that. For the sake of consistency, I wanted to maintain the same parameters when calculating career values.

Before we get into the tables, I’d like to first briefly talk about what these numbers are and what they are not.

The formula, in case you forgot: [click to continue…]


Bryan Frye, owner and operator of the great site nflsgreatest.co.nf, is back for another guest post. You can also view all of Bryan’s guest posts at Football Perspective at this link, and follow him on twitter @LaverneusDingle.

I spent a few weeks this offseason parsing out quarterback spike and kneel numbers from post-2002 play by play data. Chase published the findings, which I believe are a useful resource when trying to assess a QB’s stats.1 Since I have the data available, I thought it would be good to use it.

Regular readers know Chase uses Adjusted Net Yards per pass Attempt as the primary stat for measuring quarterback performance.2 I am going to do something similar, but I am going to incorporate rushing contribution as well. This is something Chase talked about doing awhile ago, but we didn’t have the kneel or spike data available.3 I’ll call the end product Total Adjusted Yards per Play (TAY/P). The formula, for those curious:4

[Yards + Touchdowns*20 – Interceptions*45 – Fumbles*25 + First Downs*9] / Plays, where

Yards = pass yards + rush yards – sack yards + yards lost on kneels
Touchdowns = pass touchdowns + rush touchdowns
First Downs = (pass first downs + rush first downs) – touchdowns
Plays = pass attempts + sacks + rush attempts – spikes – kneels [click to continue…]

  1. For instance, 180 of Peyton Manning’s 303 rush attempts since 2002 have been kneels. He has lost 185 yard on those plays. Why in the world should we include those in his total output? Similarly, Ben Roethlisberger has spiked the ball 44 times, by far the most in the league since 2002. Why count those 44 “incomplete passes” in his completion rate? []
  2. It’s not perfect, but it’s at least easy to understand and calculate, and is not proprietary like DVOA, ESPN’s QBR, or PFF’s quarterback grades. []
  3. For another thing Chase wrote on combining rushing and passing data — while (gasp) analyzing Tim Tebow — click here. []
  4. I use 25 as the modifier for fumbles based on the idea that a QB fumble is worth roughly -50 yards, and fumble recovery is a 50/50 proposition. []

Last week, I looked at how many top carries needed to be removed in order to bring the best running backs below league average. Today, I want to do the same thing, but for quarterbacks, using pass attempts.1

Aaron Rodgers averaged 7.7 net yards per attempt last year, the best rate in all of football. But as it turns out, he’s not the leader in this metric. You may be surprised to learn that one “only” needs to remove Rodgers’ 15 best pass plays to bring his NY/A average below the 2014 league average rate of 6.35. Meanwhile, you have to remove 19 of Peyton Manning’s top plays to bring his 7.5 NY/A average below league average. That’s because Rodgers’ ten best pass plays went for 642 yards, while Peyton Manning’s top ten pass completions gained 499 yards.2

Regular readers know the drill; if you need more info on how to read the table, check last week’s post. The table below displays all quarterbacks who had at least 100 dropbacks last season and finished with a NY/A average above 6.35; the final column displays how many of each player’s top pass attempts need to be removed to bring his NY/A average below league average.

Peyton Manning61446087.519
Ben Roethlisberger64247657.4215
Aaron Rodgers54742097.6915
Tony Romo46534657.4512
Drew Brees68747716.9410
Andrew Luck64345837.1310
Matt Ryan65844946.837
Philip Rivers60440856.766
Ryan Fitzpatrick33323897.176
Kirk Cousins21216407.746
Eli Manning62942276.724
Joe Flacco57438346.684
Brian Hoyer46331776.864
Mark Sanchez33022696.884
Tom Brady60539696.563
Andy Dalton50432826.512
Russell Wilson49232376.582
Drew Stanton25116456.552
Carson Palmer23315636.712
Nick Foles32120916.511
Zach Mettenberger19612746.51
Colt McCoy1459476.531

I’ll again leave the commentary to you guys.

  1. The same caveat from last time applies: because I used the play-by-play logs to conduct this exercise, there may be slight differences between the numbers in this table and the official numbers. []
  2. It also helped Manning’s cause that he had more dropbacks. []

On Friday, I asked the question: how many carries would we need to take away from DeMarco Murray in order to drop his YPC average to at or below league average?

Today, I want to look at it from the other side. How many of Trent Richardson’s worst carries would we need to erase to bring his YPC above league average? For this experiment, assume that we are sorting each running back’s carries in ascending order by yards gained. I’ll give you a moment to think about the answer.

[Final Jeopardy Music]

[Keep thinking…]

[Are you ready?]

[Your time is now up. Post your answer in the comments!] [click to continue…]


DeMarco, how many Cowboys fans still think you're great?

DeMarco, how many Cowboys fans still think you’re great?

DeMarco Murray was really, really good last year. He rushed 393 times for 1,845 yards, producing a strong 4.69 YPC average. Jamaal Charles was also really, really good — he averaged 5.07 yards per rush last year, albeit on “only” 205 carries. The NFL average yards gained per rush was 4.16 last season, down a tick from in previous years. But that brings us to the question of the day:

Suppose we sort each running back’s carries in descending order by yards gained. How many carries would we need to take away from Murray in order to drop his YPC average to at or below league average? Same question for Charles. I’ll give you a moment to think about this one.

[Final Jeopardy Music]

[Keep thinking…]

[Are you ready?]

[Your time is now up. Post your answer in the comments!]
[click to continue…]

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