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Through 14 games, the Jacksonville Jaguars may be the best team in the NFL. Jacksonville ranks first by an enormous margin in pass defense, which is the main driver of the team’s success. The Jaguars are 0.90 ANY/A better than the second-ranked pass defense (Baltimore), and 1.37 ANY/A better than the third-ranked pass defense (Chargers). Jacksonville’s rush defense on a per-carry basis ranks just 29th, but the Jaguars are still the best defense in the NFL.

To measure defenses on per play basis, I took a weighted average of a defense’s yards per rush allowed (40%) and adjusted net yards per attempt allowed (60%). The Jaguars allow 3.87 yards per play, the best in the league by a good margin, followed by the Ravens, Vikings, and Eagles.

We can do the same thing for offense. Jacksonville ranks 8th in yards per carry and 12th in ANY/A, which may surprise folks, but Blake Bortles has been white hot the last three weeks. The best offense belongs to the Saints, who rank 1st in ANY/A (by a razor thin margin of the Patriots) and 2nd in YPC (by a razor thin margin behind the Chiefs). The Saints have the best offense in the NFL on a per-play basis (using the same 40%/60% split) and the 11th-best defense, good enough for New Orleans to rank as the 3rd best team overall.

But Jacksonville ranks 9th in offense, and with that pass defense, that’s enough to put the team in first place on a per-play basis overall. Take a look:

RkTmYPC OffANY/A OffAdj Y/P OffOff RkYPC DefANY/A DefAdj Y/P DefDef RkY/P Diff
1Jacksonville Jaguars4.396.655.7594.543.433.8711.88
2Philadelphia Eagles4.537.416.2653.685.24.5941.67
3New Orleans Saints4.897.756.6114.55.314.99111.62
4Minnesota Vikings3.937.175.8773.674.884.3931.48
5Los Angeles Rams4.327.596.2844.684.944.8481.44
6Los Angeles Chargers3.877.165.8584.764.84.7861.06
7Kansas City Chiefs4.917.416.4124.326.095.38201.03
8Pittsburgh Steelers3.786.95.65104.295.264.8790.78
9Atlanta Falcons4.357.065.9864.285.945.28170.70
10New England Patriots4.167.756.3234.936.415.82270.50
11Seattle Seahawks4.076.395.46124.065.614.99120.47
12Washington Redskins3.656.735.5114.335.865.25160.25
13Baltimore Ravens4.074.734.46274.044.334.2220.25
14Detroit Lions3.416.815.45134.196.055.31190.14
15Dallas Cowboys4.586.015.44144.286.215.44210.00
16Carolina Panthers4.375.635.12174.235.835.1915-0.07
17Buffalo Bills4.195.024.69264.215.164.785-0.09
18Tennessee Titans4.295.024.73233.515.964.9810-0.25
19Cincinnati Bengals3.445.674.78214.175.675.0714-0.29
20Arizona Cardinals3.435.134.45283.545.654.817-0.36
21Chicago Bears4.424.934.73244.016.145.2918-0.56
22New York Jets3.885.684.96194.156.65.6223-0.66
23Tampa Bay Buccaneers3.736.385.32164.237.26.0128-0.69
24Oakland Raiders4.186.115.34154.067.376.0531-0.71
25Denver Broncos3.984.474.28313.316.245.0713-0.79
26Green Bay Packers4.55.114.872046.895.7325-0.87
27San Francisco 49ers3.975.254.74223.817.045.7526-1.01
28Houston Texans4.025.614.98183.987.376.0129-1.04
29Miami Dolphins3.844.584.28304.226.555.6224-1.34
30Indianapolis Colts3.644.994.45294.077.346.0330-1.58
31New York Giants3.785.34.69254.277.686.3232-1.63
32Cleveland Browns4.563.473.91323.37.125.5922-1.69

This doesn’t adjust for strength of schedule, and Jacksonville has certainly played an easy one (which we expected before the season even started). But the Jaguars, Eagles, Saints, Vikings, and Rams are the top five teams in the NFL by this metric.

Also of note: while the Browns are the 32nd-ranked team by this metric, and Giants and Colts are not too far behind.

{ 17 comments }
  • AgronomyBrad

    Why do you use ANY/A for passing, but yards per carry for rushing? Would it be possible to use ANY/play and incorporate rushing stats? For example ((Total offensive yards) + (20*Total Offensive Touchdowns) – (45*Interceptions) – (22.5*Offensive Fumbles))/Total Offensive plays

    • Richie

      I used your formula, and here’s how the teams rate on offense:

    • Richie
      • AgronomyBrad

        Thanks, I was reading this on my phone earlier, and couldn’t find an efficient way to run the numbers myself.

    • The main reason is to not penalize teams that run too frequently, often because they are ahead. Bad teams have higher pass/run ratios, which would give them an advantage in this.

      To avoid Simpson’s Paradox, I like to isolate passing and rushing and then use a static coefficient for both. So 40% rushing 60% passing feels right to me.

      Otherwise, a team that averages 4.0 yards per rush and 6.5 yards per pass but passes 70% of the time (5.75 yards per play) would look better than a team that averages 4.1 yards per rush and 7.0 yards per pass but passes 50% of the time (5.55 yards per play). I think we would all agree that a team that averages more yards per rush and more yards per pass is the better offense, but yards/play can be misleading because there’s a big gap between average gains on rushing plays vs. passing plays.

  • Richie

    ” Blake Bortles has been white hot the last three weeks.”

    I just noticed that. I ran a query to see how Garoppolo’s stats have compared against the league the past 3 weeks, and was surprised to see Bortles was comfortably at the top in rating an NY/A. If Bortles continues to play well and the Jaguars go deep into the playoffs, the Jaguars may find themselves in a Joe Flacco situation in the offseason. Do they trust that he has turned a corner, and re-sign him like Baltimore did with Flacco, or do they just move on at QB? Or maybe follow Washington’s lead, and ride him for another year with a franchise tag.

    I’ll be rooting for the Jaguars in the playoffs.

    • sacramento gold miners

      The door is open in the AFC for either Jacksonville, Baltimore, or maybe KC to reach the SB. Both the Patriots and Steelers have vulnerabilities which could be their respective downfalls. Tom Brady hasn’t been his usual self in December, and Antonio Brown is a major question mark because of injury.

      • Richie

        I just noticed that Brady has thrown an interception in 4 straight games. That’s the first time he’s done that since 2013. And the last time before that was 2009.

        • Daniel Menezes

          Yeah, and some of them have been uncharacteristic mental mistakes, like the pick against Pittsburgh or the first Miami game. Even the second Miami game he was throwing it up for grabs.

          I do agree this seems the most right year to give it to a non-QB. I would have leaned Antonio Brown but the injury kind of ends any shot he had.

    • Quinton White

      As a long-suffering Jags fan, got to say the Flacco situation seems pretty desirable. That said, I think they probably franchise Bortles if they get there. The issue then is Allen Robinson would be a free agent and, coming off an ACL, a fairly risky and complicated long-term contract.

      Seriously so nice to be having these problems.

      • t.d.

        they picked up bortles’ fith year option so he isn’t a free agent. think robinson is a must-keep, they let lee go (maybe hurns, too) keep westbrook cole and mickens, and go from there

        • Richie

          It looks like they can get out of the Bortles option if they want.

          According to overthecap.com: “The Jaguars picked up the fifth year option on Bortles for 2018 which is
          worth $19.053 million. The contract is guaranteed for injury and will
          become fully guaranteed if Bortles is on the roster on the 1st day or
          the 2018 league year.”

          • td

            Sure, they can get out of it; they could pretty painlessly get to $75 mil in cap room, so the question isn’t “can they keep Bortles?”, it’s do they want to, and, if not, what direction do they want to go at QB. IMO, whether they keep him or not depends on whether he sustains this high level of play when the competition gets tougher- if it does, of course you pick up the option (though I’d still draft Lamar jackson). I’d keep Allen Robinson even if you have to franchise him, let Lee Hurns and ivory go, and draft offensive line- they don’t really have any other holes

    • Tom

      Absolutely be rooting for the Jags as well…

      • Richie

        I was usually rooting for the Mark Brunell (I acutally bought a Brunell jersey in about 1998), Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew Jaguars. It’s weird to think about, but the Jaguars were mostly a competitive team from their inception through 2010. Then they started getting bad, and then they changed to these horrific uniforms, so I totally lost interest in that team.

    • t.d.

      they keep him, and draft a quarterback (i want lamar jackson for them). they aren’t in a flacco situation; he’s under contract in 2018 (i’d like them to draft a qb, but there will also be an unprecedented # of serviceablle qbs on the market this offseason, too)

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