In this post I thought I would take a look at some key stats and try to determine how those stats correlate to winning percentage.  All stats from pfref.com, regular season from 2006-2016.

Sacks

First up will be sacks.  Based on my research, if you get 0 sacks you have a 29.4% chance to win the game.  Thus, getting at least 1 sack is very important for your chances of winning.  But just 1 sack isn’t really good enough.  Teams that got 1 sack in a game won only 37.9% of the time.  You need at least 2 sacks in a game to have a decent chance to win, and even then it’s only 47.5%.  Here is a complete breakdown:

0 sacks = 235-564-1 (.294)
1 sack = 503-825-3 (.379)
2 sacks = 641-708-3 (.475)
3 sacks = 560-389-1 (.590)
4 sacks = 419-202-1 (.622)
5+ sacks = 452-122-3 (.786)

For what it’s worth, I make the break even point to be about 2.1 sacks.  Fewer than 2.1 sacks and you have less than 50% chance of winning the game.  In 2016, the average team had 34.9 sacks, which comes to about 2.18 per game.

 

Takeaways

Takeaways include INT’s and defensive fumble recoveries.  Sacks lead sometimes directly to fumble recoveries (on sack/fumble plays) and sometimes indirectly to INT’s (but never on the *same* play).

0 = 285-979-4 (.226)
1 = 718-1029-5 (.411)
2 = 814-549-2 (.597)
3 = 558-187 (.749)
4+ = 435-66-1 (.868)

Notice how you need somewhere between 1 and 2 takeaways (call it 1.37) to break even.  (The other guys are taking the ball away from you, too.)  Notice how 3 sacks gets you to 59% winning percentage and 2 takeaways do (nearly) the same (59.7%).

Total yardage margin

This is the number of yards by which you outgained your opponent.  It can obviously be a negative number in some games, but I’m only looking at the positive numbers in this little study.  You can easily figure the negative corresponding number by subtracting the positive percentage from 100%.  For example, the percentage of winning when outgaining the opponent by somewhere between 1 and 50 total yards is 54.2%, which means if you get outgained by 1 to 50 yards your chance of winning would be 100% – 54.2% = 45.8%.  Here is the breakdown:

Outgain opponent by…

25-50 yards = 262-194-1 (.574)
51-100 yards = 496-245-1 (.669)
101-150 yards = 400-144-3 (.734)
151-200 yards = 277-57-1 (.828)
201-250 yards = 135-26 (.839)
251+ yards = 99-8 (.925)

Conclusion

The break even points are interesting to me.  Break even point for sacks is somewhere between 2 and 3, call it 2.1.  Break even point for takeaways is about 1.37.  Break even for net total yardage is obviously 0.  So, 2.1 sacks is worth about 1.37 takeaways in terms of getting to the break even point (50% chance to win).

If you want to get to 60% winning percentage, you need to get to 3-4 sacks, 2 takeaways, or outgain the opponent by somewhere between 40 and 50 yards.  The average for 25-50 is 57.4%, but the upper end of that range (closer to 50 yards) is better than 60%.  (When I query 40 to 50 total yardage margin I get 60.4% winning percentage.)

To get to 75% you need 5 sacks (5 sacks exactly gets you to 74.6%), 3 takeaways, or outgain your opponent by more than 100 yards (but probably less than 150 yards is necessary).

 

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