Let’s play a little game.  I’ll give you a scenario and you decide whether you’d rather be on offense in that scenario or defense in that scenario.  The answers will be based on the win probability calculator at pfref.com.  In all instances below the Las Vegas point spread is a pick’em (0).

  1. Tie score.  4th quarter.  2:20 to go.  3rd and 8 from the offense’s 20 yard line.  Do you want to be on offense or defense?
  2. Offense is down by 2 points.  4th quarter.  :40 seconds to go.  1st and 10 at the 50.  You want to be the offense or the defense?
  3. Offense is down by 7 points.  4th quarter.  :30 seconds to go.  1st and 10 at the defense’s 30.  Offense or defense?
  4. Tie score.  1st quarter.  14:50 to go.  1st and 10 at the offense’s 5.  Do you want to the ball or do you want to be on defense?
  5. Offense is down by 3.  It’s OT.  10:20 to go.  2nd and 5 at the 50.  Do you want to be on offense or on defense?

Here are my guesses, before I go look up these scenarios.

  1. I’ll go with defense there.  I figure I have a good chance to stop them on 3rd and 8 and should come up with pretty good field position after a punt from their own 20.
  2. I’ll go with defense there.  I’m up by 2, which means the offense has to score.  They’re at the 50, which is still outside of field goal range and there’s not a lot of time left on the clock.
  3. Defense again.  I’d rather be up by 7 with :30 seconds to go than have the ball down by 7 just outside the red zone.
  4. Defense again.  I have them backed up deep at their own 5.
  5. I’m going to go with offense this time since all my other guesses were defense.  2nd and 5 is a good down and distance, and the 50 is a good spot on the field.  Decent shot here at least getting into field goal range and tying it up.

And now for the actual answers.

  1. Defense has it.  Offense’s win probability is only 33.44%.
  2. Offense is the answer, win probability: 99.45%.
  3. Defense has it.  Offense’s win probability: 36.81%.
  4. Slight edge to the defense here.  Offense’s win probability: 48.90%.
  5. Defense has advantage.  Offense’s win probability: 43.30%.

Looks like I was right on 3/5 (not very good).  I have some doubts about the win probability calculator’s answer for #2 though.  Over 99% win probability doesn’t seem right, but maybe it is.  I’m not real happy with my results.  Did you do better?  You should have.  But most importantly, hopefully you had fun with the little quiz.

 

So… if your team wins the opening coin toss does that mean it has a better chance to win the game?  That’s what we’ll try to find out in this blog entry.  (All stats courtesy of pfref.com.)

 

The data available for this goes back to the 1999 season.  Including both regular season and post season games the opening coin toss winner has a record of 2401-2373-7 (.503).  But I can remember teams used to *always* take the ball when they won the coin toss.  Here lately though teams have started deferring to the 2nd half more often (or at least that’s the way it seems to me).  These selective deferrals might be worthwhile if your team has a significant edge in one of the matchups (your offense against their defense or your defense against their offense).  You might want to put the better matchup on the field for the first series to try to “set the tone” for the rest of the game.  Other factors could also come into play, such as where teams might also want the wind at their backs in the 4th quarter, for example.

If we just include data from 1999-2008, the teams that won the coin toss had a combined record (post season + regular season) of 1313-1330-2 (.497).  If we go from 2009-2016, again regular + post season combined) we get a record of 1088-1043-5 (.511) for the opening coin toss winners.  Could it be cleverly using selective deferrals to the 2nd half in the more recent seasons be making the difference?  Maybe, but my hunch is this is just regression to the mean.

In the final analysis, I don’t think it really matters much.  You either get the ball to start the 1st half or you get the ball to start the 2nd half and it doesn’t really matter which you get.  The overall winning percentage based on the most complete data available suggests the coin toss winners only prevail 50.3% of the time.

In this blog entry I will be taking a brief look at how teams have done coming off the bye week.  All data is from pfref.com, all from the regular season 1999-2016.  It should come as no surprise teams coming off a bye week will have an overall winning record, but how significant is this advantage?

The overall record of teams coming off the bye week is 301-266-3 (.531), but bear in mind some of them will be facing teams also coming off a bye week of their own.  So, there is a real advantage to having the previous week off.  Why?  Extra rest surely plays a part.  I think the big thing is probably players who are dealing with injuries will have that extra week to heal, and some of these players might have had to sit out the week had it not been for the bye.

Which side of the ball benefits more?  offense or defense?  Hard to say, so let’s go to the stats.  In games coming off the bye the teams had 831 TD passes versus 518 INT’s, a ratio of 1.60 TD’s per INT.  Their opponents (some of whom might have also been coming off byes of their own) had 790 TD’s versus 588 INT’s, a ratio of 1.34 TD’s per INT.  In all the games during this era (whether coming off a bye or not coming off a bye) the TD:INT ratio was 1.42.

To recap:

Coming off bye: TD:INT ratio = 1.60
Opponent TD:INT ratio = 1.34
All games TD:INT ratio = 1.42

It could be the quarterbacks’ arms were more sore when not coming off the bye, but I doubt that is the case.  More likely, the defense was getting better pass pressure.  Let’s look at the sack numbers next.

The team coming off the bye had its quarterback get sacked 0.0676 times per pass attempt.  It sacked its opponent .0690 times per pass attempt.  The overall rate of sacks per attempt in all games (whether coming off a bye or not coming off a bye) was .0683 sacks per pass attempt.  The quarterbacks least under pressure were the ones whose teams were coming off the bye week, and the ones under the most pressure were those opponents facing those teams coming off the bye week.  Given 32 average pass attempts per game this works out to 2.228 sacks per game versus 2.276 for the opponent as compared to 2.251 for all games.  Doesn’t seem like that big a difference, but it adds up over time.  And, of course, there are other factors besides just improved pass rush.

Finally, let’s take a look at the running game.  Teams coming off the bye week averaged 4.23 yards per carry, their opponents: 4.09 yards per carry.  In all games, the average was 4.15 yards per carry.

So, is it a bigger advantage for the defense or for the offense when coming off a bye?  I don’t know the answer.  Seems to be advantageous for both sides of the ball.  Pass defense and run defense are both clearly better coming off the bye week, but pass offense and run offense are also both clearly better.  Teams are just better with that week of rest.

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).

 

Today I thought I’d look at home records versus road records (2006-2016) and try to figure out which teams took the best advantage of being at home.  Notice, this is not about which team was the best home team, but rather which team was “more better” at home than it was on the road.  (Bad teams were welcome to apply.)  Here’s how I went about it: I brought up the home records from 2006-2016, then brought up the road records, and then subtracted the road records from the home records to get what I’m calling the home advantage.  All data is from pfref.com.

Here is the table of data, sorted by home advantage:

team home record road record home advantage
BAL 0.739 0.432 0.307
SEA 0.693 0.426 0.267
MIN 0.625 0.358 0.267
ARI 0.642 0.398 0.244
HOU 0.602 0.398 0.204
JAX 0.443 0.25 0.193
PIT 0.727 0.534 0.193
SFO 0.574 0.386 0.188
GNB 0.744 0.557 0.187
DET 0.466 0.284 0.182
SDG 0.636 0.466 0.17
CIN 0.608 0.443 0.165
CLE 0.375 0.216 0.159
BUF 0.489 0.341 0.148
ATL 0.614 0.477 0.137
IND 0.705 0.568 0.137
NWE 0.852 0.716 0.136
CAR 0.568 0.46 0.108
DEN 0.636 0.534 0.102
NOR 0.625 0.523 0.102
NYJ 0.523 0.432 0.091
KAN 0.5 0.42 0.08
CHI 0.534 0.455 0.079
WAS 0.443 0.369 0.074
OAK 0.386 0.318 0.068
STL / LAR 0.341 0.278 0.063
TAM 0.409 0.352 0.057
MIA 0.466 0.409 0.057
TEN 0.489 0.432 0.057
NYG 0.557 0.534 0.023
PHI 0.545 0.528 0.017
DAL 0.568 0.58 -0.012

Only one team had a negative home advantage (meaning they had a better record on the road than at home), and that was Dallas.  But Dallas had a winning record both at home and on the road, so nothing to hang their heads about.

I really thought Denver would come out on top of this due to the altitude at Mile High Stadium.  It would have made a nice narrative, but alas, it wasn’t to be.  Baltimore took the trophy in this one.  They were an impressive 73.9% winners at home, but a lackluster 43.2% winner on the road.  (Gamblers take note: betting the Ravens as road favorites might not be a great idea.)

My Saints came in 20th (not great, but not horrible), but on the bright side, like Dallas, they also had winning records both at home and on the road.

For what it’s worth, the average team has a 13.28% better chance of winning at home than they do of winning on the road, or at least that’s the average home advantage according to these numbers and this way of looking at them.

NFL best advantage of being at home

How do you lead the league in TD’s scored and still have a losing record over the last 3 years?  That’s what I’ll be trying to figure out in this episode.  All stats courtesy of my go to site for stats, pfref.com.

All the stats I’ll be quoting in this post will be regular season stats for the 3 most recent seasons, 2014-2016, in which the Saints have gone 7-9 back-to-back-to-back.  As mentioned in the first sentence, the Saints scored the most TD’s of any team in the league (155 — tied with New England for #1).  How can you score that most TD’s and yet still have a losing record?  Answer: you also give up the most TD’s of any team in the league.

The Saints defense allowed 157 TD’s, most of any team in the league.  Next team on the list gave up 15 fewer TD’s (Tennessee with 142).  Cleveland, Washington, Chicago, San Francisco, eat your hearts out, you can’t hang with the big dogs.

Another area the Saints were deficient in was field goals.  Saints made the 5th fewest number of field goals (65) and had 6th fewest attempts (82).  What’s more, the 79.27% field goal percentage was 4th worst in the league.  When you’re not attempting very many field goals and your percentage made is among the worst, you’re just not going to end up making all that many of them.  So, those are points left on the field in many cases despite having the top TD ranking.  But the Saints were 3rd overall in points scored, so that really doesn’t explain the issue.  And if you’re making TD’s it stands to reason you’re not going to be going for as many field goals.  It’s really the points allowed by the 32nd ranked scoring defense that has been the Saints undoing.  Despite being #3 in points scored, the Saints were -76 in total point differential, putting them #20 out of 32 teams, right about where you’d expect a 3x defending 7-9 team to be.

Let’s now turn our attention to yards per play.  The Saints were 2nd best on offense with 6.025 yards per play, but dead last on defense giving up 6.20 yards per play.  In addition to being really good in yards per play, the Saints also ran the 2nd most offensive plays and defended against the 10th fewest plays on defense.  (There goes the theory about the defense being on the field too much.)

Turnovers have been a problem for the Saints, but they’re really only slightly below average (tied for 19th fewest turnovers on offense).   Saints had 74 turnovers, 44 of which were INT’s (12th most).  The defense hasn’t done its part in the takeaway department to offset the offense’s giveaways: 60 takeaways in 3 years ties for 5th worst in the last 3 seasons.

So, why so few takeaways?  The conventional answer has become something of a mantra among Saints fans: “It’s the pass rush, stupid.”  (Borrowing presumably from Bill Clinton’s “It’s the economy, stupid,” slogan.)  And if you think the pass rush is the problem, well, the stats back you up.  Saints had only 95 sacks in the last 3 years, tied for 5th fewest.  The 30 INT’s tie them for 2nd fewest with Chicago.  No sacks = no INT’s = not many takeaways = 7-9, 7-9, 7-9 despite racking up the yardage and TD’s on offense.  One more little nugget while on the subject:  the Saints are the only team that has allowed a cumulative 3-season opponent passer rating of 100+ (102.3).  While 102.3 FM might be a good spot to be on some local radio dials, it’s never a good spot to be when that’s your opponents’ combined passer rating.

Now let’s look at yardage margins before looking at a few situational stats.  Turnover margin = -14 = 8th worst.  Passing yardage margin = +1865 = 2nd best.  Rushing yardage margin = -771 = 7th worst.

A lot of fans are pooh poohing on the offensive numbers saying “garbage time”.  They say the Saints are piling up stats while losing games.  They say perception is reality, but sometimes perception is just perception.  Let’s look at a few situational stats to see if there’s any merit to the garbage time talk.

The first thing I want to do is compare the Saints offensive rankings in the 1st quarter versus the 4th quarter.  In drives that began in the 1st quarter the Saints scored 40 TD’s (4th best).  In drives that began in the 4th quarter the Saints scored 38 TD’s (2nd best).  Bear in mind these quarters are when the drives started.   Since a drive that starts in the 1st quarter can continue in the 2nd quarter whereas a drive that starts in the 4th quarter might be subject to having the clock expire, it stands to reason there will be more TD’s for those that start in the 1st quarter.  But if it was true the Saints were racking up stats in garbage time it should also follow that they would have had more 4th quarter TD’s than 1st quarter TD’s.

Now we turn to the scoreboard.  If the game is close I think we can ignore garbage stats as a possibility.  It’s really only when the Saints are down by a couple scores (call it 10+ points) and in the 2nd half that the garbage stat thing can possibly come into play.  So, let’s consider the offensive TD ranking in 1st half versus the offensive TD ranking in the 2nd half when down by 10+ points.  The Saints had 72 1st half TD’s (this is overall, regardless of scoreboard), which was the 3rd most 1st half TD’s (behind NE and GB).  Now we look at 2nd half TD’s scored while down by 10+ points.  Saints had 28 TD’s (2nd most) and a TD percentage of 35.9% (3rd best).  So, they did score some points when behind late, but they scored a lot of points in the first half, too.  The bottom line is they scored a lot of points no matter the situation.  Just for fun, let’s look at 2nd half up by 10+ point scores:  13 TD’s (14th best), but they didn’t get too many of those opportunities being 7-9 x 3.  If we look at TD’s per drive opportunity when up by 10 or more in the 2nd half: 30.2% TD rate was 3rd best in the league.

The bottom line is the garbage stat angle is just not supported by the stats.  Yes, the Saints do score some TD’s when down big on the scoreboard, but they’re scoring TD’s all the time regardless of the scoreboard.  I think the perception is just a perception because we’re accustomed to seeing the Saints behind on the scoreboard and scoring TD’s in games, and since it tends to confirm what we already believe we know (what the psychologists might call confirmation bias) we pay more heed to it than it actually merits.  Show me some stats to back up the garbage stats claim, and then I’ll start taking it seriously.

In conclusion, the problem is the defense, not the offense.  The offense is scoring points right up there with the best in the league.  The problem is the defense getting gashed, primarily because of a lack of a pass rush and/or poor coverage in the secondary.  No sacks = no INT’s, but likewise no coverage on the back end = no sacks on the front end, too.  Can the Saints get better offensively?  Of course they can, anybody can improve, but the biggest room for improvement by far is on the defensive side of the ball.

NFL touchdowns scored 2014-2016

In this blog entry I decided to just touch upon some of the 2006-2016 stats, as in which team had the most [insert stat here].   All stats are from pfref.com (regular season only).  I’ll give the top few teams, the bottom few teams, and where the Saints were ranked for each of these stats.

Which team had the best record?  That would be New England.  Patriots won 138 games.  2nd was Green Bay with 114.  Indy, Pit, Denver,  Baltimore, New Orleans (7th place), Dallas, Seattle, and San Diego round out the top 10.  Saints were one of eight teams with 100+ wins.  Cleveland was the worst with only 52 wins. Browns, Rams, Jags, Raiders, Lions, Bucs, Skins, and Bills were the 8 franchises with 100+ losses.

Which team scored the most points?  That would be New England (5217).  Saints came in 2nd with 4849 points.   Green Bay, San Diego, and Philly round out the top 5.  Bottom of the barrel was the Rams (2994), the only team with fewer than 3000 points.  Rams, Raiders, Jags, and Bucs round out the bottom 5.

Which team gave up the most points?  That would be Detroit (4462).  Rounding out the “top” 5: Raiders, Rams, Jags, and Saints.  “Bottom” 5: Steelers, Patriots, Ravens, Seahawks, and Bengals.

Which team had the highest scoring games (both teams’ combined scores)?  That would be the Saints.  Hey!  Saints made #1.  Ooh yeah!  Average points scored in all Saints games in these 11 years was 51.42.  Rounding out the top 5: New England, Green Bay, Philly, and San Diego.  (Interestingly, the top 6 teams in this category all had winning records.  Only team in the top 12 with a losing record: Detroit.)  Lowest scoring games: Browns, Rams, Ravens, Niners, and Chiefs.  Only team in the bottom 6 with a winning record was Baltimore.

Which team had the best point differential (outscored their opponents by the most average points)?  That would be New England.  Rounding out the top 5: Green Bay, Pittsburgh, San Diego, and New Orleans.  Worst teams in point differential: Rams, Raiders, Browns, Jags, and Bucs.

Which team had the most penalties?  That would be the Raiders.  Raiders averaged just under 8 penalties (7.93) called on them per game.   Rams, Ravens, Cowboys, and Lions round out the “top” 5.  Least penalized teams were: Colts, Falcons, Patriots, Dolphins, and Jets.  Saints were the 9th least penalized team, averaging 5.84 penalties assessed against them per game.

Which team’s opponents had the most penalties?  That would be Arizona.  Rounding out the top 5 for opponents getting the most penalties called against them: Packers, Giants, Vikings, and Lions.  Least penalized opponents were: Jags, Jets, Bills, Panthers, and Cowboys.  Saints opponents had the 9th fewest penalties called against them.

Which team had the most total yards?  That would be the Saints, who averaged 405 yards/game.  Rounding out the top 5: Patriots, Eagles, Packers, and Cowboys.  Least total yards:  Rams, Browns, Niners, Raiders, and Bills.

Which team allowed the most total yards?  That would be the Browns.  Rounding out the “top” 5: Saints, Lions, Falcons, and Raiders.  Teams allowing the least total yards: Steelers, Ravens, Jets, Seahawks, and Texans.

Which team had the most 1st downs?  That would be New England.  Rounding out the top 5: Saints, Colts, Eagles, and Broncos.  Least 1st downs?  Niners, Rams, Browns, Raiders, and Bills.

Which team had the best 3rd down conversion percentage?  That would be the Saints (47.5%), followed by: Patriots, Colts, Chargers, and Packers.  Worst 3rd down conversion percentage?  Rams, Niners, Raiders, Bills, and Browns.

Which team went for it on 4th down the most times?  That would be Jacksonville, followed by Rams, Raiders, Browns, and Chiefs.  Most 4th down risk averse teams were: Chargers, Colts, Cowboys, Steelers, and Panthers.  Saints went for it on 4th down the 7th most times in the league (and converted 53.4% of them).   Saints had the 5th best 4th down conversion %.  Tops were Patriots, Bengals, Cowboys, and Cardinals.  Worst 4th down %: Bucs, Rams, Raiders, Broncos, and Giants.  4th down conversion percentages were substantially higher than 3rd down conversion percentages.  This stands to reason since teams won’t normally go for it on 4th and long, but will always go for it on 3rd and long.  4th down conversions percentage: 49.07%, 3rd down: 38.85%.

Which team turned the ball over (gave it away) the most?  Cards, Lions, Raiders, Bears, and Jets.  Stingiest teams were: Patriots, Packers, Falcons, Seahawks, and Chiefs.  Saints had the 11th fewest turnovers.

Which team forced the most turnovers?  That would be (surprisingly) the Bears.  Rounding out the top 5: Patriots, Cardinals, Packers, and Panthers.  Teams forcing the fewest turnovers: Jags, Skins, Dolphins, Saints, and Raiders.

Which team had the most rushing yards?  Panthers, followed by Vikings, Jets, Eagles, and Chiefs.  Least rushing yards: Lions, Cardinals, Colts, Browns, and Rams.  Saints had 6th fewest rushing yards.

Which team had the most rushing TD’s?  Patriots, followed by Vikings, Panthers, Saints, and Eagles.  Least rushing TD’s: Rams, Bucs, Browns, Raiders, and Bears.

Which team gave up the fewest punt returns for TD’s?  Interestingly, the top 3 were all in the NFC South: Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and New Orleans, followed by Pittsburgh and Buffalo.  Which team gave up the most punt returns for TD’s?  That would be Carolina, another NFC South team, followed by: Vikings, Colts, Lions, and Redskins.

Which team gave up the fewest kick return TD’s?  Atlanta, followed by Buffalo, Arizona, Seattle, and the New York Football Giants.  Most kick return TD’s allowed: Steelers, Raiders, Colts, Lions, and Rams.  Saints gave up 14th fewest kick return TD’s.

Which team served up the most pick-sixes?  That would be the Rams, followed by Jags, Saints, Lions, and Jets.  Least pick-sixes given up?  Seattle, followed by New England, Green Bay, Oakland, and San Francisco.

That’s gonna wrap it up for now.  If you have a stat you’d like me to look up for you along the lines of these I provided, leave a comment and I’ll see if it’s available.NFL wins since 2006

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