04 Jan 2007
So, we've got most of Weeks 1-14 now compiled in our game charting project, and four very important games to analyze, so I thought perhaps I would go through and see what the charting data says about the wild card weekend games. Standard caveats, of course: this data is unofficial, compiled by volunteers, we're missing some games, and it is hard to always see who was in coverage when using TV tape.
Kansas City at Indianapolis
Last year our stats said that Jason David made a successful play on a higher percentage of passes than Nick Harper, but when he gave up a completion, it went for more yards. This year, their stats are virtually identical in every way. The only difference is that the average pass David faces is 13 yards in the air, the average pass for Harper just 10 yards in the air.
("Made a successful play" does not mean just an incomplete or interception; it also applies to a complete pass that does not gain 45% of yards on first down, 60% on second down, or 100% on third down.)
Indy had 32 passes marked "Hole in Zone," more than any other team. That's 10.3% of the total charted passes marked with a defender of some sort. The second-highest team was Jacksonville (7.2%).
KC had only 6 passes marked Hole in Zone, which makes sense, since Gunther Cunningham loves man coverage. Unfortunately, he's got just one guy who can pull it off. For two years now, the game charting has said that Ty Law is now a subpar cornerback. We've got 51 passes targeted at Ty Law, averaging 9.5 yards per pass. We've got just 32 targeted at Patrick Surtain, averaging 6.2 yards per pass -- even though the average pass at Surtain actually traveled slightly longer in the air (10.5 yards to 10.1 yards). We've got almost as many passes targeted at Lenny Walls, the nickel back, as we do targeted at Surtain.
Dallas at Seattle
We covered this one a couple weeks ago. The numbers on the Dallas cornerbacks are fairly similar and all worse than last year, but there are many more passes thrown at Anthony Henry than thrown at Terrance Newman. And our charting doesn't include most of the recent period where the Dallas pass defense imploded.
Seattle numbers are pretty worthless given all the injuries. Jordan Babineaux's numbers sucked as a cornerback last year. There's going to be a LOT of passing in this game.
New York Jets at New England
Asante Samuel is your lord and master. He allowed just 4.7 yards per pass, which is the lowest of any cornerback in the league with at least 30 charted passes except for R.W. McQuarters. Except the average pass against McQuarters was FIVE YARDS SHORTER than the average pass against Samuel, and we charted nearly twice as many passes against Samuel because McQuarters is a nickel back. Samuel also had a high 61% stop rate (stopping plays short of success). Ellis Hobbs and Chad Scott had similar, average stats, which is strange because it seemed like Scott was burned constantly. Hobbs was one of the best guys in the league in these stats last year but struggled with injuries in 2006.
Usually the nickel back faces shorter passes, because he's facing guys trying to convert third downs, but David Barrett of New York faced an average pass that went 15 yards in the air, compared to just 10 for starters Andre Dyson and Justin Miller. Miller's stats were pathetic as a rookie but much better this year. Dyson and Miller allowed the same average yards per pass (7.7) but Dyson was successful against just 40% of passes, Miller against 55% of passes. Barrett had excellent numbers, but I'm guessing that's a sample size fluke caused by a few overthrown bombs.
New York Giants at Philadelphia
If the charting numbers are to be believed, the safeties in New York are horrible. Kevin Dockery's 12 yards per pass was #1 among all players with at least 30 charted passes. Will Demps' 9.8 is eighth. Both had stop rate of 36%, the only defensive back worse than that was Travis Fisher of St. Louis.
As for the cornerbacks, as mentioned above, R.W. McQuarters comes out with great stats, which is really weird and completely goes against the subjective view of my eyes any time I watched the Giants. Corey Webster was thrown at more often than Sam Madison, giving up slightly more yards per pass with a slightly lower stop rate.
Last year in Philly, Sheldon Brown and Roderick Hood both ranked among the best in the league while an injured Lito Sheppard was near the bottom. This year, Hood was the injured corner with the subpar stats, and Sheppard's stats were near the top of the league. Injuries are bad, huh? Anyway, Sheppard had a stop rate of 62%, one of the best in the league, and allowed just 5.4 yards per pass, and that doesn't even take into account all his timely interceptions. Brown had a stop rate of 57% and allowed 8.6 yards per charted pass (in his defense, he faced longer passes on average). Hood's stats don't mean much since we're missing the recent weeks where he was actually healthy.
Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?