19 Oct 2012
So, Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus sent me an e-mail this week asking about the relative strengths and weaknesses of his hometown Seattle Seahawks. Kevin seemed to notice that, even after accounting for last week's big comeback against New England, the Seahawks seem to always play better on offense at the beginning of the game. The Seahawks are one of those teams that like to script their first 15 plays; could they just be better on those plays than they are afterwards?
I didn't want to specifically pick out the first 15 plays to look at, since of course the first scripted 15 plays aren't necessarily the first 15 actual plays. Sometimes you have to go off the script for a short-yardage or red-zone opportunity. However, it is clear that the Seahawks offense is better in the first quarter this season. Through Week 6, the Seahawks rank eighth in offensive DVOA in Q1, then 27th, 26th, and 17th in the next three quarters. I don't have numbers broken down yet for last night, but the Seahawks did have two field-goal drives in the first 18 minutes and then went scoreless the rest of the game.
So, will the Seahawks continue to be better on offense in the first quarter for the rest of the season? Actually, that looks more likely than you might think.
At some point last year, we looked and noticed that there's nothing particularly consistent about having a better DVOA in the fourth quarter. (I did this same thing for quarterbacks specifically in ESPN The Magazine a couple years back.) That may not be true about the first quarter. Just to look quickly, I went back and looked at Weeks 1-9 compared to Weeks 10-17 over the past five seasons. In each of those seasons, the 1H-to-2H correlation of Q1 offensive DVOA was higher than any of the other quarters. For the five years in total, the correlation was .43 for Q1 offense, compared to .31 for Q2, .30 for Q3, and .31 for Q4.
Of course, there's also a question about what this might mean from year to year. The Seahawks were scripting their first 15 plays last year too, yet they ranked 24th in Q1 offense but eighth in offense after halftime. Yet another example of how looking for meaningful splits in the NFL can get tricky.
By the way, this whole thing was absolutely not a reason to slip in a mention that the excellent Pro Basketball Prospectus annual by Kevin and Bradford Doolittle is now available for the low price of $9.98. That's just an extra bonus. If you like basketball and you like FO, you'll like PBP.
23 comments, Last at 20 Oct 2012, 5:27pm by nat
Guest columnist Zachary O. Binney fact-checks a story in a national publication and finds that everyone makes mistakes.