Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

27 Dec 2007

ESPN Numbers Crunching: Week 17

In the final regular-season edition of Numbers Crunching, we look at two ways in which the Giants match up favorably with New England, why the Seahawks lead the league in decorum, and what makes Patrick Willis a very busy man. Plus: A totally ridiculous Rob Bironas-Adam Vinatieri comparison. Seriously, it will blow your mind.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 27 Dec 2007

23 comments, Last at 30 Dec 2007, 1:43am by Mac


by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 12/27/2007 - 9:32pm

Any idea why Indy suddenly leads the league in power success after years of mediocrity? Much as FB Luke "The Punisher" Lawton is loved, he was not active or even on the p-squad for a handful of games due to the injuries on the D side.

Plus the OL has been banged up for half a season, so it's kind of weird. And the run game has sputtered in general since the mid-point. Theories, speculation, wisdom, lies... I'll take what I can get.

by Unshakable Optimist (not verified) :: Thu, 12/27/2007 - 10:13pm

How did the Buccaneers quietly win the NFC South? By playing the field-position game. Tampa Bay starts the average offensive drive on its own 33.4-yard line, the second-best average starting position in the league behind Chicago. The other team's offense starts its average drive against the Tampa Bay defense on its own 26.2-yard line, the best average starting position for any defense in the league.

As a Bucs homer, I'm curious to know how this translates into average special teams DVOA.

by Unshakable Optimist (not verified) :: Thu, 12/27/2007 - 10:14pm

Or is that simply reflective of great defense?

by Unshakable Optimist (not verified) :: Thu, 12/27/2007 - 10:21pm

Also, sorry for the triple post, but how accurately have the simulations been predicting games? Are they like your daily horoscope, or have they proven to be serious indicators?

by Yaxley (not verified) :: Thu, 12/27/2007 - 11:34pm

Pittsburgh's offense has more running back carries than any other offense

Well, gosh darn it, I guess Mike Tomlin wasn't joking when he said they were going to run Willie Parker until the wheels came off. I can only hope for the sake of every future Steelers running back that he didn't expect the wheels coming off to equal a broken fibula.

by Israel (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 1:32am

Tennessee's Rob Bironas leads all kickers in value on field goals, where he has scored 8.5 more points than the average kicker would if given the same opportunities.

Jeff Reed can't be far behind on that. He has missed two kicks all year - a 65-yard Hail Mary against Denver at the end of the half and a 44-yard in the mud against Miami.

by mm (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 4:02am

Can Olindo Mare, a powerful kicker, get it past Devin Hester? Mare is currently third in the NFL with 16 touchbacks, but only one of those touchbacks came outdoors.

Mare's been on injured reserve for at least a few weeks now.

by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 4:56am

#7 Well now, I guess that makes the answer to that question "no."

by Theo, Holland (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 8:10am

I wonder why kickers can't put it through the endzone anytime, at will.
I mean, I've seen guys do it in my (Dutch) league without any kicking practice.

by Duff Soviet Union (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 8:49am

Re #2"As a Bucs homer, I’m curious to know how this translates into average special teams DVOA." I'm guessing it's their low number of turnovers. Even when their offense gets stopped they're at least punting the ball away instead of having the opposition take over in Tampa territory.

by Happy Fun Paul (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 10:03am

Re #2 "As a Bucs homer, I’m curious to know how this (excellent starting position for self and opponent) translates into average special teams DVOA?"

Some possibilities:

1) It's not just special teams that causes good starting position, it's defense too. TB's defense is 3rd in DVOA; they are 3rd in yards allowed per drive, 4th in forcing punts, 1st in fumbles caused per drive, and a decent 13th in interceptions caused per drive.

Look at the other top defensive teams: #1 defense Pittsburgh is also 5th in starting position and 12th in opponent's starting position despite having horrendous special teams (other than FGs/XPs); #2 Indianapolis is 8th/10th despite being 30th in special teams, and #4 Tennessee is 4th/6th despite being below average in special teams.

2) (As #10 "Duff Soviet Union" said) TB's offense has a low number of turnovers. For example, they have the fewest interceptions per drive (although their fumbles-per-drive is only average).

3) What's weighing down TB's overall special teams rating is their punt returns (-7.3% DVOA)... perhaps they fumble /muff returns frequently? (True, that would hurt their stat for "opponent's average starting field position", but not as badly as it'd hurt their punt return DVOA.)

4) Similarly, their punting DVOA is only -1.8%... perhaps they have good punting and coverage in terms of net yardage, but don't force many fumbles on opponent's returns.

5) Have opponents missed a lot of (long) field goals vs. TB? I don't see stats for it, but that's a possibility too.

In short: (a) field position depends on defense and offense as well as special teams, and (b) turnovers don't affect field position and DVOA in quite the same way.

by shake n bake (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 11:56am

Ugoh is a dominating run blocker and moves much better than Tarik Glenn. He'd been hurt for a good chunk of the year so that's obviously not all of it but that's the first thing that jumps out at me when thinking of what is different this year.

by Podge (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 1:07pm

What you missed on the Bironas-Vinatieri thing is that Vinatieri is clutch. Come on, simple things!

by Frick (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 1:17pm

Re: 9

Where were they kicking off from, and what type of ball were they using.

Until recently kickers doctored balls in all types of manner to make them softer and easier to kick. With the new K-balls, they are stamped K for kicking, they aren't allowed to soften them up.

by Andy (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 2:36pm

"Miami cornerback Travis Daniels leads all cornerbacks (minimum 20 plays) in the ratio of run plays made to pass plays made. Teammate Michael Lehan is second, and another Miami cornerback, Will Allen, ranks ninth."

What does this mean? Do you want your CBs to be at the top of this list?

Or is this stat skewed because Miami sucks and the opposition rarely needs to throw the ball cause Miami never has a big lead?

by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 3:32pm

Shake n Bake,
(Are we just continuing a conversation from 18to88? How many Shake n Bakes are there out there? Funny.)

Thanks. I agree on Ugoh, but while Indy is ranked 2 at LT runs they are also ranked #4 at mid/guard runs. And LT is the slot they run to the LEAST (of course maybe that's all their power runs? I doubt it.) It might just be that the line was always good, but Edge danced too much in the past. OL coach and RB coaches are the same for over a decade now. Ugoh is part of it, as are the current runners, but I'm still a bit stumped. Not complaining, though.

by panthersnbraves (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 3:51pm


You are also the beneficiary of having 6 games against the 17th, 23rd, and 31st rated ST's.

That may change with Kasay being "relieved" of kickoffs this weekend.

by Xian (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 3:54pm

#15, I would imagine the latter of your proposed options.

If your CBs are making a high proportion of run tackles to pass plays, that should mean they're not getting thrown at as much as other teams and/or they're getting run at more.

The FO run tackle stat you would like your CBs to be good at is Stop Rate, indicating that they prevented the run play from being "successful".

by shake n bake (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 3:58pm

(Yeah, I haven't seen any other shake n bakes out there.)

Throwing out some more things that probably contributed.
07 Kenton Keith (20.9 DPAR, 25.3% DVOA, 58% success rate) is a much better runner than 06 Dom Rhodes (.6 DPAR, -13.1% DVOA 49% success rate).

Even with the injuries at the tackle spots the middle of the line, who they've run behind the most, has had another year together (O-line continuity) and the Guards are still pretty young and learning/improving

What it's not-Addai getting better.
Addai actually has a worse success rate, lower DPAR and DVOA than last year (still great this year though)

by mm (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 4:22pm

I wonder why kickers can’t put it through the endzone anytime, at will.
I mean, I’ve seen guys do it in my (Dutch) league without any kicking practice.

To expand what 14 said, the NFL pushed the kickoff spot back 5 to 10 years ago precisely because they wanted less touchbacks and more returns. I think the college game followed suit a few years back. The international rules probably haven't changed.

by John Morgan (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2007 - 9:00pm

As nice as that is to read about Deon Grant, he's not a great run stopper. He frequently misses his assignment or has his tackle broken - two essential factors that are not going to factor into Stop Rate. Grant's Stop Rate might be an indication of the overall quality of Seattle's run defense. That is, rushers are bottled up and Grant gets the formal tackle. Further, a good D is likely to put an opposing team into difficult down and distances, making it more likely any individual player on that D is going to record a Stop.

by asp_j (not verified) :: Sat, 12/29/2007 - 7:05pm

I have a question about the Vinateri comment.

Aaron said the average kicker is expected to get 11 more points than Vinateri, given the same opportunities.

Vinateri's missed 2 extra points, let's assume the average kicker makes those. That means the average kicker also makes 3 more field goals than Vinateri. Now, Vinateri's 22-for-28. 25-for-28 would be close to 90%. I know Vinateri plays half his games in a dome, but... do we really expect the average kicker to kick 90%? I thought the NFL average was in the low 80's.

by Mac (not verified) :: Sun, 12/30/2007 - 1:43am

Re: 22 I was thinking along the same lines. I assume, though, that some of those missing points come from which field goals he's missed. Particularly that last Chargers kick is one that, surely, the average NFL kicker would make.