Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

25 Oct 2007

ESPN Numbers Crunching: Week 8

Here's the second part of our new deal with ESPN.com for two pieces per week. Each week I'll be doing a notebook of stats tidbits revolving around each game as part of ESPN.com's "Sunday Countdown" page. We'll mix in some DVOA splits, ALY and ASR, some of the individual defense stuff, and eventually some of the charting data. Some of these stats show matchups where one team can take advantage to win this week's game; other stats are just fun trivia.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 25 Oct 2007

19 comments, Last at 27 Oct 2007, 11:35am by Sunil


by B (not verified) :: Thu, 10/25/2007 - 6:11pm

I'm surprised the NE/Was didn't point out what I noticed about Washington's defense. They're Ranked 1st and 2nd against #2 and other WRs respectively, but 22nd against #1s. Looks like a big game for Moss.

by DK (not verified) :: Thu, 10/25/2007 - 7:11pm

I think the Skins ranking of 22 against #1's is misleading.

If you look a little closer, they've allowed #1 receiver's to have a DVOA of 13.50% which is closer to the top 10 than the bottom 4. They've made all #1 recievers look like Anquan Boldin while completely eliminating other recievers.

So is that a real weakness, or part of the Redskins scheme?

I wouldn't be surprised if Randy Moss has a big day since the Patriots have been so dominant, but I don't think the numbers are predicting that.

by asp_j (not verified) :: Thu, 10/25/2007 - 7:34pm

Isn't Wes Welker the Pats' #1 WR?

I kid, but he's the one leading in receptions and passes intended to...

by JonL (not verified) :: Thu, 10/25/2007 - 8:08pm

Well, I remember an article in the Wash. Post (or maybe just on their website) about how this year, Carlos Rogers has only been covering the #1 receivers, and Smoot and Springs have been rotating on the #2. So it's probably a combination of personnel and scheme.

by MJK (not verified) :: Thu, 10/25/2007 - 9:17pm

The problem with seeing that one team's weakness aligns with another team's strength is that if we see it, the coaches probably do too. You can be sure the Washington coaching staff is going to try to make sure they don't get killed by Moss, even if it involves a scheme change, because that's what coaches do--get paid to try to make their team not get killed.

(Well, except for some coaches...)

by Lou (not verified) :: Thu, 10/25/2007 - 10:25pm

Washington is the only NFL team Tom Brady has never beaten as a starter (other than New England, of course).

oddly Carolina is the only team Manning has never beaten so they both could reach 31 teams beaten tomorrow.

And Kansas City is the only team Favre hasn't beaten, and they play Nov 4.


by muddy waters (not verified) :: Fri, 10/26/2007 - 12:45am

Good read. Congrats on the new gig, though it just gave me another reason to be disappointed the Cowboys have their bye this week.

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 10/26/2007 - 9:42am

Nicely done, Aaron. I really enjoyed this piece. It's stuff like this that makes watching the games even more interesting. Is team A trying to exploit a weakness? How is team B trying to mask a weakness? Who's playing to their strength and who just doesn't seem to get it? Especially when I don't have a strong rooting interest, watching stuff like that is really entertaining.

Keep up the good work!

by TomC (not verified) :: Fri, 10/26/2007 - 12:23pm

Add my voice to the chorus of approval for this new column.

Two tidbits really surprised me:

The Rams have 10 carries from the opponent's 10-yard line or closer. Only two of those carries gained positive yardage

That is some serious suck.

Green Bay's defense ranks 26th in the NFL in the first half of games but is the best in the league in the second half -- with an even bigger advantage over the rest of the league in the fourth quarter.

This despite losing the 2nd half of the Bears game 20-3 (and the 4th quarter 10-0).

by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 10/26/2007 - 12:51pm

Am I misreading the first line in the Lions/Bears writeup? Adrian Peterson?

Fun, easy-to-digest article.

by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 10/26/2007 - 12:59pm

Wow, VERY interesting stat on the Tites. The best passing DVOA but their opponents pass 71% of the time. (I'll assume this is very high--average is about 55%, no?)

What does that tell us? Maybe the things that DVOA measures do not matter to OC's when they select from their options. Or the looks Tenn shows are confusing, causing QBs and OCs to pick pass when they REALLY shouldn't.

I mean, if a team is flat-out the best at something, logic says a smart opponent will attack a weakness. So Tenn is not so terribly obviously the best (except to DVOA)? This one is worth pondering....

by Sunil (not verified) :: Fri, 10/26/2007 - 1:22pm

Re: 11

This stat hides the fact that the Titans have a dominant rush defense forcing opponents to go to the pass. In fact, even though they rank #7 on rush def DVOA, they rank no 1 in rush yards allowed per game (see link).

Shockingly, the Tites rush defense is outpacing the nearest team (Ravens) by more than 11 yrds/game. When offensive coordinators see this statistic they are apt to design a pass-heavy scheme. To the Titans credit they held passing offenses #1, #5 and #7 (INDY, TB and JAC)in check for the most part which likely gives them a strong pass DVOA.

Re: 5 - love your comment - this is why watching two solidly coached teams is so much fun.

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 10/26/2007 - 2:09pm

Re: 10

There's two RBs named Adrian Peterson in the league. The Minnesota rookie and Chicago's 6th round pick in 2002. I'm not sure if you were making a joke about how ridiculous it is that Peterson doesn't get more touches for the Bears, but I wasn't sure.

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 10/26/2007 - 2:11pm

Re: 12

That's why yds/game is an idiotic way to rank a defense. Since teams are only running on them 29% of the time, is it really a surprise that they'd lead the league in yds/game?

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Fri, 10/26/2007 - 2:22pm

"The problem with seeing that one team’s weakness aligns with another team’s strength is that if we see it, the coaches probably do too."

I'm sure some coaches do, and I'm absolutely sure theres some that don't.

I've seen too many games where a team tries to run all day on a team with a top 10 run defense and bad pass defense, and then the next week a team comes in and proves DVOA right by running spread all day and blowing out the Run-D team.

The problem with the Redskins trying to shut down Moss is going to be the same problem that Dallas, Cleveland and Miami have had (although Miami didn't actually shut down Moss... they just tried): Welker and Stallworth will kill you if you leave them in single coverage. It seems with all the "Moss Mania" teams leave a LB on Welker, and thats a HUGE mismatch.

by cat rodriguez (not verified) :: Fri, 10/26/2007 - 3:24pm

I know I'm in the minority, but I found this piece incredibly uninteresting, and I normally eat up what Aaron writes. Go ahead and flog me now, FO Nation.

by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 10/26/2007 - 3:58pm

#13 Wanker79, No, I had no idea about #2 and was confused. Honestly. My attempts at humor are far more blatant than that. Kind of funny having two RBs with the same name in the same div (and we're not talking super-common names like John Smith). The things I miss out on by focusing most of my attention on the AFC....

by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 10/26/2007 - 4:06pm

#12 Thanks, but I too think YPG rushing might be misleading. In terms of FO stats only, Tenn's D is mediocre on Power running and 10+ yards, but #1 on stufifng the other guys (weird). Their adj sack rate is fairly tame as well (of course sacks + pressures might be a better metric, but it's not available... YET.) In terms of ALY, they rank #1 at LT and RT runs and #4 at guard/center runs, which to me says run wide, but running is still worthwhile. sadly, 80% of al opponent carried have been to the three middle zones, which means other coaches are dumb as a sack of hammers, or there are too few rushes to the outside for the outside run stats to be meaningful.

Clearly they ARE effective vs the run, which probably leads to the disparity.

by Sunil (not verified) :: Sat, 10/27/2007 - 11:35am

Re: 14 and 18
I totally agree with you guys - I was just trying to point out that offensive coordinators probably dont peek at FOs database. All they may have to go by is the "widely published" NFL stats which leads to the skewed run/pass distribution we see.