My statistical study of 2012 defenses continues. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the mathematics of all that drive data I posted a couple days ago. There’s plenty of good information there, but I can’t regress the data to wins without first accounting for offense and special teams. Doing that expands the data set ad infinitum, which removes the validity of what I was hoping to find.
There’s a way to do this, and I’ll find it. I’m just not there yet.
In the interim, I’ve decided to look into the last variable I can think that of needs to be addressed in this study. That would be the starting field position for opposing offense. The reasoning is pretty simple, give the offense a shorter field, and they’re likely to score points more often.
Below is the average starting field position for each team’s defensive drives. (There’s probably a better way to word that.) I expected the Seahawks to be near the top of the list, and sure enough they are there at #1.
My first thought when I saw the results was that the difference between the best (Seattle, 24.2 yard line) and the worst (Phily, 31.86 yard line) wasn’t enough to matter. It’s only 7 yards, right? Then I realized the cumulative effect that the difference could have over almost 200 possessions.
To show that, I calculated the difference in total yards over the entire season. Putting these numbers in perspective, the Eagles almost spotted their opponents Marshawn Lynch’s entire rushing production for the year, and that’s before those opponents ever ran a play. That’s a lot of yards being given to their opponents for free over the course of the season.
I have to say, the Seahawk’s special teams don’t get nearly the credit they deserve for being great last season. We know the Seahawks defense was among the best, and the Seahawk offense was as well at the end of the year. The special teams units get overlooked though, and that’s a shame. One look at the “total yards” column below, and it’s easy to see how important they are to the success of this team.
Special teams aren’t the only factor here in creating this average starting field position, though they are the biggest factor. Each team’s offense played a roll as well, since turnovers tend to be the cause for the shortest of the short-field scenarios. I don’t actually have the data, but I’d wager that teams who’s offenses have a high percentage of 3-and-outs are mostly down near the bottom of this list as well.
I’m probably going to have to collect all this same data for the offenses just to see how it comes up. It wont have any bearing on this study of defensive variables, but it’ll be very interesting.
What does all of this mean for the defenses? That’s simple. Good special teams can help inflate how good a defense is perceived to be. If the defense is already great, then forcing the opponent to travel farther to get points is just mean.
The Seahawks are apparently mean. I can live with that.
|Rk||Team||Ave. LOS||Drives||total yards|
|2||San Francisco 49ers||24.9||173||121.1|
|6||New England Patriots||25.6||191||267.4|
|9||Green Bay Packers||25.96||184||323.84|
|10||San Diego Chargers||26.13||176||339.68|
|12||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||26.42||187||415.14|
|20||New York Giants||27.84||170||618.8|
|21||Kansas City Chiefs||27.98||173||653.94|
|23||New York Jets||28.39||187||783.53|
|25||New Orleans Saints||29.32||187||957.44|
|26||St. Louis Rams||29.59||176||948.64|
* All starting field position data was provided by Football Outsiders! I didn’t have the time to go though all the game logs to collect this particular data, so I owe them a huge thank you for making this data available.