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The Surprising Browns, Disappointing Pats, and Adjusted Offensive Points Per Drive

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First, just so you know, I’ve updated the NFL Drive Stats app with the 2014 games through two weeks.

I like drive scoring stats because they’re pace adjusted. They level the field between teams that run a lot of plays, and teams that run fewer plays. To the extent that football is a game of alternating possessions, what really matters is how efficient you are with the possessions you have. However, pace is important because if you’re a good team, you want as many iterations as possible to reduce variance. But pace isn’t an efficiency stat. So a team could score a lot of points because they run a lot of plays, but every time they score (or end a drive in a non-scoring way) the other team gets the ball. So the number of points that a team gets per drive is important.

As I was updating the app I thought it might also be nice to look at points per drive, but with an adjustment made. If an offense gets the ball at the other team’s 30 yard line, because of a turnover, their points/drive will seem high because the point expectation of that drive is high. So using the following point expectations I adjusted each team:

Rplot145

When I make that adjustment and then measure whether each offense exceeded or underperformed the average point expectations of their drives, I get this table (commentary below the table):

TNAME SEAS Points/Drive Over Expectation
NO 2014 1.63
DEN 2014 1.42
SEA 2014 1.32
CLE 2014 0.85
ATL 2014 0.83
GB 2014 0.80
DAL 2014 0.71
IND 2014 0.70
CHI 2014 0.62
PHI 2014 0.49
BAL 2014 0.47
SD 2014 0.38
WAS 2014 0.37
PIT 2014 0.33
HOU 2014 0.24
NYJ 2014 0.24
CIN 2014 0.20
DET 2014 0.18
CAR 2014 0.18
SF 2014 0.15
TB 2014 0.13
ARI 2014 0.10
MIN 2014 0.08
KC 2014 0.05
MIA 2014 0.05
NYG 2014 0.04
NE 2014 (0.01)
TEN 2014 (0.06)
OAK 2014 (0.07)
BUF 2014 (0.08)
STL 2014 (0.08)
JAC 2014 (0.44)

First, you can see that most offenses are positive. That’s because the averages that the expectation is based on came from 14 years of data. Offenses score more than they used to, so recent teams look more positive and teams from 13 years ago look more negative.

I was pretty shocked to see CLE in the top four. There could be a few things going on there. It could just be the result of small sample size. Most teams have only had about 20 drives. It could be that they’re good. That’s possible as Kyle Shanahan has done pretty well with his offenses even when the personnel isn’t great. It could also be defense. The Browns have faced the PIT and NO defenses and both look somewhat suspect at this point.

I was not shocked to see JAX at the bottom. They don’t have anything going for them. Allen Hurns has been a surprise but they’ve still been bad.

I’m totally shocked to see NE in the bottom 3rd. NE finished in the top five in points/drive most years between 2007 and 2012, at least on an unadjusted basis (so not taking into consideration where the drive started).

Look at the Elmer’s glue and popsicle stick constructed  Jets offense out ahead of the $60 bazillion DET offense. To be fair to DET, CAR was a very tough matchup and I’ll be surprised if we don’t eventually think of the NYG defense as good too. So DET’s relative struggles might be matchup related.

PIT is in the middle of the pack on this adjusted metric. They’re among the worst in the league in the red zone thus far. They have a top receiver, top running back, and at least a top 1/3 QB, and have had trouble scoring. Some part of that struggle is turnovers. Some other part could be Todd Haley.

I’ll try to update these numbers from time to time because at least I find them interesting. Even if it seems like real football, and outside of the scope of this site, I still think it has applications. You can easily target streaming defenses that face the bottom of this list.

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