September 17, 2008

Stat Tracker: Week 2

As in preseason, I’m going to keep running tabs this year of some of the key stats I've always felt tend to get overlooked in the Sportcenter highlight era we live in. At some point I’m planning create a nice clean table to throw all this stuff in, both for the sake of my brain and your eyes, but for this week at least I’ll stick with the format I used in preseason.

A thumbnail of what I plan to track and why:

I’ve been a big believer that turnover differential is perhaps THE key stat in today’s NFL, given how close the level of competition is and how many games are decided by one or two key plays a game. Nothing changes a game more quickly, or more dramatically, than the big turnover--ask Antwaan Randle El. Or Donovan McNabb.

Third down efficiency is another one that tends to get devalued, at least as compared to the sexier stats (passing yards, QB rating, rushing yards, etc.). While it doesn’t always translate directly to points, converting a few more 3rd downs a game offensively can have a dramatic effect on a game; affecting field position, keeping the defense fresh, keeping fans from pulling their little remaining hair out. Same for the defense; forcing 3-and-outs, making that big stuff on a key 3rd-and-1, they energize the team, the crowd, and gives those watching from home time to hit the head and grab another beer during the change-of-possession commercial. That's important.

Another key stat that can be deceiving is red zone efficiency. For one thing, “the red zone” is an arbitrary division of the field from the 20 yard line in—or the 25 depending on who’s doing the tracking. Why not the 30? The 10? Just saying. Plus it doesn’t account for how many times you might get down there to begin with. Is scoring a TD the one time all game you manage to drive down there, and getting a 100% efficiency rating, “better” than driving up and down the field all day but screwing it up once you get close and going 1-5 for 20%? Still … it's obvious you want your team scoring touchdowns, or at least bagging FG's, when they get inside the opponents 20. So we’re going to keep an eye on how the Skins do. Because we can.

Time of possession may or may not even belong on the "key stat" list, primarily because you can read almost anything you want into it. And it can end up having zero to do with how a game turns out. If you score 56 points but only hold the ball 20 minutes because you throw five 80-yard TD passes and break three 50-yard runs, all on first down … TOP is meaningless. Still, as a general pattern over many weeks, common sense does suggest that as a general rule you’d rather have your offense on the field more than your defense. So I'm going to track this one in the hope that at some point over the course of a long season it might provide insight into something. If nothing else, if we find ourselves at 3-10 and the band is playing on, maybe we can at least look at TOP and say, “Yeah, but we’re owning the hell out of the ball.”

So that's it. As mentioned above, I fully expect this feature to evolve over the course of the season, both in presentation and content, so don't hesitate to ask questions or make suggestions. Also, please feel free to point out mistakes. I studied English, History and Philosophy in college.


Week Two NFL Rankings

Offense: Yards 11th (332); Scoring 20th (18)
Defense: Yards 14th (302); Scoring 13th (20)


Turnover Differential
(Caused / Committed)
Game 1 (L) – 1/0 (+1)
Game 2 (W) – 3/1 (+2)
Season (1-1) – 4/1 (+3)


3rd down Efficiency
Game 1 (L) – Off. 3/13 (23%); Def. 7/14 (50%)
Game 2 (W) – Off. 3/11 (27%); Def. 3/10 (30%)
Season – Off. 6/24 (25%); Def. 10/24 (41.6%)


Red Zone Efficiency
Game 1 (L) – Off. 1/1 (100%, TD); Def. 1/3 (33%, TD)
Game 2 (W) – Off. 2/6 (33%, 2TD); Def. 2/2 (100%, 1TD)
Season – Off. 3/7 (42.8%, 3TD); Def. 3/5 (60%, 2TD)


Time of Possession
(Redskins / Opp.)
Game 1 (L) – 24:17 / 35:43
Game 2 (W) – 34:14 / 25:46
Season – 29:15 / 30:45


Bob Viering said...

So far I'd say that's a pretty shaky start but I try not to read too much into ANY stats this early in the season.

I do agree these particular statistics can be pretty helpful in evaluating the strength of a team. The Skins have never been overly impressive in any of them since say, 1983!

Mark "Om" Steven said...

The one I'll be watching most intently for improvement this week is offensive 3rd down conversions. 3-for-13 and 3-for-11 just isn't going to cut it; particularly given the offensive strength of the division this year. Hoping to see us above 40% this weekend and at least 4-5 sustained drives to keep the D fresh.

The good news--and again, to me it's the single biggest stat in today's game--is turnover differential. We're long, long overdue to have the kind of day we had Sunday, with deflections and fumbles finally finding their way to burgundy and gold hands again. Seems like a decade since the ball bounced our way. Hopefully +3 after two weeks is a sign of things to come.