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The NFL is a Passing League (or is it?) (1 Viewer)

Dinsy Ejotuz

Footballguy
Thought this was interesting. We hear all the time that the "NFL is a passing league". But look below.

Of the 15 teams that rushed the ball more than the league average of 44.0% nine made the playoffs. And of the 17 teams that passed the ball more than the league average of 56% only three made the post-season. One of those, the Packers, was almost exactly on the average run/pass average. Only two of the 15 teams that passed most often made the playoffs.

Some of that is no doubt the fact that bad teams trail a lot and have to pass. But that clearly isn't all that's happening here -- if you look closer you see that several of the teams at the very top of the list are pass-first philosophically, and most of those at the bottom of the list are organized around their rushing attacks.

So, has the pendulum finally swung? Have defenses compensated to the relaxed passing rules by going "light" to the point where they're not as able to defend the run?

Obviously good teams need to be able to both run and pass, but the ratios suggest that an old-school ground game + defense is a more viable way to build a team than the popular wisdom would suggest.

Or am I misreading it and missing something?

Code:
Team 		Plays 	 Run %   Pass % Detroit 	1131	 34.57 	 65.43 Dallas 		1013	 35.04 	 64.96 New Orleans 	1041	 35.54 	 64.46 Arizona 	960	 36.66 	 63.34 Oakland 	1005	 37.41 	 62.59 Jacksonville 	944	 37.92 	 62.08 Atlanta 	993	 38.07 	 61.93* Philadelphia 	1031	 40.10 	 59.90 Cleveland 	962	 41.16 	 58.84 Tennessee 	918	 41.18 	 58.82 Indianapolis 	1068	 41.20 	 58.80* Pittsburgh 	986	 41.78 	 58.22 Tampa Bay 	982	 42.36 	 57.64 St. Louis 	967	 42.40 	 57.60 New York Giants	948	 43.14 	 56.86 Green Bay 	991	 43.69 	 56.31*San Diego 	939	 43.77 	 56.23 			Baltimore 	1004	 44.22 	 55.78* Cincinnati 	970	 44.33 	 55.67*New England 	1164	 44.93 	 55.07* Denver 		1069	 44.99 	 55.01* Buffalo 	953	 46.38 	 53.62 Miami 		944	 46.61 	 53.39 Houston 	1062	 47.83 	 52.17* Carolina 	952	 48.53 	 51.47 Chicago 	955	 49.21 	 50.79 New York Jets 	987	 50.05 	 49.95 Minnesota 	969	 50.15 	 49.85*Kansas City 	975	 51.28 	 48.72San Francisco 	928	 53.02 	 46.98* Washington 	961	 54.01 	 45.99*Seattle 	941	 56.96 	 43.04*Average		991	  44.0	  56.0
 
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Magic 8-Ball

Footballguy
I think what is missing is that teams with leads will often run to just grind out the game and get things over with . . . this increasing their percentage of rushing attempts. What is the point in risking interceptions by throwing too many passes if you are up by 10+ points in the 4th quarter?

I suspect if you ran the numbers for other years you would see similar results.

 

billrob

Footballguy
You don't run to win.

You run because you're winning.

The good teams (playoff bound) run more because they win more.

Even the top three teams by rushing percentage (Seattle, Washington and SF) all have running QBs. So technically yes they are running plays, but since they're run by the QB I'd almost call them part of the passing game. This plays with the numbers as well.

Make no mistake, it's a passing league. And the more they change the rules to protect the QBs and WRs it will continue to trend that way.

 

Dinsy Ejotuz

Footballguy
You don't run to win.

You run because you're winning.

The good teams (playoff bound) run more because they win more.
Turns out this is partly right. I knew it was part of the story, but underestimated it...

Here are those same numbers for only the first three quarters, excluding times when a team is winning or trailing by ten or more (i.e. when they should feel comfortable sticking with their base philosophy):

ATL 523 34.6% 65.4% xNO 583 36.4% 63.6% IND 593 38.8% 61.2% xDAL 598 39.1% 60.9% DET 624 39.9% 60.1% GB 544 40.4% 59.6% xPIT 681 40.7% 59.3% DEN 578 40.8% 59.2% xNYG 466 41.4% 58.6% OAK 494 41.5% 58.5% PHI 568 41.5% 58.5% SD 527 41.7% 58.3% CLE 622 42.3% 57.7% ARI 543 42.4% 57.6% CIN 571 42.4% 57.6% xTEN 422 43.4% 56.6% STL 548 43.4% 56.6% NE 663 43.4% 56.6% xTB 557 44.3% 55.7% BAL 620 44.4% 55.6% xJAX 539 44.5% 55.5% HOU 546 46.0% 54.0% xBUF 499 46.3% 53.7% SF 492 47.0% 53.0% xCHI 523 48.2% 51.8% MIA 519 48.6% 51.4% CAR 566 48.9% 51.1% NYJ 592 52.9% 47.1% MIN 509 53.4% 46.6% xSEA 567 55.0% 45.0% xWAS 531 56.1% 43.9% xKC 532 59.0% 41.0% Four of the playoff teams are in fact pass-first teams that run the ball when they get ahead.But in addition to the teams with young rushing QBs, you also find Minnesota, Baltimore and Houston who are either run-first or right on the average. So it's not strictly a passing league -- teams with a dominant rushing attack and teams that are balanced can still win.

 
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Dinsy Ejotuz

Footballguy
ETA: just realized all of that is relative to the average. But the average is already 55/45 in favor of passing. So it's still mostly a passing league.

What I get for thinking out loud I guess.

Though it is interesting that three of the five teams that ran the ball more than they threw it made the playoffs.

 

Bills_Fan11

Footballguy
In addition to what BillRob said you're also looking at a sample size of 1 year where there's a ton of variance. Were the Vikings really a better team than the Bears because they won a tie-breaker? Pretty much every reasonable person/metric says no (their pt differentials, their Vegas O/U wins this year, etc).

 

FDC

Footballguy

Chase Stuart

Footballguy
I came up with a statistic called Game Scripts, which measures the average points differential at every second of every game.

I then adjusted each team's Pass/Run ratio based off of Game Scripts to measure true passing identity. The Falcons were the most pass-happy team in the league last season:

http://www.footballperspective.com/game-scripts-the-best-teams-of-2012/
Right when I am sure NWE will be run heavy I see this and start second guessing it
The Patriots had an average lead of 7.7 points last year, easily the best in the league. The fact that they still passed more frequently than average shows a significant commitment to the passing game, which makes sense given Brady/Welker/Gronk/Hernandez.

Of course, 2-3 of those players are gone, so all bets are off for 2013. And, of course, for fantasy purposes, it's actual run-pass ratio that matters, so if NE winds up leading the league in average lead again, they will probably run a lot.

 

Dinsy Ejotuz

Footballguy
Taking Chase's work there and playing with it a little bit...

1 ATL 32.4 *2 NWE 28.6 3 NOR 25.5 4 DET 16.1 5 GNB 15.9 *6 CIN 15.5 *7 DAL 13.9 8 SDG 12.5 9 DEN 12.0 *10 NYG 8.8 11 BAL 7.8 *12 PIT 7.4 13 ARI 7.1 14 TAM 3.9 15 IND 3.8 *16 JAX 0.4 17 CLE 0.2 18 CHI (1.3)19 HOU (1.4)*20 STL (5.2)21 MIN (6.6)*22 CAR (8.0)23 TEN (9.1)24 PHI (10.1)25 OAK (10.2)26 SFO (10.5)*27 MIA (11.4)28 SEA (15.7)*29 BUF (17.1)30 WAS (22.4)*31 NYJ (29.9)32 KAN (53.0)You have the three read-option/total QB teams, plus the somewhat flukey Vikings as rushing-oriented playoff teams.The others all prefer to pass with the exception of the balanced Texans.

Just like I suggested in my original post! :oldunsure:

 
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Chase Stuart

Footballguy
I came up with a statistic called Game Scripts, which measures the average points differential at every second of every game.

I then adjusted each team's Pass/Run ratio based off of Game Scripts to measure true passing identity. The Falcons were the most pass-happy team in the league last season:

http://www.footballperspective.com/game-scripts-the-best-teams-of-2012/
This is why i come here.
That's awesome Chase. Thanks.
Thanks, guys. Glad you digged. :thumbup:

 

mbuehner

Footballguy
I came up with a statistic called Game Scripts, which measures the average points differential at every second of every game.

I then adjusted each team's Pass/Run ratio based off of Game Scripts to measure true passing identity. The Falcons were the most pass-happy team in the league last season:

http://www.footballperspective.com/game-scripts-the-best-teams-of-2012/
Right when I am sure NWE will be run heavy I see this and start second guessing it
The Patriots had an average lead of 7.7 points last year, easily the best in the league. The fact that they still passed more frequently than average shows a significant commitment to the passing game, which makes sense given Brady/Welker/Gronk/Hernandez.

Of course, 2-3 of those players are gone, so all bets are off for 2013. And, of course, for fantasy purposes, it's actual run-pass ratio that matters, so if NE winds up leading the league in average lead again, they will probably run a lot.
This is a great illustration- run pass ratio is deceptive. Total running or passing plays is whats relevant to us. Conventional wisdom might be that the Pats will run more because theyve lost their receiving weapons. But Chase's study suggests the opposite may well me true. If the patriots aren't scoring as much as they were, they wont be running the ball as much because they wont be winning by as much. If they aren't running as many plays because they arent converting 1st downs, they should run less because they are simply running less plays.

 
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