Predictive Yards per Play Rankings: 2010

Our year-by-year Predictive Yards per Play unveiling continues this week with a trip back to 2010 – a year where no team in the NFC West finished with more than seven wins, Peyton Manning was putting the finishing touches on a monster new contract that would keep him in Indianapolis for life, and Mark Sanchez was one of the hottest up-and-coming quarterbacks in the league. A TIME SO MUCH LIKE OUR OWN. Let’s dive into these rankings, shall we?

Predictive Yards per Play Differential (league average: 0.00): a metric which uses probabilities drawn from research Brian Burke did back in 2008 in trying to determine which stats best correlated with future play.

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)1.83 (2011 ranking: #2)
  2. Green Bay Packers (10-6)1.49 (2011 ranking: #11)
  3. New England Patriots (14-2)1.44 (2011 ranking: #12)
  4. New York Jets (11-5)1.21 (2011 ranking: #16)
  5. San Diego Chargers (9-7)1.04 (2011 ranking: #14)
  6. New York Giants (10-6)1.01 (2011 ranking: #6)
  7. Miami Dolphins (7-9)0.75 (2011 ranking: #24)
  8. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)0.74 (2011 ranking: #4)
  9. Indianapolis Colts (10-6)0.57 (2011 ranking: #32)
  10. Baltimore Ravens (12-4)0.54 (2011 ranking: #7)
  11. Detroit Lions (6-10)0.47 (2011 ranking: #5)
  12. New Orleans Saints (11-5)0.43 (2011 ranking: #1)
  13. Chicago Bears (11-5)0.38 (2011 ranking: #21)
  14. Cincinnati Bengals (4-12)0.31 (2011 ranking: #15)
  15. Minnesota Vikings (6-10)0.23 (2011 ranking: #17)
  16. Houston Texans (6-10)0.19 (2011 ranking: #3)
  17. Atlanta Falcons (13-3): -0.07 (2011 ranking: #8)
  18. Dallas Cowboys (6-10)-0.12 (2011 ranking: #10)
  19. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)-0.13 (2011 ranking: #27)
  20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-6)-0.22 (2011 ranking: #31)
  21. Tennessee Titans (6-10)-0.27 (2011 ranking: #22)
  22. Oakland Raiders (8-8)-0.48 (2011 ranking: #20)
  23. Cleveland Browns (5-11)-0.52 (2011 ranking: #28)
  24. Buffalo Bills (4-12)-0.60 (2011 ranking: #23)
  25. Washington Redskins (6-10)-0.72 (2011 ranking: #19)
  26. San Francisco 49ers (6-10)-0.84 (2011 ranking: #9)
  27. Denver Broncos (4-12)-1.00 (2011 ranking: #29)
  28. St. Louis Rams (7-9)-1.16 (2011 ranking: #26)
  29. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8)-1.23 (2011 ranking: #30)
  30. Carolina Panthers (2-14)-1.51 (2011 ranking: #13)
  31. Seattle Seahawks (7-9) -1.76 (2011 ranking: #18)
  32. Arizona Cardinals (5-11)-2.53 (2011 ranking: #25)

Offensive Predictive Yards per Play (league average: 4.76)

  1. New England Patriots (14-2)6.40 (2011 ranking: #3)
  2. Houston Texans (6-10)5.66 (2011 ranking: #11)
  3. Green Bay Packers (10-6)5.56 (2011 ranking: #2)
  4. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)5.44 (2011 ranking: #7)
  5. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)5.43 (2011 ranking: #5)
  6. San Diego Chargers (9-7)5.28 (2011 ranking: #8)
  7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-6)5.10 (2011 ranking: #23)
  8. Detroit Lions (6-10)5.09 (2011 ranking: #9)
  9. Indianapolis Colts (10-6)5.07 (2011 ranking: #26)
  10. New York Jets (11-5)5.07 (2011 ranking: #25)
  11. Cincinnati Bengals (4-12)5.06 (2011 ranking: #16)
  12. New York Giants (10-6)5.06 (2011 ranking: #6)
  13. New Orleans Saints (11-5)5.02 (2011 ranking: #1)
  14. Atlanta Falcons (13-3)5.00 (2011 ranking: #13)
  15. Dallas Cowboys (6-10)4.99 (2011 ranking: #10)
  16. Baltimore Ravens (12-4)4.81 (2011 ranking: #15)
  17. Miami Dolphins (7-9)4.74 (2011 ranking: #24)
  18. Denver Broncos (4-12)4.73 (2011 ranking: #29)
  19. Buffalo Bills (4-12)4.61 (2011 ranking: #14)
  20. Minnesota Vikings (6-10)4.61 (2011 ranking: #21)
  21. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)4.60 (2011 ranking: #30)
  22. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8)4.54 (2011 ranking: #32)
  23. Oakland Raiders (8-8)4.51 (2011 ranking: #12)
  24. Washington Redskins (6-10)4.46 (2011 ranking: #22)
  25. Cleveland Browns (5-11)4.36 (2011 ranking: #27)
  26. Chicago Bears (11-5)4.34 (2011 ranking: #31)
  27. Tennessee Titans (6-10)4.26 (2011 ranking: #18)
  28. San Francisco 49ers (6-10)4.21 (2011 ranking: #17)
  29. Seattle Seahawks (7-9)3.92 (2011 ranking: #19)
  30. St. Louis Rams (7-9)3.72 (2011 ranking: #28)
  31. Carolina Panthers (2-14)3.32 (2011 ranking: #4)
  32. Arizona Cardinals (5-11)3.10 (2011 ranking: #20)

Defensive Predictive Yards per Play (league average: 4.76)

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)3.60 (2011 ranking: #6)
  2. New York Jets (11-5)3.86 (2011 ranking: #2)
  3. Chicago Bears (11-5)3.96 (2011 ranking: #3)
  4. Miami Dolphins (7-9)3.99 (2011 ranking: #13)
  5. New York Giants (10-6)4.05 (2011 ranking: #17)
  6. Green Bay Packers (10-6)4.08 (2011 ranking: #31)
  7. San Diego Chargers (9-7)4.23 (2011 ranking: #26)
  8. Baltimore Ravens (12-4)4.26 (2011 ranking: #1)
  9. Minnesota Vikings (6-10)4.38 (2011 ranking: #12)
  10. Indianapolis Colts (10-6)4.50 (2011 ranking: #29)
  11. Tennessee Titans (6-10)4.53 (2011 ranking: #22)
  12. New Orleans Saints (11-5)4.58 (2011 ranking: #24)
  13. Detroit Lions (6-10)4.62 (2011 ranking: #11)
  14. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)4.70 (2011 ranking: #16)
  15. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)4.73 (2011 ranking: #9)
  16. Cincinnati Bengals (4-12)4.76 (2011 ranking: #20)
  17. Carolina Panthers (2-14)4.83 (2011 ranking: #28)
  18. St. Louis Rams (7-9)4.87 (2011 ranking: #14)
  19. Cleveland Browns (5-11)4.88 (2011 ranking: #18)
  20. New England Patriots (14-2)4.96 (2011 ranking: #32)
  21. Oakland Raiders (8-8)4.99 (2011 ranking: #30)
  22. San Francisco 49ers (6-10)5.06 (2011 ranking: #4)
  23. Atlanta Falcons (13-3)5.07 (2011 ranking: #7)
  24. Dallas Cowboys (6-10)5.11 (2011 ranking: #21)
  25. Washington Redskins (6-10)5.18 (2011 ranking: #10)
  26. Buffalo Bills (4-12)5.21 (2011 ranking: #25)
  27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-6)5.32 (2011 ranking: #27)
  28. Houston Texans (6-10)5.48 (2011 ranking: #5)
  29. Arizona Cardinals (5-11)5.63 (2011 ranking: #23)
  30. Seattle Seahawks (7-9)5.68 (2011 ranking: #15)
  31. Denver Broncos (4-12)5.73 (2011 ranking: #19)
  32. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8)5.77 (2011 ranking: #8)

My thoughts…

  • In a development that almost never happens (seriously – I’ve run Predictive Yards per Play numbers all the way back through 1995 and the only other time this happened was 2002), the top teams in each conference according to Predictive Yards per Play played in the Super Bowl, with the slight underdog Packers coming out on top over the top-rated Steelers. The Patriots stole the national limelight in the second half of the season with their ridiculous tear through a handful of very good teams, but the Steelers and Packers both finished the season in the top-six on both offense and defense. The narrative surrounding the Packers after they eked into the playoffs and went on to win the Super Bowl was that they “got hot at the right time.” That’s technically true – I don’t think anyone wins a Super Bowl without getting hot in the postseason – but just chalking up their postseason run to a random hot streak doesn’t accurately portray how excellent they were in the regular season. This was a 13-win quality team that faced a tough schedule and had poor luck in close games. Just because they were the #6 seed didn’t mean they weren’t far and away the best team in the NFC field (the 2nd-best team in the conference according to these numbers, the Giants, didn’t even make the playoffs).
  • The Patriots’ terrible defensive start to the season set them on a path to the #20 ranking defensively and cost them a shot at the #1 overall slot, but HOLY CRAP WERE THEY GOOD OFFENSIVELY. They averaged 5.9 yards per play, threw just five interceptions and fumbled only nine times all season – and did that all against one of the toughest schedules of opposing defenses in recent memory. The AFC East teams that season had to go up against the AFC North and NFC North – which meant going up against the defenses of Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Chicago, Green Bay, and Minnesota, plus two games in division against the Jets and Dolphins (unless you were the Jets or Dolphins, in which case you couldn’t play yourself). Buffalo, Miami, and New England all received 10+% spikes in their offensive ratings thanks to the schedule they played. In Buffalo and Miami’s cases, that turned their offensive ratings from really bad to below-average; in New England’s case, it changed their rating from great to OH MY WORD WE CANNOT STOP THIS MONSTROSITY. Watching them eviscerate everyone they faced from mid-November on that season made it seem like Brady and Belichick’s fourth Super Bowl ring was just a foregone conclusion…
  • …AND THEN THEY LOST TO MARK SANCHEZ IN THEIR FIRST PLAYOFF GAME. After the events of the past two years, how crazy is that to think about? Not only that, but because of the crazy difficult schedule they faced, the Jets’ offense actually tied the Colts for ninth place in the 2010 rankings and Sanchez actually rated out as an above-average quarterback. Overall, the Jets ranked fourth in the league and looked for all the world like they would be one of the best young teams in the league for the next half-decade. Obviously, had we known then what we know now about the misfortunes that would befall Darrelle Revis’s ACL and Sanchez’s everything, we would not have been in such a hurry to make a rash pronouncement. But we must not judge ourselves too harshly for our child-like naivete; we can only accept that as much as we learn and study about the NFL, much of its future remains unknowable. Also, F-E-E-T! FEET! FEET! FEET!
  • Remember how bad the NFC West was in 2010? San Francisco came out the best in these ratings and they only landed at #26. The four teams in the division comprised four out of the worst five offenses in the league (the Jimmy Clausen-led Panthers being the only team to sneak into that quadrumvirate) and generally made Ryan Fitzpatrick look like Joe Montana. Let’s run down these teams’ quarterbacks from that season, shall we? Derek Anderson. A rookie Sam Bradford. A washed-up Matt Hasselbeck. A pre-Harbaughed Alex Smith. Max Hall. Charlie “Clipboard Jesus” Whitehurst. Troy Smith. A rookie John Skelton. RICHARD BARTEL. Ah, what a time it was to be alive! Seattle ended up winning the division at 7-9 AND beating New Orleans in the first round of the playoffs despite ranking second-to-last overall. This makes sense.
  • The extreme imbalance in quality between divisions (AFC North and AFC East = really good, NFC West = GAHHHH KILL IT WITH FIRE) led to some pretty screwy strength of schedule ratings and, in turn, a lot of ratings that don’t necessarily correspond with the team’s won-loss record. Cincinnati, for example, ranked fourteenth overall and rated as an above-average offense despite a 4-12 record and approximately fifty dropped interceptions thrown by Carson Palmer. They ended up making the playoffs the next year, so I guess the system knew what it was talking about? Other teams that rated above-average despite poor records included the Lions and Texans, who had the second-best offense in the league but a defense that ranked 28th and led the league in Hail Marys given up to OHHHHHHH MIKE THOMAS!!!! In 2011, both teams ended up with won-loss records more in line with the above-average ratings they garnered.
  • On the other, before we go patting ourselves on the back TOO much, we would be remiss if we didn’t point out that, going strictly by these numbers, we would have forecast huge, breakout seasons for the Chargers, Dolphins and Vikings in 2011, too – and those teams ended up a combined 17-31. What can I say? They can’t all be gold.
  • As far as the season’s individual awards are concerned…Tom Brady was light years ahead of everybody else in the MVP discussion. I can’t even remember who would have made a reasonable #2 choice. David Garrard? Yeah, let’s just say David Garrard and move on…Brady also won the Offensive Player of the Year award, illustrating once again how the voters for this award don’t have any idea whether to just give the award to the same guy who won MVP or the #2 choice. Acceptable #2 choices would have been Aaron Rodgers, Jamaal Charles, or Arian Foster…There was a bit of a hubbub surrounding Troy Polamalu‘s Defensive Player of the Year win over Clay Matthews, but under the always defensible “Give it to the best player on the best defense” rationale, Polamalu was probably a deserving winner in an underwhelming year. Cameron Wake, Ed Reed, and Ndamukong Suh all had cases to be made as well…Sam Bradford won Offensive Rookie of the Year, presumably as recognition of his herculean effort to start all 16 games behind an absolutely awful offensive line. That’s fair enough, but if the voters had wanted to chose a player who’d actually been effective in his rookie season, they probably should have chosen LeGarrette BlountNdamukong Suh had a good argument for being the overall Defensive Player of the Year, so his selection as Defensive Rookie of the Year was one of the easiest choices of all time (remember, we didn’t yet know that he desired to horribly maim opponents every Thanksgiving with his feet)…Michael Vick had a pretty electrifying season if you recall and spurred the voters on to a Comeback Player of the Year choice that actually made sense. Good job, Michael!…And it’s always tough to second-guess a Bill Belichick selection for Coach of the Year. So I won’t.
  • Next week: 2009 – two teams start out 13-0, a certain aging quarterback who shan’t be named has his last hurrah, and JaMarcus Russell tries to eat EVERYTHING.

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