Predictive Yards per Play Rankings: 2009

This week’s Predictive Yards per Play rankings takes us back to 2009 – a crazy season that saw Jay Cutler go from franchise savior to scapegoat, Josh McDaniels from franchise killer to savant back to killer again and JaMarcus Russell go from really bad quarterback to REALLY bad quarterback. Let’s get started.

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. New England Patriots (10-6)1.84 (2010 ranking: #3)
  2. Dallas Cowboys (11-5)1.55 (2010 ranking: #18)
  3. New York Jets (9-7)1.27 (2010 ranking: #4)
  4. Green Bay Packers (11-5)1.13 (2010 ranking: #2)
  5. Carolina Panthers (8-8)1.04 (2010 ranking: #30)
  6. New Orleans Saints (13-3)0.99 (2010 ranking: #12)
  7. Philadelphia Eagles (11-5)0.97 (2010 ranking: #8)
  8. Minnesota Vikings (12-4)0.97 (2010 ranking: #15)
  9. Baltimore Ravens (9-7)0.92 (2010 ranking: #10)
  10. Denver Broncos (8-8)0.80 (2010 ranking: #27)
  11. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7)0.79 (2010 ranking: #1)
  12. Indianapolis Colts (14-2)0.74 (2010 ranking: #9)
  13. New York Giants (8-8)0.67 (2010 ranking: #6)
  14. San Diego Chargers (13-3)0.63 (2010 ranking: #5)
  15. Houston Texans (9-7)0.56 (2010 ranking: #16)
  16. Atlanta Falcons (9-7)0.45 (2010 ranking: #17)
  17. Miami Dolphins (7-9)0.03 (2010 ranking: #7)
  18. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)-0.05 (2010 ranking: #14)
  19. Buffalo Bills (6-10)-0.22 (2010 ranking: #24)
  20. Tennessee Titans (8-8)-0.24 (2010 ranking: #21)
  21. Washington Redskins (4-12)-0.29 (2010 ranking: #25)
  22. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-9)-0.51 (2010 ranking: #29)
  23. San Francisco 49ers (8-8)-0.68 (2010 ranking: #26)
  24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-13)-0.74 (2010 ranking: #20)
  25. Arizona Cardinals (10-6)-0.82 (2010 ranking: #32)
  26. Chicago Bears (7-9)-0.84 (2010 ranking: #13)
  27. Oakland Raiders (5-11)-1.45 (2010 ranking: #22)
  28. Kansas City Chiefs (4-12)-1.56 (2010 ranking: #19)
  29. Seattle Seahawks (5-11) -1.69 (2010 ranking: #31)
  30. Detroit Lions (2-14)-2.03 (2010 ranking: #11)
  31. St. Louis Rams (1-15)-2.08 (2010 ranking: #28)
  32. Cleveland Browns (5-11)-2.10 (2010 ranking: #23)

Offensive Predictive Yards per Play (league average: 4.72)

  1. New England Patriots (10-6)6.13 (2010 ranking: #1)
  2. New Orleans Saints (13-3)6.03 (2010 ranking: #13)
  3. Dallas Cowboys (11-5)5.81 (2010 ranking: #15)
  4. San Diego Chargers (13-3)5.58 (2010 ranking: #6)
  5. Green Bay Packers (11-5)5.48 (2010 ranking: #3)
  6. Indianapolis Colts (14-2)5.46 (2010 ranking: #9)
  7. Minnesota Vikings (12-4)5.45 (2010 ranking: #20)
  8. Houston Texans (9-7)5.44 (2010 ranking: #2)
  9. New York Giants (8-8)5.41 (2010 ranking: #12)
  10. Philadelphia Eagles (11-5)5.38 (2010 ranking: #4)
  11. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7)5.31 (2010 ranking: #5)
  12. Atlanta Falcons (9-7)5.12 (2010 ranking: #14)
  13. Baltimore Ravens (9-7)5.11 (2010 ranking: #16)
  14. Tennessee Titans (8-8)5.00 (2010 ranking: #27)
  15. Denver Broncos (8-8)4.94 (2010 ranking: #18)
  16. Miami Dolphins (7-9)4.84 (2010 ranking: #17)
  17. Carolina Panthers (8-8)4.82 (2010 ranking: #31)
  18. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-9)4.72 (2010 ranking: #22)
  19. New York Jets (9-7)4.54 (2010 ranking: #10)
  20. Arizona Cardinals (10-6)4.35 (2010 ranking: #32)
  21. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)4.32 (2010 ranking: #11)
  22. Washington Redskins (4-12)4.16 (2010 ranking: #24)
  23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-13)4.02 (2010 ranking: #7)
  24. Kansas City Chiefs (4-12)4.01 (2010 ranking: #21)
  25. Buffalo Bills (6-10)3.97 (2010 ranking: #19)
  26. Chicago Bears (7-9)3.93 (2010 ranking: #26)
  27. San Francisco 49ers (8-8)3.79 (2010 ranking: #28)
  28. Seattle Seahawks (5-11)3.75 (2010 ranking: #29)
  29. Detroit Lions (2-14)3.58 (2010 ranking: #8)
  30. Oakland Raiders (5-11)3.56 (2010 ranking: #23)
  31. Cleveland Browns (5-11)3.51 (2010 ranking: #25)
  32. St. Louis Rams (1-15)3.33 (2010 ranking: #30)

Defensive Predictive Yards per Play (league average: 4.72)

  1. New York Jets (9-7)3.26 (2010 ranking: #2)
  2. Carolina Panthers (8-8)3.78 (2010 ranking: #17)
  3. Denver Broncos (8-8)4.14 (2010 ranking: #31)
  4. Buffalo Bills (6-10)4.19 (2010 ranking: #26)
  5. Baltimore Ravens (9-7)4.19 (2010 ranking: #8)
  6. Dallas Cowboys (11-5)4.26 (2010 ranking: #24)
  7. New England Patriots (10-6)4.29 (2010 ranking: #20)
  8. Green Bay Packers (11-5)4.34 (2010 ranking: #6)
  9. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)4.36 (2010 ranking: #16)
  10. Philadelphia Eagles (11-5)4.41 (2010 ranking: #14)
  11. Washington Redskins (4-12)4.46 (2010 ranking: #25)
  12. San Francisco 49ers (8-8)4.47 (2010 ranking: #22)
  13. Minnesota Vikings (12-4)4.48 (2010 ranking: #9)
  14. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7)4.52 (2010 ranking: #1)
  15. Atlanta Falcons (9-7)4.67 (2010 ranking: #23)
  16. Indianapolis Colts (14-2)4.72 (2010 ranking: #10)
  17. New York Giants (8-8)4.75 (2010 ranking: #5)
  18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-13)4.76 (2010 ranking: #27)
  19. Chicago Bears (7-9)4.77 (2010 ranking: #3)
  20. Miami Dolphins (7-9)4.81 (2010 ranking: #4)
  21. Houston Texans (9-7)4.88 (2010 ranking: #28)
  22. San Diego Chargers (13-3)4.95 (2010 ranking: #7)
  23. Oakland Raiders (5-11)5.01 (2010 ranking: #21)
  24. New Orleans Saints (13-3)5.03 (2010 ranking: #12)
  25. Arizona Cardinals (10-6)5.17 (2010 ranking: #29)
  26. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-9)5.23 (2010 ranking: #32)
  27. Tennessee Titans (8-8)5.24 (2010 ranking: #11)
  28. St. Louis Rams (1-15)5.41 (2010 ranking: #18)
  29. Seattle Seahawks (5-11)5.44 (2010 ranking: #30)
  30. Kansas City Chiefs (4-12)5.57 (2010 ranking: #15)
  31. Cleveland Browns (5-11)5.61 (2010 ranking: #19)
  32. Detroit Lions (2-14)5.61 (2010 ranking: #13)

Crazily enough, I have some thoughts…

  • The Saints and Colts both started the year 13-0, but neither team ended up in the top five overall rankings. Part of that is due to each team’s decision to tank their last game of the season after their shots at undefeated records were gone – the Colts mainly treated their finale at Buffalo as a stat-padding extravaganza to get both Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark to 100 catches and the Saints didn’t even start Drew Brees, who decided to sit on his record-breaking completion percentage and let 39-year-old Mark Brunell flail about against the Panthers. Even then, though, both teams needed a fair amount of luck to ride to those undefeated starts (as is the case with every other team that has gone deep into the season undefeated). The Saints used seven defensive touchdowns to boost their season-ending scoring total over 500 points and mask some otherwise glaring defensive inefficiencies (they finished 24th overall in Defensive PY/P). The Colts were even luckier, going undefeated in all seven games they played that were decided by seven points or less. Bob Sanders played only two games all season and naturally the Colts’ defense suffered without him but their run offense was even more of a black hole, finishing third-to-last in Yards per Carry. Both teams’ quarterbacks were pretty good that season if you recall, so it’s not as if I’m claiming that these teams deserved to go 7-9 or anything. Just saying there were holes on both teams, is all…
  • Surprisingly, the team that finished #1 was the Patriots – in a year where they tied their worst record in the past ten years of the Belichick/Brady era and actually were a game worse than the previous year, where Matt Cassel took 99% of the season’s snaps. Nevertheless, the ’09 Patriots rate as the second-best regular season team of the Belichick/Brady era in Predictive Yards per Play, trailing only the undefeated 2007 edition. The reasons for the incongruity between PY/P rating and won-loss record? The usual suspects – strength of schedule and performance in close games. The Patriots were one of six teams (the Buccaneers, Dolphins, Panthers, Falcons, and Bills being the others) that played a significantly harder schedule than the rest of the league. Their defense received a particularly large bump, rising from a 15th-place ranking with no strength of schedule added to #7 with SOS factored in but the offense rocketed even higher, jumping past the Saints to rate #1 overall. That tough schedule coupled with a 3-5 record in games decided by seven points or less conspired to keep the Pats’ record down at 10-6. Essentially, however, this was a team with almost the exact same profile as the 2010 Packers heading into the postseason – their fortunes in the playoffs ended up slightly differently, however.
  • Their division rival Jets also rate very well, ending up at #3 overall and begging the question of what they possibly could have accomplished with anyone other than a rookie Mark Sanchez at quarterback. Because here are Sanchez’s numbers from 2009: 196-for-364 (53.8% completion percentage) for 2444 yards, 12 touchdowns, 20 interceptions, a 6.7% sack rate and a 4.07 overall Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt (27th out of 32 qualifying quarterbacks). And they still finished 3rd overall despite getting THAT production out of the most important position in the game. Obviously their defense was phenomenal that season – second-place Carolina is somewhat in the rear view mirror, but the distance between the Jets and third-place Broncos is astronomical – approximately the same as the distance between the Broncos and the 23rd-place Raiders. Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene also had huge seasons rushing behind the best offensive line in the league. MY GOD, IF THEY ONLY HAD A QUARTERBACK…
  • The highest-rated NFC team is probably a bit of a surprise, too, as the Cowboys spent most of that season getting ridiculed as the underachieving underachievers they really were before getting hot in December. Despite only finishing 14th overall in points scored, Tony Romo and the Dallas offense finished 3rd in the PY/P offensive rankings – and this despite playing an easier-than-average slate of defenses. Mainly, their troubles came in the red zone – they finished 18th in red zone efficiency and Nick Folk caught a serious case of the yips, costing the Cowboys several points in missed field goal attempts. Despite all that, however, Dallas was still probably the best overall team in the NFC, as they showed in their seven-point December win at New Orleans that wasn’t nearly as close as the score indicated. This, of course, made their eventual 34-3 loss to the Vikings in the playoffs that much more enjoyable…
  • The 2009 season ended up showcasing a wide gulf between really good teams and REALLY bad teams. Fifteen teams ended up with a PY/P differential of at least .50 yards per play (compared to ten in 2010 and just nine in 2011), meaning that almost half of the league’s teams were truly at least nine-win quality. On the flip side, there were an equally extraordinary number of horrible teams at the low end of the spectrum. Any of the bottom six teams in the 2009 PY/P rankings (from 27th-place Oakland down to last-place Cleveland) would have rated as the worst team from the 2011 season and three teams – the Lions, Rams, and Browns – all finished with a PY/P differential of -2.00 or worse, which is essentially the equivalent of automatically forfeiting 13 or 14 games before you even take the field. There’s been only one team in the three seasons since (the 2010 Cardinals) that has finished below -2.00.
  • I’m sure the 2009 team that’s rated way higher than most people would expect is the Panthers, who even end up ahead of the Saints. They were kind of like a poor man’s Jets, playing a crazy tough schedule and trying to counterbalance absolute crap from the quarterback position (in this case, Mr. Jake Delhomme) with a great defense and running game. Matt Moore’s effectiveness at the end of the season convinced me to pick the Panthers for a wild-card slot in 2010. That pick didn’t turn out so good. On the other end of the spectrum, the 10-6 Cardinals wound up just 25th overall, making their thrilling 51-45 playoff victory over the 4th-ranked Packers one of the bigger playoff upsets in recent memory. You may remember their fortunes turned out a little differently in 2010 when Derek Anderson took the quarterback reins from Kurt Warner…
  • In this year’s retroactive award ceremonies…Peyton Manning won the MVP award for the fourth time and, considering that he’s deserved to win it at least five or six times during his career, it wasn’t a horrible choice. But in one of the most loaded years ever for MVP candidates (seriously, Brett Favre threw 33 touchdowns against 7 interceptions and didn’t get a sniff of voting), Peyton was probably surpassed in excellence this year by two guys: Drew Brees and Philip Rivers, who was even more efficient than Manning with an even worse supporting cast. If you put a gun to my head, I’d probably choose Brees…Two years before he won the award for Most Fantasy Team Owners Ticked Off in a Single Season, Chris Johnson won Offensive Player of the Year under the always-defensible position that he ran for over 2,000 yards. Brees, Rivers, Manning, Favre, Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo or Matt Schaub all had good cases to make as well…Charles Woodson was outstanding as the jack-of-all-trades cornerback in Dom Capers’ system, but Darrelle Revis arguably had the greatest season any cornerback has ever had. The Jets’ entire defensive scheme was built around funneling passes towards the receiver Revis was covering – and they ended up with one of the five best defenses of the 2000s. Revis was your true Defensive Player of the Year in 2009…Percy Harvin beat out LeSean McCoy and Beanie Wells in a relatively uninspiring year for Offensive Rookie of the Year voting; McCoy and Wells ended up with more yards from scrimmage, but Harvin was a more dangerous threat whenever he touched the ball and was probably the best choice out of a mediocre crop…Clay Matthews and Brian Orakpo both began effectively building their reputations as fearsome pass rushers in their rookie seasons, but PED-aided or not, Brian Cushing was arguably the best linebacker in the entire league and was far and away the best choice for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Then again, I think Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa should both be in the Baseball Hall of Fame…Tom Brady narrowly edged out Albert Haynesworth for Comeback Player of the Year, a decision that looks better and better with each passing year…And, finally, Marvin Lewis won Coach of the Year for watching Carson Palmer stay healthy for a full season and riding an easy schedule to 10 wins. It may surprise you, then, to hear that I would have chosen a different candidate. Sean Payton was eminently deserving as well, but if I had a vote I probably would have thrown my considerable weight behind Rex Ryan for his job turning the Jets’ defense into a monster virtually overnight. As Herm Edwards might say, “IF YOU GET TO THE AFC CHAMPIONSHIP WITH MARK SANCHEZ AS YOUR QUARTERBACK, YOU’RE A GOOD COACH!”
  • Next week: 2008 – aka “The Year the Cardinals Came Out of Nowhere,” “The Ravens and Steelers Legitimately Try to Murder Each Other” and “Plaxico’s Revenge.”

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