Today brings the first batch of Predictive Yards per Play rankings for the season. I didn’t bother running them for the first three weeks because there’s little to no actual insight they can provide that early in the year. Even now, things are very fluid and one or two outlier games can massively monkey wrench the results. A quarter of the way through the season seems like a good time to take the first statistical litmus test of the season, though, so here’s how each team has fared in the first four weeks of the year.
Strength of schedule is incorporated into the rankings; however, I’m only inputting those figures at 17% strength this week because some teams have played ridiculously lopsided schedules in one direction or another. I’ll up the schedule strength by one-sixth each week until it reaches 100% at the season’s virtual midway point after Week 9. Below are the offensive and defensive rankings, followed by the overall team rankings. Included with the individual team rankings are each team’s remaining strength of schedule and the projected wins Predictive Yards per Play thinks each team will wind up by the end of the season. Those two metrics are half comprised of this year’s results; the other half is comprised of each team’s preseason projection in the hopes of not overreacting to unexpected starts (looking at you, AFC West and South.)
Remember, Predictive Yards per Play seeks to measure the aspects of play so far that correspond best with future success – it is not a descriptive measure of how teams have played so far. That’s an important piece of information to keep in mind because the current #1 team in the overall rankings doesn’t have a winning record right now and probably isn’t ranked in the top five of any subjective power rankings.
Offensive Predictive Yards per Play, through Week 4:
|Rank||Team||Yards||Plays||Passing TDs||INTs||Rushing TDs||Fumbles||SOS||PY/P|
|2||New Orleans Saints||1678||275||10||4||2||2||0.24||6.51|
|3||Green Bay Packers||1364||205||8||3||3||4||-0.06||6.41|
|4||San Diego Chargers||1585||253||11||2||1||4||0.00||6.10|
|11||New England Patriots||1469||287||7||2||1||4||0.43||5.39|
|12||New York Jets||1465||276||4||8||2||7||1.00||5.36|
|15||San Francisco 49ers||1325||244||5||4||5||5||0.00||4.88|
|17||Kansas City Chiefs||1389||275||7||2||2||2||-0.24||4.84|
|29||St. Louis Rams||1207||267||7||3||0||5||-0.03||4.10|
|30||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1099||257||3||5||1||5||0.30||3.80|
|31||New York Giants||1302||239||6||10||1||7||-0.28||3.67|
Defensive Predictive Yards per Play Rankings, through Week 4:
|Rank||Team||Yards||Plays||Passing TDs||INTs||Rushing TDs||Fumbles||SOS||PY/P (Ball-Control Adjusted|
|3||Kansas City Chiefs||1225||255||3||5||1||9||-0.16||3.81|
|5||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1329||274||5||6||0||5||0.00||4.22|
|7||New Orleans Saints||1218||224||4||7||2||5||0.10||4.30|
|8||San Francisco 49ers||1199||260||5||3||6||4||0.09||4.39|
|10||New England Patriots||1384||269||4||5||1||6||-0.17||4.47|
|13||New York Jets||1132||263||7||1||1||6||-0.72||4.56|
|21||New York Giants||1537||290||10||4||4||6||-0.11||5.35|
|23||St. Louis Rams||1549||255||9||1||5||8||0.22||5.39|
|30||Green Bay Packers||1213||189||8||2||3||5||-0.03||5.98|
|32||San Diego Chargers||1729||257||8||1||2||5||0.04||6.31|
Predictive Yards per Play Differential, through Week 4
|Rank||Team||PY/P Diff.||Remaining SOS||Projected Wins|
|2||New Orleans Saints||2.21||2.96||12.31|
|6||Kansas City Chiefs||1.03||15.35||9.64|
|7||New England Patriots||0.91||18.38||11.04|
|8||New York Jets||0.81||-1.54||7.96|
|10||San Francisco 49ers||0.49||-15.64||10.61|
|11||Green Bay Packers||0.44||-9.77||9.39|
|19||San Diego Chargers||-0.21||-14.10||8.73|
|20||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-0.42||14.32||2.57|
|30||St. Louis Rams||-1.29||9.14||4.48|
|31||New York Giants||-1.67||-1.21||4.22|
Yes, the 2-2 Houston Texans have the best Predictive Yards per Play differential in the league through four weeks, narrowly edging the undefeated Saints. This is partly because the Texans have had the toughest schedule in the league so far, but also because they really have outplayed all of their opponents in the indicators that usually point to future success. They needed the final play of the game to notch both their victories against San Diego and Tennessee, but they outgained both those teams by roughly 200 yards and 10 first downs. They lost by 21 to the Ravens, but actually gained more yards and averaged more yards per play. And they somehow found a way to lose to Seattle last week despite gaining 200 more yards and 14 more first downs than the Seahawks.
So far on the season, they’re averaging 5.4 yards per play and their opponents have averaged 4.4. They’ve fumbled twice, their opponents have fumbled five times. And they’ve gained a staggering 39 more first downs than their opponents. If you didn’t know anything about their won-loss record other than those above facts, you would assume the Texans would be at least 3-1 or, more likely, 4-0.
Now, not to pull a Dan Dierdorf on you all, but just because the Texans have been very impressive in most important aspects doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be 2-2. Matt Schaub has thrown three interception that have been returned for touchdowns so far this year, including last week’s soul-crushing pick-six to Richard Sherman, and their special teams also allowed a punt return for a touchdown to Tandon Doss of the Ravens. They’ve beat themselves the past two weeks and tried their very best to throw away the Titans game as well. The good news for Texans fans is return touchdowns are fairly uncommon and (typically) don’t have any predictive value. Then again, sometimes we see teams like last year’s Lions that catch on unlucky streaks like that over an entire season and don’t see any regression towards the mean until the next season. We’ll have to see if that’s the case with this year’s Texans.
After Houston’s unexpected slot at #1, the PY/P rankings fall a little more in line with conventional wisdom. The undefeated Saints and Seahawks come in at #2 and #3, followed by the Colts and then the Broncos. No single unit’s been more terrifying so far this year than the Broncos offense, whose PY/P figure of 6.66 falls in line with Bill Simmons’ Evil Peyton theory, but their defense is currently ranked just 24th. Rounding out the top ten are the Chiefs, Patriots, Jets, Titans and 49ers. The Jets are the only team out of that bunch whose ranking doesn’t really jive with the eye test – I, for one, do not believe for a second that they have the 12th-best offense in the league – but maybe the computer knows something we don’t.
The AFC’s performed unexpectedly well in interconference play thus far and seven of the top ten teams in overall PY/P come from the AFC. Overall, though, the top half of the rankings are evenly split with eight AFC teams and eight NFC teams. The NFC East has been (deservedly) derided so far as the biggest laughingstock division in the league, but PY/P doesn’t seem to think the AFC North is much better. Cleveland – CLEVELAND! – is the only team in that division that currently has an above-average rating, thanks to their #2 rating defensively. Cincinnati’s #24 ranking overall is one of the most surprising to me – just watching their games, they look like one of the most talented teams in the AFC.
Finally, teams that had both a strong preseason projection and have started the season well tend to do the best in PY/P’s wins projection, but Consistency Index is another important component in those projections. For example, Dallas is rated well below Philadelphia in pure Predictive Yards per Play, but the Consistency Index trusts Tony Romo’s ability to complete passes infinitely more than Michael Vick’s going forward. Thus, Dallas is currently the odds-on favorite to win the NFC East. Honestly, though, I wouldn’t put too much trust in the final wins projections just yet – midseason is really the first point where we have a firm grasp of each team’s real quality for the season.
Most of my free time this week has been devoted to generating these rankings and writing the analysis, so quarterback charting from Week 4’s games will probably be mainly delayed until next week and will then appear in truncated form. Thanks to all who have read those so far.
Projected AFC Playoff Picture, through Week 4:
- Denver (13.0 wins)
- Houston (12.1 wins)
- New England (11.0 wins)
- Cincinnati (7.8 wins)
- Kansas City (9.6 wins)
- San Diego (8.7 wins)
In the hunt: Miami (8.4 wins), Indianapolis (8.2 wins), Tennessee (8.2 wins), NY Jets (8.0 wins) Baltimore (7.7 wins), Buffalo (7.5 wins)
Mediocre: Cleveland (6.6 wins), Pittsburgh (6.5 wins), Oakland (5.1 wins)
Teddy Bridgewater Sweepstakes: Jacksonville (1.0 win)
Projected NFC Playoff Picture, through Week 4:
- Seattle (13.5 wins)
- New Orleans (12.3 wins)
- Detroit (10.0 wins)
- Dallas (8.4 wins)
- San Francisco (10.6 wins)
- Green Bay (9.4 wins)
In the hunt: Chicago (9.3 wins), Atlanta (8.3 wins)
Mediocre: Carolina (6.5 wins), Philadelphia (6.4 wins), Washington (6.3 wins), Minnesota (5.8 wins), Arizona (5.5 wins)
Teddy Bridgewater Sweepstakes: St. Louis (4.5 wins), NY Giants (4.2 wins), Tampa Bay (2.6 wins)