I really got burned out on doing these rankings in the late winter and early spring, but a close-to-three month respite has gotten the ‘ol statistical juices flowing again and with a month-and-a-half yet to kill before training camp starts, now seems like a good time to dive back into the Predictive Yards per Play rankings. This year, we take you back to 2004 – along with 2007 and 2009, one of the strongest contenders for Most Interesting Year of the ’00s. You’ll notice that the format of the rankings themselves will look a little different – that’s because I recently learned that you could paste data from an obscure program called Excel into WordPress posts. What a world we live in! I’ll leave you to the rankings and then pop back in with my own thoughts.
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.
|Rank||Team||Record||Off. PY/P||Def. PY/P||2005 Rank||PY/P Differential|
|4||New England Patriots||14-2||5.19||3.80||11||1.39|
|5||New York Jets||10-6||5.32||4.00||28||1.33|
|8||Kansas City Chiefs||7-9||6.26||5.43||2||0.83|
|10||San Diego Chargers||12-4||5.14||4.56||3||0.58|
|16||Green Bay Packers||10-6||5.45||5.67||20||-0.22|
|18||St. Louis Rams||8-8||4.86||5.10||23||-0.24|
|20||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||5-11||4.05||4.39||18||-0.35|
|26||New York Giants||6-10||4.23||4.94||6||-0.71|
|29||New Orleans Saints||8-8||4.26||5.24||27||-0.99|
|31||San Francisco 49ers||2-14||3.57||5.39||32||-1.82|
Offensive Predictive Yards per Play (league average: 4.60)
“PY/P” = unadjusted Predictive Yards per Play, “Ball Control %” = the percentage of the team’s total plays in which their offense was on the field, “SOS %” = strength of schedule, “Final PY/P” = Predictive Yards per Play with adjustments made for ball control and strength of schedule.
|Rank||Team||Points||PY/P||Ball Control %||SOS %||Final PY/P|
|2||Kansas City Chiefs||483||5.79||1.0315||0.0604||6.26|
|4||Green Bay Packers||424||5.49||1.0213||-0.0333||5.45|
|6||New York Jets||333||5.03||1.0076||0.0545||5.32|
|8||New England Patriots||437||5.03||1.0116||0.0220||5.19|
|10||San Diego Chargers||446||5.20||1.0013||-0.0135||5.14|
|12||St. Louis Rams||319||4.99||1.0012||-0.0304||4.86|
|22||New Orleans Saints||348||4.65||0.9810||-0.0682||4.26|
|24||New York Giants||303||4.23||0.9862||0.0115||4.23|
|26||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||301||4.34||0.9969||-0.0618||4.05|
|28||San Francisco 49ers||259||3.51||1.0029||0.0092||3.57|
Defensive Predictive Yards per Play (league average: 4.60)
“PY/P” = Unadjusted Predictive Yards per Play, “Ball Control %” = the percentage of the team’s total plays in which their defense was on the field, “SOS %” = strength of schedule, “Final PY/P” = Predictive Yards per Play with adjustments made for ball control and strength of schedule.
|Rank||Team||Points||PY/P||Ball Control %||SOS%||Final PY/P|
|5||New England Patriots||260||4.12||0.9884||0.0589||3.80|
|8||New York Jets||261||4.20||0.9924||0.0385||4.00|
|11||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||304||4.12||1.0031||-0.0551||4.39|
|15||San Diego Chargers||313||4.79||0.9987||0.0502||4.56|
|21||New York Giants||347||4.57||1.0138||-0.0650||4.94|
|26||St. Louis Rams||392||4.93||0.9988||-0.0365||5.10|
|27||New Orleans Saints||405||5.04||1.0190||-0.0220||5.24|
|29||San Francisco 49ers||452||5.01||0.9971||-0.0854||5.39|
|30||Kansas City Chiefs||435||5.82||0.9685||0.0467||5.43|
|32||Green Bay Packers||380||5.42||0.9787||-0.0807||5.67|
- The final year of the Patriots’ reign atop the NFL occurred this year, as they won their second Super Bowl in a row and third in four years. The ’01 and ’03 champions perhaps elicit more jubilant memories for Pats fans, but I think the general consensus is the ’04 team was the best and their PY/P rating jives with conventional wisdom. Their overall ranking of fourth is the same as the ’03 team, but offensively the ’04 Patriots were considerably better, ranking in the top ten for the first time. Tom Brady made the leap from glorified game manager to actual Pro Bowl quarterback and Corey Dillon had his last excellent year as a runner. Despite those developments, would you classify the Patriots as a dominant regular season team? I’m not sure I would. At least, not in the same way you would classify the ’85 Bears or ’72 Dolphins or, heck, the ’07 Patriots as true historical juggernauts. Then again, it’s always better to be a very good but not great regular season team that goes on to win the Super Bowl than the best regular season team all year that woofs in the playoffs. The ’07 and ’10 Patriots know that better than anybody.
- Indianapolis winds up #1 over Denver by a few small decimal points, almost entirely because their offense was TERRIFYING. Seriously, the Colts’ defense rates below-average this year and the team still ranks #1 because of an offense that was about 41% better than the average team’s. Pittsburgh also finished above the Patriots, although they probably have to be considered the worst 15-1 team of all-time (only because the only other 15-1 teams ever were the ’85 Bears and ’98 Vikings, but still). However, giving early-2000s Bill Belichick a merely above-average roster is a terrifying thing in and of itself. Because in case you can’t remember what the landscape of the NFL was back in Dubya’s first term, no NFL head coach was within light years of Belichick at that point. He was five or six steps ahead of everybody else strategically. That’s how a team with a legitimately bad roster won a Super Bowl in 2001 and how a team with an average one won fourteen games and another Super Bowl in 2003. And Belichick’s genius was a particular kryptonite for the Colts, who had better rosters but could always be counted on to do the same thing EVERY GAME. It took several years and a gradual decay of New England’s roster for Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning – two otherwise remarkable individuals – to finally figure out a way past the Pats.
- The AFC was full of intrigue and outstanding performances all season long. On the other side of the league, though, the NFC was playing a brand of football that was only at a slightly higher level than the SEC’s. If you glance back up at the overall rankings in Predictive Yards per Play, you’ll see that the top eight teams – yes, eight – are all from the AFC and one of them (Kansas City) had a losing record. When even the other conference’s losing teams are better than your winning teams, that may be a sign you’re having a down year. The Eagles reaped the benefits of being the lone human in a conference of lilliputians; every other NFC team trudged along and did their best not to suck so hard. The Falcons finished 11-5 but ranked 25th overall in our rankings (losing games by scores of 56-10 and 27-0 will do that to you). The Packers and Vikings fought for the NFC North title with essentially the same teams: great offenses and HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE DEFENSES. And the NFC West also existed. If Andy Reid hadn’t figured out a way to get the Eagles into the Super Bowl against THAT pool of competitors, he would have been beaten to a bloody pulp and possibly deserved it.
- Surprise! The Bills wound up with the league’s highest-rated defense after going on six-game stretch in November and December in which they outscored their opponents 228-89 and forced 26 turnovers along the way. Naturally, they missed the playoffs after losing to the Steelers’ second-stringers at home in the final week of the season. The Packers narrowly edged out the Vikings for both the NFC North and Worst Defense of the Year – both teams were in the running for the former because they found ways to let the Bears gain 300 yards on them. Bears fans tend to look back on that team with great fondness. Ah, Chad Hutchinson! Your ability to complete a forward pass is almost as limited as Jonathan Quinn’s, but certainly exceeds that of Craig Krenzel’s.
- Quickly summarizing the awards action, Peyton Manning won both MVP and Offensive Player of the Year for having perhaps the greatest offensive season of all time. Seems reasonable…Ed Reed picked off nine passes, forced three fumbles, defended seventeen passes, scored two defensive touchdowns and essentially allowed the Ravens to not bother fielding three other members of their secondary. His Defensive Player of the Year award was also well deserved…Kevin Jones gained over 1300 yards from scrimmage for Detroit, but Ben Roethlisberger was the sixth most efficient passer in the league and didn’t lose a game in his rookie season until the AFC Championship. I’d say he deserved his Offensive Rookie of the Year award, but I’m still protesting the fact that Craig Krenzel didn’t win it…Finally! One the AP voters got wrong! Jonathan Vilma won Defensive Rookie of the Year for finishing 32nd in the league in tackles – a preposterously overrated stat for defenders to begin with! Dunta “Sackmasta” Robinson picked off six passes, defensed nineteen passes, got three sacks and finished with three fewer tackles than Vilma. Obviously, the guy who played for the New York team deserved the award over the player who was better…Drew Brees won Comeback Player of the Year for leading the Chargers to a breakout 12-4 season and if the award Brees won was Breakout Player of the Year, I’d throw my support behind that. But what exactly was Drew coming back from in 2004? Being a mediocre-to-below-average starting quarterback the two previous years? I’m flummoxed. Out of principle, I’m giving my (fake and exceedingly tardy) vote to Chad Pennington…And, bless his heart, Marty Schottenheimer won Coach of the Year for orchestrating that turnaround for San Diego. Unfortunately for him, Bill Belichick was alive that year, so he probably deserved the award instead.
- Next time: 2003 – a year with no dominant team lends itself quite well to the powers of one Darth Hoodie.