Everything is Not What It Seems

Invasion of the Body Snatchers “You know her uncle, Uncle Ira?…Well Miles, she’s got herself thinking he isn’t her uncle. She thinks he’s an imposter or something.”

What teams are better or worse than what the records and standings indicate. Here are three teams on both sides that are masquerading based on differential metrics of

  1. Explosiveness (20+ yard plays)
  2. Turnovers
  3. Starting Field Position
  4. Finishing Drives
  5. Drive Efficiency

Better Than Appear

Seattle Seahawks

Currently 3-3 and the eight seed looking from outside at the playoff teams. Even at this point one could say with some certainty that the Rams will win the NFC West. However the Seahawks have a clear shot to move up into the wildcard teams edging out the Packers or the Panthers.

The Seahawks lead the league in turnover differential. They lost Earl Thomas for the season and he contributed 3 interceptions. However his replacement, Tedric Thompson, in his first game starting had an interception against the Rams. For years the Seahawks have played with a swarm-to-the-ball mentality and routinely practice tip drills. Their defensive end Frank Clark is defensive player of the week in week 6 and has had three forced fumbles over the last two games.  Defensively they on average allow 1.71 points per drive which is seventh best in the league.

The Seahawks run the ball second most in the league and average 4.3 yards per carry. Per Pro Football Focus running back Chris Carson ranks first in yards per carry (2.3) and yards after contact (3.4) for backs with at least 25 carries in which they’ve been contacted at or behind the line of scrimmage.

Quarterback Russel Wilson ranks sixth among starting quarterbacks in 40+ yard passing plays (5) and ranks seventh in passer rating (104.8).

Houston Texans

The Texans are 3-3, second in the AFC South and at ninth seed in the playoff race looking from the outside at the playoff leaders.

Quarterback DeShaun Watson has been sacked 25 times and hit 70 times. Both are most in the league and the next closest team for hits has 49. Watson is a tough player. In week five he suffered a cracked rib, a bruised lung, and a partially collapsed lung during the Texans/Cowboys game. Yet he led the Texans on the game winning field goal drive. He played the next week against Buffalo.

This season among starting quarterbacks, Watson is seventh in passing plays of 20+ yards (24), fifth in 1st down percentage (41.1%),  ninth in average yards per attempt (8.3), fourth in average yards per completion (12.8) and eight in passing yards per game (299.7).   In his 13 games since his rookie start Watson has 3,497 passing yards which is fourth most in NFL history in that span.  Since his rookie debut Watson has 28 touchdown passes which is the second-most ever through 13 games, behind only Kurt Warner.

The Texan special teams are playing good. On average their starting field position is the 31.2 yard line and their opponent starting position is the 26.1 yard line. The differential starting field position is second best in the league.

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons are 2-4, last in the NFC South and a 13th seed in the playoff race.

Quarterback Matt Ryan ranks third among starting quarterbacks in passer rating. He ranks fourth in touchdown passes (14)  and fourth in 1st down percentage (41.1%) among starting quarterbacks.  Ryan is ninth in passes of 20+ yards (23).

The team ranks fourth in turnover differential and contributing to that is the fact that Ryan has thrown only two interceptions. That is tie for fourth best among starting quarterbacks.  The Falcons have only one fumble lost for the season which is tie for second.

What is killing the Falcons is that their defense is ranked last in points allowed per drive with 3 points per drive. Three of their four losses were by six points or less.

Not As Good as they Appear

New England Patriots

The Patriots are 4-2, top of the AFC East and a second seed in the playoff race.

You have to go back a decade to 2008 for a season that the Patriots did not win the AFC East. That year the Dolphins took the division title. This season the Jets and the Dolphins so far do not trail the Patriots by much statistically speaking. The one caveat is the return of receiver Julian Edelman in week five could significantly adjust the stats.

In explosive plays the Patriots and Jets have the same play differential. The Jets are better in offensive big plays and the Patriots better in defense limiting big plays. Turnover differential is a wash between the three teams. Starting field position differential is a clear win by the Jets and Dolphins with the Patriots being 24th in the league. In finishing drives the Patriots lead (7th), followed close by the Jets (11th). However the Dolphins are poor at finishing drives(20th). Finally overall play efficiency goes Dolphins, Patriots and Jets.

The AFC East should be interesting to see how things develop.

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers are 3-2, second in the NFC South and a fifth seed making the playoffs as a wildcard.

With the Saints (4-1) doing very well it looks like the Panthers would have to get in as a wildcard. However they show some troubling stats.

From an explosive play angle the Panthers are last in the league. They have 15 passing plays of 20+ yards  and have given up 21 passing plays of 20+ yards. In rushing they have 3 plays of 20+ yards and have given up 6 such plays. This puts their differential at minus nine and trailing the Raiders at minus eight.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans are 3-3, first in the AFC South and fourth seed in the playoff picture.

The Titans are last in the league in passing plays of 20+ yards with only nine in six games.  Compounding the problem is that they are 23rd in rushing plays of 20+ yards with only two. Their explosive play differential is 27th in the league at minus seven.

The Titans are 28th in the league in starting field position differential. They are 23rd in points per drive differential. This even though they are second in defensive points per drive. This again highlights a offensive explosiveness problem.

Enjoy the week 7 games and check out a good horror movie for Halloween!

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