I don’t know how many of you put your confidence into statistics when there’s the old adage that “Statistics are for losers.” But I think when properly analyzed and understood, stats can provide a clear road map to sound decision making processes. The important aspect of analytics is to know exactly what you’re looking for/at and exactly what you hope to take away. Football itself is way to dynamic, the players much to dependent upon one another, to just indiscriminately pick and choose the numbers that support your assumptions. Conclusions can’t solely be based upon statistical evidence that doesn’t take into account the human element.
A number of NFL clubs are employing statistical analysts to help them sort through the myriad of data that now grows from the game to help them better utilize this information in a more systematic and sound process. But it’s easy for a mathematician to come into a club and argue that “the numbers don’t lie”, and it’s even easier for the coach or general manager to discount the information as irrelevant. There’s a fine line in communicating what the numbers actually reveal about how the players are producing, and understanding what has gone into the production of those statistics on the field. Then and only then can decisions be made to improve upon specific areas of execution.
I’ve been a long time proponent of the work of Brian Burke at AdvancedNFLStats.com and feel he provides studies that help generate the proper questions and analysis in improving an NFL team. By understanding those areas that correlate to winning on a consistent basis, you can better zero in on the strengths and weaknesses of your club . . . then make the right decisions to improve. Here’s the first publication of Team Efficiency Rankings after Week 3 from Sterling Xie and a highlight of one of the reasons Seattle sits atop the NFL.
The Football Educator
Team Efficiency Rankings: Week 3
By Sterling Xie – AdvancedNFLStats.com
Though three games seems like an insufficient sample size, we’ve already zoomed our way through nearly one-fifth of the NFL season. No one should be making any sweeping coronations or condemnations yet, but it is also time to stop resting on one’s laurels and start evaluating which teams might become relevant contenders.
That brings us to the first team efficiency rankings of the 2013 season. For those who need a refresher, these rankings consider passing, running, turnover and penalty efficiency to create a logistic regression model. Using these values of team efficiency, we can determine the Generic Win Probability (GWP), a theoretical measure of a team’s long-term true winning percentage. For more details, check out Brian Burke’s explanation from the start of last season.
Again, three games is hardly a significant sample size. And as you might expect, that has led to some wacky results thus far.
Surprises Near the Top
No one should be surprised by the top three, as the Seahawks, Broncos and Saints are all undefeated and universally considered contenders. But just below them are three teams who few consider true contenders: the Lions, Jets and Panthers.
The Lions and Jets have excelled in one dimension of the passing game, an indispensable quality in today’s NFL. Detroit possesses the third-ranked passing attack, while the Jets are one of three passing defenses (the Chiefs and Seahawks being the others) that have separated themselves thus far.
The Panthers are a little trickier, as despite middling rankings in nearly every stat, they’ve generated the 12th-ranked offense and 8th-ranked defense in terms of Expected Points Added. Those stats are different from the efficiency-based ones listed here, and may be skewed by Carolina’s demolition of the Giants last week. The Panthers are off in Week 4, so we’ll have to wait a little longer to see if Cam Newton and co. are capable of delivering a winning season.