Crunching The Numbers: Week 4

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Crunching The Numbers finally returns courtesy of this site's 'other' writer. It's not a surprise who's number one.

After four weeks, the Eagles are 1-3, but that doesn't mean it's time to panic. This also marks the seasonal debut of my 'Crunching The Numbers' series where I aggregate a bunch of raw data to rank teams on their performance... without factoring in their wins. If you missed the introductory article a few weeks back, you can check out the hub where all of these articles can be found. And of course, don't forget to read Brandon's personal take on Power Rankings if you haven't already.

This post will be a little bit longer than the others, because there's a few things I wanted to cover. First off, I'm liking the interest I've received so far this year and I hope it continues. I live for feedback on my work and this is the community I want the feedback from. Fellow writers James and Brent are also stat junkies, and I've already received some input from James on how I might be able to improve my model.

Secondly, I wanted to mention a little tweak from my introductory article. After the somewhat embarrassing revelation that my quarterback and coverage 'indices' where simply yards-per-attempt for and against, I changed them to my old formulas, which are a little more comprehensive. They are also buggy, which is why I was trying to replace them, but I didn't have the time. For quarterbacks, the index is (yards per attempt)/(interceptions thrown percentage) - fumbles lost per game. For coverage, the index is (interceptions thrown percentage)/(yards per attempt) + fumbles recovered per game.

There are a few reasons I have grown to dislike these metrics. First and foremost, if your team hasn't registered an interception (like Pittsburgh), your yards-per-attempt allowed gets completely discounted. The opposite happens with quarterbacks. If they haven't thrown an interception (like Manning or Locker), then their index will technically go to infinity; this is why you can't divide by zero. So I'm forced to take the lowest interception percentage available to compensate - this week it was Tony Romo's 0.66%. This isn't accurate or fair, but it's what I have to do, and it's partially why I wait until Week 4 because normally a quarterback has been picked off by then. Additionally, using this counts turnovers twice in my model because I also account for turnover margin per game. This may or may not reflect success in the NFL, but I was trying to get away from weighting one statistic heavily over another to see how the model would behave. Next year I will have a better index in place for both coverage and for quarterbacks.

Finally, I do want to address the weighting of the statistics. Some readers have questioned why I don't weight passing statistics over running statistics or why I use Stat A over Stat B when Stat B more correlates to winning. The point of my model is to see how well a team executes overall, not in how well they execute in areas I think (or pundits thing) in certain areas because of that specific area's correlation to success. This may seem counter-intuitive, but the idea is that if a team executes consistently in all phases of the game, then they will be successful. At least, that is what I want to prove or disprove.

But enough chatting. Onto the rankings!

The Rankings

Rank Team Score
1 Denver 32.807
2 Kansas City 20.024
3 Indianapolis 18.619
4 Tennessee 16.604
5 Seattle 16.062
6 New Orleans 12.636
7 Dallas 11.988
8 Carolina 11.763
9 New England 11.250
10 Detroit 2.754
11 San Diego -0.240
12 Cincinnati -2.954
13 Baltimore -3.014
14 Chicago -3.254
15 Green Bay -3.449
16 Cleveland -3.578
17 Buffalo -4.359
18 Atlanta -4.592
19 Miami -5.625
20 Oakland -7.903
21 Tampa Bay -8.087
22 Houston -8.288
23 San Francisco -8.296
24 Washington -8.710
25 Arizona -8.974
26 New York Jets -9.949
27 Minnesota -10.168
28 Philadelphia -13.899
29 St. Louis -21.497
30 Pittsburgh -21.761
31 New York Giants -36.486
32 Jacksonville -38.594

As you can see, there are a few surprises, except with the top spot. Tennessee and Indianapolis are exceptionally high on the list, while perennial contenders like Atlanta, Green Bay, San Francisco, and Houston find themselves stuck in the middle. Dallas, for being 2-2, is somewhat respectable at seven, and Carolina is a surprise at eight.

The Eagles find themselves near the basement at twenty-eight. This is almost entirely because of their inability to transform their offensive juggernaut into points combining with the defense's inability to stop anyone. Statistically, the offense is exceptional (8.5 YPA, 6.1 YPR) and the turnovers aren't that bad (-0.5/game). These are all fixable issues, but admittedly not the quickest of fixes. I'll be following the Eagles' stats very closely as the season progresses.

This year, I'm going to do something new - 'Scouting the Enemy,' where I look at the statistics of the Eagles' upcoming opponent for flaws to exploit.

Scouting the Enemy

This week's opponent for the Eagles is a familiar foe in the New York Giants. For a while, I've been concerned that this would be the 'breaking point' game for the Giants; they are usually well-coached and are bound to pull out a win at some point. But the more I review their statistics, the more I'm convinced that the Eagles will win this game. The simple truth is yes, the Giants are actually that terrible. Let's take a look at where the Eagles may find success this week.

Third Down Defense: This has been a weak spot for the Eagles, but the Giants have been beyond atrocious on third downs. Eli and Co. have only converted 22.92% of their third downs on the season (the Eagles have given up 45.10% of their opponents' first downs). If the Eagles stick to their guns and stay disciplined, I think they have a shot to improve on their third down efficiency. The Cruz-Boykin matchup will be one to watch here, as Victor has been the primary offensive weapon for New York.

Pass Protection: Vick has already been brought down fourteen times this season, but he might catch a break as the once-fearsome Giants pass rush has only been averaging one sack a game. Now you could argue that the Eagles' offensive line might give before the Giants' rush does, but if Kelly incorporates some of the packaged plays he used against Washington it might be enough to make the defense hesitate - and pay for it.

Pass Rush: Coincidentally, Eli Manning has also been sacked fourteen times. The Giants' offensive line is simply terrible, as they've only managed 3.3 yards per rush as well. The Eagles' pass rush has been modest (2.5 sacks/game) so it should thrive against New York's aging offensive lineman.

Scoring: While the Eagles' scoring defense has been awful, I mention this one only because they have absolutely no excuse not to light up the scoreboard on the Giants. New York has the worst scoring defense in the league (the Eagles are thirty-first) by allowing a jaw-dropping 36.5 points/game. As an Eagles fan, I can't really talk given the way their defense is played, but they have at least showed some promise at times. The Giants offense has been much worse than the Eagles (15.2 points/game) but I wouldn't rule out a barn burner with these defenses. In any case, expect the Eagles to score more than thirty points, which should be enough to beat the Giants.

That wraps up this first edition of Crunching The Numbers. As always, your thoughts are welcomed and encouraged in the comments below. If there is any other specific information from my model you'd like to see featured in these posts, just give me a shout in the comments or on Twitter (@Harks119) and I'll try to incorporate it in the future. Statistics used were taken from www.teamrankings.com.

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