A coffee filter for football data

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Sep 14, 2005



In the middle of last season, we introduced you, the Pigskin Passionistas, to our "Bendability Index." We weren't really sure what it would tell us, but it seemed like a rock-solid way to measure the concept of the "bend-but-don't-break defense" phenomenon – something you've always heard quite a bit about but never saw quantified before the Bendability Index.
 
It just so happened to turn out that the two teams who topped the Bendability Index at the end of the season were the same two teams that met in the Super Bowl. We figured we were onto something. Today we introduce its offensive counterpart, something we dubbed the Scoreability Index. A look at both indexes from last year offers us some very interesting conclusions.
 
First: what, exactly, is the Bendability Index? Well, it's a measure of defensive efficiency, run through a coffee filter of football data called the Cold, Hard Football Facts, that essentially adjusts for the overall effect of team-wide performance and every other imaginable variable. Some teams give up a lot of yards, but few points. Some teams give up few yards but many points. The Bendability Index simply quantifies this. It measures how many yards opposing teams need to generate to score a single point. For example, if Team A racks up 300 yards and scores 30 points against Team B, then Team B's Bendability Index is 10.0 (yards allowed (300)/points allowed (30) = 10.0). Team B gave up one point for every 10 yards of offense allowed. Pretty simple. Even we can do it.
 
Philly topped the list last year at the end of the season. Opponents needed to generate 19.67 yards of offense for every point they scored against the Eagles. New England was No. 2 on the list. Opponents needed to generate 19.12 yards of offense for every point scored against the Patriots.
 
Fattened by smugness, pork rinds and the apparent success of the Bendability Index last season, we neglected to look at its counterpart: the efficiency of offenses. Hence, our new Scoreabilty Index. It's a measure of how effective a given team is at scoring points.
 
Some teams generate tons of yards, but few points. Denver was a prime example last year. The Broncos racked up plenty of yards, 6,332 in fact, fifth best in the NFL in 2004. But they scored just 381 points, ninth in the league. That means Denver's offense was pretty inefficient. It needed 16.62 yards of offense to score a single point. Indy, meanwhile, had a highly efficient offense. The Colts racked up 6,475 yards – just 143 more yards than Denver over the course of the entire season. But the Colts scored 522 points, 141 more than Denver. Obviously, the Indy offense was far more efficient than Denver's. The Scoreability Index shows this: the Colts needed just 12.40 yards of offense to score a single point, the second best rate in the league in 2004.
 
Buffalo actually topped the list. The Bills offense needed just 11.88 yards for every point it scored last season. Clearly, a Buffalo offense that generated just 4,691 yards of offense last year (25th in the league) benefitted from a defense and special teams that gave the offense good field position. The Bills also benefitted from an offense that frequently took advantage of the opportunities given to it: the Bills, 25th in total offense, ranked 7th in the NFL in scoring (395 points).
 
We like these indexes for several reasons. Here's why: Despite the fact that teams have individual offensive, defensive and special teams units, it remains a game of interwoven parts, with the performance of one unit often having a profound effect on the others. Even though we often look at these as individual units in statistical analyses, they are dependent upon the others. Our efficiency indexes offer a very simple and easy-to-understand formula that accounts for every imaginable variable – turnover ratio, red zone offense and defense, special teams success, etc. It then gives you a rock-solid bottom-line number about the only two things that really matter: your ability to score and your ability to keep others out of the end zone. 
 
A team with a positive turnover ratio, great red zone offense and successful special teams will typically be in a position to score more readily than a team that trails it in these categories. When an offense is able to execute and take advantage of these opportunities, you get a team with a low Scoreability rating – a team, in other words, that does not need many yards to generate points.
 
When we look at the result of the 2004 Bendability and Scoreability Indexes side by side, they tell us a lot about the potential success of teams. For example:
  • In the NFC, Philly had the lowest combined score on both indices last year (No. 1 on offense, No. 9 on defense). Not so coincidentally, Philly represented the NFC in the Super Bowl.
  • New England had the lowest combined ranking on both indices in the entire league (No. 4 on offense, No. 2 on defense). Not so coincidentally, New England won the AFC title and – with a lower combined ranking than Philly – also won the Super Bowl.
  • During a season in which the AFC dominated the NFC, the top eight teams on the Scoreability Index were all from the AFC.
  • The top NFC representative on the Scoreability Index was conference champion Philly.
  • Dallas coach Bill Parcells has a reputation of building highly efficient teams based on strong defense and solid running games. But his 2004 Cowboys rated 29th on the Scoreability Index and 30th on the Bendability Index. Only the lowly 2-14 49ers were worse (28th and 32nd).

Charts for both the 2004 Bendability and Scoreability Indexes appear below. We'll also be providing looks at these 2005 indexes as the season progresses. Obviously, we can't tell much from Week One data, but we'll be updating these charts throughout the season to see which teams are playing most efficiently.

2004 SCOREABILITY INDEX
Team
Yards
Points
Yards Per
Point Scored
Buffalo
4691
395
11.88
Indianapolis
6475
522
12.40
San Diego
5542
446
12.43
New England
5722
437
13.09
Cincinnati
5140
374
13.74
Baltimore
4375
317
13.80
Kansas City
6695
483
13.86
Pittsburgh
5184
372
13.94
Philadelphia
5618
386
14.55
Carolina
5225
355
14.72
New Orleans
5139
348
14.77
Atlanta
5084
340
14.95
Green Bay
6357
424
14.99
Seattle
5634
371
15.19
N.Y. Giants
4722
303
15.58
Minnesota
6339
405
15.65
Detroit
4693
296
15.85
Tennessee
5487
344
15.95
Miami
4405
275
16.02
Arizona
4550
284
16.02
Oakland
5153
320
16.10
Cleveland
4481
276
16.24
N.Y. Jets
5438
333
16.33
Tampa Bay
4963
301
16.49
Chicago
3816
231
16.52
Houston
5128
309
16.60
Denver
6332
381
16.62
San Francisco
4585
259
17.70
Dallas
5197
293
17.74
Washington
4397
240
18.32
St. Louis
5877
319
18.42
Jacksonville
5009
261
19.19
 
2004 BENDABILITY INDEX
Team
Yards
Points
Yards Per
 Point Allowed
Philadelphia
5115
260
19.67
New England
4972
260
19.12
N.Y. Jets
4878
261
18.69
Jacksonville
5134
280
18.34
Baltimore
4803
268
17.92
San Diego
5360
313
17.12
Indianapolis
5929
351
16.89
Pittsburgh
4134
251
16.47
Chicago
5390
331
16.28
Washington
4281
265
16.15
Houston
5458
339
16.10
Arizona
5141
322
15.97
Carolina
5382
339
15.88
Atlanta
5207
337
15.45
Detroit
5401
350
15.43
New Orleans
6141
395
15.16
Seattle
5621
373
15.07
Tampa Bay
4552
304
14.97
N.Y. Giants
5187
347
14.95
Minnesota
5902
395
14.92
Buffalo
4228
284
14.89
Denver
4459
304
14.67
Green Bay
5541
380
14.58
Cincinnati
5365
372
14.42
Kansas City
6037
435
13.90
Miami
4894
354
13.82
St. Louis
5353
302
13.66
Oakland
5936
442
13.43
Cleveland
5215
390
13.37
Dallas
5285
405
13.05
Tennessee
5724
439
13.04
San Francisco
5481
452
12.13
 

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