The importance of Bendability & Scoreability

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jul 31, 2006



The Bendability and Scoreability Pigskindexes are "Stats That Matter" because they are not simply measures of individual offensive or defensive units. They are, instead, team-wide efficiency rankings. This is a vital consideration in a sport in which the success of each unit is so intricately intertwined with the success of others.
 
In baseball, for example, team batting average has no direct effect upon a pitcher's ERA. But in football, an offense's ability to hold onto the ball has a direct effect on the defense's ability to keep opponents out of the end zone.
 
Each index is a function of many team-wide factors. A stout defense or prolific offense, for sure, but also these factors:
  • Special teams – Clubs with effective special teams will rate higher on each index. Clubs with ineffective special teams will rate lower.
  • Turnover differential – Teams that force a lot of turnovers on defense and hold onto the ball on offense will see a benefit in their ranking in both indexes.
  • Red Zone proficiency – Ultimately, a team's goal is to score points or keep opposing teams off the board. Defenses that stifle opponents in the Red Zone will watch their Bendability ranking skyrocket. Offenses that take advantage of Red Zone opportunities instead of wasting yards to get there and come up empty will climb the Scoreability rankings.
The performance of every unit on a team has a direct impact on every other. Stats that don't matter, like total offense or defense, do not reflect the interwoven fabric of a football team. Just ask fans in Kansas City. The Chiefs were No. 1 in the NFL with 6,192 yards of offense. In fact, they were the only team in football to generate more than 6,000 yards. But they were extremely ineffecient, scored 403 points, ended up in the lower half of the league on the Scoreability Index and missed the playoffs.
 
Unlike other stats, our Pigskindexes do reflect the intricate pattern of tightly woven parts that is a football team.
 
A direct correlation to winning
The most important aspect of these indexes for our purpose is that they have a direct correlation to winning football games.
 
In 2004, when we introduced these indexes, Super Bowl contenders New England and Philadelphia each led their respective conferences in overall efficiency (as measured by combined Bendability and Scoreability rankings). Super Bowl champion New England was No. 1 overall.
 
In 2005, conference title-game contenders Seattle and Carolina ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in overall efficiency among all NFC teams.
 
In the AFC last year, Indy led the conference, and the league, in overall efficiency. The Colts disrupted the efficiency apple cart by falling to Pittsburgh in the divisional playoffs.
 
This, in itself, is telling, however. Despite a mere 11-5 record and a No. 6 seed in the playoffs, the Steelers were actually No. 2 in the conference and No. 4 in the league in overall efficiency (again, as measured by combined Bendability and Scoreability rankings).
 
Interestingly, the 2005 Steelers (an 11-5 team that went on to the win the Super Bowl) were actually far more efficient on both sides of the ball than the 2004 Steelers (a 15-1 team that lost in the AFC title game).
  • The 2005 Steelers ranked No. 4 on the Scoreability Index and No. 5 on the Bendability Index.
  • The 2004 Steelers ranked No. 8 on the Scoreability Index and No. 8 on the Bendability Index.
The 2004 Steelers may have won more games, but the 2005 Steelers' offense scored more efficiently while its defense made opponents work harder for their points.
 
Efficient teams are playoff teams
If we look at season-ending 2005 data, it shows that teams that rate high on the Bendability Index are more likely to end up in the playoffs than teams that rate high in total defense or scoring defense.
 
In fact, total defense is virtually useless. Scoring defense is, of course, a very solid indicator. The Bendability Index is an even more accurate indicator.
 
(If you tool around with the spreadsheet here, you'll see that playoff teams are clustered higher on the Bendability Index than they are on the total defense or scoring defense list.)
 
If we measure teams by total defense:
  • The top four defenses made the playoffs.
  • 6 playoff teams ranked in the Top 10.
  • The playoff teams ranked from No. 1 to No. 28 in total defense – a very wide spread.
If we measure teams by scoring defense:
  • The top nine defenses made the playoffs.
  • 9 playoff teams ranked in the Top 10.
  • The playoff teams ranked from No. 1 to No. 22 in scoring defense – a narrower spread.
If we measure teams by the Bendability Index:
  • The top seven defenses made the playoffs.
  • 9 playoff teams ranked in the Top 10 (and 10 in the Top 11).
  • The playoff teams ranked from No. 1 to No. 17 – the narrowest spread.
The same phenomenon applies to the offensive side of the ball and to the Scoreability Index. (If you tool around with the spreadsheet here, you'll see that playoff teams are clustered higher on the Scoreability Index than they are on the total offense or scoring offense list.)
 
If we measure teams by total offense:
  • The top team (Kansas City) failed to make the playoffs.
  • 6 playoff teams ranked in the Top 10.
  • The playoff teams ranked from No. 1 to No. 29 in total offense – a very wide spread.
If we measure teams by scoring offense:
  • The top four teams made the playoffs.
  • 8 playoff teams ranked in the Top 10.
  • The playoff teams ranked from No. 1 to No. 26 in scoring offense – a narrower spread.
If we measure teams by the Scoreability Index:
  • The top four defenses made the playoffs.
  • 9 playoff teams ranked in the Top 10 (and 10 ranked in the Top 11).
  • The playoff teams ranked from No. 1 to No. 20 – the narrowest spread.

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