It seems passing stats are off the charts – two quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning, are averaging more than 400 yards per game, 11 are averaging more than 300 yards per game and 12 are averaging at least 8.0 YPA.
But there are always extremes in a small sample, so how is passing faring over the 32-game sample league wide? It turns out not so differently on a per-play basis than the last two seasons: 7.3 YPA in 2013, 7.1 in 2012, 7.2 in 2011.
The bigger difference is in passing attempts. In 2011, teams averaged 229.7 passing yards per game. Last year, it was 231.3. This season it’s a whopping 255.5, despite only a small gain in efficiency. That’s due to roughly three more attempts per team, per game.
Teams are averaging 25.9 rushing attempts per game, down from 27.2 last year and 27.3 in 2011, so the increase in passing attempts is partially at the expense of the ground game – three pass plays probably take on average roughly the same amount of time as 1.3 rushes.
Finally, the league average for yards-per-carry is 3.8. Last year it was 4.3, in 2011, it was also 4.3. I’d love to hear an explanation for the drop-off.
A few surprising facts:
– Joe Flacco leads the NFL with 95 passing attempts. Sam Bradford and Matt Schaub are tied for second with 93.
– While 12 QBs are averaging at least 8.0 YPA, 18 are averaging at least 7.0, and 28 are averaging at least 6.0, Tom Brady is not one of them. He clocks in at No. 32 with 5.2 YPA, ahead of only Blaine Gabbert.
– Tony Romo leads the NFL in completion percentage at 72.5. But he’s 26th in YPA at 6.2. That’s a lot of dinking and dunking.
– While Doug Martin leads the league in carries, Chris Johnson is second, DeAngelo Williams sixth and BenJarvus Green-Ellis 10th, ahead of C.J. (feed him the ball till he throws up) Spiller, Jamaal Charles and Trent Richardson.
– After averaging 3.6 YPC last year, Richardson is down to 3.4 through two games so far.
– Ben Tate is averaging 8.2 yards per carry, Arian Foster 3.7. That Tate is outplaying Foster isn’t the surprise, but the margin is. (Still, I don’t expect the balance of carries to be altered all that much).
– The top-four players in red-zone targets: Eddie Royal (7), Randall Cobb (7), Julian Edelman (5), Tavon Austin (5) are all 5-10 or smaller.
While there are a variety of factors that go into winning (or losing) football games, including turnovers, special teams play, penalties and the timing and circumstances of all of the above, one of the biggest and more predictive ones is per-play efficiency. Through two games let’s look at the top teams in offensive and defensive yards per play and their net rankings:
New York Giants
Kansas City Chiefs
Green Bay Packers
New York Jets
San Francisco 49ers
New Orleans Saints
St. Louis Rams
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New England Patriots
San Diego Chargers
Of course, these numbers are skewed heavily due to strength of schedule over two games and also a handful of big plays. But that holds true of any analysis of why certain teams are 2-0 or 0-2, and yet it hasn’t stopped the needle from moving when Vegas sets its lines or people pick in Survivor.
Note the Giants played the No. 1 team on the list and still reside at No. 2, a testament to how throughly they destroyed the Cowboys when you subtract the turnovers. Odd that Houston is No. 3 despite being life and death in both contests, but not odd the Raiders and Chiefs and Nos. 4 and 5, respectively, after getting the No. 32 Jaguars to comprise half their schedules.
And while turnovers are not entirely luck, they are mostly so, and apparently there’s a successful handicapping system that relies largely on taking teams with big negative TO differentials against ones with big positive ones, i.e., fading something that should not be priced into the line.
Week 2 Observations
– It’ll be interesting to see whether Kenny Britt gets cut or traded in the next few days. The Ravens, Pats and Niners could certainly use a receiver of his caliber.
– Maybe it’s just bad luck and could have happened to anyone, but score one for the camp that avoided Steven Jackson due to his career (2400 carry) workload.
– Apparently, Carson Palmer is contractually obligated to throw one pick-six per game.
– Speaking of which both Palmer and Matt Schaub overcame pick sixes to win their respective games. Schaub’s seemed horrible, but down one, and facing third and 21 from his own 10, it was like he let the Titans score without using time to get the ball back in a better situation, but down eight. The Texans went three and out on their next series and only scored on their final drive, but you could see a situation where you’d rather the team get the pick six so you get the ball back down eight and first and 10 after a kick off, rather than letting them get it back up one with a chance to run out the clock.
– David Wilson will be a monster if he holds onto the ball and stays healthy. Be patient.
– One interesting thing about the Chargers that only occurred to me once I say how tight the game was: on Monday night, their coach, Mike McCoy was profiled as a workout nut. He does some crazy pre-game routine, and I bet he got his team in good shape this summer, too. In other words, maybe it wasn’t so surprising the Eagles couldn’t run them out of the gym.
– McCoy was also the offensive coordinator behind Brandon Lloyd, Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow’s best years in Denver. (h/t Scott Pianowski).
– Julian Edelman made the best case against PPR scoring Thursday night with 13 catches on 18 targets for 78 yards. The guy averaged 4.3 YPT, didn’t score, but managed 20.8 PPR points.
– Aaron Dobson would have had a monster game if he could catch. Until Rob Gronkowski is 100 percent and Danny Amendola comes back, the Pats could need him, though.
– The Jets are the worst team to face for fantasy purposes, as they don’t generate offense of their own, and they have a good defense. The Eagles, Redskins, Packers and Chargers are ideal. The Saints incidentally have been good defensively – at least for two games. That hurts Drew Brees a little bit.
– Stephen Hill made some errors, but he also adjusted well to a deep ball in the air. There’s upside here if Geno Smith continues to improve.
– Knowshon Moreno actually looked explosive Sunday and not just reliable. Don’t forget he was a first-round pick a couple years ago and might now be finally getting over a couple years’ worth of injuries.
– Speaking of which, there was an error before the late games saying Maurice Jones-Drew was a scratch. So I put Moreno in my lineup in two important leagues. Too bad I got wind of the correction.
– I doubt anyone will win the NFC East this year.
– Aaron Rodgers is better in real life than Drew Brees, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. Fantasy, too.
– Rashard Mendenhall still looks pretty quick, caught some passes and saw work at the goal line.
– Andre Johnson was absolutely unconscious on that play at the one-yard line that led to the tying score. Dude can make that catch in his sleep! It’s crazy they initially called it no catch and no penalty after the defender hit him in the head, concussed him and then only got the ball away from him after he was down on the field.