Statistical analysis: Lucky turnovers, misleading tackle stats and other notes
The Colts took charge of Sunday night's game early in the first quarter.
There were a lot of ups and downs Sunday night, but if you wanted to point to one sequence of plays that changed the entire complexion of the game, it was the Donovan McNabb interception immediately followed by a 57-yard touchdown strike by Peyton Manning in the first quarter. The Redskins went from a solid drive into Indianapolis territory and a 60 percent chance of winning to being down by 7 points with a 29 percent chance of winning. The Redskins could never catch up. No other play, or sequence of plays, had nearly the impact that those two did.
The Redskins have been lucky with turnovers so far.
Turnovers were critical Sunday night, but in reality they are very random, meaning that generating and preventing turnovers is far less of a skill and far more driven by chance than most people believe. Teams with good turnover differentials halfway through the season are not much more likely to continue good fortune than teams with poor differentials. The good news is that the Redskins have a +5 differential so far this year, tied for third in the NFC. The bad news is that they can't count on it to continue.
Some stats mean different things for different positions.
LaRon Landry leads the league with 63 tackles, but despite his solid play, this is one stat a safety does not want. The more tackles a safety is making, the further down the field the opponent is getting.
Fletcher and McIntosh are leading the defense.
Individual tackles can be a very misleading statistic. One reason is that bad defenses tend to give up a lot of first downs and long drives, giving below-average defenders lots opportunities to rack up tackles. Plus, some positions, such as linebacker, are expected to have more tackles than others. To make better sense of tackles, I created a stat called Tackle Factor (TF). TF looks at the percentage of a team's tackles that each player makes, and then compares that to what proportion of tackles we should expect for a player at his position. For example, linebackers should typically account for 11 percent of a team's tackles and assists. London Fletcher has tallied 37 tackles and 23 assists this season, accounting for 18 percent of the Redskins' tackles and assists, making his TF 1.5. Put simply, Fletcher has about 60 percent more tackles than you'd expect for his position. Right behind Fletcher is Rocky McIntosh with a TF of 1.3. Landry actually leads the squad with a 1.8 TF, but that's mostly a result of failures elsewhere in the defense.
Speaking of failures, the Redskins' defensive line has been nearly silent in 2010.
As a unit, it has accounted for 13 percent of the team's tackles, second worst for 3-4 defenses and for the league as a whole. (The NFL average is 22 percent.) The line has notched only 6 tackles for a loss all season, compared to a league average of 11. The line is credited with 3 sacks and 4 QB hits, well below the league averages of 7 sacks and 12 hits. Obviously the transition to the 3-4 has had an effect, but regardless of scheme, the Redskins' defensive line is not getting the job done, neither stopping the run nor pressuring quarterbacks. The Redskins have an urgent need for a defensive lineman who can single-handedly impact a game. Unfortunately, there's no one on the roster who might be able...oh, wait, there is...at least for now.
Chicago is an enigmatic team.
They started off hot, mostly thanks to Jay Cutler's blazing pass efficiency, which was best in the league until the catastrophic meltdown against the Giants in Week 4. Cutler has been sacked 23 times this season, 5 more times than the next quarterback, which is amazing in itself. But he's played a game and half less than the other leading sack victims. A better way to look his sacks might be sack rate, the percentage of dropbacks that result in sacks. He's been dropped on a whopping 14 percent of all dropbacks. (The average is 6 percent.) Even without the 9 sacks suffered in the Giants game, Cutler would still sport a 12 percent sack rate, worse than any other current starter in the league. Making matters worse for Chicago, they have struggled to run effectively all season, ranking 24th in run success rate. The defense has been keeping Chicago competitive lately. It's among the better squads in the league, allowing only 5.5 net yards per pass attempt and 3.5 yards per carry, ranking 7th and 3rd in the league respectively.
Brian Burke is a former Navy pilot who has given up his F/A-18 for the less dangerous hobby of football analysis. He is the creator of Advanced NFL Stats, a Web site about football, statistics and game theory.
| October 20, 2010; 6:04 AM ET
Categories: Statistical analysis
Save & Share: Previous: Albert Haynesworth still with Redskins as trade deadline passes
Next: McNabb's influence, leadership are worth long-term investment
Posted by: Flounder21 | October 20, 2010 6:42 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Flounder21 | October 20, 2010 6:46 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: hessone | October 20, 2010 6:55 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: brownwood26 | October 20, 2010 7:01 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: brownwood26 | October 20, 2010 7:05 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: MistaMoe | October 20, 2010 7:35 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: smittdiddy | October 20, 2010 7:38 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: smittdiddy | October 20, 2010 7:45 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: brownwood26 | October 20, 2010 7:48 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: beep-beep | October 20, 2010 7:49 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: beep-beep | October 20, 2010 7:53 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: hessone | October 20, 2010 8:03 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: beep-beep | October 20, 2010 8:12 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: MistaMoe | October 20, 2010 8:13 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: monk811 | October 20, 2010 8:16 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: PlayAction | October 20, 2010 8:23 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: hessone | October 20, 2010 8:37 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: buke | October 20, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: watchingfromasia | October 20, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: rachel216 | October 20, 2010 10:34 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: campspringskid | October 20, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: SkinsFaninCanada | October 20, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: JWPinCHI | October 20, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Parinya | October 20, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse