Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Fun with numbers

The NFL is no match for the MLB in fun with numbers, however, 2010 was a strange year for football statistics. The following are all completely true and I would say that they are too strange for me to have made up, but that is not the case. I have a higher self-esteem than that. I COULD have made these up, probably slightly better in fact, but I didn't. I figure the article works better when the stats are actually true.

The Oakland Raiders, according to sources, are considering firing their head coach Tom Cable. They went 8-8, which I would consider a relatively successful season, all things considered, but who am I to judge employment decisions? So they won 8 games on the year, nothing special about that. However, the Raiders went undefeated, 6-0, in their division. They were the only team to go undefeated in their division this year, and since the turn of the century, they are the only team to have ever gone undefeated in their own division and not won the division, let alone missed the playoffs entirely. Unfortunately, I do not have access to the famed Elias Sports Bureau so I don't know if a team has ever done this (gone undefeated in their division and missed the playoffs) before or not. So, uh, congratulations Oakland, I think.

That may have been the strangest game split of the season if it wasn't for the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins managed to be epically terrible at home but one of the best road teams in the league all in the same season. They finished 6-2 on the road, tied for the second best road record in the NFL. Only the Steelers won more road games with 7. However, Miami went 1-7 at home. That is the worst home record in the league. Every other team won at least 2 home games in 2010, including the Carolina Panthers, who won 2 games total.

Miami was not the only team with a great stat to their name left out of the playoffs though. The San Diego Chargers managed to finish #1 in total offense, #1 in total defense, and #2 in scoring offense and miss the playoffs. Thanks to a mediocre turnover differential and historically putrid special teams, the Chargers made some history. At least this proves numbers aren't everything.

And to be quite honest, wins aren't everything either. The Seattle Seahawks are division champs and will host a playoff game this weekend after finishing below .500 on the season. To make matters worse, there were two NFC teams who won 10 games on the year and will be watching the playoff festivities from their couch.

In fact, the playoff seeding all through the league is a bit screwy this year. In all four Wild Card round match-ups, the wild card team, supposedly the worse team, has the same or better record than the division champ they will be facing. So much for home field advantage. Every home team may be the underdog in round one.

The teams aren't alone in messing with the numbers this year though. Individual player stats were something to behold all around the league.

Tom Brady, the probable league MVP, managed to lead the league in both touchdowns and fewest interceptions (of players who had at least 200 pass attempts). Although passer rating isn't a perfect stat, Brady's 111 rating this season is the 5th highest mark all-time.

Even stranger than Brady's feat may be the fact that two separate quarterbacks each finished with over 4,000 passing yards and over 30 touchdowns, putting them both in the top 5 in the NFL in those categories, yet finished 1 and 2 in most interceptions thrown. Eli Manning (4002 yards, 31 TDs, 25 picks) and Drew Brees (4620 yards, 33 TDs, 22 picks) couldn't decide whether they wanted to have good years or bad years. Instead, they toed the line. One's team made the playoffs yet the other's couldn't recover from the turnover onslaught.

Jamaal Charles finished with 1467 rushing yards on only 230 carries. There's nothing technically strange about his 6.4 yards per carry. It's just really, really good.

Another spectacular average is shared by three wide receivers who each gained over 1000 yards on the season, but with very few catches. DeSean Jackson, Mike Wallace, and Brandon Lloyd finished first, second, and fifth in the league in yards per reception, while each eclipsing 1000 yards.

Meanwhile, while players like Wes Welker and Danny Amendola (86 and 85 catches respectively) make lots of plays, there's just something to be said for players who can spread the field and go the distance on any play. Neither Welker nor Amendola even totaled 850 receiving yards even though they both finished with more catches than any of the three men mentioned above.

Perhaps the most interesting stats of them all occurred on the defensive side of the ball though. Little known Chief defensive back Brandon Carr managed to lead the league in passes defensed with 25. However, with all those chances, and all those plays on the ball, he came away with just a single interception on the season. There were 124 players in the NFL who picked off more passes than Brandon Carr, some on as few as 2 pass breakups. I don't know what this says about Carr, if anything. It's just odd.

Another odd defensive stat comes from the defensive line of the New York Giants. Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck combined for 23 sacks (11.5 each) and 16 forced fumbles. Sixteen! Umenyiora on his own totaled 11.5 sacks and 10 forced fumbles. They finished one and two in the league in forced fumbles. Now I'm not saying every forced fumble has to come from sacking the quarterback, but Osi doesn't exactly chase down running backs. He finished with just 33 solo tackles on the year. This tandem helped the Giants to recover the most fumbles in a season in league history, and very efficiently I might add.

One more to leave you with comes from the return game. Congratulations to Devin Hester who became the league's all-time career leader in return touchdowns, with 14. He passed the immortal Brian Mitchell in doing so. Hester's 14 touchdowns have come on 291 career kick and punt returns, 779 FEWER chances than Mitchell's 13 scores came on. Talk about efficiency.

Aren't numbers fun?

(Image taken from whiteoaksblog.com)

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