Finding the Most Important Factor to Winning - Part III

Today, I'm going to look at a factor that, taking my best guess, will not be a significant factor in winning football games: Passing Yards. Like before with Turnovers and Rushing Attempts, I'm going to take a look at both gross and net passing yards, and see how well teams did.

Passing Yards Margin
Pass Yard Margin 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 Total Win %
NFL +50 93-62 92-66 78-84 81-77-1 90-74 434-363-1 54.4%
+100 53-29 47-34 47-40 43-38 54-42 244-183 57.1%
+150 25-14 12-18 22-11 18-14 20-17 97-74 56.7%
+200 8-7 3-9 7-3 5-3 10-3 33-25 56.9%
Colts < 0 1-2 0-0 5-0 2-2 2-1 10-5 66.7%
+25 12-1 11-3 9-2 8-2 10-3 50-11 82.0%
+50 11-1 9-2 7-2 7-2 8-2 42-9 82.4%
+100 7-1 8-2 4-1 4-0 7-2 30-6 83.3%
+150 1-1 3-2 3-1 2-0 2-1 11-5 68.8%
+200 0-1 0-1 2-0 0-0 2-0 4-2 66.7%

A few additional comments:

  • It looks like, overall, Passing Yards Margin doesn't tell us a whole lot about winning games. 2007 looks like an exception, where teams fared much better when they threw for more yards than their opponent. This comes after 2006, where teams throwing for 150 more yards lost more than they won. I didn't expect that stat.
  • The Colts have only had 15 games over the past 5 seasons where they did not pass for more yards than their opponent. More on this later...
  • The past 2 seasons, the Colts have lost both games they've had a +200 margin: '07 Chargers and '06 Jaguars. Each of these games is easily explained away why they had a +200 margin, and why they lost the game.
Passing Yards
Pass Yards 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 Total Win %
NFL < 200 103-121 118-133 121-128 110-126 117-137 569-645 46.9%
200 153-135 138-123 135-128 146-128-1 139-119 711-633-1 52.9%
250 89-69 79-62 74-64 68-69-1 71-65 381-329-1 53.7%
300 41-33 34-27 26-33 35-33-1 29-24 165-150-1 52.4%

Again, I'll break the Colts down into both Offense and Defense. That way we'll get a better sense of how they did under all circumstances.

Opponent Passing Yards
Opp Pass Yards 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 Total Win %
Colts < 200 10-1 8-3 6-1 5-0 8-2 37-7 84.1%
200 3-2 4-1 8-1 7-4 4-2 26-10 72.2%
250 0-1 0-0 5-0 3-3 1-0 9-4 69.3
300 0-0 0-0 2-0 2-2 1-0 5-2 71.4%
Passing Yards
Pass Yards 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 Total Win %
Colts < 200 2-1 3-0 3-0 1-1 1-1 10-3 76.9%
200 11-2 9-4 11-2 11-3 11-3 53-14 79.1%
250 9-1 7-2 6-2 6-2 6-3 34-10 77.3%
300 2-1 4-2 3-2 4-2 3-1 16-8 66.7%

A couple things here as well:

  • Again, the records are hovering around .500 for all categories, making passing yards look less and less like a factor in winning games. The league average is 207 / game, which seems reasonable.
  • In 2005, if you passed for over 300 yards, you had a winning percentage of 44.1 %. Fantasy owners liked those games, but NFL owners did not.
  • On average, teams allowed less than 200 passing yards 47% of the time over the past 5 seasons, which means about 38 games over that stretch. The Colts are above average at 55%, which is a good sign for our defense. However, I think our run defense also plays into this stat, since some teams decided they wanted to run the ball more against the weakness of the Colt's Defense. Over the past 2 seasons, it's at 69%, which is when the run defense has been sub-par.
  • The Colts haven't had a 300 yard passing game against them since Week 11 of 2005 against the Bengals (a "pitcher's duel": 45-37 win). All 31 other teams gave up a 300 yard passing game in 2007, and only the Bills, Dolphins, and Rams did not give up 300 yards in 2006. That's pretty spectacular.
  • On average, teams pass for 300 yards 12.3% of the time. As expected, the Colts are at 30% over the past 5 seasons, winning 2/3 of those games. They also passed for less than 200 yards only 16% of the time, well below the NFL average. I guess that Manning guy is pretty good, huh?

Passing Yards don't nearly do as good a job of predicting wins as Turnovers or Rushing Attempts do. There were years where it was bad to pass for over 300 yards, which does not make logical sense. This analysis did prove how well the Colts defense has been in allowing passing yards, and they guy under center is pretty darn good, but we all knew that already, right?

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