Finding the Winning Factors - Red Zone Efficiency

This week in the Finding the Winning Factors series, let's take a look at a stat that conventional wisdom tells us should lead to wins:  Red Zone Efficiency.  There are multiple ways to calculate this:  The NFL calculates it as RZ TDs / RZ Atts, and the NCAA calculates it as (RZ TDs + RZ FGs) / RZ Atts.  I think both of these are lacking, however.  One completely discounts FGs, which are still good on most occasions, and the other gives equal value to both TDs and FGs, which is also not quite right.  Teams should be rewarded for getting in the end zone.  So what's the best way to test this?  Here goes:

(RZ TD * 7 + RZ FG * 3) / (RZ Atts * 7)

Here's why it works:  Each time a team is in the Red Zone, a team has the possibility of scoring 7 points.  Each time a TD is scored, you did the best you can.  Each time a FG is kicked, it isn't worth as much as a TD (like in the game), but still counts for something.

Because of the way the NFL calculates Red Zone Efficiency, I had to use the Play by Play data to get all this data, which only goes back to 2001.  That means I'll be looking at 4,080 games over the past 8 years.  I did this calculation for every game, then found the overall average for a game.  I then went back and compared every game to this average, and found wins/losses based on being above or below average.  Here's some initial thoughts before getting to the data:

  • The overall average over the past 8 seasons is 65.6%.  This means that teams score roughly 2/3 of the total points they could when they reach the Red Zone.
  • For the first time in the series, the Colts did not lead the offensive category, with an efficiency of 71.3%.  Who leads the NFL?  The Chiefs at 72.1%.  As a Priest Holmes fantasy owner in the early part of this decade, I know why this was the case.  Their O-Line was massive, and Holmes was great in the Red Zone, which earned me some cash.
  • Defensively, the Colts rank 16th at 66.1%.  This is the best ranking for the defense so far in the stats I've looked at.  The best defense?  The Ravens at 58.3%
  • The range of Efficiencies isn't as large as I thought it would be.  There's only about a 12% difference between first and last.  This makes me think Red Zone Efficiency won't be as important as other stats, since teams are so bunched together.
  • How well did teams do when they had Above Average Efficiency on Offense?  1284-880-2, which is a Win Percentage of 59.3%.  Better than .500, but lower than expected.  Having an Above Average Defense produces a record of 1158-754-2, which is 60.6%.  Slightly better than the Offensive numbers.  I really thought this would be higher.
  • When both sides of the ball are Above Average, their records are 713-309-2, or a Win Percentage of 69.7%.  This is quite a bit lower than Adjusted Net Passing Yards / Play and Yards / Play, and proves my theory that Red Zone Efficiency isn't as important a factor to winning as other stats.
  • The best game since 2001?  Week 7 of 2004, when the Chiefs went 8/8 in the Red Zone, with all 8 as Touchdowns, against the Falcons.  The worst game?  There were 8 different games where the team went 0/3 in the Red Zone, scoring no points at all.  These teams were 1-7 in those 8 games.
  • The best game(s) for the Colts in this time span were Thanksgiving afternoon in 2004 against the Lions, and Week 12 against the Eagles in 2006, where the Colts scored 5 Touchdowns on 5 Red Zone trips.

After the jump you'll see the offensive and defensive numbers for each team, as well as Win/Loss records when going above/below the league average.  Click on the headers to sort.  Here's a link to the last 5 years worth of data.  There's not much of a difference, especially since it only took out 3 years worth of data.

Here are the Offensive and Defensive numbers...

Team Offense Defense
RZ TDs RZ FGs RZ Atts RZ Eff. RZ TDs RZ FGs RZ Atts RZ Eff.
Chiefs 248 114 412 0.721 207 138 405 0.657
Colts 277 132 468 0.713 202 112 378 0.661
Chargers 262 129 448 0.708 219 104 393 0.671
Seahawks 224 118 390 0.704 197 139 389 0.660
Patriots 266 149 469 0.703 184 108 367 0.627
Saints 227 121 407 0.685 222 147 424 0.672
Broncos 231 141 429 0.679 200 128 379 0.672
Eagles 216 130 402 0.676 161 122 358 0.596
Panthers 185 115 347 0.675 186 125 362 0.662
Packers 215 124 401 0.669 191 111 371 0.643
Rams 209 136 400 0.668 238 126 425 0.687
Texans 153 85 288 0.658 196 119 366 0.675
Titans 197 127 383 0.656 218 116 397 0.674
Jaguars 208 114 393 0.654 180 114 358 0.639
Redskins 192 114 369 0.653 181 136 367 0.652
Bengals 201 128 393 0.651 222 137 419 0.670
Dolphins 187 111 364 0.644 175 125 355 0.644
Steelers 217 146 434 0.644 161 109 329 0.631
49ers 182 127 368 0.642 229 147 430 0.679
Vikings 199 116 388 0.641 219 137 430 0.646
Falcons 199 146 409 0.640 228 117 408 0.682
Jets 187 131 382 0.636 191 124 380 0.642
Raiders 169 117 346 0.633 241 149 451 0.676
Cowboys 187 112 372 0.632 191 127 369 0.665
Cardinals 187 122 379 0.631 234 136 430 0.680
Bears 170 118 351 0.628 182 139 393 0.615
Lions 156 107 324 0.623 264 115 443 0.707
Buccaneers 168 133 362 0.622 153 107 318 0.625
Giants 207 149 437 0.620 196 107 355 0.681
Browns 153 133 339 0.619 189 145 408 0.616
Ravens 164 150 374 0.610 141 131 338 0.583
Bills 168 135 373 0.606 213 133 406 0.665
Total 6411 4030 12401 0.656 6411 4030 12401 0.656

Here are the Win/Loss records of teams when they go above/below average:

Team Offense Defense
Above Average Below Average Above Average Below Average
Win Loss Tie Pct Win Loss Tie Pct Win Loss Tie Pct Win Loss Tie Pct
Patriots 67 15 0 0.817 30 16 0 0.652 57 7 0 0.891 40 24 0 0.625
Steelers 48 14 0 0.774 37 28 1 0.568 48 16 0 0.750 37 26 1 0.586
Colts 65 21 0 0.756 26 16 0 0.619 48 16 0 0.750 43 21 0 0.672
Chargers 56 26 0 0.683 15 31 0 0.326 39 17 0 0.696 32 40 0 0.444
Packers 48 24 0 0.667 27 29 0 0.482 40 18 0 0.690 35 35 0 0.500
Cowboys 43 22 0 0.662 23 40 0 0.365 34 29 0 0.540 32 33 0 0.492
Eagles 48 26 1 0.647 33 20 0 0.623 55 21 1 0.721 26 25 0 0.510
Ravens 38 22 0 0.633 33 35 0 0.485 49 24 0 0.671 22 33 0 0.400
Seahawks 50 29 0 0.633 21 28 0 0.429 47 15 0 0.758 24 42 0 0.364
Jets 36 21 0 0.632 26 45 0 0.366 38 25 0 0.603 24 41 0 0.369
Broncos 53 31 0 0.631 21 23 0 0.477 40 19 0 0.678 34 35 0 0.493
Rams 44 28 0 0.611 16 40 0 0.286 25 20 0 0.556 35 48 0 0.422
Dolphins 39 25 0 0.609 22 42 0 0.344 40 28 0 0.588 21 39 0 0.350
Panthers 40 27 0 0.597 24 37 0 0.393 35 24 0 0.593 29 40 0 0.420
Bears 39 27 0 0.591 30 32 0 0.484 46 27 0 0.630 23 32 0 0.418
Giants 36 25 0 0.590 32 35 0 0.478 38 20 0 0.655 30 40 0 0.429
Titans 42 30 0 0.583 28 28 0 0.500 30 23 0 0.566 40 35 0 0.533
Falcons 33 24 1 0.578 29 41 0 0.414 32 19 1 0.625 30 46 0 0.395
Buccaneers 31 23 0 0.574 35 39 0 0.473 38 26 0 0.594 28 36 0 0.438
Saints 44 33 0 0.571 16 35 0 0.314 32 29 0 0.525 28 39 0 0.418
Chiefs 46 35 0 0.568 13 34 0 0.277 32 26 0 0.552 27 43 0 0.386
Vikings 38 29 0 0.567 23 38 0 0.377 37 27 0 0.578 24 40 0 0.375
Bills 33 26 0 0.559 19 50 0 0.275 28 34 0 0.452 24 42 0 0.364
Jaguars 36 29 0 0.554 26 37 0 0.413 39 23 0 0.629 23 43 0 0.348
Browns 33 27 0 0.550 16 52 0 0.235 26 34 0 0.433 23 45 0 0.338
49ers 34 29 0 0.540 20 45 0 0.308 30 25 0 0.545 24 49 0 0.329
Bengals 34 33 0 0.507 20 40 1 0.336 29 23 0 0.558 25 50 1 0.336
Redskins 35 34 0 0.507 23 36 0 0.390 30 34 0 0.469 28 36 0 0.438
Cardinals 31 33 0 0.484 18 46 0 0.281 30 27 0 0.526 19 52 0 0.268
Raiders 28 31 0 0.475 17 52 0 0.246 24 23 0 0.511 21 60 0 0.259
Texans 23 39 0 0.371 17 33 0 0.340 28 25 0 0.528 12 47 0 0.203
Lions 13 42 0 0.236 18 55 0 0.247 14 30 0 0.318 17 67 0 0.202
Total 1284 880 2 0.593 754 1158 2 0.394 1158 754 2 0.606 880 1284 2 0.407

And finally, Win/Loss records when the offense is above average, and the defense holds the other team below average:

Team Above Average Below Average
Win Loss Tie Pct Win Loss Tie Pct
Patriots 34 4 0 0.895 7 13 0 0.350
Steelers 28 4 0 0.875 17 16 1 0.515
Jets 21 5 0 0.808 9 25 0 0.265
Packers 25 7 0 0.781 12 18 0 0.400
Falcons 15 4 1 0.775 12 26 0 0.316
Chargers 30 9 0 0.769 6 23 0 0.207
Giants 23 7 0 0.767 17 22 0 0.436
Ravens 29 9 0 0.763 13 20 0 0.394
Seahawks 35 11 0 0.761 9 24 0 0.273
Rams 21 7 0 0.750 12 27 0 0.308
Eagles 33 11 1 0.744 11 10 0 0.524
Jaguars 23 8 0 0.742 10 22 0 0.313
Bears 23 8 0 0.742 7 13 0 0.350
Broncos 29 11 0 0.725 10 15 0 0.400
Cowboys 20 8 0 0.714 9 19 0 0.321
Panthers 20 8 0 0.714 9 21 0 0.300
Colts 31 13 0 0.705 9 13 0 0.409
Buccaneers 16 7 0 0.696 13 20 0 0.394
Dolphins 27 12 0 0.692 9 26 0 0.257
49ers 19 9 0 0.679 9 29 0 0.237
Chiefs 24 12 0 0.667 5 20 0 0.200
Saints 22 11 0 0.667 6 17 0 0.261
Titans 17 9 0 0.654 15 14 0 0.517
Raiders 11 6 0 0.647 4 35 0 0.103
Cardinals 20 12 0 0.625 8 31 0 0.205
Vikings 23 14 0 0.622 9 25 0 0.265
Bengals 18 13 0 0.581 9 30 1 0.238
Browns 19 14 0 0.576 9 32 0 0.220
Bills 16 12 0 0.571 7 28 0 0.200
Redskins 19 17 0 0.528 12 19 0 0.387
Texans 14 14 0 0.500 3 22 0 0.120
Lions 8 13 0 0.381 12 38 0 0.240
Total 713 309 2 0.697 309 713 2 0.303
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