Finding the Winning Factors - Yards per Carry

This week in the Finding the Winning Factors series, let's take a look at a very conventional stat:  Yards per Carry.  Everyone uses this stat to show how well a running game is, so let's find out if all the "experts" are right.  Here's the (simple) formula:

Rushing Yards / Rushing Attempts

I went back to 2001 to see how teams do.  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.

Let's get to the numbers:

  • The Overall Average over the past 8 years is 4.13 Yds/Carry.  I figured it to be over 4, so this seems about right.
  • I've finally found a stat that the Colts were not #1 in, as they finished 26th at 3.89 Yds/Carry.  Yikes.  But guess what?  The Colts are still better than the Patriots (barely). So who was #1 in the NFL? The Vikings at 4.64 Yds/Carry.  That's pretty good, and makes sense that it would be the Vikings.
  • Defensively, the Ravens are #1 (again) at 3.45 Yds/Carry.  The Cowboys finishing 4th surprises me a little.  Who knew they stopped the run so well?  How about the Colts?  30th at 4.49 Yds/Carry.  Only the Rams and Chiefs have been worse.  But we knew all this already.  The Colts really haven't stopped the run.
  • Now the important stuff:  How often do teams win when they are Above Average on Offense?  955-855-2, which is 52.8%.  This is the worst stat so far.  Who'd have thought that?  Having an Above Average defense produces a record of 1184-1082-2, which is 52.2%, pretty much the same as the offense. Anyone else like this, because I sure don't.
  • When both the Offense and Defense are Above Average, their record is 548-448, or 55.0%.  This is not much better than just one side of the ball, and the worst we've seen so far (RB Success Rate was 59%)
  • The best game since 2001?  Week 12 in 2008, where the Chiefs averaged huge 12.23 Yds/Carry against the Bills.  Guess what?  The Chiefs lost 54-31.  That game that was the lowest of the low in 2006?  6th best game at 8.93 Yds/Carry.  Unfortunately for the Colts, the defense was in 3 of the top 5 games, and 5 of the top 11.  Best game for the Colts offense?  Week 15 in 2001 against the Jets (29-28 loss), when they had 7.39 Yds/Carry.
  • The worst game since 2001? Week 10 in 2007, where the Lions averaged -2.25 Yds/Carry against the Cardinals.  That is 8 carries, -18 yards.  The Lions had the 2nd worst game as well, at -0.30 Yds/Carry.  These were the only 2 games that had negative yards per carry.
  • The only team that had less games where both sides were above average than the Colts was the Texans, and they had 1 less season.  Needless to say, the Colts didn't have this happen very often.  On the flip side, they had the most games where both sides were below average at almost 6 games per season.  But as we've seen, it really didn't matter in terms of wins.
  • When the Colts defense was Above Average (held teams under 4.1 Yds/Carry), they had the best record in the league, winning 77.4% of the time.  This is slightly better than the offense when they are above average, as they won 73.9% of the time, good for 3rd best in the league.

So what did we learn today?  You shouldn't use Yards per Carry if you want to predict football games.  This further lends credence that a Above Average passing game is much more valuable than an Above Average running game.

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
Rush Yds Rush Atts Yds/Carry Rush Yds Rush Atts Yds/Carry
Vikings 16541 3565 4.64 13091 3253 4.02
Falcons 18199 3934 4.63 15786 3554 4.44
Broncos 17615 3861 4.56 13893 3321 4.18
Giants 16146 3616 4.47 14012 3510 3.99
Chargers 16578 3736 4.44 13083 3329 3.93
Chiefs 16187 3648 4.44 16515 3596 4.59
Eagles 14739 3323 4.44 14540 3564 4.08
Jaguars 16277 3717 4.38 13344 3507 3.80
49ers 15153 3531 4.29 14281 3613 3.95
Seahawks 15547 3670 4.24 15034 3575 4.21
Packers 14509 3463 4.19 14933 3468 4.31
Rams 13068 3176 4.11 16173 3586 4.51
Jets 14466 3524 4.10 15930 3813 4.18
Redskins 15621 3816 4.09 14010 3534 3.96
Steelers 16915 4144 4.08 11120 3065 3.63
Raiders 13494 3336 4.04 17045 3975 4.29
Cowboys 14969 3705 4.04 13326 3417 3.90
Dolphins 14349 3558 4.03 14552 3713 3.92
Titans 15287 3802 4.02 13254 3267 4.06
Ravens 15754 3919 4.02 11771 3407 3.45
Saints 13586 3382 4.02 15939 3621 4.40
Bills 13621 3439 3.96 15864 3741 4.24
Bengals 13883 3515 3.95 15485 3702 4.18
Panthers 14230 3615 3.94 14465 3638 3.98
Lions 11210 2876 3.90 16344 3874 4.22
Colts 13519 3472 3.89 16331 3634 4.49
Patriots 14650 3767 3.89 13440 3302 4.07
Texans 11815 3043 3.88 14348 3267 4.39
Buccaneers 13123 3396 3.86 14044 3586 3.92
Browns 12637 3291 3.84 17694 4008 4.41
Bears 13493 3578 3.77 13994 3558 3.93
Cardinals 11573 3212 3.60 15113 3632 4.16
Total 468754 113630 4.13 468754 113630 4.13

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 38 13 0 0.745 59 18 0 0.766 56 19 0 0.747 41 12 0 0.774
Steelers 44 10 1 0.809 41 32 0 0.562 60 28 0 0.682 25 14 1 0.638
Colts 34 12 0 0.739 57 25 0 0.695 41 12 0 0.774 50 25 0 0.667
Chargers 37 25 0 0.597 34 32 0 0.515 44 36 0 0.550 27 21 0 0.563
Packers 35 24 0 0.593 40 29 0 0.580 37 22 0 0.627 38 31 0 0.551
Cowboys 32 24 0 0.571 34 38 0 0.472 44 38 0 0.537 22 24 0 0.478
Eagles 48 23 0 0.676 33 23 1 0.588 39 31 1 0.556 42 15 0 0.737
Ravens 26 24 0 0.520 45 33 0 0.577 47 48 0 0.495 24 9 0 0.727
Seahawks 39 25 0 0.609 32 32 0 0.500 42 26 0 0.618 29 31 0 0.483
Jets 29 23 0 0.558 33 43 0 0.434 35 35 0 0.500 27 31 0 0.466
Broncos 47 29 0 0.618 27 25 0 0.519 40 29 0 0.580 34 25 0 0.576
Rams 34 24 0 0.586 26 44 0 0.371 28 28 0 0.500 32 40 0 0.444
Dolphins 31 27 0 0.534 30 40 0 0.429 38 41 0 0.481 23 26 0 0.469
Panthers 27 22 0 0.551 37 42 0 0.468 45 38 0 0.542 19 26 0 0.422
Bears 21 19 0 0.525 48 40 0 0.545 42 32 0 0.568 28 26 0 0.519
Giants 37 35 0 0.514 31 25 0 0.554 39 37 0 0.513 29 23 0 0.558
Titans 28 23 0 0.549 42 35 0 0.545 43 26 0 0.623 27 32 0 0.458
Falcons 37 37 1 0.500 25 28 0 0.472 29 27 0 0.518 33 38 1 0.465
Buccaneers 26 21 0 0.553 40 41 0 0.494 45 42 0 0.517 21 20 0 0.512
Saints 25 23 0 0.521 35 45 0 0.438 29 33 0 0.468 31 35 0 0.470
Chiefs 34 39 0 0.466 25 30 0 0.455 30 24 0 0.556 29 45 0 0.392
Vikings 37 41 0 0.474 24 26 0 0.480 39 37 0 0.513 22 30 0 0.423
Bills 20 35 0 0.364 32 41 0 0.438 26 39 0 0.400 26 37 0 0.413
Jaguars 32 39 0 0.451 30 27 0 0.526 42 41 0 0.506 20 25 0 0.444
Browns 18 26 0 0.409 31 53 0 0.369 24 39 0 0.381 25 40 0 0.385
49ers 30 34 0 0.469 23 41 0 0.359 33 42 0 0.440 21 32 0 0.396
Bengals 26 29 0 0.473 28 44 1 0.390 32 38 1 0.458 22 35 0 0.386
Redskins 27 27 0 0.500 31 43 0 0.419 40 34 0 0.541 18 36 0 0.333
Cardinals 12 25 0 0.324 37 54 0 0.407 32 38 0 0.457 17 41 0 0.293
Raiders 19 34 0 0.358 26 49 0 0.347 26 37 0 0.413 19 46 0 0.292
Texans 11 26 0 0.297 29 46 0 0.387 14 36 0 0.280 26 36 0 0.419
Lions 14 37 0 0.275 17 60 0 0.221 23 49 0 0.319 8 48 0 0.143
Total 955 855 2 0.528 1082 1184 2 0.478 1184 1082 2 0.522 855 955 2 0.472

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 23 8 0 0.742 26 7 0 0.788
Steelers 28 7 0 0.800 9 11 0 0.450
Jets 15 12 0 0.556 13 20 0 0.394
Packers 18 8 0 0.692 21 15 0 0.583
Falcons 17 16 0 0.515 13 17 0 0.433
Chargers 24 13 0 0.649 14 9 0 0.609
Giants 19 23 0 0.452 11 11 0 0.500
Ravens 15 19 0 0.441 13 4 0 0.765
Seahawks 22 13 0 0.629 12 19 0 0.387
Rams 14 10 0 0.583 12 26 0 0.316
Eagles 24 15 0 0.615 18 7 0 0.720
Jaguars 20 24 0 0.455 8 10 0 0.444
Bears 14 8 0 0.636 21 15 0 0.583
Broncos 26 14 0 0.650 13 10 0 0.565
Cowboys 20 13 0 0.606 10 13 0 0.435
Panthers 19 12 0 0.613 11 16 0 0.407
Colts 13 5 0 0.722 29 18 0 0.617
Buccaneers 20 15 0 0.571 15 14 0 0.517
Dolphins 22 16 0 0.579 14 15 0 0.483
49ers 21 20 0 0.512 12 18 0 0.400
Chiefs 17 18 0 0.486 12 24 0 0.333
Saints 10 12 0 0.455 16 24 0 0.400
Titans 18 10 0 0.643 17 19 0 0.472
Raiders 9 16 0 0.360 9 28 0 0.243
Cardinals 9 11 0 0.450 14 27 0 0.341
Vikings 26 22 0 0.542 11 11 0 0.500
Bengals 15 17 0 0.469 11 23 0 0.324
Browns 8 14 0 0.364 15 28 0 0.349
Bills 11 17 0 0.393 17 19 0 0.472
Redskins 18 10 0 0.643 9 19 0 0.321
Texans 4 13 0 0.235 19 23 0 0.452
Lions 9 17 0 0.346 3 28 0 0.097
Total 548 448 0 0.550 448 548 0 0.450
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