This week in the Finding the Winning Factors series, let's take a look at a very common stat: 3rd/4th Down Conversions. I decided to combine both 3rd and 4th down as it gave better results than just 3rd Down Conversions, and 4th down by itself wasn't helpful at all. Here's how I calculated it:
(3rd Down Conversions + 4th Down Conversions) / (3rd Down Attempts + 4th Down Attempts)
I also threw around the idea of weighting short/middle/long distance conversions, but thought I'd keep it simple for now, and look to improve it later. If anyone wants to take on this challenge, let me know and I'll gather some data and send it off. The other challenge is perfecting my data-gathering technique for distance conversions. There's always room for improvement.
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 Conversion Percentage over the past 8 years is 39.1%. This is actually a little higher than I was expecting, which is a good sign. Haven't said that often.
- The Colts have taken back the throne of being #1 in this stat, converting at 47.7%. This is a full 3.6% better than #2 (Patriots). Whenever the stat is led by the Colts and Patriots, I think it's going to lead to a lot of wins.
- Defensively, the Ravens have also taken back the #1 spot, holding opponents to 34.2%. Nothing surprising with this list. The Colts check in at #31, 42.9%. Only the Lions are worse. That's not good company to be in.
- So how often do teams win when they are Above Average on Offense? 1230-734-2, which is 62.6%. Anything over 60% here has been pretty good so far, so that's a good sign. Having an Above Average defense produces a record of 1305-807-2, which is 61.8%, which is a little worse than the offense. Looking good.
- When both the Offense and Defense are Above Average, their record is 745-247, or 75.1%. This ranks 5th out of 9 stats so far, smack dab in the middle. For now, it's a keeper.
- The best game since 2001? Week 16 in 2008, where the Saints converted at 91.7% (11/12) against the Lions. I'm a little surprised there hasn't been a game with 100% conversion. Something to shoot for I guess in 2009. Best game for the Colts offense? Week 13 in 2007 against the Jaguars, where they converted 10/13 (76.9%), good for 9th best game overall. The Colts are responsible for 5 of the top 17 games, and no other team has more than 1 in the top 17. Have I mentioned the Colts have been really, really good at this?
- The worst game since 2001? Well, there were two that went 0/13: Week 16 in 2002, where the Cowboys were awful against the Eagles, and Week 8 in 2005, where the Saints failed miserably against the Dolphins. The Colts worst game not involving Sorgi? One I attended in 2003, a 31-17 loss to Denver. The Colts were an atrocious 2/10. Yikes.
- The Colts have played the most games when the defense is below average. In other news, water is found to be wet, and Man has landed on the moon. The Colts also have the best record when the defense is below average, so I guess it can't be all that bad, huh? To contrast this, the Colts have played the most games where the offense was above average, with the 2nd best record.
- In KingRichard's 10 Things the Colts Must Do to Become Champs, he lists as #3:
The biggest problem with the defense last season wasn't that they were being run all over or getting burnt deep against the pass. It was the failure to stop teams on third down, no matter what the distance.As we see from these stats, he's absolutely right, and improvement can lead directly to wins. Even just 2 more games of holding the other team below 39% (Colts average only 6 / season) should lead to 2 more wins. The Colts have only lost 4 times when both the offense and defense show up in the same game. More of these games would be fantastic, and almost automatic wins. This is where I hope the new defensive staff improves the most.
So what did we learn today? 3rd and 4th down conversions are, in fact, very important to winning. The Colts are far and away the best team in the league offensively, and have lots of room for improvement defensively. Here's to that improvement coming in 2009.
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...
|3rd Conv||3rd Att||4th Conv||4th Att||Pct||3rd Conv||3rd Att||4th Conv||4th Att||Pct|
Here are the Win/Loss records of teams when they go above/below average:
|Above Average||Below Average||Above Average||Below Average|
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|