Finding the Winning Factors - Drive Success Rate

This week in the Finding the Winning Factors series, let's take a look at a not-so common Football Outsider stat:  Drive Success Rate.  The FO website didn't give a full definition on their website, but said to refer to Pro Football Prospectus 2005, where it was introduced.  The Public Library came to the rescue, and I found exactly what they meant:

Drive Success Rate (or more precisely, series of downs success rate), or DSR, measures the likelihood that a team's offense will get another first down (or a touchdown, which the official NFL statisticians also count as a first down) in a given set of downs.  And the equivalent defensive number measures how often a defense will allow another first down.

It confused me at first, as I thought they considered a drive "successful" with just 1 first down.  But after reading this, it looks at each time a team has a first down, how often do they earn another one.  My next challenge was to figure out the easiest way to calculate this.  After thinking about for way too long, the simple answer finally came to me:

(First Downs + Pass TDs + Rush TDs) / (First Downs + Drives)**

**I don't know if this is the formula FO uses, because they didn't have that on their site.  But it's the formula I used (and the numbers came out very close), so we're going with it.

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 Drive Success Rate over the past 8 years is 69.1%.  Does this mean that offenses are just really good at getting first downs, or the defenses aren't that good at stopping them? 
  • The Colts blow away the competition in this, with a DSR of 77.3%.  The usual suspects are also high up there (Patriots, Chiefs, Chargers, and Broncos), making the top 5 teams in this category all teams from the AFC.  Dominance anyone?
  • Defensively, the Ravens are #1 again (they really have been as dominant on defense as the Colts have been on offense), with a DSR of only 63.5%.  Even the best team can only stop an offense 36% of the time.  The Colts come in at 30th, with a DSR of 71.6%.  If the Colts can get back to "average", they'll have a scary good team.
  • So how often do teams win when they are Above Average on Offense?  1308-658-1, which is 66.5%.  That's the 2nd best record we've seen so far.  DSR is looking really good for predicting games.  Having an Above Average defense produces a record of 1381-729-3, which is 65.4%, which is a little worse than the offense. We haven't seen numbers like this since we looked at Adjusted Net Passing Yards / Attempt.  Fantastic.
  • When both the Offense and Defense are Above Average, their record is 742-90-1, or 89.14%.  This ranks 1st out of 11 stats so far, which is unbelievable.  I didn't think we could get better than ANPY/A, but we did.  I guess those guys at FO know what they are doing, huh?
  • The best game since 2001?  Week 11 in 2007, where the Patriots had a DSR of 97.4% against the Bills.  I remember that game, and it was ugly. Best game for the Colts offense?  Week 4 in 2007 against the Broncos, where they had a DSR of 92.1%, 5th best game overall.  Of the top 35 games, 11 are Colts games.  Also, the top 42 games were all wins (the first loss was a Jaguars loss to the Colts, Week 13 of 2007), and those teams averaged 40.5 points / game.
  • The worst game since 2001? Week 16 in 2006, where the Vikings had a DSR of 20.0% against the Packers, a 9-7 loss.  Tavaris Jackson at his best, and no Adrian Peterson.  Only 104 total yards.  Yeah, I'd say that was a bad, bad game.  The Colts worst game (with Manning)? Week 12 in 2001, a 39-27 loss to the Ravens, where they had a DSR of 56.3%.

  • The Colts have only had 21 games where they were below average in DSR, and were 11-10 in those games.  This is by far the lowest number of games below average (the Patriots were 2nd with 37 games).  That Manning guy is good.
  • Two teams haven't lost since 2001 when their offense and defense are above average:  the Falcons (22-0) and the Titans (19-0).  Included in that Titans stat is the final game of 2007, when Kerry Collins put them in the playoffs against the Colts 2nd and 3rd team.
  • I mentioned above that if the Colts could get to "average" on defense, this team would be scary good.  How do they get there?  They need to make just 2 stops / game to get back to 69.5%.  That's it, only 2.  The offense will be above average at least 12 games.  If the defense can do the same, the Colts will win, period.

So what did we learn today?  Drive Success Rate is the best stat we've looked at so far, and leads to a whole lot of wins.  We also learned the Colts (like many of the other stats) are really good on offense, and really bad on defense.

I promised a table of all the stats we've looked at so far, and those we still have to look at.  Here goes:

Statistic Average Off Win% Def Win % Off/Def Win %
ANPY/A 5.338 70.3% 70.7% 89.10%
Yds/Play 5.095 62.2% 61.6% 77.4%
RZ Eff 65.6% 59.3% 60.6% 69.7%
RB Success 45.6% 54.8% 54.5% 59.0%
Yds/Drive 28.36 63.2% 63.6% 81.5%
ToP/Drive 2:39.3 65.4% 65.3% 79.6%
DSR 69.1% 66.5% 65.4% 89.14%
Yds/Carry 4.125 52.8% 52.2% 55.0%
3rd/4th Down 39.1% 62.6% 61.8% 75.1%
Turnovers
Avg Start Pos 31.20 65.0% 62.8% 72.9%
Plays/Drive
Net Punts Yds/Game
Penalty Yds / Play
First Downs/Drive
3 & Outs 3.92 58.8% 57.4% 69.9%

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
1st Downs Pass TDs Rush TDs Drives DSR 1st Downs Pass TDs Rush TDs Drives DSR
Ravens 2238 134 96 1507 65.9% 2097 143 68 1537 63.5%
Buccaneers 2247 154 84 1466 66.9% 2076 149 70 1464 64.8%
Bears 2094 136 91 1555 63.6% 2332 147 90 1590 65.5%
Steelers 2453 178 120 1429 70.9% 2084 142 75 1425 65.6%
Eagles 2406 202 105 1517 69.2% 2270 140 81 1514 65.8%
Cowboys 2333 178 100 1499 68.1% 2219 172 91 1491 66.9%
Panthers 2164 153 100 1510 65.8% 2283 158 100 1504 67.1%
Redskins 2283 152 89 1482 67.0% 2237 159 97 1468 67.3%
Patriots 2646 225 122 1395 74.1% 2317 152 80 1431 68.0%
Packers 2493 225 94 1488 70.6% 2331 181 94 1496 68.1%
Dolphins 2260 144 112 1479 67.3% 2332 165 88 1459 68.2%
Giants 2474 160 114 1478 69.5% 2331 177 101 1485 68.4%
Jaguars 2382 153 128 1412 70.2% 2297 152 92 1401 68.7%
Broncos 2620 177 123 1439 71.9% 2285 150 120 1419 69.0%
Seahawks 2540 183 122 1472 70.9% 2445 170 99 1480 69.1%
Browns 2077 153 62 1464 64.7% 2422 155 108 1451 69.3%
Titans 2332 157 115 1486 68.2% 2357 193 107 1471 69.4%
Vikings 2469 178 118 1458 70.4% 2429 171 113 1447 70.0%
Chargers 2458 190 158 1425 72.3% 2489 189 101 1481 70.0%
Rams 2504 184 100 1473 70.1% 2391 170 133 1452 70.1%
Bills 2209 137 93 1435 66.9% 2389 155 126 1418 70.1%
Saints 2520 204 111 1460 71.2% 2382 198 108 1448 70.2%
Raiders 2244 144 96 1449 67.3% 2481 160 153 1470 70.7%
Cardinals 2325 169 77 1474 67.7% 2475 202 120 1479 70.7%
Jets 2295 146 97 1340 69.8% 2458 143 114 1365 71.0%
Falcons 2294 140 125 1455 68.3% 2490 184 127 1454 71.0%
49ers 2203 156 97 1486 66.6% 2472 192 118 1442 71.1%
Bengals 2428 175 95 1447 69.6% 2486 196 112 1441 71.1%
Chiefs 2598 170 163 1444 72.5% 2524 178 131 1441 71.5%
Colts 2811 255 121 1311 77.3% 2399 148 124 1331 71.6%
Texans 1905 115 86 1227 67.2% 2216 172 103 1219 72.5%
Lions 2130 146 71 1474 65.1% 2639 210 141 1462 72.9%
Total 75435 5373 3385 46436 69.1% 75435 5373 3385 46436 69.1%

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 77 14 0 0.846 20 17 0 0.541 64 5 0 0.928 33 26 0 0.559
Steelers 57 13 1 0.810 28 29 0 0.491 59 18 1 0.763 26 24 0 0.520
Colts 80 27 0 0.748 11 10 0 0.524 43 8 0 0.843 48 29 0 0.623
Chargers 53 24 0 0.688 18 33 0 0.353 45 19 0 0.703 26 38 0 0.406
Packers 50 22 0 0.694 25 31 0 0.446 47 17 0 0.734 28 36 0 0.438
Cowboys 46 14 0 0.767 20 48 0 0.294 48 32 0 0.600 18 30 0 0.375
Eagles 52 13 0 0.800 29 33 1 0.468 60 23 1 0.720 21 23 0 0.477
Ravens 29 19 0 0.604 42 38 0 0.525 62 32 0 0.660 9 25 0 0.265
Seahawks 50 27 0 0.649 21 30 0 0.412 47 15 0 0.758 24 42 0 0.364
Jets 42 23 0 0.646 20 43 0 0.317 37 21 0 0.638 25 45 0 0.357
Broncos 51 22 0 0.699 23 32 0 0.418 49 22 0 0.690 25 32 0 0.439
Rams 44 29 0 0.603 16 39 0 0.291 41 25 0 0.621 19 43 0 0.306
Dolphins 32 17 0 0.653 29 50 0 0.367 43 27 0 0.614 18 40 0 0.310
Panthers 33 13 0 0.717 31 51 0 0.378 47 27 0 0.635 17 37 0 0.315
Bears 25 7 0 0.781 44 52 0 0.458 56 31 0 0.644 14 27 0 0.341
Giants 40 23 0 0.635 28 37 0 0.431 44 21 0 0.677 24 39 0 0.381
Titans 35 18 0 0.660 35 40 0 0.467 48 15 0 0.762 22 43 0 0.338
Falcons 45 16 0 0.738 17 49 1 0.261 37 16 0 0.698 25 49 1 0.340
Buccaneers 36 12 0 0.750 30 50 0 0.375 54 35 0 0.607 12 27 0 0.308
Saints 43 28 0 0.606 17 40 0 0.298 40 21 0 0.656 20 47 0 0.299
Chiefs 46 31 0 0.597 13 38 0 0.255 30 19 0 0.612 29 50 0 0.367
Vikings 39 24 0 0.619 22 43 0 0.338 44 22 0 0.667 17 45 0 0.274
Bills 27 22 0 0.551 25 54 0 0.316 39 21 0 0.650 13 55 0 0.191
Jaguars 44 24 0 0.647 18 42 0 0.300 41 22 0 0.651 21 44 0 0.323
Browns 25 11 0 0.694 24 68 0 0.261 35 36 0 0.493 14 43 0 0.246
49ers 32 21 0 0.604 21 54 0 0.280 34 25 0 0.576 20 49 0 0.290
Bengals 39 26 0 0.600 15 47 1 0.246 34 19 1 0.639 20 54 0 0.270
Redskins 32 22 0 0.593 26 48 0 0.351 45 30 0 0.600 13 40 0 0.245
Cardinals 33 24 0 0.579 16 55 0 0.225 28 28 0 0.500 21 51 0 0.292
Raiders 30 20 0 0.600 15 63 0 0.192 30 28 0 0.517 15 55 0 0.214
Texans 24 31 0 0.436 16 41 0 0.281 30 21 0 0.588 10 51 0 0.164
Lions 17 21 0 0.447 14 76 0 0.156 20 28 0 0.417 11 69 0 0.138
Total 1308 658 1 0.665 729 1381 3 0.346 1381 729 3 0.654 658 1308 1 0.335

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
Falcons 22 0 0 1.000 2 33 1 0.069
Titans 19 0 0 1.000 6 25 0 0.194
Patriots 47 1 0 0.979 3 13 0 0.188
Eagles 32 1 0 0.970 1 11 0 0.083
Jets 20 1 0 0.952 3 23 0 0.115
Panthers 20 1 0 0.952 4 25 0 0.138
Bears 17 1 0 0.944 5 22 0 0.185
Chargers 29 2 0 0.935 2 16 0 0.111
Buccaneers 27 2 0 0.931 3 17 0 0.150
Cowboys 30 3 0 0.909 2 19 0 0.095
Steelers 32 3 1 0.903 1 14 0 0.067
Jaguars 25 3 0 0.893 2 23 0 0.080
Colts 33 4 0 0.892 1 6 0 0.143
Packers 24 3 0 0.889 2 17 0 0.105
Broncos 32 4 0 0.889 6 14 0 0.300
Lions 8 1 0 0.889 2 49 0 0.039
Vikings 23 3 0 0.885 1 24 0 0.040
Seahawks 28 4 0 0.875 2 19 0 0.095
Chiefs 21 3 0 0.875 4 22 0 0.154
Browns 14 2 0 0.875 3 34 0 0.081
Cardinals 13 2 0 0.867 1 29 0 0.033
49ers 18 3 0 0.857 5 32 0 0.135
Bills 18 3 0 0.857 4 36 0 0.100
Rams 28 5 0 0.848 3 19 0 0.136
Dolphins 20 4 0 0.833 6 27 0 0.182
Saints 25 5 0 0.833 2 24 0 0.077
Bengals 20 4 0 0.833 1 32 0 0.030
Ravens 24 5 0 0.828 4 11 0 0.267
Texans 14 3 0 0.824 0 23 0 0.000
Redskins 22 5 0 0.815 3 23 0 0.115
Raiders 17 4 0 0.810 2 39 0 0.049
Giants 20 5 0 0.800 4 21 0 0.160
Total 742 90 1 0.891 90 742 1 0.109
X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Stampede Blue

You must be a member of Stampede Blue to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Stampede Blue. You should read them.

Join Stampede Blue

You must be a member of Stampede Blue to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Stampede Blue. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9341_tracker