This week in the Finding the Winning Factors series, let's take a look at a common, but rarely looked at: Net Punting Average. This stat came about after the Colts playoff game back in January, for good reason. Mike Scifres significantly helped the Chargers, but can the punter and punt coverage be a significant factor in winning games? Here's how I calculated it:
(Punt Yards - Return Yards) / Punts
In getting this data, I found that NFL.com had the Net Punting Average incorrect. It subtracted the Return yards from the wrong team, i.e. If the Colts had 150 Punt Yards, and they had 50 Return Yards, it said the Colts had a net Punting of 100 Yards, instead of subtracting what the opponent had in Return Yards. Oops.
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 Net Punting Average (that just sounds weird) over the past 8 years is 37.9 Yards. Does this mean that offenses are just really good at getting first downs, or the defenses aren't that good at stopping them?
- The best team since 2001? The Raiders, with an average of 40.8 Yards, which is over a full yard better than the #2 team, the Panthers. I guess that's why Shane Lechler goes to all those Pro Bowls. The Colts are slightly below average at 37.5 Yards, and have by far had the fewest punts at 458 (next closest is the Patriots at 530).
- Defensively, the Bears are #1 with an average of 36.2 Yards. I'm thinking that two year span with Hester really helped this stat out. The Colts come in at 31st, with a Net Punting Average of 39.1 Yards. Not a huge difference between the top and bottom teams in the league. The Colts have also been punted to the fewest times in the league, meaning when we Colts fans watch games, we don't see a lot of punting.
- So how often do teams win when they are Above Average on Offense? 1104-1054-1, which is 51.2%. That's the worst record we've seen so far. This was expected on my part. Having an Above Average defense produces a record of 980-919-3, which is 51.6%, which is a little better than the offense. I have the sound effect when somebody loses on The Price is Right in my head now.
- When both the Offense and Defense are Above Average, their record is 499-443-1, or 53.0%. This ranks 12th out of 12 stats so far, which makes sense. Special Teams play an important role in the game, but by themselves they don't do much to predict winners.
- The best game since 2001? Week 17 in 2003, where the Redskins had a Net Punting Average of 69.0 Yards against the Eagles. That was only 1 punt though, but still pretty good. Best multiple punt game was Week 3 in 2007, where the Broncos had an average of 63.0 Yards against the Jaguars. Best game for the Colts offense? Week 4 in 2004 against the Titans, where they had a Net Punt Average of 55.0 Yards (2 Punts), 15th best game overall.
The worst game since 2001? Week 7 in 2006, where the Colts (!?!) had a Net Punting Average of -8.5 Yards (2 Punts) against the Redskins. Did it matter? Of course not, as the Colts dominated the Redskins, winning 36-22. There were 3 games that had a negative Net Punt Average, just in case you were wondering.
- There have only been 19 games since 2001 without a Punt, which seems really low to me. The Colts have only done it 3 times, the last being in Week 7 of 2005 against the Texans. I'm amazed it's been that long. The Colts have had it done to them only once, Week 13 in 2007 against the Jaguars (a Colts 28-25 victory).
- Of the top 40 games (51.3 and higher), there were 5 of them that came against the Colts. Of those 5, 4 happened in 2008! The Colts were 1-3 in those games. The playoff game against the Chargers? 51.7 Net Punting Average. Teams boomed punts against the Colts, and the Colts failed to return them. This better change in 2009.
So what did we learn today? Net Punting Average may help win an occasional game, but on the whole, it is only slightly better than flipping a coin over an 8 year span. We also learned that the Colts played 5 games this past season where the punter for the other team had a career day. Somehow I don't see this happening next season.
Here's 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 %|
|Avg Start Pos||31.20||65.0%||62.8%||72.9%|
|Net Punting Average||37.90||51.2%||51.6%||53.0%|
|Penalty Yds / Play|
|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...
|Punts||Punt Yds||Return Yds||Net Yds/Punt||Punts||Punt Yds||Return Yds||Net Yds/Punt|
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|