I'm sure all of the Jets fan trolls we've seen recently will take this post as "dissing" the Jets ("The Jets get no respect! Karma's a bitch!") Nothing could be further from the truth. What this is is my attempt to go behind the numbers just a little bit to get more insight into what the Colts are up against. I'm no stat-master like mgrex or shake, but I've done a little rudimentary analysis of the Jets running game using just the basic stats.
I kept hearing about how the Jets had the #1 rushing offense in the league and didn't think much about it; numbers are numbers. But then over the past week, popular opinion seems to have morphed into saying the Jets have the best rushing game in the league. A subtle difference, but I wondered if it's really true. Here's what I found:
First, the Jets being the #1 rushing offense in the league is based on raw numbers: the Jets have more rushing yardage than any other team, therefore they are the #1 rushing offense. But as we all know, numbers without context are virtually meaningless. For example, did you know that the Bills had the 2nd best pass defense in the league? Now, the Bills have some good young talent in the secondary, but are they really the 2nd best in the entire league? Or is it a function of the fact that teams realized they could run all day on the Bills and so simply didn't throw as much?
So, context for the Jets numbers: one of the main reasons the Jets rushed for more yards than any other team is that they rushed the ball significantly more often than any other team. The Jets ran the ball 607 times, an average of 37.9 times per game. The next "rushingest" team was Carolina with 525 rushes for an average of 32.8 per game. Think about that. The Jets ran the ball 82 times more than anybody -- not just more than the NFL average, but more the #2 most rushing team! They had 5.1 more rushes per game than their nearest competitor. And of course, the discrepancy is even larger as you go down the list. I'm not statistician, but that seems pretty significant to me.
In my view, a better indicator of a team's running success is yards per carry. It may not be a perfect indicator, but it is certainly better than total yards. The Jets averaged 4.5 ypc. That's very good, but not the best. The Jets are tied for 5th best ypc with Jacksonville and New Orleans. Leading the way is Tennessee with 5.2 ypc, Dallas and Carolina with 4.8 ypc, and -- wait for it -- Baltimore with 4.7 ypc. So the Jets are one of the top 7 teams in ypc. Very good to be sure, but not quite as daunting as it may have once seemed, particularly since the Colts shut down a higher ypc team last week.
Further, there are two teams that had a 4.4 ypc average, or just a tenth of a yard less than the Jets. Those two teams? Kansas City and our friends the Bills. That's right, the Bills. With no passing game to speak of and a decimated offensive line, the Bills managed to come within one tenth of a yard of the Jets and their 3 Pro Bowl linemen.
So what does all this mean? Well, the Jets are clearly a very good running team. Within the top ten in the league without question, and that's nothing to sneeze at. But suddenly I don't feel quite so afraid of the "best" running game in football. If we can shut down Ray Rice and Baltimore's 4.7 ypc, why can't we shut down the Jets? Of course it will all be settled on the field, any given Sunday, yadda yadda yadda. I'm not saying the Jets can't possibly run on the Colts, but I sure feel more comfortable than I did when all I was hearing was raw numbers being tossed around.