This week in the Finding the Winning Factors series, let's take a look at something that is easy to calculate, but often overlooked: Average Starting Position. There are a myriad of factors that play into this, most importantly Turnovers and Special Teams. Here's the (easy) formula:
Sum of Starting Positions / Total Drives
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 Starting Position over the past 8 years is their Own 31.2 Yard Line. This number makes sense, as I was expecting around the 30 yard line.
- The Colts didn't fare too well in this stat, as they finished 22nd, starting on average at the 30.9 Yard Line. Just below average, which is also about where I expected it to be, with our killer return game and all. So who was #1 in the NFL? The Bears, starting on average at the 33.2 Yard Line. I guess Devin Hester does play a big role on their team, even when not returning the ball.
- Defensively, the Patriots are #1, forcing their opponents to start at the 29.6 Yard Line. How about the Colts? 14th, starting on average at the 31.0 Yard Line. That's better than expected, which is a pleasant surprise. Still room for improvement as well, which hopefully comes this year.
- Now the important stuff: How often do teams win when they are Above Average on Offense? 1214-652-3, which is 65.0%. That's pretty good. Having an Above Average defense produces a record of 1387-823-1, which is 62.8%, which is a little worse than the offense. That's the biggest gap between offense and defense we've seen so far. Still, a pretty good Win %.
- When both the Offense and Defense are Above Average, their record is 898-334-1, or 72.9%. This is middle of the pack for what we've looked at so far, so it is tough to tell whether it's that impressive. It's also not a big jump from the one-side Win %. I hope we get to a point where a stat that wins 75% of the time just isn't good enough. The Colts were the best team in the league when this happens, winning 93.8% of the time (30-2).
- The best game since 2001? Week 16 in 2001, where the Buccaneers, on average, started at their Opp. 48.8 Yard Line against the Ravens. There have been only 5 games where the average starting position was in Opponents territory. I thought there would be more. Also, of the top 64 games (~45 Yard Line or better), there have only been 2 losses. That's excellent. Best game for the Colts offense? Week 6 in 2005 against the Rams, where they started, on average, at the 49.4 Yard Line.
- The worst game since 2001? Week 9 in 2005, where the Falcons started, on average, at the 15.2 Yard Line against the Dolphins. Interestingly enough, the Falcons won that game 17-10. Everyone remember the beat down of the Ravens from last season by the Colts? The Ravens started, on average, at the 17.6 Yard Line. This was the best game by the Colt's defense over the past 8 years.
- When you look at the tables below, you'll notice that in all 6 Win% categories, the Colts and Patriots are either #1 or #2. They are also the only 2 teams to be above .500 when being Below Average on both sides of the ball. Surprise, surprise, I know. It's just good to see it on paper.
- The difference between the best team in the leage and the worst is only 3-4 yards, which is much smaller than I was expecting. Pretty much everyone tends to start in about the same position, on average. Along with this information, we shouldn't expect big jumps from year to year in terms of better field position. Just 1 or 2 yards is a very good improvement.
So what did we learn today? Predicting game based on Average Starting Position is pretty safe, and gets much safer the better the Starting Position. I'm certainly not going to dismiss it as a solid predictor.
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...
|Drives||Avg. Start Pos.||Drives||Avg. Start Pos.|
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|