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 %|
|Avg Start Pos||31.20||65.0%||62.8%||72.9%|
|Net Punts Yds/Game|
|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...
|1st Downs||Pass TDs||Rush TDs||Drives||DSR||1st Downs||Pass TDs||Rush TDs||Drives||DSR|
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|