We haven't talked much about Football Outsiders and their stats here at ROTB yet, but they do great work and with three weeks of football in the books, I figured we'd take our first weekly look at their stats. My goal is to eventually present not only the Cardinals' stats but also their opponent for that week. It'll give us another way to, not only, evaluate our own team and key players but preview the upcoming game.
First, let me introduce Football Outsiders again. I gave a quick introduction when I interviewed their president Aaron Schatz, but their work isn't easily explained and frankly unless your a bit of a football nerd (like myself) you might not be interested at all. The simplest explanation of their mission is to provide an advanced statistical analysis to the game of football. If anyone is familiar with saber metrics and the other advanced statistics that baseball nerds compile, then you'll have some understanding what Aaron Schatz is trying to accomplish.
For a quick explanation of what we'll be looking at this season, here's a look at the methods to their madness (click on this link to read the full explanation):
DVOA is a method of evaluating teams, units, or players. It takes every single play during the NFL season and compares each one to a league-average baseline based on situation. DVOA measures not just yardage, but yardage towards a first down: five yards on 3rd-and-4 are worth more than five yards on 1st-and-10 and much more than five yards on 3rd-and-12. Red zone plays are worth more than other plays. Performance is also adjusted for the quality of the opponent. DVOA is a percentage, so a team with a DVOA of 10.0% is 10 percent better than the average team, and a quarterback with a DVOA of -20.0% is 20 percent worse than the average quarterback. Because DVOA measures scoring, defenses are better when they are negative.
Digging a bit deeper into DVOA:
The majority of the ratings featured on FootballOutsiders.com are based on DVOA, or Defense-adjusted Value Over Average. DVOA breaks down every single play of the NFL season to see how much success offensive players achieved in each specific situation compared to the league average in that situation, adjusted for the strength of the opponent.
The NFL determines the best players by adding up all their yards no matter what situations they came in or how many plays it took to get them. Now why would they do that? Football has one objective-to get to the end zone-and two ways to achieve that, by gaining yards and getting first downs. These two goals need to be balanced to determine a player's value or a team's performance. All the yards in the world aren't useful if they all come in eight-yard chunks on third-and-10.
DVOA does a better job of distributing credit for scoring points and winning games. It uses a value based on both total yards and yards towards a first down, based on work done by Pete Palmer, Bob Carroll, and John Thorn in their seminal book, The Hidden Game of Football. On first down, a play is considered a success if it gains 45 percent of needed yards; on second down, a play needs to gain 60 percent of needed yards; on third or fourth down, only gaining a new first down is considered success.
That's probably enough introduction for one week so let's take a look at the numbers. Check ahead after the jump....
Just to complicate things a bit more, Football Outsiders doesn't adjust for opponents until week four so these stats aren't adjusted for the teams that the Cardinals have played, but they will be next week.
Offense: 15.7% (above league avg), 9th in the league
Pass Offense: 42.5%, 3rd in the league
Rush Offense: (-11.9)% (below league avg), 27th in the league
Defense: 0.9% (defense is opposite of offense so this is below league avg), 15th
Pass Defense: 4.4% (below league avg), 16th
Rush Defense: (-2.6)% (above league avg), 14th
In order to introduce the individual players numbers, we have to explain one more stat, DYAR. It's very close to DVOA with the major difference being that instead of being a percentage, it's based in "yards above replacement level." So basically it's like saying that quarterback A is 500 yards better than quarterback B.
DYAR: 322 (6th)
DVOA: 41.2% (3rd)
DYAR: 29 (18th)
DVOA: 3.5% (17th)
DYAR: -18 (doesn't have enough carries to be ranked but below replacement level)
DYAR: 128 (1st)
DVOA: 59.2% (2nd)
DYAR: 99 (4th)
DVOA: 35.2% (10th)
Well that's all I have for the first week of Football Outsiders' rankings. There are other rankings that we can add on as the season goes like offensive line stats, special teams and drive efficiency, but there's no need to overload anyone just yet. So what do you think? I know that these may not be for everyone but if you're interested, let me know. If no one really cares much about Football Outsiders and their stats, then we'll just gloss over it from time to time instead of updating them each week. So, are these worth looking at each week? Is anyone already familiar with these stats?