The Dude Abides: The Stats That Don’t Lie, Week 7

"The Stats That Don't Lie are gonna eat lightning and crap thunder!"

---Burgess Meredith

Week 7 brought a well deserved break for the Broncos (God even rested on the 7th day), no less than 6 bona fide blowouts (an average night for a Raider at a singles bar), and 3 more interceptions from new Bears' mascot Jay Cutler (2 more and he can tie Orton's season total from 2008 in less than half the games).

In other words, a decent weekend.

Welcome to the Week 7 Stats That Don't Lie, your statistical pint of Guinness, your stripper's pole of stats, and the stats that don't cut and run at the first sign of trouble.  These are the stats that launched a thousand ships and the stats that make a good girl go bad.  They are the stats that don't return your phone calls.  They are Turnovers, Field Position, Time of Possession, and 3rd Down Efficiency.

Since Denver didn't play this week, their rankings in these 4 categories of statistics will simply be influenced by what other teams have done in Week 7.  Nevertheless, it's still worth looking at from the 10,000 foot perspective.

WEEK 6 - Broncos' Rankings

Average Turnovers/Game:  2nd (3 teams tied for 1st) 

Average Starting Field Position: 20th

Average Time of Possession: 7th 

Average 3rd Down Efficiency: 11th

WEEK 7 - Broncos' Rankings

Average Turnovers/Game:  1st (tied with Green Bay) 

Average Starting Field Position: 23rd

Average Time of Possession: 9th 

Average 3rd Down Efficiency: 12th

Despite the two touchdown runs by Eddie Royal, Denver can still improve in its special teams play.  Many interesting comments have already been made by MHR members about how the release of Kern will help field position on both sides of the ball (a punter doesn't just influence where your opponent gets the ball, but where you also get it back), so I have nothing more astute than they do to say about it.  However, let's hope this move is another in a long line of good calls by McDaniels.  The stats certainly back up his decision through 7 weeks.

Because so many teams got clobbered in Week 7, the stats in most of this week's games were very one sided, but there are still a few worth exploring further.  Last week I noted that I thought the Chiefs were a much better team than people realized, but that their trouble was on third down.  I'm still of this view.  I watched the entire SD/KC game and it is simply amazing that the Chiefs continue to hover (on average per game) at 20%  on 3rd downs this year.  That is simply unacceptable.  It's just killing their drives.  They rank 13th in field position, but even this can't help when you can only convert 2 out of every 10 third downs in a league that averages about 37%. 

The next worse in the league on third downs?    The horrific Raiders, of course, who are at 27%.  Keep on truckin', JaMarcus!

Another team that is impressive is New England, and not because they are putting up a lot of points, nor because the MSM likes to kiss their butts (pucker up, John Clayton).  After week 7, these cats rank 2nd in turnovers/game, 1st in time of possession, 4th in 3rd-downs, and 7th in field position.   They are simply well balanced, and if you are looking for absolute proof that Denver is for real, it's not the San Diego game that demonstrates it, it's the New England game.  The Patriots game against the Bucs was simply another week in which they dominated all four statistical categories.

The week wouldn't be complete without looking at another Chicago game, wouldn't it?  Many of us had a bit of fun in the game threads on Sunday with our weekly Cutler Pick Watch.  It was like watching Halloween and Christmas come on the same day.  From a statistical point of view, the Bengals simply carved Chicago up like a pumpkin in all four categories, specifically, field position.  Even though Chicago still ranks number 1 in average starting field position, the Bengals were the ones who one this battle on Sunday.  It's clear that if you can stop Chicago from getting good field position, they are not a good enough team to sustain long drives.  They turn the ball over too much (averaging 2.17 turnovers per game) and they can't run enough to eat clock (average time of possession per game is under 30 minutes).

As bchiper (hail MHR elders!) mentioned in another post, the Min/Pit game is a perfect example of what can happen if you lose the turnover battle, if only by 1 turnover.  Earlier last week, I made the assertion that it's not the first turnover in a game that kills you, it's the 2nd turnover.  Teams that turn the ball over only once in a game still have a winning percentage of almost 60%.  However, those that commit two have a 40% chance.    This game was the poster child for both losing the turnover battle and also for the 2nd turnover rule (I guess I am going to just make this a rule now).  

Another way to think about the 2 turnover rule is that it's like giving a Raider Fan two sharpened pencils.  With the first pencil he's probably dangerous, but might use the utensil for writing.  But giving him the 2nd pencil will certainly mean a visit to the ER later in the day for either brain or torso surgery (and for a Raider fan, they are one in the same).

The 2 turnover rule is so interesting to me that I am going to start keeping track of winning percentages each week as a reflection of the numbers of turnovers.  In week 7:

  • 7 teams had 0 turnovers.  All 7 won (100%)
  • 3 teams had 1 turnover.  All 3 won (100%)
  • 6 teams had 2 turnovers.  Only 2 won (33%)
  • 4 teams had 3 turnovers.  0 won (0%)
  • 6 teams had 4 turnovers.  1 team won (17%)

Now, let's give you what you came for, the Stats that Never Lie:

Week 7 Summaries:

  • The team that won the turnover battle  won 12 of 13 games played (92%).
  • In the previous category, remove the ties and this remains at 92%
  • The team that won the time of possession battle won 8 of the 13 games played (62%).
  • The team that had better third down efficiency won 9 of the 13 games played (69%).
  • The team that had better average starting field position won 10 of the 13 games played (77%).
  • There were  5 games this week in which a team won all four categories.  In 5 of the 5, the same team won on the scoreboard (100%).  For the season, this stat is 37 out of 38 games.
  • The winning teams this week averaged .85 turnovers, 31:02  in time of possession, 42.99% on 3rd downs, and their average starting field position was the 33.21 yard line.

Top 5 in Week 7:

  • Top 5 in giveaways: 7 tied with 0
  • Top 5 in time of possession: 1.MIN    2.CIN   3.NYJ   4. GB     5.CAR  
  • Top 5 in 3rd downs: 1.IND    2.CIN    3.NYJ    4. Four teams tied at 50%   
  • Top 5 in avg. starting field position: 1.MIA    2.SD    3.BUF    4.CIN    5.NE

Running Totals, Season (through 7 weeks):

  • 103 games have been played this season
  • 85.44% were won by the team with less turnovers (counting ties as wins)
  • 68.93% with a better time of possession
  • 66.99% by the team who won on 3rd down
  • 72.82% by the team that won the field position battle.

7-week Averages for Benchmarking This Week's Games:  

  • 7-week running average/game, turnovers (all teams): 1.69
  • 7-week running average/game, time of possession (all teams): 30:14 (thanks to numerous OT games)
  • 7-week running average/game, 3rd down efficiency (all teams): 36.81%
  • 7-week running average, starting field position (all teams) 29.47 yard line

And finally, the numbers with an obligatory meaningless comment:

Score           TOs    TOP                Third Down      Field Pos        Comment

GB 31           0        35:54              40.00%              25.78               Cleveland plays limbo on 3rd down
CLE 3           2        24:06              16.67%              34.20

SF 21           2         29:31              36.36%              21.50               Houston wins all 4, but kills on field position
HOU 24       1         30:29              46.15%              35.58

SD 37          0         32:45              47.06%              38.69               KC continues to vomit on 3rd down
KC 7            3         27:15              20.00%              29.46

MIN 17        2         36:58              50.00%              24.00               Victim of the 2 turnover rule
PIT 27         1         23:02              33.33%              31.00

IND 42       0         30:38               66.67%              22.50               Peyton on 3rd down scary.  Ranked #1 through 7.
STL 6         2         29:22               30.77%              26.18

NE 35        2         33:15               50.00%              36.77               NE wins all 4...again.
TB 7           3         26:45               26.67%              27.14

BUF 20     0        25:20                 21.43%             37.64               Can Car. be any worse on 3rd down and field position?
CAR 9       4        34:40                15.38%              19.46

NYJ 38     0        35:57                 60.00%              32.27               Blitz all day, can't  help when you give it away.
OAK 0       4        24:03                 41.67%              18.10

CHI 10     4         23:38                50.00%               28.80              The return of the JC of yore (okay maybe just last week)
CIN 45     0         36:22                66.67%               37.22

ATL 21     3         31:08                 50.00%               23.36             Matt Ryan w/INTs and a bad see the result.
DAL 37    1         28:52                 46.15%               35.36

NO 46      4         33:02                 33.33%               28.71             NO doesn't give up on run, but still lucky to escape alive.
MIA 34     3          26:58                 44.44%               39.94

ARZ 24    2        29:44                  21.43%               34.87             Manning or Warner?  Who's about TOs. 
NYG 17   4        30:16                  26.67%               27.13

PHI 27     0        28:17                 26.67%                35.31             Turnovers...and a helmet throw from Clinton Portis!
WAS 17   4        31:43                 25.00%                30.15

Just how do the Broncos and Ravens stack up in these 4 stats?  Let's take a look.  

Team               Turnovers          Time of Possession     3rd Downs          Field Position

Denver             .83/game           31:36                                39.53%               27.98

Baltimore        1.17/game         29:18                                43.60%               29.29

From these statistics, the Broncos are in for a tough fight.  While they are giving the ball away less and winning the time of possession battle, the Ravens are certainly moving the chains better and getting better field position.  In many ways this is the same statistical situation in which they found themselves against the Patriots.  Normally, the home  field advantage averages out to an extra 3 points a game, so we have to factor this in as well.   For Denver to win this game, they MUST not give the ball away.  They simply can't afford turnovers.

For those interested my predictive model for picking games using these four stats, I was 8/13, which is a horrible 62%.  Another week of this and Raiders' fans may start making fun of me.  So I better man up.  This week I am changing my system to weight all four of these stats, plus wins.  And this week I'm adding another factor (did I say that simpler models are better?) in an attempt to take advantage of prediction market theory.  I can thank Zappa/Tim Lynch for giving me this idea as I read his column on upset specials, and it dawned on me I was looking at a prediction market without realizing it.

And as always, my final stat of the week:  92.3% (percentage chance that an Oakland fan sucker punches a Charger fan in Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday).  

Go Broncos!!!!

Originally posted at MHR

I’m glad we had this talk.  Now, vaya con Dios, Brah.

Agree, disagree, just like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter so I can quit my day job.

Mark it ZeroStats That Don't Lie