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AFC East Drive Efficiency, Thru Week 4

Field position can play a major role in the NFL game, so I wanted to start to take a look at how teams are faring based on where they begin a drive on the field. Drives can end in a number of results. The best is a touchdown, followed by a field goal. The worst would be some type of turnover. It would make sense that the better field position a team has the better the odds would be of a good result. For example, thru 4 weeks of this season only 14% of drives that begin inside your own 5 yard line result in a touchdown just under 19% result in a scoring opportunity. In contrast a drive that is beginning between the 40 and 45 sees those numbers increase to 30% and 49% respectively.

While the season is still young and the numbers will change as the sample size grows, specifically in areas where not a lot of data is currently present, this is something I wanted to use during the season with a focus on the teams in the AFC East, since that is primarily what the site focuses on. What I have done is broken field position down into 5 yard increments and determined the odds of a TD, FG, Punt, etc… in each section of the field. Using these probability numbers we can come up with an expected point total for each team based on the NFL average. I have also calculated the average and median plays run and yards gained per each drive. With the number of drives we can determine what the average expectation for plays and yards would be for a team.

I don't have my spreadsheets set up to rapidly calculate every team in the leagues individual scores just yet, but its easy enough to look at the four teams we focus on here. Each team's numbers are presented as percentages above or below the expected results based on starting field position. On offense a positive number is good and a negative number is bad. On defense that is flipped around. All the stats are calculated with the elimination of all drives that end a half or end a game, unless they result in a score. If you have a question about a particular team or other numbers such as turnovers, punts, etc… feel free to post below or email me.

Offense: Plays and Yards Per Play

NFL Drive Efficiency

By far the strangest team is the Buffalo Bills in this regard. Their actual plays run is the worst in the AFC East, almost 15% below the norm, but their yards per play is the highest in the group. It's a home run hitting team that is very mistake prone with 11 turnovers in 4 games. Their problem sustaining drives when they don't get a big play has been a major issues. Of drives beginning between the 16 and 20 yard line, nearly 80% have resulted in a punt or turnover. The NFL average is under 67%. When so many drives begin at the 20 you will never be a consistent offense with those numbers….New England is no surprise since the QB is so good. They are above average in both categories meaning they are very efficient. Only 42% of their drives that begin inside the 20 have resulted in a punt….The Dolphins are similar to the Bills in that they have had their share of big plays but don't run a lot of them. That is to be expected with a rookie QB….As for the Jets its bad and they are far and away the worst performing offense in the AFC East. Not only are the plays below average but the yards per play is so far below average that it paints a bad picture. At least when Miami and Buffalo gain yards they are coming in big chunks. The Jets are running low production plays and not even stringing them together for first downs to keep drives moving. Nearly 72% of the teams drives inside their own 45 end in a punt or an interception. The current league average is under 57%. It is a disaster.

Offense: Points and Yards

NFL Drive Efficiency

The yardage is more or less explained by the prior charts. The Bills and Dolphins end up just below the expectation while the Jets are far below. New England is the cream of the crop. When it comes to points the Bills are surprisingly neck and neck with the Patriots. What helps Buffalo in this regard is that their defense is terrible and creates no easy scoring opportunities for the Bills. They have only had 6 drives start in their opponents territory and only two of them inside the 30. The Patriots have had 11, with 4 inside the 25. So New England has had a number of easy scoring opportunities …If the Dolphins could figure out how to score they would be 3-1 right now. Only 14 drives have resulted in points despite being a decent team in terms of yards. They also have not had many easy chances, with only 5 drives starting in enemy territory, none of which were inside the 30 yard line. The Jets score of -29% just solidifies the opinion that everyone had of the team in the preseason. They are 25 points below the expected score and they only have 2 TDs on drives that start inside their own 45. They also have not had the best of luck with the easy scoring chances, only 1 inside the opponents 45, but the results are just so bad Im not even sure that good field position would help right now.

Defense: Plays and Yards Per Play

NFL Drive Efficiency

These numbers actually surprised me for a few teams. I had no idea New England was doing so well in terms of limiting plays. They have had two blowout wins that might explain teams taking more chances, which is why the YPP is above average, or this may be indicative of an issue of a team that can be exploited. Similarly I though the Bills would actually be worse than where they are right now. Not that these numbers are good or anything, but I thought it might have been worse….The Jets are the worst of both worlds. They give up a lot of big plays and long drives. It means teams are maximizing their opportunities and is one of the reasons why field position for the offense has been so bad….Miami would look to be the class of the AFC East, with below average numbers in both categories and pretty consistent results.

Defense: Points and Yards

NFL Drive Efficiency

These are the categories where things get interesting. Miami's ability to keep teams from scoring is impressive. They are at a -23.3% which is pretty solid. They have faced 7 drives that began on their side of the field and only allowed a TD on 2 of them. 77.5% of drives inside the 40 have resulted in a punt or interception, compared to the league average of 58%. If they can keep up that pace they will be a difficult team to play this season and if they caught a few lucky breaks could get in the playoff race….New England has performed relatively average in terms of points allowed and are better than average in yardage allowed, which I would imagine is an improvement over last season…The Bills heavy investment in pass rushers has not helped at all as they are getting gashed by the opposition. When you consider that these results are not weighted for opposition and they have only played one good offense (Patriots) and three poor ones, these numbers probably paint a better picture than the reality…The Jets have fallen to be the worst defense in the division by almost any reasonable standard. Only 50% of drives that begin inside the 40 are either being picked off or punted. When you consider that 8 or the 11 defensive starters have been with the team for a pretty long time and neither Yeremiah Bell nor Laron Landry would exactly be considered young talent, it paints the picture that the Jets hung on far too long to a group that needed a makeover.



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