NFL Efficiency

Now that every NFL team has played 11 games, I thought I might return to some football possession (or drive) analysis. In case this possession approach has been lost on you, my goal is not to focus on stats per game because teams play at different paces. Some teams eat more clock, while others finish up drives quickly (whether they’re punting or scoring). I think pace of the game should be taken into account when looking at offensive and defensive efficiency.  Note: The words “Drive” and “Possession” will be used interchangeably.

I categorized each team as a slow, medium or fast paced team based on the number of possessions each got per game. Example: The colts get about 9.1 drives per game. The league average is 10.15 and the Chiefs get almost 11.6. So the Colts are a slow paced team, and the Chiefs are a fast paced team (likely because they suck, and they punt after no more than a minute). Some interesting trends came up…or didn’t come up, I guess.

Offensive efficiency, basically points per drive, doesn’t seem to have any correlation to a team’s pace. In other words, pace does not seem to impact how good an offense is or can be. However, there is a much stronger correlation between points allowed and pace of play. Defenses of teams that play more quickly offensively—with shorter possessions—actually tend to be better defenses and allow less points per drive! This seems to be going against the conventional wisdom that long sustained drives help the defense out. But there could be other variables at work here. Some general managers may decide to spend more money on the defense and scrap the offense (like the Trent Dilfer Super Bowl Ravens), which would also cause this negative correlation. So I don’t think I can make any definitive statements now about why faster-paced teams are also more efficient defensively.

Overall, from this season it doesn’t seem that the pace of play affects a team’s winning percentage. Varying strategies can all equally be both successful, and very unsuccessful.

And for your enjoyment, the best and worst of this season…


TEAM Wins Points/Poss.
NO Saints 11 3.069971
Indianapolis 11 3.045075
Atlanta 6 2.697521
Minnesota 10 2.656552
Green Bay 7 2.554896


Wins Points/Poss.
Buffalo 4 1.352459
Kansas City 3 1.256545
St. Louis 1 1.197935
Oakland 3 0.947368
Cleveland 1 0.817308



Wins PA/Poss.
Cincinnati 8 1.598775
Dallas 8 1.632287
Minnesota 10 1.68
Baltimore 6 1.698795
NY Jets 5 1.723122


Wins PA/Poss.
Cleveland 1 2.682692
Tampa Bay 1 2.695279
Carolina 4 2.713781
St. Louis 1 3.067126
Detroit 2 3.097072

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