Yards per play is a great college football statistic. This efficiency metric is simple to calculate and mostly immune from the randomness of turnovers. Dr. Bob has been using it in his college football handicapping for years.
When I started to apply my methods to the NFL last season, I thought yards per play would play the same role. I was wrong.
Let me explain.
What matters in winning football games?
To determine the significance of a statistic, you can look at how well it correlates with winning. For typical efficiency stats such as yards per play, I take the quantity on offense minus the same quantity on defense. Since stronger defenses allow fewer yards per play, this difference describes overall team strength.
I looked at these correlations in the NFL from 2004 through 2013 regular seasons. Yards per play explains 50.4% of the variance in winning, making it an important statistic. However, yards per pass attempt is even more significant (56.2% of the variance in winning). In contrast, yards per carry contributes almost nothing to winning (5% of variance).
For these 3 efficiency metrics in college football, yards per play explains the most variance in winning.
Even though NFL teams rush on about 40% of plays, these plays are noise when it comes to winning. Passing dominates the NFL. Hence, I use yards per pass attempt as the primary statistic for offense and defense in the NFL. Check out this sample team page for Philadelphia.
All 32 interactive team pages will be available for members next week. To learn about becoming a member, click here.
By the way, those are actual preseason rankings for NFL teams, not the lame end of last season crap I usually have at this point of the NFL season. Look for more details about these rankings next week.
To make sure you hear about this content, sign up for my free email newsletter. Just enter your best email and click on “Sign up now.”