NFL pass rankings by adjusted yards per attempt, 2017

Which teams have surprised early this NFL season? What can we say after 4 weeks of data?

The Power Rank looks at NFL offense and defense through their pass statistics. My research has found that passing rules the NFL while rushing hardly matters.

Here, I give the NFL rankings for pass offense and defense by yards per attempt adjusted for strength of schedule. Beware the small sample size of only 4 games, but these results do give us an early peak into the 2017 NFL season.

First, let’s look at pass offense.

NFL Pass Offense Rankings

The number gives an expected yards gained per pass attempt against an average NFL defense.

1. Los Angeles Rams, 8.82
2. Atlanta, 7.77
3. New England, 7.68
4. Washington, 7.23
5. Tampa Bay, 7.22
6. Minnesota, 7.04
7. Philadelphia, 6.95
8. Los Angeles Chargers, 6.87
9. Tennessee, 6.76
10. New Orleans, 6.69
11. Buffalo, 6.60
12. Kansas City, 6.52
13. Denver, 6.49
14. New York Giants, 6.45
15. New York Jets, 6.43
16. Dallas, 6.19
17. Green Bay, 6.14
18. Oakland, 6.08
19. Arizona, 5.94
20. Pittsburgh, 5.60
21. Carolina, 5.47
22. Detroit, 5.35
23. Indianapolis, 5.29
24. Seattle, 5.18
25. San Francisco, 5.14
26. Cincinnati, 5.14
27. Cleveland, 5.04
28. Chicago, 5.04
29. Jacksonville, 4.88
30. Baltimore, 4.77
31. Miami, 4.67
32. Houston, 4.39

The Rams as the top team immediately jumps out.

Last season, the Rams trotted out Jared Goff, the first pick in the 2016 NFL draft, at quarterback and watched him embarrass himself and the franchise. The Rams finished dead last in these pass offense rankings.

In the off season, the Rams got help for Goff. They traded for explosive receiver Sammy Waktins from Buffalo and signed tackle Andrew Whitworth from Cincinnati for enhanced protection.

In addition, you might have expected Goff to improve. On The Football Analytics Show, Kevin Cole explained how draft position is the primary variable for explaining NFL QB success. The Rams and other teams liked Goff for a reason before the draft.

But a move from last to first in pass offense is startling. Let’s see if the Rams can keep it up.

Now let’s check out the NFL pass defense rankings.

NFL Pass Defense Rankings

The number gives an expected yards allowed per attempt against an average NFL offense.

1. Pittsburgh, 4.25
2. Buffalo, 4.61
3. Dallas, 4.69
4. Carolina, 4.71
5. Jacksonville, 5.13
6. Kansas City, 5.20
7. Washington, 5.30
8. Denver, 5.31
9. Detroit, 5.49
10. Cincinnati, 5.53
11. Seattle, 5.60
12. New York Giants, 5.70
13. Oakland, 5.85
14. Atlanta, 5.88
15. Philadelphia, 5.88
16. Chicago, 5.92
17. Los Angeles Chargers, 6.08
18. Houston, 6.15
19. San Francisco, 6.23
20. Los Angeles Rams, 6.24
21. Arizona, 6.29
22. New York Jets, 6.29
23. Green Bay, 6.30
24. Minnesota, 6.40
25. Miami, 6.93
26. Baltimore, 7.04
27. New Orleans, 7.17
28. Tampa Bay, 7.44
29. Indianapolis, 7.55
30. Tennessee, 7.95
31. Cleveland, 8.13
32. New England, 8.63

Pittsburgh leads the NFL in pass defense, a surprise for a unit that has ranked 13th by these same numbers the past two seasons.

The Steelers picked up cornerback Joe Haden for 3 years, $27 million, a hefty contract for a player that had just been released by Cleveland. At the other corner, they’re starting Artie Burns, a rookie from Miami. So far, so good.

These pass offense and defense numbers drive my NFL predictions for totals. The Steelers look like an under team with this defense and an offense that was supposed to be elite but checks in at 20th in my pass offense rankings.

My numbers predict 38.3 points for their game with Jacksonville this weekend. This is probably low, since the Steelers defense most likely regresses to the mean while the offense improves during the remainder of the season.

However, there might be some value in the under.

Finally, in the biggest surprise early this NFL season, New England is dead last in pass defense. This unit figured to be a strength this preseason, as they signed Stephon Gilmore to a 4 year, $65 million contract to play cornerback opposite Malcolm Butler.

However, Gilmore has been awful and started the second half of the Carolina game on the bench. The Patriots have started 2-2 largely because of this pass defense.

Members of The Power Rank get access to these pass defense rankings each week as well as predictions for spreads and totals for all college and pro football games. To learn more, click here.

Podcast: Keith Goldner and the numberFire predictions for the Super Bowl

On this episode of the Football Analytics Show, I’m joined by Keith Goldner, Chief Analyst at numberFire and Director of Analytics at FanDuel. He was also one of Forbes 30 under 30 for young innovators in sports.

On the show, we discuss the following:

  • How Keith broke into the sports world by watching a lot of video
  • The basics behind expected points in evaluating football players and teams
  • The numberFire predictions for the Super Bowl between New England and Atlanta
  • How two models can differ on Atlanta’s pass defense
  • Keith’s perspective on the surprising success of his alma mater Northwestern in basketball

We also have some fun at the end with Keith’s favorite book, meal, etc.

To listen to the show on iTunes, click here.

To listen on the site, click play.

Top 5 insights into the Super Bowl between New England and Atlanta

This content is for members only

Podcast: Super Bowl Preview of New England vs Atlanta

On this week’s show, I break down the Super Bowl match up between New England and Atlanta. Topics discussed include:

  • How the Super Bowl in 1991 between the Giants and Bills might forecast Bill Belichick’s strategy for this game
  • The success rate of this Atlanta Falcons offense, and how it stacks up against the best NFL offenses of the past 16 years
  • The one statistic, adjusted for strength of schedule, in which neither team excels
  • The relative importance of passing versus rushing for NFL playoff and Super Bowl teams

To listen on iTunes, click here.

To listen here, click on the play button.

Podcast: Rufus Peabody and the NFL Conference Championship Games

Rufus Peabody, ESPN’s predictive analytics expert who makes his living investing in the sports markets, joins me on the Football Analytics Show to discuss the NFL playoffs. He’s also half of the excellent Massey-Peabody rankings and predictions for football.

Among other things, we discuss the following.

  • The balance between a quantitative model and subjective adjustments
  • The one factor for Massey-Peabody that tips the balance against the spread in Green Bay at Atlanta
  • The new results on home field advantage that impacts the NFC title game
  • How our models differ on New England’s pass defense
  • Rufus’s book recommendation for those interested in randomness
  • The perils of small sample size in sports

You’ll find Rufus incredibly humble for someone who has had his success in sports analytics, and I’m lucky to consider him a friend.

To listen on iTunes, click here.

To listen on the site, click on the play button.