The term “analysis” may be the most polarizing word in all of football among NFL fans, pundits and even staff as it has become more popular across the league in recent years.

Many people attribute analysis to nerds who play sports on a spreadsheet and scoff at the idea that NFL decision makers can make crucial decisions in the game or on players’ personnel based on a mathematical equation.

Analytics is a broad term that doesn’t necessarily explain the differences between the metrics that are becoming more common in football analytics these days. Most “math” haters challenge predictive analytics or win probability models that tell NFL coaches they should aim, attempt, or kick a basket in certain situations.

However, there is another world in football statistics that I will often use on results-based statistics. Like total yards, points or passers-by ratings, there are no predictive qualities in these statistics made up of what happened in the past on the pitch.

The goal of these metrics is to provide more context for ranking players and team efficiency than the traditional raw stats you’ll see in a tile. For example, there is a significant difference between an infraction that gains two yards in the third and ten and two yards in the third and one. One run led directly to the fourth down (and possibly a punt or field goal), while the other shifted the chains for a new series of downs.

We’ve all heard TV broadcasts for years mentioning Team X is 10-0 when they run over 100 yards as a team. Well, duh, when NFL teams have a late lead in games, they will manage football to milk time, thus accumulating yards on the run. Similarly, we all remember in week 7 when the Seahawks blew the Chargers 37-23, but you lost in fantasy football because Austin Ekeler scored a long-time garbage touchdown. Was it just me? Oh good.

Taking nothing away from Ekeler, but those garbage-time yards and touchdowns when the game is already settled shouldn’t count as yards and touchdowns in a close match.

Also, scoring points or moving the ball against a superior defense should be weighted more positively than scoring against the 32nd ranked defense in the NFL and vice versa. If the ultimate goal is to analyze teams with as much information as possible, the raw numbers aren’t.

This is where modern football stats and metrics, such as Football Outsiders Defense Adjusted Above Average (DVOA) and Expected Points (EPA), can help tell the whole story.

As you can find on the Football Outsiders website, “DVOA measures the efficiency of a team by comparing the success on each individual game to the league average based on the situation and the opponent”.

To return to our examples, a traditional stat such as yards per carry counts the two-yard run on the third down in the same way. They are two yards, be it third and long or third and short. DVOA, on the other hand, takes down and distance into account. He’s also weighing the opponent, so if the Patriots run 200 yards against Buffalo’s sixth-placed race defense, it gives the Pats more credit than running the same amount of yards against Houston’s last-placed race defense. .

The predicted points added are similar, taking into account distance and position on the pitch to define how many points a player or game is worth to a team. Like the DVOA, the EPA uses a base average of how many yards are typically earned in a particular game situation to “measure a team’s performance against expectations”.

Although they are slightly different, the idea behind it is the same, which is to provide context to each game based on the game situation to get a more accurate ranking of players and teams.

Just because these metrics are new and certainly a little nerdy doesn’t mean they’re bad. In fact, they are making us all smarter as football fans and analysts than the old school stats.

Here are some other metrics we’ll be using here at with a quick explanation of each:

– Success rate:Like DVOA and EPA, hit rate calculates the outcome of a play based on down and distance. Typically, the thresholds are earning 40% of the yards needed for the first down, 60% of the yards needed for the second down, or 100% of the yards needed for the third and fourth downs (via Football Outsiders). This metric is a good way to calculate offensive or defensive efficiency in the early downs (example: the Pats had an early down success rate of just 37% against the Jets in week 8. Due to their struggles in the beginning, New England lived in the third and long with an average distance to go of 9.2 yards, leading to a third-party conversion rate down just 31.6%.

– Percentage of Completion Compared to Expected (CPOE):CPOE understands that not all quarterback completions are created equal. The metric calculates the probability of a completed pass based on several factors such as position on the field, on the ground, air yards, yards to go, position of the pass, and whether the quarterback is under pressure. From there, we can separate the difficulty level for a completion in an NFL game (example: Mac Jones completes a five-yard check-down on the first down versus a 15-yard crossing path on the third and 12).

– aDOT (average target depth): this is easy enough. It’s the average distance in the air a pass traveled divided by the number of pass attempts (example: Mac Jones didn’t push the ball very hard against the Colts last week, with an aDOT of just 5.5 yards).

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