Spoiler Alert: This post is going to discuss some simple math and stats. It’s going to use spreadsheets and charts. If you want to bail now, I understand. I hope you stay with it.
“Mean” in mathematics is “Average”. “Regression To The Mean” is a statistical process used to even out the data. It basically states that if a variable is extreme the first time you measure it, it will be closer to average the next time you measure it. In technical terms, it describes how a random variable outside the norm eventually tends to return to the norm.
Every now and then, I make a post like this. Like I’ve said in the past, I’m basically a numbers guy. I’m an Engineer so I’ve been exposed to math, physics, statistical analysis, etc. basically my entire adult life and I find numbers fascinating. I know that makes me weird, but it is what it is.
One of the cool things about stats in football is the small sample size. Because there are only 16 games in the NFL, a single HUGE game can greatly influence the stats of an individual or the team when averaged out over the season. Baseball, for example, you don’t see this affect as much because there are 162 games. So one huge game doesn’t affect the season nearly as much because it is 1 of 162. In Football, it’s 1 of 16, that’s a BIG difference.
In this first post, I’m going to focus on the Miami Dolphins’ entire offense statistics. The 2nd post will be about individual players on Miami’s offense.
For much of this offseason, I’ve said that Miami’s offense in 2016 really had 2 seasons in 1 year. There were Games 1-5 in which Miami won 1 and lost 4 games. Then there was Games 6-16 in which Miami won 9 and lost 2 games. This is somewhat false in that, statistically speaking, Miami’s offense began to change in Week #5 against Tennessee. They just weren’t really effective that week so it kind of gets lumped in with the 1st 4 weeks of the year. For this analysis, I kept the Tennessee game in the “1st season”.
Here are some basic numbers for Miami’s offense on the season:
· Total Offense Miami ranked #24 averaging 332.8 yards / game.
· Rushing Offense Miami ranked #9 averaging 114.0 yards / game.
· Passing Offense Miami ranked #26 averaging 218.8 yards / game.
· Scoring Offense Miami ranked #17 averaging 22.7 points / game.
Now, if we break down the offense by Games 1-5 and Games 6-16, this is what you get.
If Miami continued with their offense from the 1st 5 weeks of the season, their overall ranking in the NFL would have looked like this:
· Total Offense Miami ranked #31 averaging 303.8 yards / game (LAR #32).
· Rushing Offense Miami ranked #32 averaging 72.4 yards / game.
· Passing Offense Miami ranked #21 averaging 231.4 yards / game.
· Scoring Offense Miami ranked #27 averaging 17.6 points / game.
Now, if Miami could have used the “stats” from weeks 6-16 over the entire year, their overall ranking in the NFL would have looked like this:
· Total Offense Miami ranked #19 averaging 345.9 yards / game.
· Rushing Offense Miami ranked #4 averaging 132.9 yards / game.
· Passing Offense Miami ranked #28 averaging 213.0 yards / game.
· Scoring Offense Miami ranked #10 averaging 25.0 points / game.
That’s a significant improvement from Games 1-5 to Games 6-16. The record indicates that significant improvement. But let’s now look at some other interesting numbers to try and explain why there was the numbers were so different.
Let’s start with 1st downs. Overall, on the season, Miami ranked 31st in the league in Total 1st Downs with 279. The breakdown of 1st downs are as follows:
· 90 Rushing 1st Downs for 19th overall in the league
· 167 Passing 1st Downs for 28th overall in the league
· 22 Penalty 1st Downs for 30th overall in the league
From Games 6-16, Miami averaged more than 4 more 1st downs / game than in Games 1-5.
Notice that the entire gains in 1st downs from Games 1-5 to Games 6-16 were from rushing the ball. The passing 1st downs average / game were consistent throughout the entire year. But the gains in 1st downs overall were from rushing the ball.
Now let’s look at plays run on offense. Overall, Miami ranked 32nd in the league in total number of plays run as an offense averaging just 57 plays / game. In Games 1-5, Miami averaged 53 plays / game (52.8 to be exact). In Games 6-16, Miami averaged 59 plays / game (58.9 to be exact). Miami only ran more plays than their opponent in 3 games all year (all in Games 6-16).
One of the other things to notice about this chart is the TOP Differential. In Games 1-5, Miami got killed it TOP compared to their opponents. In Games 1-5, Miami had the ball 12 minutes and 3 seconds less than their opponents on average. Overall, in Games 1-5, Miami possessed the ball over 60 minutes less. But look at the change in Games 6-16. Despite running more plays than their opponents only 3 times, they won the TOP battle 6 times. Overall in Games 6-16, Miami won the TOP by over 7 minutes. Here are a couple of charts that show the contrast between plays and TOP:
So now the question becomes, despite only running more plays than their opponent 3 times in 11 games, how did Miami’s offense win the TOP battle? As I’ve stated this entire offseason, Adam Gase changed the pace of the offense. In Games 1-5 (actually 1-4 because he slowed down against Ten despite being down for most of the game), Gase ran more of a hurry up offense. In Games 6-16, Gase slowed the pace of the offense to a crawl. He forced the offense to huddle more. He called in the plays later on the play clock. The team got to the LOS later, forcing the QB to run the play call and audible less. He called more running plays resulting in the clock to run more often. All of these things factored in a major way to Miami winning TOP.
Notice how pass heavy Miami was in Games 1-5. They were a +65 pass / run for those games. In Games 6-16, Miami was a +7 pass / run. Miami attempted 10 more runs / game in Games 6-16 than they did in Games 1-5, and only attempted 2 fewer passes / game. Miami’s offense was “balanced”. They averaged 29.2 passes / game and 28.5 rushes / game. That’s 50/50 or about as close as you can get.
Now look at the Time / Play. In Games 1-5, Miami averaged 28 seconds / play. In Games 6-16, Miami averaged 32 seconds / play. To put that in perspective, on the previous chart it was shown that in Games 1-5, Miami ran on average 53 plays / game. If you add 4 seconds / play to those 53 plays / game, Miami would have added 3:32 to their TOP. You also have to take that 3:32 from their opponents TOP (there is only 60 minutes in a game total). That is a TOP Differential of 7:04. So now add 7:04 to TOP Differential for 5 games, and instead of having the ball 60 minutes less overall, Miami would have had the ball 25 minutes less overall. THAT IS HUGE. And that is the power of huddling up, calling running plays, and using the play clock.
You combine using 4 more seconds / play and running 6 more plays / game like Miami did in Games 6-16, that potentially adds 13+ minutes of TOP Differential / game. That’s why Miami won TOP in 6 games last year.
Here are a couple of other random team stats for Miami’s offense.
· Miami was the only team in the league last year not to convert a 4th down attempt. They were 0-4.
· Miami’s offense was 4th highest in the league in penalties (125).
· Miami’s offense was 3rd highest in the league in penalty yards (1,141).
· Miami’s offense was 31st in the league in 3rd down conversions (69 plays).
· Miami’s offense was 25th in the league in 3rd down conversion % (36.7%).
What does all this “mean”? (See what I did there?) That’s a very good question. What I think it “means” is that Miami has a long way to go to become “average” on offense. What Miami’s offense showed last year in Games 6-16 is that they could be very efficient. Being efficient is good thing. Miami was 9th in yards / play at 5.8. But because they ran so few plays, their overall impact was low on the stat sheet.
The good news is that Gase has said that one of the priorities this year is to run more plays. To do that, Miami needs more 1st downs. To get more 1st downs, Miami needs to generate and convert a higher % of 3rd down opportunities.
I hope you liked the post. My next one will concentrate on Miami’s individual players. That’s where some of the numbers get really interesting and we will be able to look at “mean” a whole lot different.