The 2010 NFL Winning Stats: The Good Stuff

In this, the third and final post in the 'Winning Stats' mini-series after the quarter mark of the 2010 NFL season, we look at the stats that have really mattered in winning games so far this year.

Today we break down the stats that have shown a high correlation with winning through week five of the season: the scandalously overrated time of possession, the criminally under-appreciated ANPY/A as well as better know stats like field position, turnover ratio and passer rating.

1. Time of possession. Last week we saw that the teams winning the TOP battle were winning 65% of their games. After week five that percentage has even increased slightly to 66% (50-26). There definitely seems to be a correlation between winning and TOP, but as I mentioned in my earlier post, beware of cause and effect on this stat.

Winning probability by TOP, week 5, 2010
TOP Differential 30:00 - 32:00 32:01 - 34:00 34:01 - 36:00 > 36:00
Winning %-age
68% 52% 77% 73%
Winning record 17-8 12-11 10-3 11-4

And in case you were wondering, the Cowboys won the TOP battle in all four of their games. So much for this stat.

2. ANPY/A. My insistence on looking at ANPY/A has already seen me derisively labeled as part of the 'ANPY/A crowd'. But a 51-25 (67%) record for teams winning the ANPY/A battle isn't all that bad.

Winning probability by ANPY/A differential, week 5, 2010
ANPY/A Differential <2.0 2.0 - 3.9 4.0 - 5.9 >6.0
Winning %-age
42% 83% 73% 100%
Winning record 13-18 15-3 11-5 12-0

3. TO ratio. Through five weeks, teams winning the TO battle are 53-10 (84%). "Win the turnover battle and you win the game". Sound advice. Of the 76 games played, 13 ended tied in turnover ratio. 

Winning probability by TO ratio, week 5, 2010
TO Ratio +1 +2 +3 > 3
Winning %-age
74% 88% 93% 100%
Winning record 20-7 14-2 13-1 6-0

The Cowboys offer living proof of this axiom: all three losses came in games where the Cowboys lost the turnover battle; in their sole win, the Cowboys won the turnover battle.

From week one, 2009 through week five, 2010, 73 teams have won the turnover battle by three turnovers or more. Those teams' record in the 73 games: 70-3.

4. Passer Rating. Through the first five weeks of the 2010 season, passing yardage is at an all-time high. Net passing yards for the first five weeks is 33,452, the most ever at this point in an NFL season.

"More teams are emphasizing the throwing game now," says NBC analyst and former head coach Tony Dungy. "The old adage used to be, 'You run the ball and stop the run to win'. More and more people think that throwing the ball is the way you’ve got to win now." Here's one reason: QBs with the better passer rating in the game are 54-22 this season (71%).

Winning probability by passer rating differential, week 5, 2010
Passer rating differential 0-20 20-40 40-60 >60
Winning %-age
48% 76% 85% 100%
Winning record 13-14 16-5 17-3 8-0

5. Field Position. With field position, every little bit helps. A 58-18 (76%) record is quite compelling evidence. After five weeks, winning the field position battle is the stat most highly correlated to winning in the league that I could find - outside of points scored of course.

Winning probability by field position differential, week 5, 2010
Field position  differential 0-50 51-100 101-150 >150
Winning %-age
70% 71% 92% 82%
Winning record 16-7 17-7 11-1 14-3

No stat sums up the Cowboys' woes so far this season better than this stat. The Cowboys have a field position differential (own starting field position minus opponent starting field position) of -319 in four games, or -79 yards per game. The -79 yards rank the Cowboys 30th in the league, ahead of only the 0-5 49ers (-82) and the 0-5 Panthers (-94). Makes you think, doesn't it?

Leading the league in field position differential per game: The 4-1 Bears (+120) and the 4-1 Jets (+116).

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