Like Alexander Pope once almost said, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. See which NFL stats people need to re-think when they're making their football picks.
It's time to wake up and smell the 2015. We've been using numbers and stats to describe football games ever since Amos Alonzo Stagg was brewing up his first bowl of chili. And we're getting better and better at it. But along the way, we've invented some stats that desperately need to be re-thought if we're going to make better NFL picks. Here are five stats, in no particular order, that are ready for the glue factory.
We've been using this one for a while here at the home office. It's quick, it's familiar, it's not entirely wrong. But passer rating doesn't do justice to quarterbacks, especially those like Russell Wilson (95.0 QB rating last year) who get things done with their feet as well as their hands. In 2015, we'll be leaning on the DVOA and DYAR stats from Football Outsiders even more heavily than before.
Of course it's a good thing when your team stuffs the quarterback (or any other would-be passer) behind the line of scrimmage. But you can get thrown off the scent when you use sacks as a counting stat. Better to go with sack percentage or adjusted sack rate, which take into account the number of passing plays opponents attempt. For example, the Seattle Seahawks were No. 20 in the NFL last year with 37 sacks, but No. 13 in sack percentage (6.8 percent) and adjusted sack rate (7.0 percent).
Another problem with sacks: They can take place anywhere behind the line of scrimmage. This gets blown up real good when you're counting tackles, which can take place virtually anywhere on the field. And what about linebackers playing behind poor defensive lines? They'll naturally have more opportunities to pad their stats. Just forget about tackles; DVOA against the run and pass will serve your football picks just fine.
Rankings for Passing/Rushing Yards
It's already pretty useless to look at an individual player's rushing or passing yards per game – yards per attempt is much better. It gets even worse when you're ranking teams based on raw yardage. The Houston Texans were fifth in the league last year in rushing (2,161 yards), but they only picked up 3.9 yards per attempt, or No. 22 overall. That is not a good rushing team. In terms of DVOA, the Texans were even worse at No. 24 overall.
Last, and certainly least, it's time to send raw punt yardage to a nice farm upstate. Of course it's fantastic when you can unleash a gorgeous 70-yard tight spiral off your foot. How many times does a punter get the chance? More likely, he's trying to down the ball inside the 20, and/or kick it toward the sidelines. Net Yardage is the better stat by far, except now you're dealing with the quality of the return team and the coverage unit, as well. Stupid stats.