Monday, August 16, 2010

Jets to Repeat

Rex Ryan talks a good game and there is little doubt that he coaches a pretty good defensive game as well. Using the same methods I used previously to project offenses for the upcoming NFL season, I rank the defenses below. The ranking takes into account last year performance as well as off season changes and regression to the mean (assuming great teams don't fully sustain their greatness and sucky teams to fully sustain their suckiness).

Even with the built in regression to the mean, the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets still hold on to the top position. The projections estimate that the Jets would hold a perfectly average team to 16.4 points (yes I understand that it is not possible to score fractional points in the NFL, view this as the average points scored against the Jets if they played this average team 100 times). The 16.4 points allowed is 8.3% better than the second best team (Bengals) and more than a TD ahead of the last place Rams.

The Jets were a great defense last year and will likely continue to be one because they do not let teams get started. They are projected to allow an average of 3.5 yards per rush and 5.4 yards per pass on first down. To put that into context league averages on first down 4.1 yards per rush and 6.6 yards per pass. Keeping teams down on first down, makes it easier to force them into the dreaded 3rd and long where Ryan can unleash his pass rushers and cause all kinds of havoc.

Okay, so the Jets are still #1, what about the rest of the league?

Visitor Score Rank Team Visitor Score 2009-10 Rank
1 NY Jets 16.8 1
2 Green Bay 18.2 2
3 Cincinnati 18.6 4
4 Denver 18.8 7
5 Philadelphia 18.8 12
6 Dallas 18.9 9
7 Pittsburgh 19.0 5
8 Indianapolis 19.1 18
9 Minnesota 19.6 6
10 Arizona 19.7 20
11 Buffalo 20.0 19
12 Baltimore 20.1 3
13 San Francisco 20.1 15
14 Houston 20.2 13
15 New England 20.2 11
16 San Diego 20.3 16
17 Carolina 20.4 8
18 Chicago 20.9 17
19 Tennessee 21.0 28
20 Washington 21.1 10
21 New Orleans 21.2 25
22 NY Giants 21.2 13
23 Seattle 21.3 24
24 Atlanta 22.3 21
25 Miami 22.4 22
26 Tampa Bay 22.5 27
27 Cleveland 23.2 31
28 Detroit 23.4 32
29 Oakland 23.8 26
30 Jacksonville 24.2 23
31 Kansas City 24.2 30
32 St. Louis 24.5 29

Unlike in the offensive projections, there are some major movers in the defensive rankings. The Colts and Cardinals all jump into the top 10 by jumping ten spots in the rankings while the Ravens, Redskins and Panthers all fall down the rankings.

So what is the difference between the Ravens (3rd last year and 12th this year) and the Jets who were able to hold onto their 1st place ranking? The major difference is in the passing game. While the Jets were very good at shutting down opposing passing attacks the Ravens were not. The Ravens allowed almost league average yards per pass attempt on first down and well above average yards per pass attempt on 2nd down (6.1 vs. 5.9 league average). They just were no dominant enough in any one area that the model considers to hold onto a top ten position.

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