Friday, January 30, 2009

Superbowl Matchups

by Denis O'Regan

Here's a breakdown of the main offensive and defensive stats for Sunday's Superbowl teams.Inevitably the post's heavy on numbers,so a brief summary may be in order.

The most useful and relevant stat to future performance is a team's yards per carry/attempt on offense or defense compared to those of the opponents they've faced throughout the season. A team that gets 4.5 yards per carry and does it over the season against defenses that only allow 4 yards per carry, can confidently be assumed to be above average when it comes to moving the ball on the ground.

These numbers are the first ones quoted in the subsequent post.

The supplementary stats that breakdown the numbers by play direction and field depth merely add colour. Sample sizes on these plays are so much smaller, so any conclusions drawn will inevitably come with a degree of caution.They can,however highlight where a team has had considerable success or major problems during the season.

Matching each team's respective offensive stats against their opponents defensive stats shows areas where each team may be successful or not on Sunday.Judging by the matchups,both teams look like having difficulty moving the ball on the ground.Pittsburgh should pass the ball well,whilst Arizona,despite good passing figures will struggle because they match up badly with Pittsburgh's excellent pass defense.

The primary stats also form the basis for a prediction model that has consistently outperformed the Vegas benchmark over multiple seasons and on this occasion predicts Pittsburgh having a 67% winning chance on Sunday.Various subsets for example using matchups involving playoff calibre teams only increase Arizona's chances by a percentage point or so.So,not surprisingly the game appears to be Pittsurgh's to lose,although Arizona should stay within a touchdown.

The model predicts around 40 points to be scored,but the one off nature of this game can see predictions made to look rather silly very quickly.

Enjoy the game.

Pittsburgh's Run Defense.

Pittsburgh allowed only 3.3 yards per carry through the regular season.Their opponents over that period played a combined 256 games,they made over 7,000 rushing plays and gained a average of 4.12 yards per carry.If we assume that Pittsburgh's opponents opponents represent a broad cross section of the NFL that allows us to put the Steelers raw 3.3 ypc figure into some sort of context.They allow 0.82 ypc less than their opponents habitually gained.

If we further breakdown the Pittsburgh run defense by looking at yards allowed depending on which direction the play was run we find that they excel all the way along the line.

When opponents ran behind their own right end they averaged 5 ypc.When they ran in that direction against Pittsburgh they gained jut 3.4 ypc.

Running behind right tackle opponents gained 4.15 ypc on average,but just 3.28 to Pittsburgh.

Right guard figures were 4.06 ypc overall compared to 3 ypc against Pittsburgh.

Runs up the middle were 4.1 to 3.24 ypc.
Runs to left guard were 4.2 to 3.45 ypc.
Runs behind left tackle were the only direction where opponents did better against Pittsburgh compared to their league average.They gained 4 ypc overall and 4.21 ypc against Pittsburgh.
Opponents averaged 5.3 ypc on runs deignated as left end,but just 3.79 ypc against Pittsburgh.

Arizona's Run Offense.

NFL games are all about matchups and Arizona look like struggling badly if they try to move the ball on the ground.

They gain 3.46 ypc against teams that allowed 4.11 ypc.So already they are gaining just 84% of their opponents average rushing yardage allowed per play.When you match those numbers up against a Pittsburgh run defense that has allowed teams just 80% of their usual yards per carry yardage it begins to look likely that Arizona will struggle to get even 3 yards per carry.

Split by direction the Cardinals are strongest running to their right side.They gain 4.23 ypc against defenses that allow 3.82 ypc when running behind their right guard.They're around average running to right end (gain 4.6 ypc against 4.8 ypc defenses),but tail off at right tackle (gain 3.8ypc against 4.32 ypc defenses).

Running up the middle is a real struggle ( gain 2.6 ypc against 4.14 ypc defenses),as is left guard (2.44 ypc verses 3.72 ypc).There's an improved,but still below average effort behind left tackle (gain 4 ypc against 4.25 ypc defenses) and they're around league average when stretching it out to the left end (5.06 ypc against 5.07 ypc defense).

Arizona's Run Defense.

Overall Arizona allow teams that average 4.34 ypc overall to get just 3.96 ypc.So they're good,but not in the same league as the Steelers.They are also patchy along the line.

Teams running behind their own right end gain 5.76 ypc against Arizona compared to an overall,combined season long figure of just 5.1 ypc.
Behind right tackle they gain just 2.33 ypc against Arizona compared to 4.49 ypc overall.
Behind right guard they gain 4.23 ypc against Arizona compared to 4.11 ypc.
Up the middle they gain 4.4 ypc against Arizona compared to 4.5 ypc.
Behind left guard they gain 5.2ypc against Arizona compared to 3.93 ypc.
Behind left tackle they gain 4.02 ypc against Arizona compared to 4.42 ypc.
Behind left end opponents gain 5.3ypc against Arizona compared to 5.3 ypc overall.

So unlike Pittsburgh's run defense which is virtually bombproof where ever you try to attack it,Arizona does have areas of vulnerability that doesn't show up in the fairly impressive average yards per carry number.

Pittsburgh's Run Offense.

Overall Pittsburgh gain 3.68 yards per carry against opponents who allow on average 4.03 ypc.That makes them below average,but not to the same extent as Arizona.They're struggle most running the ball up the middle,but progressively improve when running out towards the edges and are actually above average when running in the direction of left end.

Running behind right end they gain 4.27 ypc against defenses who allow 4.8 ypc.
Behind right tackle they gain 3.62 ypc against 4.03 defenses.
Behind right guard they gain 3.84 ypc against 4.24 ypc defenses.
Up the middle they gain 3.2 ypc against 3.73 ypc defenses.
Behind left guard they gain 3.34 ypc against 4 0 ypc defenses.
Behind left tackle they gain 3.84 ypc against 3.92 ypc defenses.
Behind left end they gain 5.97 ypc against 5.15 ypc defenses.

Again we have a below average running attack matched up with an above averge run defense,however Pittsburgh should be able to run the ball better than Arizona on the day.We've already seen that there are areas of weakness in the Arizona defensive line that can be exploited.Around 3.5 ypc looks a reasonable upside for the Steelers on Sunday.

Now for the aerial matchups.

Pittsburgh's pass Defense.

The Steelers are a very,very good pass defense.They allow teams who averaged 6.18 yards per pass attempt to only pass for 4.6 yards per attempt.Those are exceptional figures.

I further break these numbers down by looking at which areas of the field are best defended.Passes that are caught within twenty yards of the line of scrimmage are designed as short,anything longer is deep.Passes are further split as being caught to the right side of the field from the offenses viewpoint,middle or left.Again a team's raw yards per attempt figure is compared to the average ypa allowed or gained by their seasonal opponents when defending or attacking these same areas.

As with their run defense,the Steelers do not have to hide any of their players and they defend all parts of the field equally well.

They allow 4.9ypa on short left passes against teams who average 6.11ypa over the season.
They allow 5.4 ypa on short middle passes against teams who average 6.32 ypa.
They allow 4.8 ypa on short right passes against teams who average 5.39ypa.

Deeper passes are defended even better.

They allow 6.87 ypa on deep left passes against teams who average 10.24 ypa.
They allow 9.38 ypa on deep middle passes against teams who average 11.44 ypa.
They allow 8.71 ypa on deep right passes against teams who average 9.94 ypa.

Well above average right across the board.

Arizona's pass Offense.

The Cardinals pass the ball very well,they gain 7.38 ypa against defenses who allow just 6.54 ypa.However,that still compares unfavourably with the Pittsburgh defense.Overall Pittsburgh's pass defense allows 1.6 ypa less than their opponents gain over the season,whilst Arizona only gain 0.8 ypa more than their opponents allow.That still gives Pittsburgh's pass defense the upper hand by a fairly large margin.

Broken down by field position.

Arizona gain 6.52 ypa on short left passes against defenses who allow 5.94 ypa.
They gain 6.34 ypa on short midde passes against defenses who allow 6.8 ypa.
They gain 5.68 ypa on short right passes against defenses who allow 5.43 ypa.

These short passes match up particularly badly for Arizona against Pittsburgh's short range passing defense.If they are going to have any success aerially it's going to come on the deep ball where they potentially have the upper hand when throwing deep middle and deep right.But these are high risk/high reward plays.

Arizona gain 13.5 ypa on deep left passes against defenses who allow 11.24 ypa.
They gain 22.4 ypa on deep middle passes against defenses who allow 13.39 ypa.
They gain 17.07 ypa on deep right passes against defenses who allow 11.64 ypa.

These are great figures,but bear in mind in a normal game plan the Cardinals will only be throwing around half a dozen such passes.That will make the yardage susceptible to small sample errors and also limit their impact on the game compared to the more numerous shorter passes.

Arizona's pass Defense.

Arizona's pass defense is almost as bad as their passing offense is good.They allow team's who average 6.29 ypa to get 6.77 ypa when they play Arizona.

They allow 7.83 ypa on short left passes against teams who average 6.01ypa over the season.
They allow 7.38 ypa on short middle passes against teams who average 6.79 ypa.
They allow 5.09 ypa on short right passes against teams who average 5.38ypa.

They're above average defending short right passes,but well below par elsewhere.

They allow 12.19 ypa on deep left passes against teams who average 10.91 ypa.
They allow 12.1 ypa on deep middle passes against teams who average 12.6 ypa.
They allow 7.99 ypa on deep right passes against teams who average 9.84 ypa.

Pittsburgh's pass Offense.

The Steelers are marginally above average passing the ball.They gain 6.48 ypa against defenses who allow 6.31 ypa.The bulk of their gains come when they're connecting with short passes and they match up well against Arizona's pass defense in this area.They project to have success where ever they throw the ball short and in a game that could see offenses struggling this will be the key area.

They gain 5.41 ypa on short left passes against defenses who allow 5.67 ypa.
They gain 7.80 ypa on short midde passes against defenses who allow 6.53 ypa.
They gain 6.26 ypa on short right passes against defenses who allow 5.38 ypa.

Pittsburgh gain 10.8 ypa on deep left passes against defenses who allow 11.34 ypa.
They gain 10.45 ypa on deep middle passes against defenses who allow 12.29 ypa.
They gain 11.40 ypa on deep right passes against defenses who allow 10.91 ypa.

Even though Arizona passes the ball better than Pittsburgh the offensive/defensive matchups make it likely that it will be Pittsburgh will have greater success through the air on Sunday.

4 comments:

David said...

"The model predicts around 40 points to be scored,but the one off nature of this game can see predictions made to look rather silly very quickly"

Wow

David said...

Belay my last.

Whoops 27+23=50

Little sleep make math skills bad.

ingdo said...

The model did ok.

Neither team as expected could run the ball very well.Pittsburgh threw the ball well and Arizona threw better than expected because the Steelers decided to take away completely the deep threat.A policy that almost came to bite them at the end.

Three out of four isn't too bad.

Arizona did keep the game within a touchdown.Indeed if you collect together every 67 % game that the model predicts you find that the favourite wins those games,on average by about 5 points,which was close enough to the actual margin of victory last night.

DO.

jjbtnw said...

Pittsburgh actually ran well between the 20's (13 carries for 56 yards) and just stunk it up at the far ends of the field. E.James had consecutive runs of 9 and 7 yards in the Cardinals first drive of the second half (which ended in a punt) but AZ had only 17 yards on 10 attempts outside of that.

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