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Pooch Punts

A quick look at a trio of NFC teams.


- Despite sitting at 8-1 and finally moving into the top 20, the Arizona Cardinals are facing legitimate questions after the season-ending injury to Carson Palmer.  Backup Drew Stanton played reasonably well in three starts earlier this season, as he currently ranks 11th in EPA/P and 12th in success rate.

However, given the level Palmer was playing at, the drop-off may be steeper than one would expect, even if Stanton sustains his level of play.  This difference is not necessarily in the overall cumulative numbers—Palmer was only slightly ahead of Stanton in EPA/P and success rate—but rather in the former's consistency.  It hardly seems surprising that Arizona's pass EPA has been steady with Palmer and variable with Stanton:



In fairness, Logan Thomas played the majority of the second half against Denver.  But Stanton posted a minus-2.4 EPA before departing, which was actually lower than the minus-1.6 mark the Cards ended up with.  Despite his history with Bruce Arians in Indianapolis, Stanton is essentially a rookie in terms of experience, with just four career starts and none since 2010 before this season.

With eight wins banked, the Cardinals appear highly unlikely to miss the postseason.  However, Arizona's hopes at a No. 1 seed don't look particularly promising, especially if Stanton is unable to deliver against a tough Lions defense this week.


- Everyone seems to question why Washington remains in the top 10 of these rankings every week, and rightfully so.  I touched on some of the reasons in deeper detail after Week 4, but it's probably worth updating why a 3-6 team has actually risen in the rankings during the intervening six-week stretch.

There's really only one reason, and that's Washington's hugely underrated success through the air.  The passing efficiency rankings in the tables below reflect net yards per attempt.  Moreover, passing offense is given more weight than any other variables, while turnovers are given the least weight, since these two have shown the least and most historic variation. 

All that has created the perfect storm to give Washington a ranking well out of whack with their likely talent level.  D.C. ranks second in the league with 7.56 net yards per attempt, in large part because they have hit 27 pass plays of 20 or more yards, fifth-most in the league.  However, the trio of Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy have also combined for 16 turnovers, fourth-most in the league.

Because of that, Washington ranks 15th in pass EPA/P and 14th in passing success rate, marks which seem more commensurate with their talent level.  Net yards is far from an unreasonable stat to base passing efficiency off of—after all, each play's raw yardage is typically the determinant of change in EPA—but the marginalization of turnovers, which would be captured by something like ANY/A, has helped boost Washington's standing.


- The New York Giants have led the league in defensive run success rate the majority of the season, and topped the rankings as recently as last week.  But after allowing 350 rushing yards on a barely possible 7.8 yards per carry, the Giants fell all the way to 15th, as their success rate plummeted by about nine percentage points.

Strangely, such an atrocious performance by an exemplary run defense is not unprecedented. Since the merger, there have been five instances in which a team has conceded as many yards while hemorrhaging as many yards per attempt as the Giants did on Sunday:



The 2007 Vikings and 2006 Jags gave up 3.1 and 3.5 yards per attempt, respectively, while the 1979 Steelers won the Super Bowl in conceding just 3.4 yards per carry the whole season.  The 2012 Chiefs, which went 2-14 and somehow became the only team on this list to lose its game, were the only defense to allow more than 4.0 yards per carry for the season.

This isn't going to comfort Giants fans much, as the defensive line looked like the one remaining reliable unit after injuries wrecked the back seven and offensive skill positions.  Still, history might serve as a lesson not to overreact and condemn the best unit on an otherwise downtrodden squad.


Here are the updated team efficiency rankings after 10 weeks.  As always, observations, questions and snide remarks are welcome in the comments section.



RANK TEAM LAST WK GWP Opp GWP O RANK D RANK
1 DEN 1 0.69 0.49 1 1
2 MIA 2 0.64 0.49 12 2
3 GB 4 0.62 0.50 4 13
4 SEA 7 0.60 0.50 7 10
5 IND 3 0.59 0.51 2 19
6 DET 10 0.58 0.49 17 4
7 CLE 16 0.58 0.46 8 6
8 WAS 5 0.58 0.49 5 11
9 NO 9 0.56 0.49 3 26
10 DAL 11 0.56 0.49 6 20
11 SF 12 0.54 0.51 20 5
12 PHI 18 0.54 0.48 13 9
13 KC 8 0.54 0.51 22 7
14 BUF 17 0.52 0.50 26 3
15 BAL 15 0.52 0.48 14 12
16 PIT 13 0.52 0.48 9 21
17 NE 14 0.51 0.50 10 15
18 CIN 6 0.49 0.49 18 17
19 ARI 22 0.48 0.50 23 14
20 HOU 23 0.47 0.50 15 27
21 TEN 21 0.45 0.53 25 16
22 SD 25 0.45 0.51 19 25
23 CAR 19 0.45 0.52 24 23
24 NYG 24 0.45 0.53 21 28
25 CHI 20 0.44 0.52 11 31
26 MIN 27 0.42 0.49 30 8
27 JAC 26 0.41 0.54 31 22
28 NYJ 28 0.41 0.52 29 18
29 STL 29 0.38 0.50 27 24
30 ATL 30 0.36 0.46 16 32
31 OAK 32 0.32 0.54 32 30
32 TB 31 0.32 0.46 28 29

TEAM OPASS ORUNSR% OINT% OFUM% DPASS DRUNSR% DINT% PENRATE
ATL 6.8 38 2.6 1.6 7.7 57 2.2 0.45
ARI 6.5 33 0.9 1.5 6.8 64 4.0 0.42
BAL 6.6 41 2.3 1.3 6.4 66 1.7 0.40
BUF 6.0 37 1.9 2.3 5.6 65 3.7 0.52
CHI 6.2 48 2.9 2.3 7.5 56 2.7 0.52
CAR 5.9 41 2.3 2.3 6.8 60 2.6 0.42
CIN 6.5 40 3.0 1.3 6.1 49 2.8 0.38
CLE 7.3 39 1.4 1.4 5.8 54 3.8 0.41
DAL 7.1 44 2.6 2.5 6.9 62 3.0 0.36
DEN 7.8 40 1.9 1.4 5.3 68 2.5 0.54
DET 6.4 41 2.3 1.4 5.5 63 3.2 0.48
GB 7.4 42 1.4 1.5 6.1 50 3.8 0.38
HOU 6.8 39 3.1 2.3 6.8 50 2.9 0.40
IND 7.4 45 2.3 1.6 6.7 60 1.8 0.42
JAC 5.5 36 4.2 1.5 6.8 63 1.4 0.25
KC 5.9 41 1.5 1.9 5.7 55 1.3 0.30
MIA 5.8 51 2.2 2.1 5.3 64 3.0 0.32
MIN 5.1 41 3.5 0.6 6.0 59 2.8 0.46
NE 6.6 41 0.9 1.3 6.2 52 3.1 0.58
NO 7.0 48 2.7 1.6 6.9 59 1.9 0.34
NYG 6.2 39 1.8 2.2 7.6 60 4.4 0.33
NYJ 4.8 48 3.2 2.5 6.6 64 0.9 0.53
OAK 5.4 32 3.4 1.9 7.2 57 1.7 0.43
PHI 6.8 41 3.2 1.7 6.1 61 2.1 0.43
PIT 7.2 40 1.3 1.8 6.7 60 2.1 0.52
SD 7.2 30 2.7 1.3 6.4 50 1.3 0.47
SF 6.1 41 1.7 1.3 5.9 61 3.4 0.48
SEA 6.3 52 1.9 2.4 6.2 64 1.9 0.49
STL 5.8 40 3.3 2.1 7.1 64 1.4 0.61
TB 5.9 37 3.8 2.1 7.4 61 1.8 0.46
TEN 6.2 38 3.2 1.9 6.4 56 2.6 0.58
WAS 7.6 42 3.5 1.5 6.2 62 1.0 0.56
Avg 6.4 41 2.5 1.8 6.4 59 2.5 0.44