Last month I mentioned that I had signed up for Football Outsiders premium database. There are so many different stats involved that I could write for days and days and days and not cover anything. So, I started poking around and came across my first interesting statistic.
I was able to sort the 2007 season based on performance within the various zones of the field. The six zones included:
Deep: own 1-19
Back: own 20-39
Mid: own 40 to opponent's 40
Front: opponent's 39-21
Red: opponent's 20-1
Goal to Go: opponent's 10 and closer
The database ranks teams based on DVOA. For those that don't read Football Outsiders, I'd recommend checking out the following pages for more information: FO FAQ, FO Basics, and the "Method to their Madness." To briefly explain, the method to their madness gives a short and long explanation:
DVOA is a method of evaluating teams, units, or players. It takes every single play during the NFL season and compares each one to a league-average baseline based on situation. DVOA measures not just yardage, but yardage towards a first down: five yards on 3rd-and-4 are worth more than five yards on 1st-and-10 and much more than five yards on 3rd-and-12. Red zone plays are worth more than other plays. Performance is also adjusted for the quality of the opponent.
So, looking at the 49ers in 2007 in each zone. The first number is their rank and the second is the DVOA. The percentage is how far they performed above or below an average team (so -31.9% is 31.9% worse than average):
Deep: 31 (-37.9%)
Back: 32 (-30.8%)
Mid: 31 (-41.0%)
Front: 26 (-20.5%)
Red Overall: 23 (-8.6%)
Red (Pass): 19 (-6.0%)
Red (Rush): 24 (-11.5%)
Goal to Go: 5 (34.8%)
Overall: 32 (-30.5%)
So which of these numbers doesn't seem to belong? Hopefully the bolding of it was sufficient. One interesting note about the goal to go situations. The folks at Football Outsiders did let me know that the average team had 52 plays in goal to go situations while the 49ers only had 29 all season long. So basically, you'd almost have to double the 49ers situations to reach the league average.
I wonder if doubling the number of goal to go situations would have a dramatic effect on the 49ers DVOA in that situation. Without much context, in 2006, the 49ers finished 21st in goal to go situations and in 2005 they finished 26th. So, for those looking for some sort of improvement from Mike Nolan each year, there you have it. Baby steps my friends!
Oh and for those curious, the top 10 teams in DVOA in goal to go situations last year (ranked in order): Cincinnati, KC, GB, Indianapolis, 49ers, Seattle, New England, New Orleans, Arizona, Buffalo.