This Week in Advanced Stats: Green Bay

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

This Week in Advanced Stats takes a look at some seasonal predictions from FO and PFF, as well as an analysis on Aaron Rodgers vs. Colin Kaepernick heading into Sunday.

This week we have some season predictions from Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders, as well as my thoughts on the role a certain passing statistic will play this Sunday when San Francisco takes on Green Bay.

Pro Football Focus

PFF released their predictions for this season. As always when it comes to NFL talk in early September, assume every seer a fool.  None-the-less, 7-out-of-8 picked the 49ers to at least make the playoffs.  Propitious, perhaps?

The advanced stat and film site also put out their Power Rankings for Week 1 and San Francisco comes in as the consensus top dog.  They had this to say:

"Small consolation for last season's 5-yards-short bridesmaids, but at 2013′s outset they're the pick to top our rankings. A full season of Colin Kaepernick, and a particularly determined little brother calling the shots, could hold them here wire to wire."

Finally, with three successful field goals of 50+ yards in preseason, Phil Dawson seems to have nestled nicely in San Francisco as David Akers' replacement.  Dawson maneuvered his way onto PFF's "All Pre-Season Team" as a result.

Football Outsiders

FO has also released their DVOA projections for the 2013 season. San Francisco will have the 7th ranked defense and 8th ranked offense and finish with 9.4 mean wins.

Seeing it on a chart is nice, because you get the point that FO always tries to make to people about their mean wins projections in a much more blatant format: yes, 9.4 wins sounds like the Niners are projected to be mediocre, but then you realize the prediction places them with the 6th best win total in the league.

Given that their schedule is tougher than normal, you can assume a top 5 DVOA finish while still only winning about 10 games.  Seems totally reasonable.

Of course, to hell with it anyways, right?  The Outsiders staff also put out their subjective staff predictions earlier today, looking at any possible discrepancies between their own musings and the data their system put out.  Here are some of my slightly unscientific musings below:

I don't see San Francisco having the 7th ranked defense this year.  In the last two seasons, the 49ers have finished 3rd and 2nd in DVOA, hovering better than -14.0%.  Why can't they do the same one more year and finish top 5 again?  Let's presume they do.

On offense, San Francisco finished 5th last season.  Both our quarterbacks were top 10 in DVOA efficiency, with Alex Smith 10th and Colin Kaepernick 3rd.  Combined, their DYAR would have ranked 8th.

Let's assume a split and The Kid ends up a top 5 quarterback by efficiency and about 7th in DYAR.

The 49ers then still have the universally-accepted best run blocking offensive line in football.  Even a bit of regression and you're still looking at a top 5 squad that has room for improvement in pass protection and should get it with Kaepernick playing a full season.  He posted a much better sack rate than Smith last year, despite attempting more deep passes.

Losing Michael Crabtree hurts early, but we did grab Baltimore's (arguably) best receiver, Anquan Boldin, and we still have Vernon freakin' Davis, who once held the tight end single season touchdown record despite playing under Mike Singletary.

Boldin, The General Quinton Patton, and Davis should be able to hold down the fort as well as it was held down last year until Crabtree makes his triumphant return, at which time the 49ers will get hot at the right time in November and December and roll over their opponents mercilessly ala Seattle last year.

That's my homer prediction and I'm sticking to it.  San Francisco finishes with a top 4 DVOA and beats out Seattle for the NFC West crown with a late season surge.  Not only that, they go 13 - 3 (12 - 4, at worst) and take a third straight playoff bye in the Jim Harbaugh era.

Week 1 vs. Green Bay

ANY/A (adjusted net yards per attempt) is a great statistic for judging passers.  It is an efficiency stat that takes sacks into account.

Last year, Colin Kaepernick finished 2nd in ANY/A at 7.55, while Aaron Rodgers finished 5th at 7.33.  A hair of a difference between them.

Prediction: This Sunday, whomever performs better between the two, and posts a better ANY/A, will emerge on the winning side of the contest.

This is where San Francisco has a distinct advantage.  Rodgers' 8 worst games last year, according to ANY/A, are as follows:

  1. 3.91 (@ SEA)
  2. 4.40 (vs. CHI)
  3. 5.19 (vs. JAX)
  4. 5.48 (vs. DET)
  5. 5.50 (@ NYG)
  6. 5.83 (vs. SF)
  7. 6.00 (@ IND)
  8. 6.07 (@ SF)

Twice the 49er defense managed to hold Rodgers well below his average ANY/A, and twice the 49ers attained a comfortable win.

In the playoffs, Kaepernick managed an awesome 7.84 ANY/A against the Green Bay defense -- and this says nothing of the fact that he also rushed for 181 yards and 2 touchdowns on 16 attempts.

If you have fun and add his rushing numbers to his ANY/A, that would normally lower the passing statistic because rushing plays garner less yards on average than passing plays.  But since The Kid was a freight train that day, it doesn't matter.  His combined ANY/A, counting rushes as passes, was 9.83.


Green Bay claims they are ready for the "pistol" offense, and will take their shots at Colin if he attempts anything out of the R/O (read option).

Okay, good for you.  Here's a pat on the head and a gold sticker.  You're prepared for an offense you should have been prepared for about 8 months ago.  Congrats.

What you're not prepared for is a quarterback who sits in the pocket for 4 quarters and tears you apart with an efficient passing game, a legitimate deep ball threat, and a ground-and-pound run attack that cannot be stopped by the Green Bay front (oh man, I'm in a homer mood today... this is what football deprivation does).

All of last season, the Lambeau defense gave up 1,896 yards on the ground and allowed 12 rushing touchdowns.

The 49ers, in just two games, were responsible for 25% of each stat.  That's 509 yards and 4 rushing touchdowns, to be exact.

To continue raining on the enthusiasm of the Green Bay defense, Colin did not have a great handle on the nuances of the offense last season.  This year, expect him to be efficient in all aspects, "killing" and "rolling" at the right times and putting the guys around him in positions to succeed.

Then, in the 4th, Harbaugh will whip out the R/O just for the lulz and Green Bay will stumble over themselves.

This game will come down to which quarterback performs better against the opposing defense, as do many games in the NFL.  The 49ers have a healthy pass rush again, as well as an improved secondary.  Expect Rodgers to have his typical below average day against this elite San Francisco unit.  Expect Colin Kaepernick to be less explosive and more efficient in his first day back on the job.

Expect a 49ers victory.

Is it football yet?


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