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YPP Factor in the NFL

In my college magazine the last few years I’ve posted an article called The YPP Factor and it’s had great success. Much like the Turnovers=Turnaround article in the magazine when I took basically the same concept and transferred it to the NFL the system had even greater success. The YPP (yards per point) concept is based on the amount of points a team scored per the amount of yards gained and conversely how many points the defense allows per yards gained.

As I have shown in other articles, the NFL is a league of parity. I’ve done an article the past few years in the college magazine on the effect of teams that benefited from outstanding ypp’s one year and have found that the majority of the teams had a weaker record the next season. The opposite was true for teams that had weak ypp’s one year as they generally have a better record the next year. Let’s start off with teams that had poor defensive ypp’s. Going back to 1999 there have been a total of 79 teams that allowed 14.6 yards per point (ypp) or lower. This means that teams scored less frequently than the NFL average. Of those 79 teams 61 of them improved their record the next season (77.2%)! Taking a look at a couple of examples, the New Orleans Saints allowed a point for every 12.1 yards their opponents gained in 1999 and finished 3-13. The next year the team had a better ypp allowing a point every 15.6 yards and improved their record to 10-6. In 2005 this YPP was just 12.5 yards and they finished 3-13. In 2006 their ypp moved up to 15.3 as did their record and they improved to 10-6. Last year there were 12 teams on this list and 8 improved, 1 was the same and only 3 teams has a worse record. This year there are 13 teams that have an 77% chance of improving after having a poor ypp of 14.6 or less on defense last season.

2008 teams with poor defensive YPP on the way UP
Arizona
12.5
San Francisco
13.7
Detroit
12.5
New Orleans
13.8
St Louis
12.8
Minnesota
14.1
Dallas
12.9
Green Bay
14.1
Denver
13.4
Kansas City
14.3
Houston
13.7
Cincinnati
14.3
Jacksonville
14.3

As with most of the charts I do teams at the opposite side of the spectrum have the same results. Taking a look at the defensive ypp I found teams that allow a point just every 16.3 yards gained or higher do not get the same benefit the next year. Of the 99 teams since 1999 that fall into this category 68 have had a weaker record the next year (68.7%). A couple of examples are the Chicago Bears in 2001 which allowed a ridiculous 1 point for every 24.7 yards gained and were extremely fortunate to finish 13-3. The next year they went back to normal allowing a point for every 14.8 yards gained and their record plummeted to 4-12. The Jacksonville Jaguars in 1999 allowed a point for every 21.7 yards gained and had an amazing 14-2 record. The following season their ypp dropped back to 15.6 while their record fell to 7-9. In 2000 the Tennessee Titans allowed 1 point for every 20 yards gained against them and finished 13-3. Once again the ypp was back in the average range the next year at 14.6 and their record dropped to 7-9. LY 11 teams fit this category and 6 improved their record and 2 stayed the same. This year there are 7 teams that fit the criteria for having benefitted from high ypp’s on defense last year. Teams that had a ypp of 18.5 or higher in one year had a weaker or the same record the next season 25 out of 28 times (89%). No one fell into that category LY, but Tennessee does this year.

Now let’s look at the offensive ypp. Teams that have the most points scored on the fewest yards gained caught a lot of breaks and generally don’t catch the same breaks the next season. Going back to 1999 there were 57 teams that had a ypp on offense of 14.15 or lower. Of those 57 teams 43 (75.4%) had a weaker or identical record the next season. An example is the Tennessee Titans who scored a point for every 12.6 yards gained and finished 12-4. The next year they were back at the NFL average of 1 point for every 16.0 yards and their record plummeted to 5-11. Last year 11 teams fit in this system and 7 improved while 1 had the same record. This year 11 teams fit into this situation again.

2008 teams with good defensive YPP on the way DOWN
Cleveland
16.3
Miami
16.3
Indianapolis
16.7
Pittsburgh
17
Atlanta
17.1
Baltimore
17.1
Tennessee
20.1

Conversely, teams that moved the ball but had trouble getting it in the endzone had high ypp’s. Those teams generally become more productive on offense the next season and their records improve. Going back to 2000 there have been a total of 54 teams in the NFL that had an offensive ypp of 17.45 or higher. Of those 54 teams, 41 (75.9%) had the same or better record the next season with 38 (70.3%) having a stronger record.

2008 teams with good offensive YPP on the way DOWN
Chicago
12.6
Green Bay
13.4
San Diego
12.7
Baltimore
13.5
NY Jets
13.1
Philadelphia
13.5
NY Giants
13.3
Carolina
13.5
Tennessee
13.4
Arizona
13.7
Minnesota
13.9

The New Orleans Saints in 2005 had a horrible offensive ypp of 21.4 and finished just 3-13 and in 2006 they improved to 10-6 with an offensive ypp of 15.2. The Chicago Bears in 2000 had a poor offensive ypp of 20.6 to go along with a 5-11 record and improved the next year greatly to 13.5 ypp and a 13-3 record. Another big gainer was the Baltimore Ravens in 2006 which went from an 17.7 ypp on offense and a 6-10 record to a 14.4 ypp and a 13-3 record. Last season 6 teams fell into this situation and 3 improved and 1 had the same record while this year you see that only 3 teams match the criteria. I hope you enjoyed this article as much as I enjoyed writing it, as I love analyzing statistics. I will be doing other similar articles for both college and NFL football at philsteele.com. If you have any ideas or would like to add comments, log onto the website and go to “Questions and Answers with Phil Steele.”

2008 teams with poor
offensive YPP on the way UP
Cincinnati 19.3
Washington 19.3
St Louis 19.8
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