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How Advanced Metrics Are Permeating The World Of Football

A Deeper Look Into the TD Ratio in Football Analytics

12Jan

Advanced metrics and statistics are permeating the world of professional football. The pace isn't anywhere close to as fast as baseball had been acclimated or as fast as basketball is currently advancing. Football people are famously pig-headed and old-school in nature. However, football is consistently moving into the next generation of analytics.

Some of these new stats are just for show: things we, as football fans, could never previously have known but don't add to our knowledge of the game all that much outside of general curiosity. We aren't all scouts and defensive coordinators who need to know how often the New England Patriots run the ball off right guard. It is interesting but has limited use to a casual fan.

Other numbers are far different. They are also fascinating, yet do a great job of showing why some teams are really good and others are not. Beyond point differential, it is hard to know what translates to real-life wins. Something that does tell us real-life information is TD/(TO+P).

Developed by Football Perspective, one of the clearest representations of effective offensive football is obtained by measuring a team's TD/(TO+P) ratio: touchdowns scored compared to total turnovers and punts. Essentially, this stat tells us which offenses convert the most valuable scores as often as they give the ball back to the opponent.

Football fans will realize this is hard work. Even the best teams are forced to give the ball back over more often than they find the end zone. In 2016, no team reached a 1-to-1 ratio. However, one team came incredibly close.

The Atlanta Falcons paced the league in TD/(TO+P), and it was not even close! A 100 percent mark would mean a team registers exactly as many touchdowns as those combined turnovers. Atlanta finished at 98 percent; no other team in the NFL even topped 70 percent. So when you look into the MVP candidates, Matt Ryan’s numbers obviously pop off the page, but so do Tom Brady’s and Aaron Rodgers’ But when you bring analytics into to picture, it becomes increasingly clear that Ryan is most deserving of the MVP award.

The implications of such a metric are obvious. Atlanta is so brutally efficient when it has the ball, an opponent cannot afford to fall very far behind. A couple of failed possessions against the Falcons and suddenly the game falls completely out of reach. They score seven (or six) points nearly as often as they fail on a drive. That is a scary proposition for a team that may only convert touchdowns 40 or 50 percent of the time.

When thinking of effective offenses moving through the rest of the postseason, Atlanta should have a huge edge against the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle struggled through the regular season, ranking around league average in TD/(TO+P). It will have to hope for another Thomas Rawls breakout to carry a scoring punch in the divisional round of the playoffs. The same goes for New England against the Houston Texans. New England has a massive edge in offensive efficiency through scoring touchdowns...even if Houston knows which direction the Patriots like to run the ball.

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