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A statistical cheat sheet for watching tomorrow’s Packers-Vikings game

Jordy Nelson

Jordy Nelson (Photo credit: Brian Giesen)

With a 5-5 record, there’s a distinct symmetry that can be applied when trying to determine what’s been good and what’s been bad for the Green Bay Packers this season. As you watch the game tomorrow against the Vikings, here’s a statistical look back at some of the numbers that might help determine whether or not the Packers will win this contest.

This stats breakdown will look at some of the offensive numbers, specifically the offensive drives in each game. Green Bay has had 48 offensive drives in its five wins and 56 offensive drives in the five losses.

Scoring drives. In the five wins, the Packers offense scored on 29 of the 48 drives (60.4%). In the five losses, the Pack scored on only 19 of the 56 drives (33.9%). They scored touchdowns in 15 of the 48 drives in wins (31.3%) and only 10 TDs in the 54 drives in losses (18.5%).

Average drives. The average starting field position on the drives in wins was the 29.3 yard line; in losses it was the 27.2 yard line. The average number of plays in drives in wins was 6.6; in losses it was 5.6 plays. The average number of yards gained in drives in wins was 41.4; in losses it was 33.8. The average drives in wins lasted 3:09; in losses it lasted 2:21.

Long drives. The Packers offense had 10 10-play drives in their five wins this season. In their five losses, they had seven 10-play drives. In their five wins they had 11 drives that lasted 5:00 or longer; in their five losses they had only four drives that lasted 5:00 or longer.

Quick-score TDs. The Packers have been one of the best teams in the league the past couple of years in quick scores. In their wins this season they had nine quick scores (TDs on drives of five plays or less). In their losses, they had only four quick scores.

Three and out. In the five wins in 2013, the Packers offense has had only seven three-and-outs. In the five losses, they had 14 three-and-outs.

Starting field position. In their five wins, the Packers scored 16 times (TD or FG) in 29 drives when they started at their own 29 yard line or worse. In the five losses, they scored only 11 times in 39 drives that started at their own 29 yard line or worse. When the Packers had a starting field position of their own 40 yard line or better, they scored five TDs in 11 drives in their five wins. When they had a starting field position of their own 40 yard line or better in their five losses, they scored TDs on only two of 11 drives.

I’ll be the first to admit that the Packers defense needs to step it up in these last six weeks of the season if the team is going to make the playoffs. But as you watch the game tomorrow, keep an eye on the Pack’s offensive drives. In fact, you may want to ask yourself the following questions as the game progresses:

What kind of starting field position are they getting?
Are they scoring when they get the ball, or are they always punting or losing possession due to a turnover?
Are they having sustainable drives, or are there too many “three-and-outs”?
Are they keeping the ball for long drives and then scoring?
Are they getting some of those signature “quick-scores”?

Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp

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Inside the Numbers: Starting Field Position in the NFL this season

English: Dallas Cowboys kicking off.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’ve watched any number of NFL games on TV, you’ve likely heard more than a few announcers mention about a team’s field position. We all know that field position is important to an NFL team. But here’s the question… How important is field position to a team? And more specifically, how important is a team’s starting field position to their success?

Just as a refresher, starting field position is where an offensive team takes over possession of the ball from their opponents. If your team is receiving a kick-off and it goes for a touchback, your team gets the ball at their own 20-yard-line. Starting field position… your own 20-yard-line. If your team intercepts a pass and it is returned to the opponents’ 34-yard-line, your team’s starting field position is the opponents’ 34-yard-line (by the way, great starting field position).

With that lesson out of the way, let’s get back to the task at hand: The importance of starting field position. To put some numbers to this question, let’s look at the first six weeks of the 2013 season. By tracking every starting field position in every possession in the 92 NFL games played to date, we can analyze the importance of where on the field a team starts their offensive possession… and if they scored.

What did we discover? Here’s a breakdown of where (yard-line) the 2,095 offensive possession started and if a team scored on that possession.

Starting field position          possessions                                    Score (FG or TD) percentage
Own 1 to 10                            38 scores in 158 possessions       24.1%
Own 11 to 20                          92 scores in 344 possessions       26.7%
Own 20 to 29                          287 scores in 968 possessions     29.6%
Own 30 to 39                          86 scores in 237 possessions       36.3%
Own 40 to 49                          62 scores in 157 possessions       39.5%

Midfield to opponents’ 40    53 scores in 101 possessions       52.5%
Opponents’ 39 or better       112 scores in 130 possessions     86.2%

Reading the above chart we see that a team that started at their own 20 to 29 scored 287 times in 968 possessions, or just under 30% of the time. Teams that started at their opponents’ 39-yard-line or better scored in 112 of the 130 possessions (an 86.2% success rate).

Here’s a couple more points of interest:

* Teams that started their possession at their own 19-yard-line or worse scored only 25.9% of the time. Teams that started their possession at their own 30-yard-line or better scored on 313 of 625 possessions, 50%.

* Teams this year that started every possession at their own 39-yard-line or worse in a game won only seven and lost 18, a .280 winning percentage. Teams this year that started at least two possessions in a game in their opponents’ territory have won 51 games and lost only 14, a .785 winning percentage.

Does starting field position matter? You bet… but then you already knew that.

Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp

Baseball’s LCS games: Nine stats that may indicate which team wins

Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a sports statistics blog published with a focus on stats that go beyond the numbers.

English: 2009 National League Championship Ser...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The St. Louis Cardinals took the first step in reserving a spot in this year’s World Series with a 13-inning win over the Los Angeles Dodgers last night in the first game of their National League Championship Series. The Tigers and Red Sox face off in Game One tonight in the ALCS.

Predicting which team will win an LCS series is a not an easy task. It may, however, be a little easier to predict which team will win a game in the ALCS and NLCS. Here’s a look at nine different “box score” stats and how often teams won an LCS game when those stats ended up in their favor. For the sake of this article, I’ve looked at the last three years of ALCS and NLCS games (from 2010-2012). That’s 35 games.

Score first: The team that scored first in an LCS game from 2010-12 was 24-11 (.686 winning percentage).

Home field advantage: Home teams were 21-14 (.600 winning percentage) in the last three years of ALCS and NLCS play.

Score three-plus runs in an inning: Teams that scored three or more runs in an inning won 22 and lost seven (.759 winning percentage).

Hold opponents scoreless through three innings: Teams that held their opponents scoreless through the first three innings were 18-9 (.667 winning percentage).

Leading after six innings: Here’s an eye-opening stat… teams that were leading at the end of six innings in LCS games in the last three years were 31-2-2 (.914 winning percentage). In fact, in the NLCS, in the 19 games played since 2010, the winning team was ahead at the end of the sixth inning in 18 of those 19 games (one game was tied at the end of the sixth).

Starting pitcher last six-plus innings: Teams that had their starters last six-plus innings were 18-14 (.563 winning percentage)

Hit a home run: Teams that hit one or more home runs in an LCS game were 26-18 (.591 winning percentage).

Outhit the opposition: Teams that had more hits than their opponents in the game were 29-5-1 (.843 winning percentage).

Errorless game: Teams that did not commit an error in an LCS game from 2010-12 were 26-10 (.722 winning percentage). This stat was especially highlighted in the NLCS where teams were 16-2 in games where they did not commit an error.

So what’s the takeaway from these stats? Make sure you have the lead after six innings; outhit your opponents; don’t commit any errors; and have a big inning (three or more runs). That gives LCS teams the highest probability of winning. Keep an eye on the LCS games this week and see if some of these stats come into play.

Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp.

Redemption for Packers kicker Mason Crosby

Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a sports statistics blog published with a focus on stats that go beyond the numbers.

Mason Crosby kicks a field goal during a Green...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For a player who was literally run out of town because of a terrible 2012 season, Green Bay placekicker Mason Crosby has certainly turned things around. After fighting off competition for his job during the pre-season, Crosby, now in his seventh season with the Packers, has made all nine of his field goal attempts this season, including four from 40 yards or more. In fact, if you go back and include the last two weeks of the 2012 season and add the two playoff games, Crosby is on a run of 15 straight made field goals.

This past week Crosby had five field goals against the Lions (most he’s ever made in a game) and added an extra point for 16 points in the Pack’s 22-9 win over Detroit. For his efforts, Crosby was selected as the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.

Let’s take a look at the 16 points Crosby scored in last week’s game. The 16 points tied Crosby’s career high (he scored 16 points in a December 11, 2011 game against the Raiders). It also made Crosby the 10th Packers player since 1966 (start of the Super Bowl era) to have two or more games with 16 points. Here’s a look at the players since 1966 who scored 16 or more points in a game for the Packers in two or more games.

Three games: Chris Jacke, Sterling Sharpe

Two games: John Brockington, Mason Crosby, Antonio Freeman, Ahman Green, Dorsey Levens, James Lofton, Ryan Longwell, Jordy Nelson

If we go back a little further in Packers history, that list grows with a pair of Packers legends. Paul Hornung, who performed double-duty as running back and kicker, had 10 games with the Pack where he scored 16-plus points in a contest. Fellow running mate Jim Taylor had seven such games in his career with Green Bay. Hornung holds the Packers record with 33 points scored in a game. He did it on October 8, 1961 in Green Bay’s 45-7 win over Baltimore.

Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp

Packers get a shot at another reigning Super Bowl champ

English: Logo of Green Bay Packers Deutsch: Lo...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a sports statistics blog published with a focus on stats that go beyond the numbers.

The Green Bay Packers this week will face the reigning Super Bowl champs, the Baltimore Ravens. This will be the second straight year that the Pack will face off against the Super Bowl champs in the regular season; the Packers lost 38-10 to the 2012 (2011 regular season) Super Bowl champion New York Giants last year.

This will be the second time the Packers have faced off against the Ravens after the Baltimore franchise won a championship. In 2001 the Ravens won the Super Bowl; in the 2001 regular season the Packers beat the reigning Super Bowl champion Ravens 31-23 in Green Bay.

So how have the Packers historically done in games against the reigning Super Bowl champs? Not too well. Since 1967, the Packers have faced the defending Super Bowl champs in 24 games (includes playoff games). Their record in those games is 7-17. (.292 winning percentage). This century, however, the Pack has had a little more success in playing the reigning champs: Since 2000, the Packers have played the defending champs five times, winning three.

Here’s a look at those five contests:

2012: Lost to the New York Giants, 38-10

2009: Lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 37-36

2003: Defeated the Tampa Bay Bucs, 20-13

2002: Defeated the New England Patriots, 28-10

2001: Defeated the Baltimore Ravens, 31-23

Here’s a few more notes about the Packers playing the defending Super Bowl champs.

* The Packers are 3-5 against the defending Super Bowl champs at home; they are 4-12 when they played the Super Bowl champs on the champs’ home turf.

* Seven of the 24 games were decided by three points or less; 11 of those 24 games were decided by seven points or less. In six of those games the margin of victory in the game was 20 points or more; the Packers lost all six of those games.

Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp