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Football Geekery (Week of Oct. 22)

Posted Oct 28, 2012

This week’s studies include another look at how opposing defenses are faring against different types of receivers, the work of Tampa Bay’s defense in difficult situations, and more


Coaches don't always care for stats…but we love them!  Each week, we're going to give you a closer look at three pieces of statistical analysis, hopefully in a way that is relevant to the Buccaneers' current state of affairs.

 

Let's get started.

 

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1. Defending Receiver Types…Revisited

 

In last week’s “Fantasy Football Corner” article here on Buccaneers.com, we pointed out that Mike Williams was a strong bet to excel on Thursday night because the Minnesota Vikings’ defense ranked last in the NFL in defending the other team’s second receiver.  That analysis was courtesy of Football Outsiders, which offers a breakdown of each team’s defensive performance against different types of pass-catchers, updated weekly.  FO uses its own statistical creation called “DVOA” to assess a team’s defensive performance in a variety of categories, and the DVOA charts suggested that the Vikings were far worse against #2 receivers than any other kind of pass-catcher.  In fact, below is how Minnesota broke down before Thursday’s game in the five different categories assessed by this chart on FO.  Go here if you want to learn about how DVOA is figured, but the important thing to note here is that lower numbers are better for a defense.  A negative total is a very good sign for the defense; high positive numbers are good for the opposition.

 

Category

DVOA

NFL Rank

#1 receivers

-2.4

14

#2 receivers

38.5

32

Other receivers

-41.0

3

Tight ends

17.4

23

Running backs

3.3

20

 

That chart suggests that that the Vikings are outstanding against extra receivers in multiple-wideout package, slightly above average against #1 receivers, below average against tight ends and backs and woeful against #2 receivers.  Let’s see how that panned out in Thursday night’s game against the Buccaneers.

 

  • #1 receiver (Vincent Jackson): 2 catches for 40 yards, his second-lowest output of 2012
  • #2 receiver (Mike Williams): 6 catches for 68 yards and a touchdown, his highest reception total of the year and, of course, a score
  • Other receivers (Arrelious Benn, Tiquan Underwood): A combined 3 catches for 27 yards, all by Underwood, representing Underwood’s lowest yardage total in four weeks
  • Tight ends (Dallas Clark, Luke Stocker): 3 catches for 40 yards, all by Clark, his second-highest yardage total of the season
  • Running backs (Doug Martin, LeGarrette Blount, D.J. Ware, Erik Lorig): 5 catches for 87 yards and two touchdowns, the top combined receiving numbers by Tampa Bay backs this season

 

It’s hard to imagine a set of results doing more to confirm the predictive powers of Minnesota’s receiver-type DVOA chart than those above.  The Buccaneers stung the Vikings’ defense primarily with Mike Williams and their running backs, and that seems to be just where Minnesota was most vulnerable.

 

So, perhaps you’re wondering at this point how the receiver-type DVOA chart on Football Outsiders breaks down for the Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay’s next opponent.  Let’s take a look.  We must note that these numbers are from before Oakland’s Week Eight game in Kansas City on Sunday.

 

Category

DVOA

NFL Rank

#1 receivers

27.3

28

#2 receivers

-8.6

14

Other receivers

-1.1

18

Tight ends

-13.4

11

Running backs

2.4

19

 

Hmm. Could be a big day next Sunday for Vincent Jackson.

 

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2. No Give in this D

 

Coming into Week Eight, the Buccaneers’ ranked 25th in the league in yards allowed but 15th in points allowed.  The first category is the one that is generally referred to when you see overall team defense rankings, but obviously the second category is more important in terms of wins and losses.  The difference for the Buccaneers in those two categories would suggest that the team is giving up more yards than it would like but is doing a good job of denying scoring opportunities when the other team gets close.  The Bucs’ continued residence in the top five of the NFL’s red zone defense rankings supports that analysis.

 

Specifically, there is one scenario in which the Buccaneers’ defense has been particularly impressive in terms of denying points.  As well as Tampa Bay has avoided giveaways ( 7 turnover ratio) and worked the field-position battle in its kicking game, its opponents are occasionally going to get the advantage of drives that start inside Buccaneer territory.  In fact, that has happened seven times this year to the Buccaneer defense (in contrast to the 11 times Tampa Bay’s offense has started in opposing territory).

 

The Bucs’ defense has been outstanding in such situations.  On those seven drives that started in their own territory, only two have resulted in touchdowns.  Another two have led to field goals, which means that three, or nearly half, came up with no points at all.

 

Though it’s slightly outside of the bounds of this analysis, Buccaneer opponents have also had four drives that started between their own 40 and the midfield stripe, which is also very good field position.  None of those drives resulted in any points at all.

 

That means on 11 drives this season that started within 60 yards of Tampa Bay’s goal line, only two turned into touchdowns, and seven came up totally empty.  That is extremely impressive work by the Buccaneers’ young defense.

 

 

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3. Making Takeaways Count

 

Speaking of the Bucs’ very good turnover ratio through their first seven games, those takeaways have had a definite impact on the scoreboard.

 

Tampa Bay’s defense has produced 14 turnovers – 10 interceptions and four fumble recoveries.  Those 14 takeaways have resulted in seven touchdowns and one field goal; that is, eight of those turnovers were either returned immediately for a touchdown or resulted in a possession that ended in points.  That’s a total of 52 points the Bucs have scored off of turnovers, out of the team’s overall total of 184 points this season.

 

That’s a very significant percentage of the Bucs’ scoring.  In fact, only six teams in the NFL have scored more of their points off of turnovers this year than Tampa Bay.  Here’s the top 10 on the list, as of Sunday’s schedule but before the evening game between Denver and New Orleans:

 

Team

Pts/TOs

Total Pts.

Pct.

1. N.Y. Giants

60

205

29.3

2. Chicago

58

162

35.8

3t. N.Y. Jets

55

159

34.6

3t. San Diego

55

148

37.2

5. Houston

54

216

25.0

6. Atlanta

53

171

31.0

7t. Tampa Bay

52

184

28.3

7t. Washington

52

201

25.9

9. Baltimore

47

174

27.0

10. New England

44

217

20.3

 

The Buccaneers haven’t just fared well in the turnover battle this year, they’ve also done a good job of turning their own takeaways into points.