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Football Geekery, Week 11

Posted Nov 15, 2013

Channeling our inner pigskin nerd, we dive a little deeper into the statistics generated by the Bucs from week to week...This week we look at the Monday night hangover effect, Gerald McCoy's dominance and more

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Playing at home following a Monday Night Football win may lessen the impact of a short work week
  • Both Tampa Bay and Atlanta have been good at keeping opponents from scoring touchdowns on sustained drives
  • DT Gerald McCoy has been the best pass-rushing defensive tackle in the NFL this year, according to one source
A wise Buccaneer man once said, "Stats are for losers."  We concede the point, in that the ultimate worth of a football game is found in letters (Ws and Ls) rather than numbers.  Still, if treated right, the numbers can bring us a greater understanding of how wins and losses occur, or at the very least entertain us.  We hope to do that each week with our football geekery, giving you a closer look at a few pieces of statistical analysis, hopefully in a way that is relevant to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' current state of affairs.

Let's get started.

**

1. Monday Night Hangover?

On Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins will become the 20th and 21st teams this season to play a game on the short week that follows a Monday Night Football appearance (there were two Monday night games in Week One, but the Atlanta Falcons had a bye after their Week Five MNF appearance).  The good news for both the Bucs and the Dolphins: They are playing at home in Week 11.  The extra bit of good news for Tampa Bay: It won in Week 10.

In a league with as many tightly-contested games as the NFL, every conceivable advantage must be considered, and most coaches would consider an extra day of preparation and/or rest to be a definite advantage.  Any time a team follows up on Monday Night Football game with a contest the following Sunday, it will be facing an opponent that has at least one extra day of preparation (and possibly more if it is coming off a bye or a Thursday night game).

So far in 2013, the 19 teams who have played on Sunday following a Monday night appearance are 9-10, which isn't particularly encouraging.  However, when one breaks those teams down into different categories based on whether they won or lost their Monday night game and whether they followed up with a game at home or on the road, a different picture emerges for the Buccaneers in Week 11.

-- Beating Miami on Monday night put the Bucs in position to continue a positive NFL trend
There are four possible categories a team can fall into using the above parameters following a Monday Night Football game: A winner at home; a winner on the road; a loser at home; a loser on the road.  Within each of those categories, there are five possible results they can return the following Sunday: Win at home; lose at home; win on the road; lose on the road; have a bye week (we are discounting ties for the moment, since there haven't been any yet this season).  Here's a grid showing how those four categories of Monday results were followed with the possible results on Sunday:

2013 NFL Teams

Sunday Home W-L

Sunday Road W-L

Bye

MNF Home Team W

2-0

3-0

0

MNF Road Team L

1-4

0-0

0

MNF Home Team L

0-2

1-1

1

MNF Road Team W

2-3

0-0

0


Overall teams playing at home on Monday Night Football this season have been 6-3, but when they have won at home on MNF they've invariably followed up with another victory the next Sunday, whether they next went on the road or stayed home another week.  Teams that won on the road on MNF, on the other hand, were only 2-3 the next week, even though all five of those games were played at home.

That's an encouraging formula for the Buccaneers, who beat Miami, 22-19, on Monday night.  They will try to run the record of all MNF home team winners to 6-0 on Sunday against Atlanta on Raymond James Stadium.

The Bucs already improved their all-time MNF record to 10-9 with the win over Miami (another game the Buccaneers played on a Saturday in 2001 was officially considered part of the Monday Night Football schedule, but it doesn't fit into this analysis of a short following week).  Their own history following Monday night appearances is not too far removed from what is seen in the previous chart, in that they are 5-4 following MNF victories.  However, the results don't break down as neatly in terms of home and road MNF games; in fact, the Bucs have an interesting record following Monday Night Football losses on the road, which should be the least favorable category.

All-Time Bucs

Sunday Home W-L

Sunday Road W-L

Bye

MNF Home Team W

2-0

2-3

0

MNF Road Team L

3-1-1

0-1

0

MNF Home Team L

0-0

2-1

0

MNF Road Team W

0-1

1-0

0


One category is consistent with the full NFL 2013 results: When following a Monday Night Football victory with another home game the next Sunday, the Bucs are undefeated.

**

2. No Leisurely Sunday Drives

As noted on Buccaneers.com on Tuesday and then discussed again by Head Coach Greg Schiano on Wednesday, Tampa Bay made it through the entire Monday Night Football game without allowing the Dolphins to record a single "big play" either on the ground or through the air.  Whether you define big runs as 10+ or 15+ yards and big completions as 20+ or 25+ yards, the Bucs made sure Miami didn't have any.  As Defensive Coordinator Bill Sheridan noted on Thursday, that makes it awfully hard for a team to put together a lengthy scoring drive.

"If you can do that, you’ll probably win about 99 percent of the games," said Sheridan.  "It’s just so difficult to nickel and dime a team down the field. I think we have a very competitive defense, for people to just get five and 10 yard gains; it’s hard to put together a 12 or 16 play drive."

The numbers back up Sheridan's contention.  Tampa Bay's defense has indeed kept the opposition from sustaining long drives this season.  In fact, the Bucs have allowed just 14 10-play drives in nine games, which is tied for the 11th-lowest in the NFL.  Of course, what really matters is 10-play scoring drives, and in that category, the Bucs are even better.  Tampa Bay has allowed 10 of those, which is tied for eighth in the NFL.  And furthermore, a 10-play scoring drive is a bit less damaging if the defense can at least get the stop at the end and force a field goal instead of allowing a touchdown.  The Buccaneers have allowed only four 10-play touchdown drives, and that is tied for seventh in the league.  Overall, the Buccaneers have allowed 46 points on drives that spanned 10 or more plays, tied for ninth best in the NFL.

The Buccaneers' opponent in Week 11, the Atlanta Falcons are tied for 30th in the league with 19 10-play drives allowed, which is largely a function of the 47.5% success rate opponents have had on third downs against Atlanta.  However, if the Buccaneers really want to exploit that problem on Sunday, they'll have to crack a Falcon defense that has bent but often not broken in such situations.  Despite those 19 long drives allowed, Atlanta has given up only five 10-play touchdown drives.  That's a touchdown percentage on such drives of just 26.3% which is seventh best in the entire NFL.

3. Getting to the Passer

In last week's "Take Five" video segment on Buccaneers.com, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy insisted that he is not bothered by a relatively unassuming stat line, because those who know the game know how much impact he has had in 2013.  You can count the folks at Pro Football Focus among those who know the game.

Profootballfocus.com has its own grading system that it uses to evaluate the performance of every player in every game, each week of the season.  Click here if you want to read more about that grading system, but for the purposes of this note, simply understand that 0.0 is considered a baseline performance and the higher a grade, the better.

PFF has McCoy ranked as its top defensive tackle in all of football this season.  Assigning grades for pass rush, coverage, run defense and penalties drawn, as well as an overall grade, PFF puts McCoy at the top of the list with a grade of 30.6.  Since this detailed grading information is part of a subscription package, we won't reprint detailed numbers.  However, it's worth noting that, according to PFF's evaluation, McCoy has indeed had a huge impact with his pass-rush despite the modest total of three sacks.

In fact, when the defensive tackles are sorted by pass-rush grade only, McCoy is at the top of the list with a mark of 24.8.  That is the product of not only the three sacks but also nine quarterback hits and 29 quarterback hurries.  Only Detroit's Ndamukong Suh, who is ranked second behind McCoy, has more combined sacks, hits and hurries than McCoy, 46 to 41.

The PFF grading system also takes into account the number of snaps each player logs, because a player who has a positive impact on 90% of his team's plays is going to be more valuable than one who does so on 50% of his team's plays.  McCoy has played 518 snaps for the Buccaneers this year, seventh most among defensive tackles in the NFL.

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