Do teams run more late in the year?
Posted Mar. 03 at 10:54 PM
You have heard the theory that teams run more late in the year. The temperatures are dropping, the winds are picking up and whatnot. That’s the theory.
But is there anything behind it?
Around here, we don’t like to simply take as fact these theories that get tossed around and generally accepted as fact. We like to test them once in a while.
And in this case, we don’t see enough there. We see only a minor lean towards rushing production as the year wears on.
In this brief study, I looked at 2,048 games. Actually, 1,024 games, since there are two teams in each of them – all of the regular-season games of the last four years.
I can say that in each of those years, teams (the league-wide average) averaged more rushing attempts in the second half of the season. They also ran for more yards. And in each of those four years, quarterbacks tended to complete a lower percentage of passes.
But overall, there’s not enough of a difference.
In these four years, you’re looking at 27.0 carries per game for 113.4 yards in the first half of the year. That rises to 27.7 and 118.7 in the second half. So an average of about 1 more rushing attempt and 5 more yards per game per team in this four-year period.
Passing, not surprisingly, dips by a similar amount. Teams averaged about one fewer pass plays per game and averaged about 4 fewer passing yards.
And the touchdown numbers play out the same way. With rushing touchdowns, there have been 36 more scored in the second half of the last four years, but that’s 36 touchdowns between 32 teams, each playing 32 games. So, a difference of .3 touchdowns per team per season. Not enough to change any fantasy strategies.
With passing touchdowns, there’s no difference at all. Remarkably, the number of touchdowns was exactly the same for the games I looked at. In games 1-8 of the last four years, teams have combined to throw 1,426 touchdowns. And the number is identical (1,426) for the final eight games of the season.
Bottom line: I don’t think teams or playcalling tends to play much late in the year. If there’s a game where you’re certain weather will play a role, that’s one thing. But the overall numbers suggest numbers don’t change much late in the year.
Posted by Travis Billman | Mar. 04 at 03:03 PM
Thanks for the article Ian. I love having these theories challenged. Have you ever thought about doing an article to challenge the theory that smaller running backs don't last as long in the NFL because they can't stand up to the pounding? I'd be curious if there's data that supports it, because many dynasty drafts are affected by this theory. Don't know if it's even something that could be figured out objectively, but I hear that thought a lot.
Posted by IAN ALLAN | Mar. 04 at 06:10 PM
Travis: I have looked in the past a few times at durability of running backs. If you compare running backs under 210 pounds against running backs 235 pounds and over, the smaller running backs tend to get fewer injuries. Those big, bruising running backs (Michael Turner, Brandon Jacobs, Stephen Davis, Earl Campbell, Christian Okoye, etc.) tend to be involved in a lot more collisions, so it's hard for them to stay healthy. I'll try to put something more concrete together on that sometime before the 2012 season starts.
Add a Comment
Already a registered user? Please sign in to add comments.
To add comments, you must become a registered user of our site. To register, please click here.