Digging Deeper Into Defensive Passer Rating Differential Stat

The other day I posted about the Steelers and the passer rating differential stat tracked by Cold Hard Football Facts, but wanted to explore it further going back to 2002. There are two tables below that make up this study. The top table is the passer rating differential by year of each team and is colored with blue for teams that won their division that year and yellow for teams that earned a wildcard birth. The differential is determined by subtracting the defensive passer rating from the offensive passer rating. You hope your team has a positive number and the greater the number the better of course. The bottom table shows the offensive and defensive passer ratings for all teams during those same years for reference as well and is what I used to figure the differential in the top table. These tables should all be sortable so that you can play with them.

The easiest and most obvious thing to point to, is dating back to 2002, the only team not to make the playoffs that led in this stat during the regular is the 2003 Minnesota Vikings. When you look at their incredible defensive passer rating of 68.8, you wonder how they did not make the playoffs that year. Although they ranked 2nd in the league that season in interceptions, they were very bad against the run and gave up the 3rd most explosive passing plays of 20 yards or more. This is proof that the defensive passer rating stat can be misleading.

Having a positive number in the differential is not a slam dunk for making the playoffs either. 44 times a team has had a positive differential stat in the last 9 years and they have not made the playoffs. On the flip-side, a negative number is not the kiss of death either. The Seattle Seahawks are the perfect example last year with a -17.6 stat; of course they played in the weakest division in football. Over the past 9 years there have been 13 times a team with a negative passing differential stat has made the playoffs and the New York Giants even won the Super Bowl in 2007 with a -10.4 regular season number. They beat the New England Patriots who had the best differential that season and a number that tied for the best over the last 9 years with the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers team.

Having a positive differential of 12 or more certainly helps a team’s chance of making the playoffs as you can imagine, but is not full proof either. 10 times over the last 9 years a team has had a 12 or greater passer differential stat and not made the playoffs. That averages out to a little over one time a year.

A quick side note as far as the Steelers go in this stat, 2003 was the last time in 9 seasons they had a negative number. They are also one of the 10 teams to finish with a differential of 12 or more and not make the playoffs in 2009. Some related Steelers facts. Head coach Mike Tomlin was the Buccaneers defensive backs coach from 2001–2005 and Tampa put up some great defensive passer rating numbers during that span of time as the bottom table shows. He was also the Vikings defensive coordinator in 2006 and the Vikings had the 5th best defensive passer rating that season of 73.1. Unfortunately the Vikings offense had an even worse passer rating of 72.2. In addition, the last time the Cleveland Browns made the playoffs was in 2002 with Bruce Arians as their offensive coordinator and I think everyone remembers that Wildcard game the Steelers played against Browns that season. Not really relevant, but just taking a dig at the Arians detractors out there because it is fun.

While the passing differential stat is a fun stat to play with and keep track of, it is not full proof as I have shown. It goes without saying that in today’s game you need to be able to pass well and defend the pass in order to win. You also need to avoid giving up the big play and stop the run as well. The greater the differential stat, the better chance you have at making the playoffs, but that is pretty obvious from the get go. Football stat metrics have evolved so much over the years and the traditional passer rating stat has outlived its measuring capability for some time now, regardless of what side of the ball you try to give it weight.


2002-2010 Passer Rating Differential Stats

Team 10 DIF 09 DIF 08 DIF 07 DIF 06 DIF 05 DIF 04 DIF 03 DIF 02 DIF
GB 31.7 33.0 21.4 20.3 -3.3 -16.1 -5.3 21.5 17.9
NE 28.6 13.9 -0.7 37.9 22.2 3.7 17.2 28.1 7.1
SD 25.7 18.9 15.2 11.3 16.4 5.0 25.4 -21.2 -10.7
PIT 22.1 14.7 18.5 23.4 1.9 15.4 25.2 -6.0 9.0
TB 18.6 -27.4 8.5 15.5 -24.8 7.2 11.9 11.8 37.9
BAL 17.2 15.5 22.2 -12.4 21.2 -6.1 2.7 -1.7 3.1
KC 12.0 -16.3 -13.6 -8.0 2.4 7.8 -2.6 21.9 4.7
PHI 11.3 14.4 8.5 4.3 23.1 -10.7 20.6 1.8 9.5
ATL 8.6 -9.1 3.1 -9.3 -13.6 -1.8 -10.8 -35.3 7.4
NO 7.6 37.4 15.1 -7.5 9.8 -19.6 -8.2 12.4 2.0
CHI 5.1 -16.7 -0.1 -12.5 7.0 0.3 -16.4 -18.9 -14.9
NYG 4.8 -1.9 11.5 -10.4 -2.2 -0.6 -17.4 -21.1 7.5
IND 0.2 14.8 16.7 22.8 20.6 20.3 30.2 17.2 2.7
NYJ -0.6 3.2 -7.9 -8.7 4.1 -2.5 12.2 2.4 15.1
DAL -2.4 14.1 -1.3 22.0 3.3 8.5 -19.7 3.8 -6.5
CIN -2.8 9.1 -19.3 -2.5 9.2 24.8 -2.5 3.5 -28.1
TEN -3.8 -16.4 9.6 -1.9 -24.2 -20.4 -9.1 22.1 1.1
STL -3.9 -32.9 -25.6 -18.0 11.6 -6.8 -5.5 7.7 -6.1
DEN -6.2 9.4 -12.6 -1.6 -0.9 16.7 6.5 -0.6 1.1
DET -7.2 -48.9 -39.6 -17.4 -12.4 -8.5 -12.7 -28.5 -35.7
OAK -8.1 -27.5 -7.7 -8.0 -17.9 -14.7 -23.3 -22.3 19.9
HOU -8.5 13.1 -3.9 -7.5 -7.8 -24.0 -5.7 -16.5 -17.4
CLE -9.8 -34.8 -24.9 -2.7 -6.2 -2.7 -4.1 2.3 2.7
MIA -10.2 -13.6 20.6 -22.8 -13.2 -9.6 -14.4 1.7 6.6
SF -10.6 4.6 -3.6 -25.6 -16.5 -40.6 -26.6 5.4 5.1
WAS -11.6 -0.2 9.6 7.1 -14.4 16.9 -2.2 -8.1 -4.0
JAC -15.1 -12.8 -14.0 21.0 13.2 10.4 -1.3 -6.0 1.0
BUF -17.4 10.6 -1.9 -7.3 2.1 -6.7 11.5 -7.1 1.3
SEA -17.6 -16.7 -23.5 18.8 -10.1 19.4 0.8 6.8 7.4
MIN -18.7 14.8 -1.0 -12.1 -0.9 6.5 14.3 30.2 -18.5
ARI -23.0 12.7 -0.8 -2.4 -6.7 0.4 -4.7 -24.8 -26.6
CAR -24.0 -1.2 3.3 -13.2 -2.9 20.1 15.0 4.8 -7.7

2002-2010 Offensive & Defensive Passer Ratings

Team 10 D 10 O 09 D 09 O 08 D 08 O 07 D 07 O 06 D 06 O 05 D 05 O 04 D 04 O 03 D 03 O 02 D 02 O
GB 67.2 98.9 68.8 101.8 71.9 93.3 75.6 95.9 75.4 72.1 86.2 70.1 99.1 93.8 69.0 90.5 68.7 86.6
NE 81.2 109.8 81.7 95.6 89.8 89.1 78.1 116.0 66.1 88.3 87.8 91.5 75.3 92.5 56.2 84.3 78.2 85.3
SD 76.2 101.9 84.2 103.1 90.3 105.5 70.0 81.3 76.6 93.0 84.7 89.7 76.6 102.0 94.3 73.1 87.2 76.5
PIT 73.1 95.2 83.4 98.1 63.4 81.9 76.5 99.9 78.3 80.2 74.0 89.4 68.0 93.2 82.4 76.4 75.6 84.6
TB 77.6 96.2 87.2 59.8 75.3 83.8 76.2 91.7 91.0 66.2 73.5 80.7 77.2 89.1 69.7 81.5 48.4 86.3
BAL 76.4 93.6 71.9 87.4 60.6 82.8 87.6 75.2 63.4 84.6 77.4 71.3 68.0 70.7 66.4 64.7 73.4 76.5
KC 78.1 90.1 87.1 70.8 91.1 77.5 81.0 73.0 82.3 84.7 82.3 90.1 97.5 94.9 70.5 92.4 88.8 93.5
PHI 80.8 92.1 77.6 92.0 72.9 81.4 80.3 84.6 73.6 96.7 82.2 71.5 75.8 96.4 78.7 80.5 76.4 85.9
ATL 82.2 90.8 89.5 80.4 84.6 87.7 88.2 78.9 88.8 75.2 78.4 76.6 82.8 72.0 94.0 58.7 72.8 80.2
NO 83.2 90.8 68.6 106.0 80.3 95.4 96.9 89.4 85.1 94.9 86.2 66.6 87.7 79.5 76.3 88.7 78.8 80.8
CHI 74.4 79.5 92.3 75.6 77.2 77.1 84.7 72.2 66.5 73.5 61.2 61.5 78.1 61.7 79.9 61.0 89.7 74.8
NYG 80.5 85.3 95.1 93.2 76.7 88.2 83.4 73.0 79.0 76.8 76.3 75.7 90.9 73.5 89.5 68.4 77.9 85.4
IND 91.7 91.9 80.6 95.4 78.0 94.7 73.3 96.1 80.4 101.0 83.0 103.3 89.5 119.7 81.8 99.0 86.1 88.8
NYJ 77.1 76.5 58.8 62.0 88.1 80.2 82.6 73.9 78.0 82.1 73.1 70.6 78.3 90.5 83.4 85.8 83.2 98.3
DAL 92.8 90.4 83.5 97.6 86.2 84.9 75.1 97.1 83.2 86.5 75.1 83.6 94.2 74.5 67.6 71.4 75.6 69.1
CIN 85.2 82.4 73.6 82.7 87.3 68.0 89.2 86.7 84.9 94.1 72.8 97.6 79.5 77.0 83.9 87.4 99.9 71.8
TEN 86.4 82.6 91.2 74.8 69.2 78.8 74.5 72.6 86.0 61.8 100.7 80.3 91.2 82.1 78.2 100.3 82.8 83.9
STL 80.4 76.5 96.9 64.0 92.5 66.9 85.0 67.0 81.1 92.7 89.8 83.0 91.6 86.1 73.3 81.0 86.0 79.9
DEN 93.0 86.8 75.0 84.4 98.5 85.9 88.3 86.7 75.6 74.7 72.2 88.9 78.0 84.5 76.2 75.6 83.7 84.8
DET 89.2 82.0 107.0 58.1 110.9 71.3 96.8 79.4 92.3 79.9 77.6 69.1 89.4 76.7 89.6 61.1 93.6 57.9
OAK 85.6 77.5 89.5 62.0 79.3 71.6 78.9 70.9 74.1 56.2 90.7 76.0 99.4 76.1 87.3 65.0 77.3 97.2
HOU 100.5 92.0 83.2 96.3 92.3 88.4 93.6 86.1 91.6 83.8 100.0 76.0 88.7 83.0 86.2 69.7 82.1 64.7
CLE 84.8 75.0 90.6 55.8 79.7 54.8 83.4 80.7 75.9 69.7 78.2 75.5 79.0 74.9 72.9 75.2 77.8 80.5
MIA 85.0 74.8 86.9 73.3 77.0 97.6 92.4 69.6 84.4 71.2 82.4 72.8 76.9 62.5 70.8 72.5 72.7 79.3
SF 90.0 79.4 76.2 80.8 85.0 81.4 89.9 64.3 90.9 74.4 94.2 53.6 96.5 69.9 78.6 84.0 80.9 86.0
WAS 89.6 78.0 85.7 85.5 75.6 85.2 77.1 84.2 97.8 83.4 70.1 87.0 72.2 70.0 81.4 73.3 76.5 72.5
JAC 98.5 83.4 96.0 83.2 95.4 81.4 76.1 97.1 66.8 80.0 78.0 88.4 82.0 80.7 82.0 76.0 81.5 82.5
BUF 92.6 75.2 61.1 71.7 83.2 81.3 81.1 73.8 82.5 84.6 82.1 75.4 65.2 76.7 76.5 69.4 84.7 86.0
SEA 89.7 72.1 93.4 76.7 96.0 72.5 73.0 91.8 86.1 76.0 77.4 96.8 78.3 79.1 81.4 88.2 75.6 83.0
MIN 86.4 67.7 92.5 107.3 82.5 81.5 86.3 74.2 73.1 72.2 75.2 81.7 95.5 109.8 68.8 99.0 94.6 76.1
ARI 83.5 60.5 76.4 89.1 96.9 96.1 85.8 83.4 85.4 78.7 80.6 81.0 73.2 68.5 93.7 68.9 90.3 63.7
CAR 81.0 57.0 71.7 70.5 81.4 84.7 85.1 71.9 80.8 77.9 68.0 88.1 72.0 87.0 74.8 79.6 73.4 65.7

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.