It has been a while since I checked up on the adjusted net yards per passing attempt differential stat so I decided to research it and post the results. adjusted net yards per passing attempt differential is the difference of the adjusted yards per passing attempt on offense versus that allowed on defense. To get a true adjusted yards per passing attempt stat, we use the formula explained in a book called The Hidden Game of Football. That formula, as explained on Pro Football Reference, is: (pass yards + 20*(pass TD) – 45*(interceptions thrown) – sack yards)/(passing attempts + sacks). We do this for both offense and defense for each team and then find the differential of the two to arrive at the stats you see below.
I wanted a large history to look at so I went back and compiled from 2002 through week 12 of this season. In the sortable table below I also denoted the teams that made the playoffs each year. Yellow won the Super Bowl that year, blue the loser in the Super Bowl and brown denotes that team made the playoffs.
Looking at the results so far this season, you see that the Green Bay Packers lead the way with a 4.10 differential. This easily explains their 11-0 record right now and they are certainly the team to beat at this rate. It is also second highest right now of the researched years to 2007 New England Patriots, who ended the regular season with a 4.16 differential. That Patriots team also went undefeated that season and it makes the loss to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl that year much more amazing. That game showed the true meaning of “Any Given Sunday”.
Second so far this season is the Houston Texans with an impressive 3.90 differential. They put this up without Andre Johnson for most of the season, but the loss of Matt Schaub, and now Matt Leinart, will surely see this differential come down over the remaining 5 weeks of the season unless T.J. Yates or Jake Delhomme prove me wrong. Their defense though might save the AFC South crown for them.
The Patriots and Detroit Lions are 3rd and 4th respectively. Despite the play of their secondary this year, the Patriots offense has more than made up for it. The Lions have fallen off a bit after their hot start and will have to make the playoffs as a Wild Card thanks to being in the division with the Packers, who they have to play in week 17.
The Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers are next respectively and very close in differential. The Steelers have put up their 1.75 stat with a 4.95 adjusted net yards per passing attempt defensive stat which is pretty amazing as they only have 7 interceptions on the season. The Cowboys are right where they need to be to win the NFC East in my opinion.
So what does this stat mean playoff wise, and more importantly about chances to win it all? Since 2002 a team that has finished in the top 5 in adjusted net yards per passing attempt differential has one the Super Bowl all but one time. The Giants being the lone defector against the Patriots in 2007, as they finished 18th that year. A team that has finished 1st or 2nd in the stat has won the Super Bowl 5 times over the last 9 seasons, with the Steelers doing that once back in 2008.
If you sort the table by years to see the playoff teams, you will see that the Steelers really look good to make the playoffs. It would likely take 3 losses in their last 5 games to not make it and you would likely be able to point to the adjusted net yards per passing attempt differential stat over the course of the last 5 games to tell the story about those losses. The San Francisco 49ers are the only team left on their schedule that has a positive differential right now with the Cincinnati Bengals being close to the dead even mark.
I will try to update these numbers over the next few weeks as I am curious to see if the Texans and Lions slide down and if the Steelers can climb near the 1.90 or greater mark. This stat truly shows how important the passing game relates to success on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
Let me know if you find any errors.