“It’s still wise to understand a team’s identity” – John Hansen, “2005’s Lessons Learned”
It's been a long time since John wrote that and started me taking a statistical look at the offensive identities of each year’s teams, to see what they would tell me about the coming year. This has gone from just an overview article to a complete series on each team. In a few weeks, I'll look at the 2017 coaches individually and what offenses they ran in their current and previous jobs to try to get some insight into what they’ll do this year – and what players will benefit or suffer from that identity.
But to start, I have to compile the data on what teams did in 2016. In this article, I’m going to share that data and a bit of analysis or observations on what happened last year.
I'm going to change how I displayed the data this year and go with more charts (pictures) vs. a giant table (numbers). And I'm going to spend time on how each aspect of identity translates (or doesn't) into fantasy value.
The most basic part of an offense's identity is how many plays it runs from scrimmage:
I tried to make the chart do most of the talking: the average team had 1023 plays from scrimmage in 2016; with a standard deviation (SD) of plus or minus 41 plays. Teams in green had at least one SD more plays than average; those in red were at least one SD below average.
Number of plays is somewhat connected with pace of play – the faster a team lines up and snaps the ball, the more plays it gets off. But it's not just that. Incompletions stop the clock, so teams that pass more tend to have more plays too. Good offenses stay on the field more, also translating to more plays. Good defenses get the ball back, more plays on offense. Bad defenses mean a team trails, therefore passes more, therefore, more plays.
You can see that some "green" teams were good offenses, like NO and ARI. TB was a good fantasy offense, maybe not as good for real football. BAL and PHI were below average offenses. HOU was terrible despite all the plays.
There is a lot more to fantasy scoring than just plays. The next chart shows how many total fantasy points (FP) each team accumulated rushing and receiving last year (10 yds = 1 FP, TD = 6 FP, receptions =1 FP).