2009 NFL Season: The NFL’s Search for Dominance

We are nearly through 6 weeks of the NFL season and some interesting trends are beginning to emerge.  I decided to take a look at 2 indicators for some of the leading teams in both conferences.

Former Vol star, Robert Meachem Goes High

First, let’s look at net points in the NFC.  The Top 8 teams are:

  1. New Orleans — +99
  2. Minnesota — +68
  3. N.Y. Giants — +59
  4. Atlanta — +46
  5. Green Bay — +37
  6. Philadelphia — +37
  7. Dallas — +24
  8. Arizona/Chicago — +20

The Top 8 AFC Teams are:

  1. New England — +72
  2. Indianapolis — +66
  3. Denver — +56
  4. Baltimore — +39
  5. Pittsburgh —+28
  6. New York Jets — +10
  7. Miami — +6
  8. Houston — +6

Of course, prior to playing the Titans, the Patriots were all of +13.  I believe that number is more accurate for them than the bloat produced by yesterday’s no show from Kerry Collins.  If the Titans have pulled their private investigators and police errand boys off of Vince Young and put them on Kerry Collins, they’re going to have to hide all the moonshine from Nashville to the foot of the Smoky Mountains.

Not enough football has been played to draw too many strong conclusions from this one statistic.  It is usually a good barometer for gauging overall dominance.  2007 may have been one of the greatest anomalies.  The Patriots ended the regular season at +315.  The Giants finished up at +22.  The Giants won the Super Bowl in classic fashion 17-14.

Let’s look at net yards across the NFL.  So far, the top 10 teams are:

  1. New York Giants — +144.3 yards per game.
  2. New Orleans Saints — +128.8
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers — +128.5
  4. Denver Broncos — +124
  5. New England Patriots — 111.4
  6. Indianapolis Colts — 109.2
  7. Philadelphia Eagles — 68.8
  8. Dallas Cowboys — 62.6
  9. Green Bay Packers — 61.6
  10. Baltimore Ravens — 60.5

There are a few teams who are conspicuous by their absence from this list.

  1. There is one stat that jumps off the page with the Vikings — defensive turnovers.  The Vikings defense has forced a total of 12 turnovers this season.  In every game, save two, the Vikings have had a turnover advantage.  In those 4 games, the Vikings are +63.  In the two games where Minnesota did NOT have a turnover advantage, they won twice — at home, on the final play of the game.  The Vikings beat the 49ers by 3 and the Ravens by 2.  Minnesota is finding a way to win close games while building chemistry…and the Bears are starting to occupy space in the rear view mirror.
  1. The Falcons are one of the few teams with a number of impressive wins (at home vs. Miami in Week 1; at SF with an asterisk since Frank Gore didn’t play; vs. Chicago at home).  Their defense has been opportunistic and forced multiple turnovers in four of five games.  Atlanta lost the only game in which that did not happen (at New England).  The surprise with Atlanta, though, is that they have negative net yards (-31.4 yds./game) through 6 weeks.  The Falcons defense is porous.  In back to back weeks vs. Carolina and the Patriots, the team allowed 440 and 445 yards, respectively.  Last night, the Bears managed 373 yards amid 3 turnovers and several Red Zone fiascos.
  1. Remember them?  They still lead the AFC North and they did lose to the Houston Texans.  Yesterday’s loss will add considerable pressure to the Bengals need to win the division.  Now the Broncos and Texans both hold tie-breakers over the Bengals.  Cincinnati still has to play at Pittsburgh and to host the Ravens.  The race to crown this division champ is a long way from over.  If Cincinnati has trouble making its way to 10 or 11 wins, they could miss out on the playoffs.  The Bengals are -22.9 yds./game.

As the season continues, I suspect that Minnesota and Atlanta will reverse this statistical trend.  If they do not, they are unlikely to continue winning.

It is also interesting that with respect to net yards, there is a 5-5 split between conferences.  At this point though, I am not inclined to believe that the Pittsburgh Steelers are the class of the AFC.  And I watched the Colts get pulverized on the ground by the Dolphins — so I’m not buying what they’re selling either.  I’m not a believer in the Broncos or the Patriots.  For me, the jury is still out.  The Saints are clearly the best of the NFC.  I like their personnel, approach and execution.

New Orleans is the top dog.

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