How Starting Field Position Impacts the Packers' Offense and Defense

I have always been a big fan of special teams, more than most people... probably. The “little things” fascinate me and the “hidden yards” and flipping the field are a big part of the game that isn't talked about enough. By that I meaning that little things that a team can do to get yourself better field position or get your opponent's worse field position will eventually lead to a lot of success. Take last week’s game against the Redskins as an example.

Before the Packers were just trying to run out the clock last week - basically the drives before Lacy’s fumble - the Packers had 11 drives during the game. Three of those drives started inside their own 20-yard line, four drives starting on their own 20-yard line, and four drives started passed their own 20-yard line. On those three drives inside their own 20-yard line the Packers netted 20 total yards. The first drive ended in negative eight total yards and a safety, the next drive netted one-yard, and the third drive gained 27 yards but because they had to start on their own nine-yard line they only got the ball to their 36 before they had to punt. Not only did they only net 20 yards on those three drives, they only got one first down and barely gave the defense a chance to rest. They also netted a total of negative two points on those drives.

The four drives they had that started on their own 20-yard line saw better results. They ended up punting twice and scoring touchdowns twice. They also picked up first downs on all but one of those possessions. As far as physical difference goes there isn’t a huge difference in starting on your own 16-yard line compared to the 20, but mentally might be and even if there is not, there is a major difference between starting on your own 20 compared to starting inside your own 10-yard line - which the Packers had to do twice on Sunday. This is true not only in terms of how far they have to go to get in scoring position, but mentally and how to call the game to not only avoid getting safetied, but to make sure you leave room for your punter in case you do not pick up a first down. Teams are less interested in initially scoring points and are more interested in avoiding catastrophe.

On the four drives that the Packers started outside of their own 20-yard line the Packers scored on all four drives - two touchdowns and two field goals. The logic is simple, there’s less yards to go to get in scoring range and sometimes you only need one or two first downs or depending on the field position the team may not even need a first down to get in field goal range.

Now it should not be a surprise that the further from the end zone the Packers started, the worse the Packers did and the closer they started to the end zone the better they did. It is not going to always work out that way, but more often than not it does. This also wasn’t an isolated incident that made me want to write this piece either. So many times this season the Packers offense has been stuck in terrible starting field position seemingly way, way, way more often than seasons past. Not only is the offense struggling on the whole this year, they are having to start drives in worse field position that usual. The previous three years saw an average of 41 drives (2.6 per game) for the Packers offense started inside their own 20-yard line, this year there was 48 drives (3.0 per game) starting inside their own 20. That means on average one extra possession roughly every other game is starting inside their own 20-yard line this year. Meanwhile the Packers’ opponents started drives inside their own 20-yard line exactly as often as they normally do, 40 times this year when the average over the previous three seasons was 39.3 times (2.5 times per game).

At the end of the day no one cares about field position, all people will look at is how many points the offense scored and how many points the defense allowed because quite frankly that is all that matters. That doesn’t mean that the two can’t help each other out. If the offense is able to sustain drives, even if they do not score any points, they not only give the defense more room to work with which intern allows them to take more chances early on drives because of the amount of field to work with, but the offense has allowed the defense to rest up so they can be at the top of their game. Conversely it is not all about points allowed on defense. This year’s Packers defense has been - for the most part - pretty good at limiting points. What they have struggled with, at times, is making plays and there’s something to be said for that too because all stops are not created equal. If the defense is able to sack the quarterback, create turnovers, or get three-and-outs all of that goes directly back to the offense because those are yards that the offense does not need to pick up.

I have put together the Packers starting field positions for this season and the previous three seasons to take a look at just how starting field position impacts the Packers’ offensive ability to score and how it impacts the defense’s ability to prevent teams from scoring. For these tables I have laid out what yard line the team started a drive on and have defined getting "Into Scoring Position" as finishing the drive within the opponent's 38-yard line, essentially did they get in position to kick a 55-yard or less field goal.

Packers Offense 2012-2015
Field Position Total Drives Scoring Percentage Into Scoring Position Percentage
1-9 47 12.8% 25.5%
10-19 125 39.2% 43.2%
20 185 42.2% 49.7%
21-29 125 41.6% 49.6%
30-39 85 49.4% 52.9%
40-49 82 42.7% 54.9%
50-40 40 62.5% 77.5%
39-30 18 72.2% 83.3%
29-20 15 80.0% 100%
19-10 10 80.0% 100%
9-1 5 100% 100%

With 60 percent of their drives, the majority of the Packers offensive drives the last four years (and every year) have started between their own 10 and 29-yard lines. What is interesting is between the 10-yard line and midfield you do not see a major difference in how often the Packers score with each 10-yard range having a scoring success rate between 42 percent and 49 percent. Looking closer at drives that started on the Packers' side of the field reveals that drives starting on the 20-yard line, the 21 through 29-yard lines, and the 40 through 49-yard lines have almost the exact same success rate at scoring between 41.6 percent and 42.7 percent of the time. Suggesting that field position on that side of the field may not play too big of a role in how often the Packers score. It seems the offense either has it or it doesn't for a drive. Even the 10 through 19-yard range doesn't see a major dip from those other ranges with a 39.2 percent scoring rate since 2012, only a couple of percentage points lower than the other areas on that side of the field. 

There are two outliers when the Packers start on their own side of the field, the first one is for some reason when starting a drive on the 30 through 39-yard line the Packers have a huge spike to almost a 50 percent success rate at scoring - despite it dropping back down to 42.7 percent when they start 10 yards closer. The other outlier when starting on their half of the field is when they start inside their own 10-yard line, where they score on a dismal 12.8 percent of drives, a far cry from the 39.2 percent just 10 yards closer.

When the Packers start on their opponent's side of the field there is a much more expected trend in the scoring percentage. Simply put, the closer they are to the goal line, the more and more likely they are to score. When the Packers start with the ball in opponent's territory they have scored on 71.6 percent of their drives, where as they score on 40.4 percent of their drives when starting in their own territory. 

Looking at how often the Packers got into scoring position, that is to say how often they finished the drive within the opponent's 38-yard line, there is a consistent upwards trend the further the Packers go down the field. This comes as no surprise because obviously the closer the Packers start to the end zone, the closer they are to field goal range and in some cases (6.5 percent of the time) they are starting in field goal range.

There are a few things that really stand out to me when looking at the scoring position column. The first being just how big of a jump there is once the Packers cross midfield. Similarly to how the trends in scoring percentage went, there is not much of a difference between starting at their own 20-yard line and midfield, with the odds of them making it into scoring position being between 50 and 55 percent over that 30-yard span. However the second they cross midfield it jumps dramatically to a 77.5 percent chance of them making it into scoring position. It makes sense that there is high percentage chance of making into field goal range when you only need between 2 and 12 yards to get there, but why there is almost no gradual lead-up to the spike is a little perplexing. Common sense would say that there is a 5 percent or so increase with each 10 yards closer to the end zone, not the 5 percent increase over the 30-yard span and then a massive 23 percent jump.

The other thing that stands out to me is how often the Packers get into scoring position from each spot on the field versus how often they score from that spot. Starting inside their own 10-yard line, where the Packers typically get into scoring position a quarter of the time (25.5 percent of the time to be exact), they only score 12.8 percent of the time when they start inside the 10-yard line. That means that when the Packers start inside their own 10-yard line and actually get into scoring position they only manage to score on half of those opportunities, which seems very odd. It is almost as if the Packers are thinking, "We've made it this far, no way we are settling for anything but a touchdown."

Looking a little further up the field, on drives that start between their own 10 and 39-yard lines there is a differential between how often the Packers score versus how often they are in scoring position that fluctuates between four and seven percent, which seems reasonable. However on the roughly 20 percent of Packers offensive drives that start on their own 40-yard line or closer, there appears to be a shift in offensive philosophy. Similarly to what the results were inside the 10-yard line, the Packers want to get a touchdown and settling for a field goal just seems like a waste because they are so close. There is a 10 percent or greater differential between how often the Packers get into scoring position and how often they actually score from their own 40-yard line and closer. That is a lot higher than when they start inside their 40-yard line.

Packers Offense 2012-2015 TD Percent and FG Percent
Field Position Scoring Percentage TD Percent FG Att. Percent Into Scoring Position Percentage
1-9 12.8% 10.6% 4.3% 25.5%
10-19 39.2% 25.6% 14.4% 43.2%
20 42.2% 26.0% 19.5% 49.7%
21-29 41.6% 30.4% 14.4% 49.6%
30-39 49.4% 28.2% 23.5% 52.9%
40-49 42.7% 35.4% 13.4% 54.9%
50-40 62.5% 30.0% 45.0% 77.5%
39-30 72.2% 33.3% 44.4% 83.3%
29-20 80.0% 46.7% 40.0% 100%
19-10 80.0% 40.0% 40.0% 100%
9-1 100% 80.0% 20.0% 100%

The table above shows what percentage of drives ended in a touchdown and which ones ended in a field goal for the Packers offense in 2012 through 2015 sorted by where on the field the drives started. I added how often they scored on drives from that area of the field and how often they got into scoring position from the previous table for reference.

This table is really interesting to me because of just how consistent the touchdown percentage and field goal percentage variations are. The touchdown percentage has way less variation than I would have expected. With the exception of drives that started inside their own 10-yard line, the percentage of drives for the Packers than ended in a touchdown does not change all that much from their own 21-yard line (and really, from their own 10-yard line) to their opponents 30-yard line. With a high percentage of 35.4 percent (oddly enough on drives that start in their own territory, not the two 10-yard segments in opponent's territory) touchdown success rate between their 40 and 49-yard lines to a low percentage of 28.2 percent between their 30 and 39-yard lines, their is only a 7.2 percent differential between highest and lowest touchdown success rates for that 49-yard segment. That's crazy. I can't believe the touchdown conversion rate is essentially the same for drives starting across the middle 50 yards of the field.

Once they start getting really far into opponent's territory the conversion rate jumps up, but not nearly as high as one would think. The Packers had 25 drives start between their opponent's 10 and 29-yard lines and only scored touchdowns on 44 percent of those drives. For reference on drives that started between their own 21 and the opponent's 30-yard lines the Packers scored touchdowns on 31 percent of their drives - only a 13 percent change between when they would need a max of 79 yards and when they need a max of 29 yards.

What percentage of drives the Packers attempted field goals on is interesting just because it is so consistent based on which half of the field they started on. For drives that started on the Packers side of the field, the Packers typically kicked a field goal about 17 percent of the time, with the exception of when they started inside their own 10-yard line. However on drives that the Packers started on their opponent's side of the field, they kicked a field goal 43 percent of the time. The fact that they kicked field goals on a higher percentage of drives that started in opponent's territory is not surprising to me, it is just how consistently they did it. There is only a five percent variation in the 40-yard segment in opponent's territory (ignoring inside the 10-yard line), in that same range for touchdowns there is a 16 percent difference from midfield to the 10-yard line.

Packers Offense 2015
Field Position Total Drives Scoring Percentage Into Scoring Position Percentage
1-9 12 8.3% 16.7%
10-19 36 27.8% 27.8%
20 42 40.5% 54.8%
21-29 32 31.3% 34.4%
30-39 15 46.7% 46.7%
40-49 14 21.4% 28.6%
50-40 11 63.6% 72.7%
39-30 8 75.0% 87.5%
29-20 1 0% 100%
19-10 3 66.7% 100%
9-1 1 100% 100%

Above are the numbers strictly for the 2015 season for the Packers offense. The sample size is very small so you can't make any real conclusions as far as trends. However by looking at the 2015 season you can compare it to the four year average above and get a sense of how the Packers did this year. 

Looking at the numbers in the above chart for the 2015 season it is surprising to see that the Packers are actually doing better from the 20-yard line than they were the previous three years in terms of scoring success and getting into scoring position. However after that, you can see why the offense is struggling. Other than when the Packers are starting at the 20-yard line (even though that is the most common location to start) they are fairing worse and sometimes a lot worse at every other location when they start a drive on their side of the field. In previous seasons the team was able to score on 40 percent of their drives that started on their side of the field and was outside of the 10-yard line. This year they are struggling in three of the five areas and are in the range of 21 to 31 percent scoring success rate instead of a 42 to 49 percent success rate. 

Packers Defense 2012-2015
Field Position Total Drives Scoring Percentage Into Scoring Position Percentage
1-9 40 22.5% 27.5%
10-19 118 24.6% 34.8%
20 178 32.6% 41.0%
21-29 133 38.4% 47.4%
30-39 95 35.8% 45.3%
40-49 62 48.4% 58.1%
50-40 29 55.2% 75.9%
39-30 7 100% 100%
29-20 10 60.0% 90.0%
19-10 6 83.3% 100%
9-1 1 100% 100%

Shifting gears and moving to how the Packers defense has done with drives starting at each location on the field can be seen in the table above.

Looking at that table the Packers opponents are scoring on about the same percentage of drives from the goal line to the 19-yard line. The same can be said from the 20 to the 39-yard line where opponents improve their scoring from roughly 24 percent inside the 20-yard line to 35 percent from their own 20 to 39-yard line. Once you get to drives that start on the opponents' 40 to 49-yard line you see the Packers defense start to allow a higher and higher scoring percentage on drives. Opponents are scoring on 48 percent of their drives starting from their own 40 to 49-yard line. On drives that start on the Packers' side of midfield they are allowing teams to score on over half their possessions no matter what area it is. Culminating with scoring on six of the seven possessions that started inside the Packers' 20-yard line, which isn't all that surprising. It is pretty hard to stop a team from scoring when they start in close field goal range.

Comparing how the Packers' offense has performed in those same situations it comes as no surprise that the Packers' offense has been a lot better performing than the opponent's offenses have performed, after all the Packers offense has traditionally been one of the tops in the league. No surprise that both the Packers and their opponents score frequently on drives that start in the opponent's side of the field. While both groups score about equally as frequently on drives starting in opponent's territory, you see the difference the Packers' defense and offense make because the Packers defense usually forces a decent amount of turnovers while the offense is one of the league leaders every year in fewest turnovers allowed. The Packers have had 88 drives start in opponent's territory over the last four seasons while the Packers defense has only had to defend 53 drives that have started in their own territory.  

While the Packers do usually have a great offense, from the 21-yard line to the goal line the Packers defense is allowing roughly the same percentage of drives to get into scoring position as the Packers offense gets. The difference being on drives that start between the 10 and 20-yard lines. That's where the Packers are getting into scoring position 47 percent of the time and their opponents are only getting into scoring position 39 percent of the time. That eight percent is actually a pretty big advantage since 43 percent of drives in Packers' games will start between the 10 and 20-yard lines. 

That the Packers defense allows teams to get into scoring position at roughly the same frequency on every area of the field outside of the 20-yard line as the Packers offense does is saying a lot because of just how good the Packers offense has been. However the defense shows off a little bit of the "bend don't break" mantra.

Packers Defense 2012-2015 TD Percent and FG Percent
Field Position Scoring Percentage TD Percent FG Att. Percent Into Scoring Position Percentage
1-9 22.5% 12.5% 10.0% 27.5%
10-19 24.6% 14.4% 11.9% 34.8%
20 32.6% 20.2% 13.5% 41.0%
21-29 38.4% 24.8% 14.3% 47.4%
30-39 35.8% 17.9% 22.1% 45.3%
40-49 48.4% 27.4% 25.8% 58.1%
50-40 55.2% 34.5% 27.6% 75.9%
39-30 100% 71.4% 28.6% 100%
29-20 60.0% 50.0% 30.0% 90.0%
19-10 83.3% 83.3% 0% 100%
9-1 100% 100% 0% 100%

The Packers offense scores touchdowns at a rate of 25 to 35 percent from every spot on the field from their own 10 to their opponent's 30 yard-line. Looking at how the defense of the Packers has faired in those same areas shows where the Packers get a large portion of their leads. The defense doesn't give up a 30 percent scoring success rate at any area of the field when drives start on their opponent's side of the field. On drives that start on the Packers' side of the field, the defense gives up touchdown rates that are about the same as the Packers' offense scores. Even the percent of drives that end in field goal attempts are way down against the Packers defense compared to what the Packers' offense gets. So despite the defense allowing teams to get into scoring position at about the same rate as the Packers offense gets there from outside their 20-yard line, they don't allow teams to score like the Packers' offense scores. I think a large part of that is due to the leads that the Packers offense can build and it forces teams to try and score touchdowns and pass up on field goals.

Packers Defense 2015
Field Position Total Drives Scoring Percentage Into Scoring Position Percentage
1-9 9 0% 22.2%
10-19 31 35.5% 38.7%
20 52 26.9% 34.6%
21-29 32 34.4% 37.5%
30-39 20 35.0% 55.0%
40-49 18 50.0% 50.0%
50-40 8 12.5% 50.0%
39-30 1 100% 100%
29-20 2 50.0% 100%
19-10 1 100% 100%
9-1 1 100% 100%

A quick look at how the Packers defense has performed this season shows that they are allowing teams to score on about the same percentage of drives as they usually do at each location on the field, the exception being on drives starting inside the opponent's 10-yard line and drives starting between midfield and the Packers 40-yard line. Where the main difference lies is that this year the Packers are allowing a lower touchdown percentage than they usually do. On drives starting in the opponent's territory the Packers are giving up touchdowns on 17 percent of drives instead of the 20 percent of drives. The really big improvement this season comes on drives that start on the Packers' side of the field. On drives that start on the Packers' side of the field the Green Bay defense is only allowing teams to score 38.5 percent of the time. Granted there have only been 13 of such drives this year, but still, only allowing teams to score on five of them is quite impressive. On average they previously let teams score on 66 percent of those such drives and touchdowns 50 percent of the time.

Overall the Packers' offensive numbers surprised me quite a bit with just how consistent they are at scoring from all areas of the field. On drives that started in their own territory they scored at pretty much the same rate  no matter if they started on the 40-yard line or the 20-yard line. That is definitely a product of being an elite offense though. The Packers offense scoring touchdowns at the same rate from their 20-yard line all the way to their opponent's 30-yard line is maybe the most surprising thing that came out of this piece, it is not something that I would expect and quite frankly it doesn't make sense to me other than when the team is on, they're going to score a touchdown and it doesn't matter where they start from because they can't be stopped. Looking at how frequently the Packers' offense gets into scoring position shows a more traditional trend that the better field position is to start a drive, the better their odds to score with a continual upward trend as they go further down the field. 

The fact that the defense was shown to be a "bend but don't break" defense does not surprise me and I don't think it would surprise many others. For awhile now the defense has been the weak link on the team while still maintaining to be "good enough." The defense letting teams get into scoring position from various areas on the field at the same rate as the traditionally elite Packers offense was a surprise though. It makes me wonder what the scoring percentage would have been against the defense if the Packers offense wasn't the elite juggernaut that it has been that forces teams to go for touchdowns instead of field goals just to keep up. In a way, it makes it all the more impressive what the defense has done this year since the offense hasn't been able to simply out-score everyone. The Packers have relied heavily on their defense in the second half of the season to just keep them in games and for the most part they responded while the offense has struggled.

Field position has been a issue for the Packers all season in my eyes and I think the volume of possessions that they have had inside their own 20 and 10-yard lines shows that they aren't used to having to start so backed up. Even when the offense was going good the last few years they were terrible when starting inside their own 10-yard line, they can't afford to do that any more. Hopefully for whatever is left of this playoff run the defense and special teams can provide the offense with decent starting field position and vice-versa, when the offense is on the field if they aren't scoring they need to at least pick up a couple first downs and flip the field. By consistently pinning teams inside their own 20-yard line the Packers can reasonably save themselves one or two potential scores allowed each game.

0 points

Comments (24)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
RCPackerFan's picture

January 14, 2016 at 06:59 am

Great article.

Field position especially in the playoffs becomes huge. If you can win the field position battle its a small hidden win in the game.

One of the keys for the Packers to win the game Saturday night is if they can win the field position battle. And take advantage of good field position.

In the playoffs special teams can play a huge role in games. Our special teams have to play better then Arizona's.

0 points
0
0
Ibleedgreenmore's picture

January 14, 2016 at 10:28 am

If we start at the 10 it is a big struggle to score. Most teams do much better at the 30 or 40.

0 points
0
0
WKUPackFan's picture

January 14, 2016 at 07:27 am

Field position was huge in the Seahawks/Vikings game. A Seahawks failed 4th down attempt at midfield in the 3rd quarter flipped the field in Minn's favor until the craziness ensued.

Would really like to see Janis take more knees on the kickoffs, hate starting drives behind the 20.

0 points
0
0
DrealynWilliams's picture

January 14, 2016 at 12:16 pm

He better stop teasing and actually run one back.

0 points
0
0
TarynsEyes's picture

January 14, 2016 at 12:24 pm

"Would really like to see Janis take more knees on the kickoffs, hate starting drives behind the 20."

The chance of having a guy that can break one is a need and taking a knee to assure a 20 yard start is not going to change much offensively. The ball being kicked too deep or placed is more the prohibit of good field position than the actual return attempt...less the missed blocking or penalty blocks that are of more a detriment.

0 points
0
0
LASVEGAS-TOM's picture

January 14, 2016 at 05:14 pm

Tarynfor12, What's your Prediction??

LVT

0 points
0
0
TarynsEyes's picture

January 14, 2016 at 07:51 pm

I'm going with a 29-24 Packers win last drive upset. But that is based on the defense stringing out Arizona scores.If they clump posession score we are In trouble.

0 points
0
0
LASVEGAS-TOM's picture

January 14, 2016 at 09:04 pm

Tarynfor12, I like your pick. I hope it's not a last drive upset. I'll say 31-24. I like the Over 50 more than anything. I'll be betting GB +7, maybe a buck or 2. At this point, I just want GB to get into the NFCC game. I've got 12-1 there. I predicted 10 weeks ago, it would be GB & Carolina in the NFCC game. I'm 2 games away from being right. I'm just as confident this week, as I was last week. Let's hope we are both right.

LVT

0 points
0
0
WKUPackFan's picture

January 15, 2016 at 05:24 am

I'm more conservative, but understand your point. The statistics above seem to back up a less risky approach.

0 points
0
0
Thegreatreynoldo's picture

January 14, 2016 at 08:13 pm

I think Janis taking more knees is probably a moot point since the game is in Arizona and I expect the kickers to boot them really deep or out of the end zone. However, I would like to see Janis use good judgment, but would hope that all of the kickoffs are returnable and he takes them out. Part of that is that I do not expect the GB offense to be humming; if it is going well, I am then more inclined to settle for starting at the 20.

0 points
0
0
WKUPackFan's picture

January 15, 2016 at 05:31 am

In an interesting juxtaposition. I'd be thrilled to see Crosby hit every kickoff out of the endzone. There's no reason to risk a return (Texans anyone?). Conversely, I'd be happy to see Janis take more knees to avoid possible fumbles.

Of course, I'm very risk averse when it comes to football.

0 points
0
0
croatpackfan's picture

January 14, 2016 at 08:03 am

Mike, on the first drive Packers had 1st down (Rodgers pass to Jones!). After that came punt! After receiving punt from Redskins and start at 16, there was 10 yards penalty, snap was at 8 yards, then incomplete to JJ and then run of Eddie for 1 yard. Snapping at 9 on 3rd down, there was again false start penalty, that move the snap to 4,5 yard line. At that snap came safety...

0 points
0
0
MikeReuter's picture

January 14, 2016 at 09:56 am

That's right. Did I say something wrong? I'm not following you here.

0 points
0
0
croatpackfan's picture

January 14, 2016 at 01:21 pm

I was referring on the: "The first drive ended in negative eight total yards and a safety, the next drive netted one-yard, and the third drive gained 27 yards but because they had to start on their own nine-yard line they only got the ball to their 36 before they had to punt."
Now, when I read it again I found out that it can be related to the first drive inside 20. Sorry, it might be me understood wrong, but it is little confusing... So It might not be you!

0 points
0
0
MikeReuter's picture

January 14, 2016 at 02:11 pm

haha my intention was to say that of the three drives that started inside the 20-yard line last week, the first one ended in a safety... etc. Sorry if that was confusing.

0 points
0
0
croatpackfan's picture

January 15, 2016 at 07:30 am

It is OK. It is more me than you. I'm not native English speaker, so sometimes I forget to read twice... ;)

0 points
0
0
croatpackfan's picture

January 14, 2016 at 01:21 pm

double post

0 points
0
0
ray nichkee's picture

January 14, 2016 at 08:39 am

That was some work mike. Next time you're in the area let me know. You got a beer coming.

0 points
0
0
Since'61's picture

January 14, 2016 at 08:53 am

Mike - nice job! One of the issues that is not considered here is the score and time remaining in the game when a particular drive starts. For example, in the Redskins game, late in the 4th qtr, with the Packers leading 32-18 the Packers forced a turnover and took over possession inside the Redskin's 20 or 25 yard line. Given the score and time remaining the Packers obviously played for the FG that would make it a 3 possession game. Had the score been closer at the time the Packers would have played more aggressively to try for a TD. So some of your numbers are probably slightly skewed both for and against the Packers due to the time/score element. Another example is at the end of the first half when the offense may play for the FG first, to get points on the board, regardless of where they take possession. Just food for thought for a future article. Go Pack! Thanks, Since '61

0 points
0
0
RCPackerFan's picture

January 14, 2016 at 09:31 am

Great point Since '61.

0 points
0
0
MikeReuter's picture

January 14, 2016 at 09:50 am

I had considered that.

When I put this together I took out any drives at the end of the half or at the end of the game that were simply just trying to get the quarter over with.

I thought of removing drives where the team didn't have an urgent need to score like when a field goal would be good enough or when they are up by so many points that it didn't matter, but then I decided if I was going to put intent on the drives I would end up with inconsistent numbers and well, where do you stop?

If you limit yourself to just end of game situations, the numbers are typically fairly negligible (I would think) and I (personally) would rather just look at the numbers as a whole. The only thing I felt right about getting rid of were drives that ended the 1st half or game. Now that the numbers are out there, I wouldn't have an issue with trying to pair down the drives to just drives where you can assume they are going for a touchdown to see what is there, which I think is what you were getting at.

Overall I agree with you though that the scenarios you listed do skew the numbers, however much or little that ends up being. I would think in the grand scheme of things though there are a lot more drives that they are trying to go for touchdowns and that would cover up the much smaller sample size of drives where they were trying to kill clock or just get in field goal range.

0 points
0
0
BradHTX's picture

January 14, 2016 at 01:15 pm

It really is an impressive bit of number crunching, Mike — in sheer volume as well as analysis. I think you did a good job by eliminating those situations to get a cleaner set of stats.

Truth is, though, even looking at the last 3-4 seasons' numbers, the sample size is really too low to draw much of a conclusion, bearing in mind the statistical difference between a causative and correlative relationship between factors. That scoring percentage spike between 30-39 yards, for example, seems like it pretty much has to be a random aberration with no actual causative reason why starting a drive at that distance results in a greater chance of scoring.

The only two field positions where the scoring percentage is probably directly related are the 1-9 range on either end. In the case of starting at their own 1-9, because the goal of the initial downs is to move out of the danger of a safety, resulting in fewer downs to actually move the ball down field and a higher percentage of punts (just guessing, not verified). And in the case of taking over in the opponent's 1-9 through fumble/interception or a turnover on downs, the offense has four immediate shots at scoring with a rare end zone interception or a shanked/blocked 4th down FG being the only ways the offense fails to score.

It would be really interesting to see a massive analysis of the same statistics for all teams together to get a league-wide sense of how field position affects scoring. But I'm not suggesting that you undertake that — it would take a small army of statisticians!

0 points
0
0
MikeReuter's picture

January 14, 2016 at 02:30 pm

I do agree with you. It would be nice to have more numbers, but with how much teams change each season I felt like going back too far ended up incorporating too many season-to-season variables. I felt like this season plus the previous three would work well (or maybe I convinced myself of that after going through every drive for the offense and defense each year and not wanting to continue).

A full year's worth of data for every team combined would be definitely be interesting and I would love to see that. It would also likely give you enough data points to draw stronger conclusions than what I got here.

There is a decent chance that the random percentage spikes, like you mentioned between the 30 and 39-yard lines, is simply just a small sample size thing. We would need more info to say for sure. There is always the chance that something like a mental comfort level of starting further than the 20 but also not letting them relax because they know they need to get at least 30 yards to get into field goal range sets in. Kind of like when a pitcher gets the first strike on the hitter, you're off to a good start and have room for error now, but there's still work to do. We need more data to be sure and I don't know if going back further seasons really helps, only adding more drives to the seasons listed would have really help limit variables.

0 points
0
0
PaulRosik's picture

January 14, 2016 at 01:30 pm

This season field position is even larger for this team. There are no 40 or 50 yard explosion plays so they have to drive the length of the field. So the shorter field that is the better.

0 points
0
0