NFL & College Football Hidden Stats

As teams gear up for playoff runs and bowl appearances, fans of all stripes are analyzing stats and figures to try to determine their favorite team’s chances of winning it all. Well, we thought it might be fun to toss out some hidden stats, which most fans might not be aware of, but which can make or break a team’s season.

Following are 3 hidden stats that every football fan (and coach and player) should keep in mind:

  • +1 Turnover Margin = 98% Chance of Winning Season in College. Every fan knows that turnovers are important to a team’s success. But this stat tells us just how important. If a team maintains slightly more than a +1 turnover margin per game, their odds of a winning season are a whopping 98%! That number was calculated by looking at 7 seasons’ worth of CFB stats, from 2008-2015. No wonder coaches put so much stress on ball control!
  • Positive Pass Differential = Winning Record in NFL. ‘Pass Differential’ refers to the difference in pass yards per play gained by the offense vs. pass yards per play given up by the defense (source). For example, say Aaron Rodgers passes for 300 yards on 30 plays (10 pass yards per play), while the Green Bay Defense gives up 150 pass yards on 30 plays (5 pass yards per play) to the opposing Quarterback. That leaves Green Bay with a +5 Pass Differential. This hidden stat tells us that there is a correlation between a team’s ability to post a winning record and its average Pass Differential. Of the 120 teams to make the playoffs from 2003-2012, a staggering 105 of them had a positive average Pass Differential (the average of all Pass Differentials for all 16 regular season games). Furthermore, 8 of the 10 NFL champs from that period were among the NFL’s elite in Pass Differential. This should come as no surprise to fans of the game who have watched the quarterback position elevate in importance over the last 10-15 years.
  • 50+ Rushing Attempts & Completions = 72% Chance of Winning in NFL. Here’s an odd one: If a team’s rush attempts plus its completed passes equals 50 or more in a game, that team has a roughly 72% chance of winning. From 2008 to 2012, including playoffs, teams with 50+ rushes and completions have a record of 819-325-3, giving them a .715 winning percentage. That stat comes courtesy of NFL Analyst and statistics guru Mike Lombardi. And Mike should know about winning stats – until 2016, he was an Assistant to the coaching staff of the New England Patriots!

Those are some hidden stats that we’ve come across during our tenure working for the NFL League Office. Got any others that we missed out on? Feel free to share in the comments section below…

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