I've been walking this Patriots beat long enough to know how things work in New England. The word came down from on high when this kingdom was established that the only thing that matters are championships. Not numbers or individual achievements or awards or anything else that they don't hang a banner for. Stats are for losers. I get that. As I've proven repeatedly over the years, I'm nothing if not a System Blogger.
But it's the Tuesday of Thanksgiving week. While the Pats are now leading their division, the current No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs and have a chance to take over the top spot if they win (and Baltimore loses) Sunday, they haven't played since Thursday, and won't again until Sunday. My supply of Patriots excitement is cut off until then. And while I can write about other things, even Will Hunting had to put the mop bucket aside every now and then and crunch some formulas. And with Week 11 of the season officially in the books, I have numbers I want to slap up on the window and ask the rest of the NFL to express their opinion of them apples.
--I'm going to start with a stat that is as simple as it is revealing. Not just in the NFL, but across all team sports. A true measure of excellence that goes beyond mere wins and losses. And it is Point Differential. It's a number that the Bills have been dominating virtually all season long. Or at least since they sandwiched a 22-point win over Washington between a 35-0 beatdown of Miami and a 40-0 trouncing of Houston in the first month of the season. Last week, the Patriots passed Buffalo for the league lead, +123 to +119. Arizona leads the NFL with 108. No other team has more than Tampa's +87. And the difference is even more telling if you look at which is the hottest team. The Pats are an incredible +125 over their five game win streak.
--Next is the brainchild of a friend of mine, Kerry Byrne, the founder of Cold, Hard Football Facts. And this one is the Rosetta Stone of all pro football stats. He calls it Passer Rating Differential. Simply put, it's your offense's Passer Rating minus the Passer Rating your defense allows. Win that battle, and you almost always win the war. According to CHFF's research, it is the best predictor of success besides obviously the final score.
From 2011 - It's official, sports fans: Passer Rating Differential is the most important stat in football. It's the one indicator virtually guaranteed to separate winners from losers and champs from chumps.
If your team dominates this indicator, it dominates on the field. If your team's bad in this indicator, it's bad on the field. …
Put most simply, wins and losses move in lock step with Passer Rating Differential (PRD), a Cold, Hard Football Facts "Quality Stat" because it has a direct correlation to success. In this case, the correlation is shocking even to the folks who created the stat.
How good is the stat? Consider that 40 of 71 NFL champs since 1940 (56 percent) finished No. 1 or No. 2 in Passer Rating Differential.
Taking just the teams that rank in the Top 10 in Passer Rating both for and against, the Passer Rating Differential numbers look like this:
- 7. Tampa Bay, +15.2
- 6. Green Bay, +16.5
- 5. LA Rams, +18.0
- 4. Arizona, +21.5
- 3. Dallas, +21.6
- 2. New England, +27.6
- 1. Buffalo, +33.2
And it goes without saying that that gap has closed considerably over the last few weeks. Especially as the Bills lost to an Indy team that asked Carson Wentz to do basically nothing while the Patriots were making origami out of the Falcons entire QB depth chart.
--Next, let's look at the one who is doing the vast majority of the throws. Most of the Passer in that Rating, if you will. With apologies to Brian Hoyer, Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne:
And the kick in the head on this is that, with the exception of the Cleveland game in Week 10 and possibly the Jets in Week 7, no one would argue Jones has played his best football in this stretch. Unless, I guess, if you compare him to every other quarterback int the league. Which I guess is fair. By that measurement he's been as good if not better than all of them.
--Here's more on Jones and a lot of other of the individual stats, courtesy of Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal:
And for you special teams fetishists:
And what to all of the names in these Tweets have in common? With the exception of JC Jackson, they were all added to the roster in 2019 or later. Jackson was signed as a UDFA in 2018. It's such a damned pity GM Bill stopped knowing how to build a roster some time around the Chad Jackson era.
--Speaking of Jackson, his Passer Rating against is 40.1, still the lowest among all cornerbacks. And his ratio of 1 TD/6 INTs in 2021 is pretty much par for his course:
--Just sticking with defense for a while more, here's another rookie that impressed GM Bill at Alabama's Pro Day who somehow eluded all the other GMs:
And Barmore is on pace to shatter the team record for QB pressures:
--On the subject of pressures:
… according to Pro Football Focus, Judon is third among all Edge players (behind only Maxx Crosby and Myles Garrett) with 52 total pressures. This despite the fact that the Pats have had him dropping into coverage on 71 snaps, which is fifth most at his position. If the focus of Steve Belichick's scheme wasn't putting quarterbacks into confusion tornado, simply sent Judon in on every down and gave him no other responsibilities, his totals might be 50% higher. Or more. But here it's about being a part of the equation, not getting JJ Watt-levels of TV face time.
--Which brings us to the fact that after one year in exile, one of Barmore's and Judon's fellow Front-7 teammates is showing them how to become a member of the Multiple Rings Club like him:
--On the whole defensively, they've given up:
- The fewest points per game at 16.1
- The fewest points over the last three games, with 4.3
- The fewest PPG on the road, by a wide margin, at 11.6
- The 2nd fewest 4th quarter PPG at 3.2
- The most interceptions with 18 and INT % at 4.7
- The 2nd most passes defensed, with 57
- The 3rd lowest completion %, 59.6.
--Circling back to team performances, here's a little something for the visual learners to demonstrate how good things have been going overall:
So overall? I guess you could say that as we hit the end of November, the Patriots team that started 2-4 is the hottest team in the league on both sides of the ball, with new guys all over the roster who've made a significant impact once the team sorted itself out, with a young core of key contributors, it's well coached, aggressive and tough.
Other than that, things are just going OK. The math on this checks out.