When the electronic computer scans national Football League statistics after the 10th week of the season (Thanksgiving games not included), it reveals some surprising things.
For instance, the Oakland Raiders, hyped as a potential Super Bowl team again this year, rank 27th in the league in opponent yards pr play, an important defensive statistic.
According to th computer analysis, yards allowed per play has a 45 percent correlation (statistical relationship or interdependence) with points allowed. This means that 45 per cent of total points allowed is associated with and dependent upon yards per play.
Obviously, it is an impotant messure of defense. The Raiders are giving up 4.88 yard per play. (See Chart One.) It bodes ill for any hopes the Raiders may have for a second Super Bowl victory.
Turnovers are genrally thought of as game breakers. Howere, according to Univac computer analysis, fumbles lost and interceptions loat are not equal important.
For example, the difference between fumbles lost and fumbles recovered shows no correlation with the average team's offense or defense this year.
By comparison, the difference between interceptions allowed and interceptions made correlates 39 percent with offense and a minus 25 percent with defense (the more interceptions made the fewer points allowed).
For example, the Pittsburgh Steelers rank 28th in the league on fumbles lost (22, or 2.2 per game). They also rank 28th on ooponent fumbles recovered (six or .6 per game). Yet they still have a crack at a palyoff spot.
On the more important pass interception differntial, howere, the Steelers rank sixth along with the league-leading Colts and Broncos, which have been horses in stealing more interceptions than they throw. These two interception leaders also lead the league in wins while two of the weakest teams, Tampa Bay and Green bay, trail the league on this important interception differential. (See Charts Two and Three).
How do you explain the large differences between the importance of the fumble and interception?
There is more information packed into the interception than the fumble. The Fumble can be considered an "cope" play.
The interception, howere, indirectly measures four units of a team: the offensive backfield's ability, including the quarterback's ability to throw under pressure; the offensive line's ability to protect the passer; the defensive line's ability to pressure the passer, and the defensive secondary's ability to set up and steal the pass. Only the special team's ability is not reflected in the interception.
Also the interception measures a generally weak team which goes to the air to play catch-up. There is a strong correlation between pass attempts and lost interceptions. Last year Seattle threw more passes then any other team and was intercepted most often. This year the Seahawks still lead the league in lost interceptions but rank 26th in pass attempts.
Another interesting statistics is the ratio of points scored to points allowed. A little short division provides a reliable indication of team strength and balance.Divisional champions usually score 1 1/2 points on offense for each point allowed. The average team, by definition, plays 7-7 ball, scoring one point on offense for each one-half point for each full point allowed.
Los Angeles leads the league with 2.19 points on offense for each on defense. The Rams' defense and offense are both improving.
By comparison, it is obvious that some potential playoff teams are struggling. The Bears, Redskins, Vikings, Steelers, Browns and Patriots are suffering on this balance between offense and defense. This "balance" figure is a statistical line of evidence pointing to the increased level of competition in the NFL. It is gitting tougher to win big.
Finally, the computer analysis shows some statisfically significant changes in the averages.
There are 5 per cent fewer first downs; 7 per cent fewer yards per game; 6 per cent decrease in yards per rush and 12 per cent fewer points scored.
There was an 8 per cent increase in penalties from 1975 to 1976 and an additional 2 per cent boost from 1976 to this season. The odds are 99 to 1 that a difference this great would be because of luck or chance.
Something has happened to pro football which adds to the improtance fo the referees' calls. While the 1974 rules changes concerning holding penalties have been pointed to as a major reason for the increase penalties, other reasons are given, including criticism of the judgemental, abilities of selected officials (currently all 90 work on a part-time basis). It is likely that in the interests of professionalism, the league will begin considering full-time officials.