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NFL: Explosive Play Rate Last 10 Years

The Evolution of NFL Offenses

As NFL offenses evolve, NFL defenses face the challenge of adapting to the schematic differences. NFL offenses have averaged 22.64 pts per game in the last ten years. 2017 ranks as the lowest per game scoring year (21.72), while the highest (23.41) happened in 2013. In 6 of the last ten years, scoring has been above the 22.64 pts per game average. 2018 ranks 2nd in per-game scoring (23.35), with the Kansas City offense averaging 35.3 pts per game ranking the 2018 Chiefs offense number two in scoring the last ten years. The 2013 Denver Broncos are the highest-scoring team of the previous ten years, averaging 37.9 pts per game.

One of the correlating factors that point to the success of offenses in the NFL is the QB. The two highest-scoring teams in the NFL the last ten years either reached the Super Bowl (2018 Chiefs) with Patrick Mahomes or won it, (2013 Broncos) with Peyton Manning. Both teams were throwing the football 60% of the time, with one being 3% more explosive than the other (2018 Chiefs 9.79% vs. 2013 Broncos 6.78%).

Does Explosive Play Rate Correlate to a Higher Win Rate?

Yes, and no, but more yes. The top ten teams with the highest explosive play rate average 8.46% of their total plays going for 20+ yards or more. The top ten combined for six playoff appearances, but zero Super Bowl wins and three NFL MVP winning QB's.

The 2019 Kansas City Chiefs are not on that top ten list by comparison, and they averaged an explosive play rate of 7.26%. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers rank 1st among all NFL teams in 2019 with an explosive play rate of 8.18%, good for 12th highest in the last ten seasons. The Buccaneers win% of 43.75% is one of the lowest of any team with an explosive play rate above 8%, the other two are the 2015 Jacksonville Jaguars (8.32% Exp. Ply. RTE.), winning 30% of their games and the 2018 New York Giants (8.11% Exp. Ply. Rte.), winning 31% of their games. The issue for both teams was that even though they were able to hit the explosive plays, they struggled in other vital areas. The 2018 Giants couldn't protect their QB giving up 47 sacks, while the 2015 Jaguars fumbled the ball nine times, threw 18 interceptions, and gave up 521 sacks.

The correlating factor for both teams, the QB. The 2018 Giants had a deteriorating Eli Manning, while the Jaguars had Blake Bortles under center in 2015. Jacksonville struggled to run the football throwing it 63% of the time in 2015, meaning they were leaning on Blake Bortles. The Giants were in a similar boat leaning on Manning as a passer 62% of the time, but the big X-Factor for the Giants was Saquan Barkley as both a runner and a receiver in 2018. Barkley led all NFL RB's with 16 rushes of 20+ yards or more, and 5 more receiving plays of 20+ yds. Barkley accounted for 28% of the Giant's explosive 20+ yard plays in 2018. Add in Odell Beckum's 17 explosive 20+ yard plays, and two players accounted for 50% of the Giants explosive plays in 2018.


Does Explosive Play Rate Correlate to More Wins?

Teams in the top ten of Explosive play rate average 7.42% (.96% above league avg), winning 55.45% of their games. The top five teams from the previous ten years average an explosive play rate of 7.85% (1.39% above ten-year avg) and win 58.23% of the time.

Based on the small sample size, we can conclude that teams who rank among the top ten teams in the NFL have a higher chance of making the playoffs. We can also correlate that teams with good to elite QB play rank among the top ten teams according to explosive play rate in the NFL.

Additional Analysis and Conclusions

Points Per Game and Explosive Play Rate (Scoring = More Wins)

If you take the top ten teams from each of the last ten seasons who led the NFL in points per game average, they average an explosive play rate of 6.91% (.51% above league avg) yet they win 64.46% of their games 9% higher than top ten teams who lead the league in explosive play rate by itself. We identified 65 teams who ranked in the top ten in both points per game average, and explosive play rate since 2010. Those 65 teams win 62.16% of their games.


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