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Everyday during the month of October, I'll be marking the re-launch of AFA by highlighting a feature here at the site. To help re-build the AFA community, please spread the word. Tell your friends and follow AFA on Twitter, Facebook, or via RSS.
The very first feature I'll highlight is the Advanced Team Stat Visualization. That's a mouthful, but it's just a really simple way to get a picture of the entire league at a glance. The viz plots each team according to their offensive and defensive Expected Points Added (EPA) per Game. Good offenses are to the right, and good defenses are up on the plot. So teams toward the top-right are the best performing all-around teams.
This week's rankings saw fairly significant shifts, as one might expect this early in the season. At this time last season, only six of the original top 10 remained in the upper third. However, only two of the bottom 10 moved into the upper half, suggesting that the early cellar-dwellars are likely to flounder all year.
That pattern holds scary implications for a couple teams, something we will touch on later. Of the bottom 10 teams from this time last year, only San Francisco rebounded to post a winning record. Still, that does not mean teams at the top will remain in the penthouse, as the Texans, Titans and Falcons will attest to.
I didn't see any complaints about this write-up format last week, so we'll dive deeper into a few surprises generated by the rankings, as well as teams that jump out for some quirky statistical pattern. Still, feel free to critique this format now and as the season moves along. I'm nothing if not a man of the people.
At four minutes? Maybe not.
With 1:35 left to play, PIT led TB 24-20. Facing a 3rd down and 5 from their own 19, the PIT offense chose to run the ball. They were stopped with a 2-yard loss, but because TB had no timeouts left, the game clock wound down to 50 seconds before PIT had to punt. Unfortunately for PIT, the punt was about 10 yards shorter than normal and TB was then able to strike deep into the red zone, setting up the game-winning TD. Should PIT have thrown rather than run, risking stopping the clock or worse--a turnover?
Everyone is familiar with what a two-minute offense is. It's when a team that's down by a score late in the game furiously passes the ball all over the field while using timeouts and the sideline to keep the clock from running out. The four-minute offense is the opposite. It's when a team with the lead late in the game only needs to play keep-away. They don't need to score, only to convert a first down or two to keep the clock running and the ball out of the opponent's hands.