Outsiders on Patriots

The Football Outsiders Almanac 2009, which looks at the game through a statistical lens, is now available.

I asked Doug Farrar, who researched and wrote the Patriots section of the Almanac, to share five factors that fans should remember when thinking about this year’s team. Each day, I’ll post one of his thoughts:

“The Patriots might be to quarterbacks what the Broncos were to running backs.”

“The Pats had just half a quarter of Tom Brady last year, but they managed to put together the NFL’s best offense, based on DVOA [Defense-Adjusted Value over Average], in the second half of the 2008 season. As you know, they did this with a guy in Matt Cassel who had never started a college game. How is this possible? For the Pats in the recent past, it’s been all about the shotgun formation. In 2007, New England became the first NFL team to run the shotgun formation on more than 50 percent of their plays, and that trend continued in 2008. Our data shows that teams are more effective and efficient in the shotgun – over the last two years, teams have averaged 5.9 yards per play from the shotgun, and 5.1 under center. The differences between New England’s DVOA under shotgun and not were pretty significant. Cassel threw 433 passes out of the shotgun and amassed a DYAR [Defense-Adjusted Yards over Replacement] of 531, and a DVOA of 7.8%. Under center, he threw 124 passes for a DYAR of 124 and a DVOA of 2.2%. Should Matt Gutierrez or Kevin O’Connell have to take the reins for any length of time this season, they may be in a situation like Denver used to have with running backs – it’s just that Brady is Terrell Davis, and the other guys are Olandis Gary and Mike Anderson.”

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