Only The Truth

Win Correlation - Yards Per Touchdown

04/30/2013 11:09

This is the second part of a study on the correlation between a single statistic and winning football games. The first part discussed Plays/TD which has the highest correlation to winning football games of any stat.


Here, the same formula is applied to total yards gained. While total yards alone does not tell a whole lot, yards are still significant. Here is the formula:

[Total Yards] / [Offensive Points - Defensive Points Allowed] * 7.


Same example as last time: Denver scored 28 offensive points, 7 defensive points and allowed a defensive touchdown while gaining 350 yards of offense. So it would look like this 350 / (28-7) * 7 = 116.7 Yards/TD.


While yards are not that important, teams that win the Yards/TD stat win the game at an alarming rate as well. In 2012, teams were 214-41 (0.839) when having a better score in Yards/TD.


So why do teams with a higher score win almost 84 percent of the time? Each unit plays a role in scoring points.


Special Teams

Teams are much more likely to score with good field position because they obviously need fewer first downs in order to get into position for at least a field goal. The first way to do this is with great special teams.


Teams that are constantly starting on their own 30-40 yard line after punts and kick returns are far more likely to score that teams that have to start on their own 20 yard line. Likewise, this effect is also in play if a team is able to force its opponents into bad field position with great punting and kickoffs.



Defense is another way to have superior field position than the opponent. Turnovers are just as likely to lead to possessions starting in the opposing side of the field, where one first down can get the team into field goal range.


Another aspect is simply playing good defense and forcing the opposing offense to punt after just a few plays. This obviously pins the opponent deep in its own side of the field while the offense attempts to score.



Finally, and most importantly, this measures the efficiency of the offense. Teams that gain 350-400 yards of offense and yet only score field goals in the redzone are much more likely to lose.


Those yards mean very little if offenses are unable to score touchdowns. This stat recognizes the teams that may not have the most prolific offenses between the 20s, but are effective inside the redzone.


Like the Plays/TD stat, this rewards offenses for scoring efficiently. Points will always trump yards because that is how the winner of each game is determined. It only makes sense to use this measurement instead of net yards per game when talking about the best offenses in the NFL.


All 2012 Regular Season Games

Here is a chart of all of the games for the 2012 regular season.

Yards/TD # Total %
Less than 90.0 93 512 18.2
90.0 - 109.9 112 512 21.9
110.0 - 129.9 82 512 16.0
130.0 - 149.9 40 512 7.8
150.0 or more 168 512 32.8
Non-positive games 17 512 3.3



Just like the Plays/TD stat, if the Yards/TD stat for offenses is broken down into categories surrounding league averages, there is roughly a 40-20-40 split in good performances - mediocre performances - bad performances. Strangly enough, this goes to show that while teams may average a certain total in yards, they rarely come close to that figure.


They are evenly split with the great and good performances, with 18.2% for the great and 21.9% for the good, teams only played below average on offense 7.8% of the time. When teams played poorly on offense, they were simply awful, which is represented by 32.8% of offenses averaging over 150 yards per touchdown for a single game.


Only 6 teams averaged worse than that for the 2012 season (NYJ, STL, JAC, ARI, PHI and KC) and all of these teams were awful at the quarterback position except for Bradford, who ranked 18th in the NFL in QBR. 


This chart also accounts for the 3.3% of games for the season where the offense had negative net points for the game, which is impossible for this stat to actually measure. Since no team will have negative points for a season, it is not a problem. However, for a single game, some offenses are so bad they struggle to outscore the opposing defense and special teams.


While this only measures the offense, there is another interesting note with regards to consistency. While some teams have an offense all over the place, other teams are very consistent, whether good or bad.


  • Atlanta had 13 games at or above the league average and only 3 games that were very poor.
  • Denver had 13 games at or above the league average, 1 game that was below average, and 2 that were very poor.
  • Both GB and Houston had 4 great offensive games, 5 good games and only 3 awful games. They did differ in the middle, where GB had 1 average game and 3 below average games, while Houston had 2 average games and 2 below average games.
  • Kansas City was on the wrong end of this, with only 1 great game and 1 average game while the rest were either below average or poor games. They also had 3 games that were non-positive, meaning they failed to register a single net point on offense for the game.
  • New England had the most above average games in the NFL with 12 - they had only 2 average, 1 below average and 1 poor offensive games.
  • New Orleans and the New York Giants also had the same number of games around the league average or better with 12, but the Giants had 5 great games compared to the Saints 3 and had 5 good games compared to the Saints 4. Both teams had 4 very poor outings on offense.
  • Tennessee only managed 2 great games and 1 good game, while the other 13 games were either below average (4) or very poor (9).
  • Dallas, Detroit and Philadelphia were the only teams to not have a great game on offense (90 Yards/TD or less)


What makes this stat better than almost any stat in football is its correlation to winning games. After looking at the offensive efficiency chart for each teams, it becomes abundantly clear that many teams struggle to field offenses that can compete while others play extremely well no matter who the opponent is each week. 


This comes down to leadership. While some organizations are fundamentally sound because of good coaching and quarterbacking, others are a revolving door with no answer. The next two stats in this correlation study have to do with quarterbacks. The first is Yards/Attempt, which includes rushing totals and sacks. The last one involves the QBR stat for this site.


The goal here is to illustrate how efficiency is far greater than volume numbers. While it is never a bad thing to gain a lot of yards, in the end, it is the points scored that determines who wins and loses. The teams with the greater efficiency tend to win much more frequently and these stats are able to indicate that success while others do not.

Search site


Luke Clementson