Analysis

NFL Week 16 Defensive Efficiency Rankings

Week 16 Defensive Efficiency

This past week, the team with the most sacks in the NFL (Eagles) played the team that had a sack percentage allowed of nearly two percentage points higher than any other (Bears). The actual result of six sacks for Philadelphia almost feels unremarkable when you come in with that kind of Tale of the Tape. 

The Eagles also came in with just the 15th-best pressure rate as a team, which suggests that their sack production is at least partly a mirage, so perhaps we shouldn’t have expected a truly explosive sack performance. That said, having the distribution of pass-rush talent that they do should lend itself to higher sack conversion rates than typical because a pressure by one player can lead to a sack by another.

Regardless of the reliability of that production over time, those sacks have put Philadelphia in a position to be one of the most productive defenses in the league this year. And there’s a little more *ahem* pressure on them now, with Jalen Hurts banged up.

Let’s take a look at where the rest of the league stacks up defensively through 15 weeks.

Defensive Efficiency Rankings Explained

This season, we’ve taken a weekly temperature on the efficiency of each offense and defense. This article will once again check in on how each NFL offense ranks in EPA/Play. If you’re unfamiliar with EPA, it stands for Expected Points Added and is simply a way to measure whether or not a play brought a team closer to scoring.

For example, it’s easy to understand that a gain of five yards on fourth-and-4 is good, whereas a gain of five yards on fourth-and-6 is bad, and EPA can contextualize that in a way that net yards cannot. 

To put into context the worth of a big turnover, another example would be a quarterback throwing a pick-six on first-and-goal from the opponent’s 1-yard line. Conventional wisdom would say that was a 14-point swing – because we expected the offense to score a touchdown in that situation – and EPA would reflect roughly that. 

T-1. New England Patriots

EPA/Play = -0.15

Last Week = 1

There are about 47 more interesting ways the end of the Patriots’ loss to the Raiders was notable, but it’s a good example of why Points Against is a bad way of representing the quality of a defense. No evaluation of the Patriots’ stinginess should have anything to do with whatever happened on that last lateral play. This unit is in the top ten in limiting positive-EPA plays on early downs, late downs, in the red zone, in the middle of the field, in a house, with a mouse… They were haunted by the ghost of a departed star in Chandler Jones, but the recent high-profile departures of Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson have not left them wanting.

T-1. San Francisco 49ers

EPA/Play = -0.15

Last Week = 2

3. Denver Broncos

EPA/Play = -0.13

Last Week = 5

4. New York Jets

EPA/Play = -0.12

Last Week = T-3

T-5. Dallas Cowboys

EPA/Play = -0.11

Last Week = T-3

The Cowboys are showing some cracks over the last month-plus. All three of the games in which they’ve allowed positive EPA through the air have come in the last six weeks. This particular contest came down to Trevor Lawrence stepping up. The Cowboys started the second half up by two touchdowns and generated pressure on 46% of Lawrence’s second-half dropbacks, yet they allowed nearly 9 yards per attempt and generated no sacks.

T-5. Philadelphia Eagles

EPA/Play = -0.11

Last Week = T-6

T-7. Buffalo Bills

EPA/Play = -0.09

Last Week = 8

T-7. Washington Commanders

EPA/Play = -0.09

Last Week = T-6

9. Indianapolis Colts

EPA/Play = -0.08

Last Week = T-9

When you blow historic leads, you get fun results by half. The Colts’ pass defense held Minnesota to -1 EPA per dropback in the first half—to underscore that, we’re talking about the equivalent of kicking a field goal every three plays. In the second half (excluding overtime), Kirk Cousins threw for over 300 yards and generated a hint less than a third of a point per dropback against them. That includes an insane 261 yards that fell into a hole in the Colts’ coverage, which is 75 more than any other team in any other half this year.

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

EPA/Play = -0.07

Last Week = T-9

T-11. Baltimore Ravens

EPA/Play = -0.05

Last Week = 11

T-11. Cincinnati Bengals

EPA/Play = -0.05

Last Week = T-12

T-13. Carolina Panthers

EPA/Play = -0.03

Last Week = T-12

The Steelers got the better of Carolina on Sunday with a conservative-but-efficient day from Mitchell Trubisky. The Panthers have allowed at least 70% of their opponent’s air yards to be completed three times this year, and strangely they’ve all been against AFC North opponents. Second-year cornerback Jaycee Horn was excellent again (3 targets, 12 yards allowed), but Keith Taylor Jr. gave up over 100 yards in coverage, the worst showing by a Panthers pass defender this season.

T-13. Cleveland Browns

EPA/Play = -0.03

Last Week = T-18

T-13. New Orleans Saints

EPA/Play = -0.03

Last Week = T-14

Sometimes life is just easy. The Saints matched up against Desmond Ridder in his first career start, and the rookie was only able to muster 88 yards on 23 attempts from a clean pocket. This week they will face off against a Browns’ squad that is still trying to figure out what to do with Deshaun Watson. In his most recent start, Watson managed to be sacked nearly 10 percent of the time while throwing the ball an average of just 4 yards downfield, a feat of ineffectiveness that has only been surpassed a few times this year.

T-13. Pittsburgh Steelers

EPA/Play = -0.03

Last Week = T-14

T-17. Kansas City Chiefs

EPA/Play = -0.02

Last Week = T-18

T-17. Miami Dolphins

EPA/Play = -0.02

Last Week = T-16

T-17. Tennessee Titans

EPA/Play = -0.02

Last Week = T-16

T-20. Green Bay Packers

EPA/Play = -0.01

Last Week = T-18

T-20. Jacksonville Jaguars

EPA/Play = -0.01

Last Week = T-18

T-20. Minnesota Vikings

EPA/Play = -0.01

Last Week = T-25

T-23. Arizona Cardinals

EPA/Play = 0.00

Last Week = T-25

T-23. Houston Texans

EPA/Play = 0.00

Last Week = T-18

Kudos to the Texans for playing another tough game, and kudos to them for figuring out how to lose it. All of the team’s top players by Total Points are in their defensive backfield, which might say more about an offense that is trying to convince you that a two-quarterback system will work. Second-round pick Jalen Pitre leads the safety position in tackles and tackles for loss and has three interceptions, providing support to a group that has been cobbled together from spare parts the last couple of years.

T-23. Los Angeles Rams

EPA/Play = 0.00

Last Week = 24

T-23. New York Giants

EPA/Play = 0.00

Last Week = T-25

T-23. Seattle Seahawks

EPA/Play = 0.00

Last Week = T-18

28. Los Angeles Chargers

EPA/Play = 0.01

Last Week = T-28

T-29. Chicago Bears

EPA/Play = 0.02

Last Week = T-28

T-29. Las Vegas Raiders

EPA/Play = 0.02

Last Week = 30

T-31. Atlanta Falcons

EPA/Play = 0.06

Last Week = 31

T-31. Detroit Lions

EPA/Play = 0.06

Last Week = 32

Alex Vigderman contributed to this report. 

WATCH: Cam’s Corner Week 15

 

Scroll to the Top