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Measuring offensive efficiency

Are the Giants the best team in the NFC?  An NFC head coach thinks so.

Saints head coach Sean Payton  believes the Giants are the best team in the NFC. 

                     “In my mind, the Giants are the best team in the NFC.”

Is Payton is pandering to the media?  Sports Illustrated’s Peter King concurs with Payton.  In his latest, The Fine Fifteen poll, the Giants are the top ranked NFC team.  Nevertheless, Payton’s  public thoughts about the Giants may belie what he is saying privately.  In the past, his Saints’ teams in 2006 and 2009  have shredded Coughlin’s Giants.  Regardless, he could be downplaying  his own teams performance.  Although the Super Bowl champs are 5-3 and are coming off an impressive win against the Steelers, the Saints have struggled in 2010.  

So what would make Payton declare the Giants the best in the NFC?

If we look on the surface,  on offense the Giants are ranked  7th in points scored , 3rd in yards,  8th in passing, and 4th in rushing.  And on defense the Giants look super.  They are second in total yards allowed and passing yards.  They are 3rd best team against the rush.  The only blemish is points allowed.  At this point the Giants are 20th in the league, allowing teams to score an average of 21.9 points per game.  On offense and defense, the Giants are playing at a high level.  Two weeks ago, I analyzed the Giants’ defense.  Today, we will unearth offensive efficiency.

What do head coaches in the NFL look at to measure offensive effectiveness?   According to NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi,   “I always review how many rushing attempts and pass completions a team amassed after each game. To me, this statistic is symbolic of a team’s ability to execute in each aspect of its offense.” 

In this simple formula, the magic number is 50.  If an offense’s pass completions and rush attempts eclipse 50,  most likely, the team wins the game.  Needless to say,  using this formula, I charted all seven Giants’ games.   

1 Opponent Passing Completions Rushing Attempts Total
2 Panthers 30 36 56
3 Colts 13 25 38
4 Titans 34 20 54
5 Bears 18 32 50
6 Texans 27 32 59
7 Lions 20 30 50
8 Cowboys 25 37 62

Does this formula have merit?  In all of the Giants’ victories,  their offense’s pass completions and rush attempts equaled or exceeded a total of 50.  Therefore, this means the offense is operating at an optimum level.  The only exception occurred  against  the Tennessee Titans.   Despite reaching a total of 54,  the Giants lost this game.  While they outplayed the Titans, the Giants wounds were self inflicted.   Turnovers, penalties, and sloppy special teams were their undoing.  On the contrary, against the Colts, the offense could not get out of dry dock.  And as a result of Gilbride’s questionable game plan against the Colts, the Giants offense was putrid.  However, nonetheless, as Andy pointed out this week, Gilbride has the offense clicking on all cylinders.  And this is manifested by the numbers in the aforementioned chart.  Interestingly, the emergence of Hakeem Nicks has dramatically improved this offense, especially in the red zone.  According to Newark Star-Ledger’s Zach Berman, the Giants are SECOND in red zone efficiency.  With EIGHT touchdowns, Nicks has blossomed into a big time threat.  His ability to beat his man in one on one coverage has been a major factor in the Giants scoring touchdowns instead of field goals.  In 2009,  I had an opportunity to speak with Eli Manning.  One question I asked Eli:  In 2007, the Giants were 12th in red zone touchdown percentage. However, in 2008, the Giants dropped to 20th.  And they had the most red zone opportunities.  What happened?   Eli responded,  “Losing Plaxico Burress was a factor. Without Plaxico, a fade pass was not an option.”   

As the season continues,  we will use this metric to monitor the Giants offense.