Splitsville: Maximizing win probability

Michael Salfino
Yahoo Sports

The fantasy football playoffs are right around the corner, but we need to get there first. Here are some stats designed to help you mine the waiver wire and set your lineup in ways that maximize win probability.


Let's start with the basics, the teams that pass and run the most.


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Call him "Big Play" Russell. (USAT)

Most passing attempts per game thus far in 2013: Cleveland (43.4), Detroit(42.3), Atlanta (41), Denver (40.7), Houston (40), New Orleans (39.9),New England (39.1), Pittsburgh (38), Chicago (37.5), Cincinnati (37.4).


Fewest pass attempts: San Francisco (25.1), Seattle (26), Jets (30.4),Carolina (30.6), Oakland (30.7), Philadelphia (32), Tennessee (33.1),Tampa Bay (33.3), St. Louis (33.7).


But don't panic yet. Because big plays can make up for these volume problems and we¹re going to get to them in a bit.


First, let's look at rushing attempts the same way.


Most per game: Buffalo (33), Seattle (32.5), San Francisco (31.7),Carolina (31.3), Denver (30.9), Philadelphia (30.6), Washington (30.4),Jets (30), New England (29.5), Green Bay (29.1).


Fewest: Atlanta (18.8), Dallas (19.9), Miami (21), Cleveland (21.4),Jacksonville (22.9), Pittsburgh (23.7), Arizona (24.3), Giants (24.4),Chicago (24.8), Colts (24.9).


Besides Russell Wilson getting a fair number of those Seattle rushing attempts (6.5 rushes per game are his), he also leads the game's most explosive offense. This year, 12.6% of Seattle's snaps are big plays,meaning a run of at least 10 yards or a pass of at least 25. Compare that to the last place Jaguars (4.05%) and you can see that Wilson and company make up in quality what they lack in quantity.


Here's the rest of the top 10 in big play percentage: Philadelphia(11.3%), San Francisco (10.1%), Green Bay (9.9%), Washington (9.2%), New Orleans (8.9%), Jets (8.3%), Houston (8.3%), Chicago (8.3%) and Denver(8.2%).


The bottom 10 in big play percentage (besides the league-worst Jaguars):Atlanta (4.8%), Cleveland (5.2%), Baltimore (5.6%), Arizona (6.1%), Miami(6.2%), Pittsburgh (6.2%), New England (6.5%), Dallas (6.6%), Bengals(6.8%).


Before continuing, let¹s take a half-time break and note that the Colts have been outscored by a combined 72-9 in the first half of the last three games. That's bad!


One of the best predictors of running back touchdowns is team red zone possessions per game. But remember most red zone possessions do end with passing touchdowns because that's the modern game.


Most red zone possessions per game: New England (4.3), Denver (4.3),Chicago (3.8), Green Bay (3.8), Detroit (3.7), San Diego (3.7), Seattle(3.6 and another reason not to fade Wilson), New Orleans (3.6), Kansas City (3.5), Tennessee (3.4 and maybe why we should not view Ryan Fitzpatrick as merely a bye-week option).


Red zone possession trailers (there is nothing good about this):Cleveland (2.3), Jets (2.3), Jacksonville (2.4), Tampa Bay (2.4), Oakland(2.5), Carolina (2.5), Giants (2.5), Houston (2.6), Cincinnati (2.6),Buffalo (2.6).


I read your comments and I understand the complaints about the lack of narrative here. This column is dense with numbers but it¹s purposefully dense. It¹s called "Splitsville" for cryin¹ out loud. If your eyes and brain need a break, we¹ll be right here still whenever you are ready to proceed.


Sticking with the red zone, let's look at how quarterbacks perform there.These teams are best at leveraging their red zone attempts with the best quarterback play measured by passer rating. But first let me say that passer rating has been bashed by many and a replacement stat has even been conceived (though rightfully largely ignored). Yogi Berra would not be pleased since we're seeking to fix something that ain't broke. The statistic, after all, correlates quite strongly with wins. For example,since 2009, all of the teams in the top half in cumulative passer rating have winning records. Only two in the bottom half, the Bears (21st) and Jets (31st) have avoided losing records.


Best red zone passer rating: Broncos (127.8), Titans (109.2 and another reason to consider Fitzpatrick; did I mention how the Colts are giving up300-plus passing yards now to everyone?), Saints (108.3), Chiefs (107.9,a shocker to me), Chargers (107.8 and if only I fully backed my model in August when it spit out Philip Rivers as a QB to target), Dolphins (101.4), Steelers (96.5),Cowboys (94.7), Raiders (94.1), Packers (93.2 but obviously night and day with/without Aaron Rodgers).


Quick note: the Packers over the last three games have scored a point every 24.7yards, about double their rate with Rodgers. In other words, Rodgers is twice as efficient a scorer. He's good! Note the league average every year in yards per point is always between 15 and 16.


Worst ratings in the red zone just for fun because we obviously don't want these dogs: Jaguars (29, and not a misprint), Texans (63.6), Colts(64.2; wait the great Andrew Luck stinks in the red zone?), Bills (73.6),49ers (76), Redskins (76.6), Ravens (77), Jets (77.4), Cardinals (79.7),Giants (83.8).


Before ending with where teams start drives, let's look at butter-finger receivers, awarded for dropping at least 10 percent of 50-plus targets:Reggie Bush (8 drops in 61 targets 13.1% drop rate), Tavon Austin(7/59/11.9%), Davone Bess (8/74/10.8%), Aaron Dobson (7/65/10.8%),Kenbrell Thompkins (7/67/10.5%), Chris Ogbonnaya (6/59/10.2%).


Here are the leaders in starting drives in enemy territory, which of course is good for getting us relatively cheap/easy touchdowns. And it's yet another reason to play Russell Wilson, maybe my favorite player in the game today. Seattle starts 17.6% of drives inside the opponent¹s 50.It's followed by Kansas City (16.6%), New England (15.4%) Arizona (14%),San Francisco (13.5%), Chicago (13.5%), Carolina (12.8%), Tennessee(12.7%), Pittsburgh (12.6%), Dallas (12.5%), Denver (12.5%). Note the median is about 11% and the Redskins are last at 3.8%, tough luck for Alfred Morris owners.

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