In part one of this series I showed that there is significant evidence of bias between NFL stat crews when scoring assists. But it doesn’t stop there. There’s significant evidence of bias for each unofficial defensive statistic. Crews simply do not define solo tackles, assists and passes defenses the same way.
In a 10-year study comparing solo tackles, 10 stadium stat crews showed significant evidence of bias. Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Miami, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Washington scored significantly less solos while crews in Baltimore and New York (Giants) scored significantly more solos. In the five-year study there was significant evidence of bias in Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, Minnesota and New York (Giants). But how can IDP owners take advantage of this statistical inconsistency?
Gaining an advantage begins with understanding how each play can be scored. There are three options on most plays: single solo, double assists or the most valuable shared solo and assist. If solos are worth one point and assists worth a half, then you can see that an extra half point is awarded when a stats crew deems a play a shared solo and assist. Of course in some leagues the point values may be different. But even then, a shared solo and assist on the same play translates to more fantasy football production.
One of the factors that creates inconsistent scoring is how the relationship between solo and assist is translated from the NFL to fantasy football IDP leagues. To the NFL score keeper there is a difference between a solo tackle and a shared solo. A solo is the only tackle for that particular play and can only be awarded to one player. The shared solo is combined with an assist by definition. But in the box score and fantasy football leagues, the difference is meaningless.
IDP owners can use this to their advantage. The first step is to project tendencies in how each NFL stat crew scores defensive plays. The second is to add this piece of analysis to player evaluations.
By analyzing the differences between solo tackles and assists, I’ve classified each stadium stat crew into one of four categories. Crews that are most likely to score a play as a shared solo and assist, crews that are most likely to score double assists, crews most likely to score a single solo only and crews that are least likely to deem a play a shared solo and assist. The goal is to identify the scoring philosophy of each stat crew so that IDP owners can project what type of scoring is most likely to occur at each NFL stadium.
The first category displays the most “generous” NFL stat crews. When comparing home versus road values for these teams, the home stat crews in this category tended to award more solos and assists over the past five to 10 years. Therefore, it follows that these crews are more likely to score a play as a shared solo and assist. This type of scoring generally leads to more total fantasy points. Every team in this category ranked within the top 17 in terms of fantasy points awarded at home, from solo tackles and assists where assists are half the value of solos. The team’s five-year total fantasy point ranking is in parentheses.
Buffalo(1), New York Giants(2), Tennessee(3), San Diego(7), Pittsburgh(13), Green Bay(14) and New Orleans(17) all show a tendency to award more solos and assists than their teams scored on the road. Notice the top three teams all fit into this category.
The second category of stat crews are the most likely to score a play as an assist for multiple players. When analyzing the comparative data it’s easy to see this philosophy. These teams produce many more assists at home with fewer solos. On the road the team solo numbers go way up. Therefore, these crews tend to give the double assists more frequently than the shared solo and assist.
These crews are New England(4), Indianapolis(5), Washington(6), Cleveland(9), Seattle(11), New York Jets(15), Detroit(20), and Cincinnati(28). It’s interesting that these teams rankings vary so greatly. Cincinnati is very low in total fantasy points because they record very few solos. In fact they were last in the league in solos and second in assists. So you can see that the Cincinnati stats crew gives a lot of double assists and very few solos or even shared solos as compared to the rest of the league.
The third category of stat crews hold the philosophy that a single solo should be given on as many plays as possible. They are Arizona(8), Chicago(10), Oakland(12), Houston(18), Baltimore(19), St. Louis(21), Kansas City(22), San Francisco(23), Philadelphia(30), and Jacksonville(32). These teams had high solo and low assist numbers in front of the home stat crews.
Finally, the fourth category is kind of a mixed bag. It was too difficult to make a judgement from the data whether these crews favored awarding a single solo or double assists. However, since these teams displayed lower solos and assists across the board it’s evident that these crews are less likely to score a play as a shared solo and assist.
These crews are Tampa Bay(16), Carolina(24), Minnesota(25), Denver(26), Atlanta(27), Miami(29), and Dallas(31). Naturally, all of these teams rank low in total fantasy points at home since the stat crews tend not to award the higher scoring shared solo and assist as often as the rest of the league.
Here’s how the numbers of solos and assists broke down over the last five years.
|2||New York Giants||2193||884||2635|
|15||New York Jets||1935||812||2341|
There are many applications to IDP leagues. Factoring in the stadium stat crew to your IDP lineup decision is a must. For example, if a player’s production is assists dependent, he should probably remain on your bench for the game at St. Louis. The home stat crew should also be considered when projecting solos and assists for rookie or newly acquired free agent IDPs. Just remember that the player will also play half his season on the road.
It’s important to analyze players individually. The Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis was more productive in front of the assists stingy crew at the Edward Jones Dome because he’s more likely to post solo tackles. However, a linebacker like Rey Maualuga who depends more on assists should be downgraded when traveling to stadiums like the one in St. Louis where the stat crew is less likely to award them.
In IDP leagues where defensive tackles are required a couple of assists make a big difference at such a low scoring position. And don’t forget the secondary. How to award solos and assists when multiple players tackle a wide receiver at full speed is very subjective. It’s worth looking at the home and away splits for players you’re considering drafting, trading or starting.
Lineup decisions and home stadium projections may seem like only small advantages. But as more and more fantasy owners become savvy in IDP leagues small advantages become bigger ones. It’s also important to monitor changes that may occur in how stat crews are scoring solo tackles versus assists. It’s something I’ll continue to track to keep readers informed.
In the final article of this series I’m going to share the results and conclusions on passes defensed. I’ll also highlight specific strategies for applying this data to your individual defensive player evaluations.