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NFL 2009: The Year Only Passing Mattered
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January 22, 2010, 08:25 PM
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Audacious Epigone has a nifty table showing the correlation between a team`s wins during the NFL`s 2009 regular season and various team statistics. The most striking is the very high correlation between wins and Yards Gained per Pass Play (which, I believe, is net of yards lost on sacks of the quarterback, but without adjustments for touchdowns and interceptions thrown) — r = 0.80 — versus the very low correlation between wins and Yards per Rush [Run] Play — r = 0.09.

For example, the two top teams in yards per running play were the Tennessee Titans (8-8) and the Carolina Panthers (8-8), while two worst running teams per play were the Indianapolis Colts (14-2) and the San Diego Chargers (13-3).

A correlation of 0.80 with yards per pass attempt is very high considering that`s not even looking at defense or special teams play.

Now, A.E. has checked out the last eight NFL seasons, and 2009 turns out to be the extreme case in recent years:

Year Pass Run
2009 .80 .09
2008 .48 .15
2007 .76 .24
2006 .44 .10
2005 .60 .40
2004 .56 .45
2003 .67 .07
2002 .50 .11
So, passing has been more correlated with winning than running for each of the last eight seasons, but 2009 was definitely the Year of the Quarterback.

Of course, when you get to the playoffs in January, especially in outdoor games in northern cities, passing can let you down, such as New England`s passing attack getting whomped by Baltimore`s running game outdoors in the Boston area in the first round of the playoffs.