I'm trying to start a new series of articles. In these I'll try to analyse the opposition using stats. This week - the san diego chargers
Disclaimer: I will be using stats from the current seasons most often unless I'm talking about individual players which means in the first few weeks the sample size is very, very small. So i will use my subjective view of the chargers as well as their opponents more than I would if I had more data. Stats used in this article are from here.
Initial assumptions and Prior Bias
The Chargers under Norv turner have generally been statistically brilliant offensively and defensively but have managed to underperform expectations every year on account of poor special teams/general wierdness/sheer stupidity.
For this year I expect a good to great offense and I am clueless about the defense.
Points Scored (PS) = 30.0
Points alowed (PA) = 12.0
Opposition points allowed (OPA) = 34.5
Opposition point scored (OPS) = 13.0
So the Chargers did worse than average on both offense as well as defense. That doesnt tell us too much other than the Chargers faced terrible competition and they didnt beat them up as badly as they should have. Next we look at each side of the ball
As mentioned before, I would expect the offense to be good to excellent since Rivers is back and has a good supporting cast. Rivers had been excellent for at least three years before he decided to throw a bunch of interceptions last year. If I had to guess I'd expect the excellent Rivers and not last years interception machine.
First, the run game. The chargers averaged 3.05 yards per carry (YPC) in the last two games which is awful. However, they were missing their No. 1 back Ryan matthews who appears to be back. In addition, our falcons alllowed 4.50 YPC to their opponents. Although, the Broncos and the Chiefs had good running attacks. Against the Chargers I'd expect our D to focus on stopping Rivers and as a result I think the chargers will be able to run against our defense, if they are willing to.
Next, the pass. I will look at two aspects: the probability of forcing turnovers and the efficiency of their passing attack
First we look at a statistic called NPP% (negative pass play %) which gives the percentage of pass plays that resulted in sacks or interceptions. For the Chargers the NPP% is 8.57% good for 16th in the league. Conversely, the falcons pass rush forces the opposition into a NPP% of 14.47% good for second best in the league. You may say this number is probably skewed by Peyton Manning's early game generosity to which I say even without the 3 interceptions the falcons forced a NPP% of 10.52% good for 9th best in the league. Thus, there is a pretty good probability that the falcons D will force Rivers into a bad decision or two.
Side note: Early indications are that the falcons pass rush is considerably improved over last year. In two games we have 6 sacks and 10 QB hits. That puts us on pace for 48 sacks - a number that would have been in the top five last year.
Finally we look at Rivers passer rating and we find that it is an excellent 110.74 with 73.85% completion % and passing yards per attempt (YPA) of 7.92. These are all great numbers and unfortunately our pass defense has allowed a completion % of 64.29% and a YPA of 7.13. As a result, I expect that they will be able to move the ball through the air with relative ease.
The worst news...3rd down conversion%, the chargers convert 50% of their 3rd downs while the falcons allows 53.57% of the 3rd down conversions meaning, the San Diego offense is going to be able to move the ball fairly easily and even when we get them ina 3rd down situation they are more likely than not to get a first down. Thus, the best strategy for our defense is to force turnovers which based on the previous two games is a strategy we have used well.
Onto the Chargers Defense
First, Run D. The chargers D allowed an excellent 2.77 YPC. Considering that they did this against two teams supposed to have a good running games. I expect Messrs. Turner, Quiz and Snelling to have another off day.
Now, onto the pass D. The chargers D forced very few mistakes from opposing QBs (NPP%=5.06%, 27th in league). This combined with the fact the Matty ice has been the best in the league at avoiding mistakes (NPP%=2.9%) means the odds of a falcons turnover are very low. However, forcing turnoovers is not the only way a defense can stop a passing attack. Hows has the SD defense fared against the passing game. Well it has allowed a completion percentage of 61.84% while allowing 6.2 yards per attempt (YPA) resulting in an average opposing QB rating of 82.73. Considering that the QBs they have faced are Jake Locker and the QB formerly known as Carson Palmer I like Matt Ryan's chances against this defense.
Interesting Statistical Battle
The falcons offense has a good 3rd down conversion rate of 43.48%, good for 10th in the league. Conversely, the chargers D allows a ridiculously low 3rd down conversion rate of 25% (3rd best on league).
Who will win this battle? My (my completely homertastic) guess: The Falcons.
The Chargers as previously mentioned have gotten their stops against Jake Locker and Oakland's latest big mistake. Ryan's been great on 3rd down for the last few seasons. I think he can beat the chargers but this is one of the two key battles that may determine who wins this game.
Final Moral of the story
Both offenses are better than the defenses so expect a bit of a shootout. However, ATL is at a disadvantage since the SD defense offers a little more resistance than the ATL defense. This game will, however, be dictated by the Atlanta D. If they can pickoff Rivers a couple of times, expect a comfortable victory. Otherwise, we'll see a shootout that the good guys are more likely to lose than not.