What if I told you that less than 14% of plays determine the outcome of most NFL games?
Everybody loves watching big plays in football. Highlight reels are filled with bone-crushing sacks, long runs, deep bombs to a streaking WR, and big interceptions, because those are the exciting plays fans love to watch.
It turns out those are the plays that decide games too, and I have the stats to prove it.
Earlier this offseason, I wrote about the strong correlation between long runs and passes and overall offensive success, which got me thinking about what other plays might prove to be crucial to a team’s success. I ended up settling on four types of plays, which I will briefly describe below:
- Explosive run: a carry that goes for 15+ yards
- Explosive pass: a pass that goes for 20+ yards
My hypothesis was that the team who produces more of these big plays than their opponent will usually win the game. To test this, I tracked all four categories for all 256 NFL games in 2018, along with the final score of each game.