Balanced Offense

Sports analysts insist there is a need for a balanced offense in order to be successful in the NFL. They claim balance is necessary because in order to pass you need to establish the run. And vice-versa. This analysis focuses on validating that assumption. To understand offensive balance it is better to focus on rush and pass attempts which are more representative of the gameplan than yards or touchdowns which are more indicative of execution. Below is every regular season game over the last 20 years by rushing and passing attempts and colored by wins/losses.

To analyze balance we created a new metric each game: the ratio of pass attempts to rush attempts. Using these metrics we created gameplans by breaking the balance ratios into logical groupings (e.g. High Pass Attempts to Low Rush Attempts = Pass Heavy Gameplan). Based on the analysis of gameplans inbalanced offenses that are run heavy are significantly more successful than balanced or pass-heavy offenses.

Running a regression analysis using the balance metric we created as the independent variable and win differential as the dependent variable the overall R^2 was only 0.267 which is a generally weak relationship. Based on these results one can conclude that there is a weak relationship between running a balanced offense and success in the NFL.

Feel free to take a look at your favorite team and see how offensive balance contributes to success by year. The thickness of the bars represent the number of times a team ran that gameplan.


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  2. I really enjoy your site, great stuff!

    Does this account for the fact that teams run significantly more while in the lead in order to burn the clock?



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