Small Sample Size Special

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(Photo Courtesy of june10459)
Darren McFadden’s big rushing numbers in Week 2, are part of the Raiders’ success in the running game this year

by Jim Turvey

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Sure it’s only been two weeks, and sure one of the games was against the lowly Jags, but it doesn’t mean we can’t get excited about some of the numbers the Raiders are putting up. Take a quick trip over to nfl.com if you want to follow along.

Let’s start on offense. So far, the Raiders have created much more offense on the ground than through the air, not at all surprising considering their personnel. As such, it is not surprising that they rank 29th in passing yards/game, tied for 29th in passing touchdowns, and 32nd in pass plays over 20 yards. However, passing was never going to play a huge part of their game, and the rushing numbers more than make up for it. The currently rank 1st (by 45 yards over second and 105 yards over third) in rushing yards, and their rushing average of 5.9 yards/attempt easily leads the NFL. They’re 2nd in rushes for first downs, and they have more rushes for 20+ yards than the second, third and fourth teams combined. In fact, it’s possible to add the 20+ yard runs for twenty different NFL teams, and only reach the same number (8) that the Raiders have. Now that is a perfect example of the power of the small sample size, as the gap will certainly be bridged at some point soon.

From the defensive side of things, the Raiders look strong as well. They are tied for 3rd in points allowed, 5th in yards allowed, and only the Saints and Seahawks have spent fewer plays on the field than the Raiders defensive unit. Two troublesome stats, especially for the upcoming game against Peyton, is that they rank tied for 27th in the NFL in stopping opposing third downs and 28th in completion percentage allowed. Stopping Peyton from third down completions will certainly have to be a point of emphasis this weekend. One more worrisome statistic is that only the Raiders and the Steelers have yet to create a turnover this year, a stat that will have to change if the Raiders want to stay relevant. One very surprising statistic is that the Raiders are tied for 1st in the NFL in sacks. They came into the season with the defensive line’s ability to get pressure on the quarterback as one of the biggest question marks of their defense. This has to be considered an enormous success.

A brief look at special teams has a few surprises. First, and foremost, the fact that Sebastian Janikowski has the shortest missed field goal of the year might possibly be the leader for the most surprising stat of the year so far, Raiders-related or otherwise. And while part of Janikowski’s struggles may be due to Marquette King, it’s good to know King is doing his main job well, ranking 5th in the league in punting average. Even better than that, however, is that the Raiders have used him less than any other punter in the NFL, meaning the offense is doing something right.

Finally, let’s take a look at some advanced metrics to see just how much our game against the Jags aided those NFL ranks. Oakland only moved from 26th to 23rd in the DVOA team efficiency ranks for Week 2, now placing 18th in offense and 19th in defense. Surprisingly, it is the special teams that are bringing the Raiders down with a rank of 29th in the NFL. With the special teams likely due to turn around, and the schedule due to increase in difficulty, their overall rank should improve in the weeks coming.

Author: Jim Turvey

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