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Nuggetpalooza: Pats-Jets breakdown by pass length

01.13.11 at 10:35 am ET
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As Pats-Jets III gets closer, here’s a prelude to my big game preview that’s coming tomorrow. Today, let’s look at the two teams by how they’ve fared throwing and defending passes of different lengths.

First, though, some mumbo jumbo: The passing ratings used here I stumbled across years ago in the New York Times.  I’d credit the author if I knew who it was.  But to me, it’s an improvement over the ridiculously complex passing rating used by the league because it’s so simple.

To calculate the rating, simply take the net yards per pass play (use net so the rating will include yards lost on sacks, where applicable) and compare it to the league average for that stat split. As an example, on passes to receivers behind the line of scrimmage, the Patriots averaged 5.70 net yards per pass play. The NFL as a whole averaged 4.56 net yards per pass play on those passes, so the Patriots start off at +1.14. Next, increase the rating by 30 times the Patriots’ TD percentage on those passes, which is .025 times 30, or 0.75. Finally, decrease the rating by 50 times the Patriots’ interception percentage on those passes, which was zero in 2010. So, the Pats’ final rating on those throws in 2010 was +1.90 (rounded).

So, for offenses, positive ratings are good, but for defenses, negative ratings are good.  Got it?

All right, let’s get started by looking at backfield passes:

* – The Jets threw just 85 such passes all season (5th fewest) and the Patriots just 79 (2nd fewest). I can see why the Jets avoided them, but the Patriots offense was really quite effective on these throws, especially over the last six weeks, as the Pats picked up over 50 percent of their season-long yardage on just one-third of their attempts in that span, including all three of their 25+ yard gains and one of their two touchdowns.

* – The Patriots defense on these passes was dismal all season, allowing 79 percent completions, over 25 percent first downs, and five touchdowns, all NFL-highs. New England had allowed just five such TD passes total over the previous five seasons.

* – Look, it’s going to be difficult to say that the Jets’ passing offense was a thing of beauty this season when their overall passing rating ranked 20th for the season and 26th over the last six weeks.  But their short passing game was even worse.  Let’s combine these two distances into one stat: Passes thrown 10 yards or less downfield. The Jets rank 29th, with a rating of -1.29, thanks to 60 percent completions (30th), 4.64 net yards per pass play (30th), eight touchdowns and seven interceptions.  That includes zero touchdowns and two picks over the last six weeks.

* – Take a gander at that defensive rating that the Patriots have put up against these passes! Seven picks and only one touchdown pass allowed over their last six games on throws from 1-to-10 yards downfield.  Over the 17 games prior to that stretch, the Patriots had allowed 17 touchdowns  vs. just five interceptions on these.  Is it a fluke or a real improvement?

* – So how do the Jets rank 27th over the last six weeks and STILL be ranked third for the season as a whole?  Because they completed 57 percent, averaged a league best 12.52 net yards per pass play, and threw zero picks on those throws over the first 10 games. Over the last six, it was 47 percent, 6.91 net yards per pass play, and three picks. Oh, and Sanchez threw another pick Saturday night against the Colts at this distance, which is not included in the regular season stats above.

* – Over the last six games, the Patriots’ +4.42 includes 63 percent completions and 12.09 net yards per pass play.  Only one other team (Buffalo, of all teams) had a rating above +3.30 in that stretch.

* – OK folks, THIS is where the Jets and all that “Revis Island” stuff is for real.  Here are the three top defensive ratings on these throws over the past TWO seasons combined:

-9.47 – Jets
-7.56 – Bears
-6.43 – Chargers

Opponents are just 19-of-149 on these throws against the Jets over the last two seasons, a ridiculous completion percentage of 13 percent.  Soak that in.  Opponents have thrown 149 of these long passes against the Jets, the highest number in the league in that span, and completed just 19, the fewest.  Incredible.

* – However, the Patriots look at those amazing numbers and say “big whoop”.  You see, the Patriots don’t play that game.  The Patriots threw only 36 passes that went 21 or more yards downfield, the fewest in the NFL.

At the end of the day, the Patriots will let the Jets have their “Revis Island” while Tom Brady and Company will throw towards a defense that bears more resemblance to another island.  The one with the Skipper, the Professor, and Mary Ann.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for my Patriots game preview and Saturday for my previews of the other three playoff games!

I always look forward to hearing from you.  Leave a comment here, email me at gmarbry@weei.com, or find me on twitter at @nuggetpalooza.

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