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The StatHawk, Week 6: Stats, Cam Era, Action

Cam Newton vs. Russell Wilson, avec suprises; plus an update on the OL Differential project.

That is called a hole yes it is
That is called a hole yes it is
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Football fans of the non-casual variety will remember Cam Newton's rookie season.

422 yards, 2 TD, 1 pick in his first game. 432 more in his second game. AP Offensive rookie of the year; Pro Bowl alternate; 40th on the NFL top 100. Oh, plus 35 combined touchdowns, most by a rookie ever. Instant fantasy star.

Fast forward: Newton's Panthers have made the playoffs the last two seasons and even won a home game against the Arizona Lindleys before...

...getting out-Kammed at the KLink.

One more, bekause I kan:

Aight, aight, welcome back, Beast, but enough poppycock. Take a look at these two stat-filled tables. One is a booster of commonly held narratives; the other one is a blaster.

Table 1: Things Are What They Seem...?

The 2015 Narrative The Stat Cameron Jerrell Newton Russell Carrington Wilson
Cam is less polished Passer Rating 88.5 99.1
Russ is more productive Yards/Attempt 6.7 7.9
Seattle OL can't pass block Sacked 7 22
Wilson is way more accurate Completion Percentage 55.4 70.7

Commentary: If you're going to use these four traditional stats, all four common narratives appear to hold up. But let me poke some holes in the last one. See that 15-point advantage Wilson has over his rival? Let's whittle it down.

Remove Newton's 10 dropped passes and Wilson's 3 from their attempts.

Then add in the sacks each QB has suffered and count them as incompletions.

Now Newton's delivering the ball 67 out of 118 times -- or 56.8 percent

Now Wilson's delivering the ball 106 out of 169 times -- or 62.7 percent.

Suddenly the gap isn't quite so large any more. Am I cheating? Only a little to prove a point -- the 11-point gap in passer rating is a little misleading here. That's why it is worthwhile to consider their 2015 ANY/A (Adjusted Net Yards/Attempt) comparison instead:

  • Newton: 6.32 ANY/A, 102 ANY/A+ (indexed to league average)
  • Wilson: 6.12 ANY/A, 99 ANY/A+ (these numbers not invented)

Suddenly, not-so-advantage Wilson.

Now to bust a couple widespread myths.

Table 2: You Thought Wrong

The Wrong 2015 Narrative The Stat Fig Robot
Volume stats favor Newton Passing Yards/Game 202 238
Russ makes his throws count TD % and INT % 5.8 and 1.6 4.0 and 2.0
Russ runs more and better Rush Attempts, Yards, and TD/Game 11-49-0.5 7-40-0

Commentary: It's disappointing to see RW sitting there with a paltry 4.0 TD percentage, with a third of the season gone. He carried a 5.8 mark into this season.

Secondly, Newton's taking care of the ball better, throwing fewer picks by percentage. For all of Wilson's supposed ball security, he's not outplaying Cam in that area this season.

Thirdly, few might've expected Wilson to duplicate 2014's insane-ish 7.2 yards per carry. But his current 5.4 average is going to produce a lot fewer emergency, and designed, first downs. Sometimes he won't get those extra four yards, late in the game, on the road, and a drive will stall. Sometimes.

(All stats are courtesy of pro-football reference and

OL Differential: An Update

Last week I introduced an experimental stat. (Yes this is the link in case you slept through last week's lecture.) It's called the OL Differential, and it's a work in progress. I count all the negative plays allowed by each OL, give them credit for some positive plays they influence, and then figure the difference between the teams. When one squad's OL gets abused more consistently than the other team's line, it should show up in the stat sheet. If the stat is any good, then it should also impact the result. Honestly, the jury's still out on that last part.

So, updating for Week 5: Seattle Seahawks at Cincinnati Winlesses In Their Last Four Playoff Apperances

Worth? Opposing OL Hawks OL
Sacks allowed -3 -12 -12
TFL allowed -3 -12 -3
3rd/4th and short fails -3 0 -3
15-yard penalties -3 0 0
QB hits allowed -2 -2 -12
10-yard penalties -2 -6 -4
QB hurries allowed -1 -17 -15
5-yard penalties -1 0 -1
Total Negatives -49 -50

Rush yds before contact 0.5 22 51
Explosive plays 3 21 21
Total Positives
43 72
Preliminary Total -6 +22
QB elusiveness adj. -2 -5
Final Total
-8 +17


A win. Pretty decisive one too. If only the fourth quarter and OT hadn't been real things.

Again, with the rushing performance of 200 yards last Sunday, and the way Seahawk defenders semi-consistently dominated the Bengals' OL, this result passes the eye test. Yet most of the margin comes from rush yards accumulated before contact. Outside of that +29 advantage to Seattle, the stats turned out pretty even. Even in pressures, in sacks, and the TFL cancel out the extra QB hits Russell Wilson took.

Still, to play the Cincinnati line to a draw on the road, and block well for Rawls -- pretty encouraging turn of events. Let's not write off this offensive line just yet. For the season now, that's two OL differential wins, two losses and one draw (to the Bears). As discombobulated as the Hawks' OL looks in stretches, the DL is making up for it by dominating the opposing line just as much. This allows the game to be decided by other talent, where the Hawks should have an advantage most weeks.

The stat remains imperfect, in my expert learned amateur opinion. I'm considering the following adjustments:

  • Weighting sacks differently
  • Weighting penalties differently
  • Weighting pressures differently (there are so many each week!)
  • Eliminating the subjective Mobility Equalizer
  • Reducing the Yards Before Contact multiplier
  • De-emphasizing explosive plays

Use the poll below to vote for which component needs tweaking. And remember this always: as fellow writer Jacob S. told me on twitter last night,

Go Hawks. It's the Panthers. As much as we like and respect them, you know what to do.