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Total Stats vs. Recent Stats

   by Bryan Leonard - 12/24/2005

We are so far deep into the NFL season that stats aren't going to change much between now and the end of the regular season. So the season stats for playoff teams are going to be pretty much where they sit right now. However, it's important from a handicapping perspective to differentiate between season stats and recent stats.

Season stats are the whole ball of wax. Recent stats are something I put a great deal of emphasis on for obvious reasons: How a team has played all season could be very different to how they've played the last three games. A good example right now is the Kansas City Chiefs defense. KC upgraded a lot of defensive talent before the season began, hoping to shore up an area that has been dismal the last two seasons.

In 8 of their first 11 games, the Chiefs allowed less than 95 yards rushing, so the run defense has improved. But take a look at the last three games: The Chiefs run defense has been very poor allowing 131 rush yards to Denver, 129 to Dallas and 223 to the NY Giants. Just as bad are the yards per carry in those games: 4.5, 4.6 and 6.6. It will be interesting to see how they fare against LaDainian Tomlinson Saturday, but the point is, their run defense has been awful the last three games after being above average the first 11 games.

Naturally, injuries can play a part in something like this, which is obvious. The Patriots run defense was poor in the first half of the season, for example, but has been sensational the last five games, rocketing from 27th in the NFL to 6th! It's no coincidence that the return of All-Pro Richard Seymour to the defensive front also coincided with their resurgence.

Another factor can be coaching strategy changes, which isn't always as easy to recognize. Teams can make adjustments during the season which can have a significant influence. The Bengals had a very good offense through the first nine games of the season, but they only topped 30 points twice. Over the last five games they've topped 30 four times! A part of what's happened is that Cincy is using the no-huddle offense more and more, something QB Carson Palmer and the whole team is very comfortable with. It's no surprise Cincy is 4-0-1 over the total the last five games, either.

Finally, even the schedule can play a role. The Vikings had an easy schedule that helped get them back into the playoff race, before the Steelers rolled over them last week. And the Patriots had a brutal early season schedule, but have now been cleaning the clocks of a lot of bad teams.

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