JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Each week this season I'm going to try to bring a statistical outlook to the Jaguars and their upcoming opponent. But let's start off with a quick look back at last year for the Jaguars and what it could mean this year.
2011 Record: 5-11
Pythagorean Wins: 5.3
Offense DVOA: 31th
Defense DVOA: 5th
Turnover Differential: +5
Let me first explain some of these numbers.
The Pythagorean Wins statistic was invented by Bill James and is the expectant wins based on score differential. Teams with more wins than their expectancy are typically lucky and will see their win total decline the next season, and teams with less wins are unlucky and will see their win total increase the next season. This can even work through half a season, so this will be a number we can track as the season progresses further. This stat is a proven valuable predictor when looking at the future winning potential of teams. The Jaguars were neither lucky or unlucky last year in winning football games.
DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) is a statistic from Football Outsiders that looks at every play run on offense and defense and compare against league-average while adjusting to down, distance, situation and quality of opponent.
The Jaguars last year were the next to last team in Offensive DVOA a difference of 17 spots from 2010. This was a significant jump in spots and can be contributed to a few factors ranging from a rookie quarterback to injuries. The Jaguars look to be a team hitting the Plexiglass Principle. Teams that see this substantial drop in performance usually perform better the following year. In the last 10 seasons there have been 15 teams to drop by 17 or more spots in Offensive DVOA. The following season those teams averaged a bump of 4.3 spots. This with a second year signal caller, an improved wide receiver corps and a healthy Rashad Jennings gives hope to an improved offense this year.
Using the same Plexiglass Principle on the defensive side of the ball yields a much smaller sample size. The Jaguars improved by 27 spots in 2010 to 5th best in the National Football League which means we could be in for a drop off from that performance. Only 4 teams in the last 20 seasons have that significant of a jump and one of them was another team this past year in AFC South rival the Houston Texans. Of the other 3 teams the average drop was 5.7 spots. The defense is in line for a drop off but should still be in the top half of the league.
With turnover differential statistical analysis shows us that turnovers are random. Teams may be good at creating fumbles but no team can statistically be good at picking up those same fumbles from year to year. The Jaguars did not have a big differential again showing that luck was not against them but also not working for them either. If the Jags improve their offense and the defensive drop off is not substantial seeing an improvement in luck (turnovers) the Jaguars could be set up to make some more noise in a relatively weak division.
Now onto the match up with the Vikings.
The Vikings 2011 Record: 3-13
Pythagorean Wins: 5.3
Offense DVOA: 24th
Defense DVOA: 23rd
Turnover Differential: -3
The Vikings were slightly unlucky last year in turnovers and wins which according to Plexiglass they should be in for a boost this upcoming season. Other trends showing possible boosts are a drop in Defense DVOA by 11 spots and a drop in Offense DVOA by 3 spots. Other teams historically with those small of drops saw roughly the same level increases the following year.
This game falls into a category of personnel match ups as most games do. Both teams are hoping for a jump by Sophomore QB's and are hoping new personnel at WR will help. Both teams have situations with starting RB's (Vikings with ACL injury to Peterson and Jags with holdout by Jones-Drew). Where both teams probably have an advantage is with their defensive lines, both should be able to dominate the other offensive line. The key in this game defensively will be the second and third levels. Which team makes more plays in those levels will dictate the flow on defense. On offense this comes straight down on Gabbert and Ponder. Gabbert threw interceptions on 2.7% of his passes which was league average last year. Ponder on the other hand threw interceptions on 4.5% percent of his passes last year. Each QB will have to be smart with the football while integrating new wide receivers into the offense. The NFL is a quarterback driven league and the one who plays better will be able to carry his team to victory.