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Sack differential: a key statistic

No surprise, the best teams have the best numbers. Joe Fortenbaugh

Print This October 30, 2009, 04:04 PM EST

Sack differential. It’s the number of sacks a team’s defense gets minus the number of sacks its offense gives up. It’s often said that games are won and lost in the trenches, and today, I’m going to show you why that’s true and why the maxim also applies to the world of fantasy football.

Brace yourselves because I’m about to drop some knowledge.

WHAT THE SACK DIFFERENTIAL CHART TELLS US

You win more games with a positive sack differential

Through eight weeks, 17 teams currently have a positive sack differential. Those 17 teams have a combined 70-37 (.654) record. All three undefeated teams (Saints, Broncos, Colts) fall into this category, as do the 6-1 Vikings.

Twelve of the 17 teams have winning records, while two are currently .500 (Bears, Ravens). Only three of the 17 teams (17.6 percent) with a positive sack differential have losing records (Titans, Dolphins, Seahawks).

You lose more games with a negative sack differential

Fourteen teams currently have a negative sack differential. Those teams are a combined 31-62 (.333) through eight weeks. Two of the NFL’s three winless teams (Buccaneers, Rams) fall into this category, as do the one-win Browns, Lions and Chiefs.

Of the 14 teams with a negative sack differential, eight currently have losing records (57.1 percent). Three of the 14 (21.4 percent) have winning records (Texans, Jets, Packers), while three are at .500 (Jaguars, Chargers, 49ers).

Plus 6 or better is money

Seven NFL teams have a sack differential of plus-6 or better. Those teams are a combined 36-9 (.800) on the season.

None of those seven teams has more than two losses. In addition, five (Indianapolis, Denver, N.Y. Giants, Minnesota, Cincinnati) are currently on top of their divisions.

The top and the bottom are very far apart

The top four teams in sack differential are a combined 23-3 (.885).

The bottom four teams in sack differential are a combined 9-16 (.360).

Did you notice…

That of the six teams with the worst records in the NFL, five (Cleveland, Kansas City, Detroit, Tampa Bay and St. Louis) rank 22nd or worse in sack differential?

Yes, this translates to fantasy football

Using the standard scoring system, check out how the top five and top 10 at each fantasy position break down based on a positive sack differential.

Quarterbacks

Four of the top five fantasy quarterbacks play for teams with a positive sack differential (Brady, Roethlisberger, P. Manning, Drew Brees). Matt Schaub’s (No. 1) Houston Texans are currently minus-3. What’s interesting is that the Houston defense ranks 29th in the NFL in sacks, which is why the differential is not in Schaub’s favor.

Seven of the top 10 fantasy quarterbacks play for teams with a positive sack differential (the names listed above, plus Carson Palmer, Brett Favre and Joe Flacco). Aaron Rodgers (No. 6) and Philip Rivers (No. 8) fall into the negative sack differential category. Why? Because their defenses are tied for 22nd in the NFL in sacks.

Wide Receivers

Four of the top five fantasy wide receivers play for teams with a positive sack differential (Ochocinco, Wayne, Steve Smith of the Giants and Miles Austin). Andre Johnson’s (No. 1) Houston Texans fall into the negative category, as mentioned above.

Eight of the top 10 fantasy wide receivers play for teams with a positive sack differential (the names listed above, plus Randy Moss, Marques Colston, DeSean Jackson and Larry Fitzgerald). Vincent Jackson (No. 6) falls into the negative category (just like Philip Rivers) as mentioned above.

Defense/Special Teams

In what should come as no surprise, all of the top five fantasy defenses currently have a positive sack differential (Philadelphia, New Orleans, N.Y. Giants, Denver, Minnesota).

Seven of the top 10 fantasy defenses are currently posting a positive sack differential (the five teams mentioned above, plus New England and Pittsburgh). The three teams that are not posting a PSD (Green Bay, Buffalo, San Francisco) currently rank 31st, 28th and tied for 23rd in sacks ALLOWED, respectively.

Does the Sack Differential Chart predict winners?

Why don’t we find out?

Here are the three games on the Week 8 schedule that feature the biggest discrepancy in sack differential:

San Francisco (-5) at Indianapolis (+14) (Colts are currently 13-point favorites)

Jacksonville (-10) at Tennessee (+5) (Titans are currently 3-point favorites)

Minnesota (+7) at Green Bay (-13) (Packers are currently 3-point favorites)

I’ll take the Colts, Titans and Vikings. Let’s see what happens.

Have a great weekend.

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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