Adjusted Points Per Drive 2016

Last year, I created a metric for measuring offensive efficiency called Adjusted Points Per Drive (AdjPPD). Today I’ll be updating the numbers for 2016. If you aren’t familiar with AdjPPD, I strongly encourage you to read the full explanation here.


When measured on a per-drive basis, 2016 was the highest scoring season in the last twenty years, and probably in the history of the NFL (drive stats only go back to 1997, so we can’t be absolutely certain). After adjusting for field position, the average drive in 2016 yielded 2.08 points, one of only three seasons to crack the two points per drive barrier (2015 and 2014 were the others).

Despite the record breaking efficiency, total scoring remained steady at 22.8 PPG, matching 2015 and down from the modern era record of 23.4 PPG registered in 2013.  This is partly a result of non-offensive touchdowns falling through the floor in 2016, but the biggest factor was the significant decrease in total drives. The average offense in 2016 had 176.8 drive opportunities, which is the second lowest on record behind only 2008 (176.2). With completion percentage and defensive penalties being at an all-time high, and turnovers at an all-time low, offenses were able to sustain long drives more often than ever before. During the score-happy 2013 season, offenses averaged 185.9 drives, which represents almost a full extra game’s worth of chances to put points on the board.



For anyone who followed the 2016 season closely, it comes as no surprise that the Atlanta Falcons were in a league of their own when it comes to scoring efficiency. The Falcons actually cracked the three points per drive threshold, but severe era adjustment drags their AdjPPD down to a great but not historically great 2.60.

Dude, where’s my defense?!

The Saints wasted another terrific showing from their offense, somehow managing a 7-9 record with the second most efficient scoring offense in football. Somebody find Drew Brees a defense before it’s too late.

At the bottom, we find a familiar team lulling their fans to sleep, this time in a new city. The L.A. Rams fielded the league’s worst offense by a country mile, sinking even farther below their last place effort in 2015. The Giants and Texans somehow both made the playoffs despite owning the #29 and #30 offenses, respectively. This particularly shameful for the G-Men, as expectations were high heading into Ben McAdoo’s second season at the helm. Eli Manning‘s 26 TD passes look nice, but New York registered a league low six rushing TD’s, and this meager production came despite a well above average 184 drives.

Told you we wouldn’t go 7-9 again.

By mid-season, Derek Carr was being touted as one of the MVP front runners for allegedly elevating the Oakland offense to greatness. I hate to break it to Raider Nation, but this team did not have a great offense in 2016. In fact, they didn’t even have a good offense. Oakland’s seventh place rank in points scored is quite deceptive for two reasons. First, the Raiders offense benefited from 189 drives, tied for third most in the league. Second, the average Raiders drive started at the 31.4 yard line, the most favorable field position in the NFL. After mitigating these two major advantages, Oakland drops all the way to #15 in AdjPPD. That is the definition of mediocre.

I’m overrated.

At the opposite end of the spectrum we find the Detroit Lions. Despite a middling total scoring output, the Lions vault up to #9 in AdjPPD. Detroit’s average drive started at the 25.2 yard line, third worst in the league. More importantly, the Lions had only 152 drives, by far the fewest in the league and among the fewest of all-time. This handicap was largely a product of a terrible defense that couldn’t get off the field and rarely forced turnovers, so the offense spent much of their time on the sidelines.

The stark contrast between Oakland and Detroit illustrates the importance of drive based statistics. By total offensive points, the Raiders outscored the Lions 410-322. However, once we convert the data into Adjusted Points, DET outpaces OAK 357-319. That represents a massive swing of 126 points, and completely flips the narrative surrounding these two clubs. Derek Carr’s MVP case shrivels up and dies under the harsh light of the truth.

In our next article, we will look at 2016 in the context of historical Adjusted Points Per Drive. How do the Falcons stack up among the best offenses of the past twenty years? Check back in soon to find out!

We’ve had some issues with our commenting system in recent weeks, and a number of your comments from past articles are currently hiding somewhere in cyberspace. Hopefully the problem will be fixed soon, but in the meantime all new comments should appear as normal. Thanks for your patience!

  • WR

    Adjusted Points per Drive should not be presented as a measure of individual QB play. Derek Carr was 7th among QBs in adjusted net yards per attempt. I agree that’s not MVP-level performance, but it’s a lot better than the numbers put up by the Oakland offense as a whole.

    • Adam

      It’s not being presented as a measure of individual QB play. But it is worth noting that an MVP candidate was the signal caller for the 15th ranked offense, which IMO invalidates his MVP case.

      The correlation between QBR and AdjPPD is a robust .84, indicating that offensive efficiency is largely driven by passing efficiency. In the case of Carr, his middling QBR matches his team’s middling offensive production.

      • WR

        Your comments about Carr make it sound like he had a mediocre season, and you even called him overrated in the photo caption. But metrics like ANYPA, DYAR, DVOA, Pro Football Focus grade, and marginal total adjusted yards all rate his individual performance much higher than that. Which raises the question, where would the Oakland offense have ranked with a lesser quarterback? I get that QBR doesn’t like him, but QBR also has Tyrod Taylor 9th, Alex Smith 11th, and had last year’s MVP, Cam Newton, ranked 12th. You shouldn’t take any one metric as gospel. When you look at a wider group of statistics it really helps Carr’s case. And by stats like sack percentage and td-int ratio, his season was outstanding. Clearly, he was a lot better than an average quarterback this year. And when the basis for your argument against him is a stat that measures the Oakland offense as a unit, and not Carr’s individual performance, it doesn’t help your case.

        I watch a lot of Raiders games. I’m curious to know, what are the reasons why you don’t rate Carr highly? Because both his numbers, and his performances in many of the games I saw this season, have been very impressive.

        • Adam

          Carr does rate highly in several metrics, so I understand the case for him having a great season. However, most of his marginal value came from avoiding turnovers, which I don’t put much stock in. If he continues to avoid turnovers at the same rate for another couple years, then I’ll take that aspect of his game more seriously. When you look at Carr’s efficiency strictly in terms of moving the ball, he’s basically dead average. His NY/A and 1D% are both middle-of-the-pack, and those are my two favorite QB stats. I’d rate Carr a 10-12th place QB at this point in his career.

          I will concede that Oakland looked lost in the two games without Carr, so maybe I’m being too hard on him. But it’s also worth pointing out that the Raiders won a bunch of tight games in 2016, a feat that is generally unsustainable. Despite going 12-4, they had only 8.8 Pythagorean wins, which is a very strong indicator of good fortune that probably won’t last. I wouldn’t be surprised if Carr and Oakland are a better team next year but finish with a worse record.

          • WR

            Fair enough, Adam. I still think you’re selling Carr short, because he’s still in his third year in the league. Peyton, Brees, and Brady weren’t any better at that stage of their careers, but they all got better. Manning was very good in year 3, but both he and his offense took a step back in year 4, which was 2001. Carr has certainly done enough to suggest that if he can continue to get better in future seasons, he’ll be an outstanding player.

          • Adam

            I agree that his career trajectory is pointing upward, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he becomes a top 5 QB in his prime.