In order to determine the factor which contributed most to wins in the regular season, we created an Excel model which used linear regression to analyze the influence of multiple team factors on their regular season record that year. Our dependent variable was the number of wins for the team, and our independent variables included ESPN’s Quarterback Rating and Football Outsider’s Rushing, Passing, Rushing Defense, and Passing Defense rating for the previous six years. Our R-Squared value was 0.746 and our Multiple R value was 0.864 which means that the data is statistically relevant. Additionally our Standard Error was 1.582 which means that the data is reliable. Since our analysis had these error and R-values, it meant that there was significant correlation between our independent variables and wins.
Although this may seem surprising, given the direction that the NFL is heading, this assumption that passing defense is the most important factor for a team’s wins makes sense because even though quarterbacks are able to produce at an all-time high, the best teams are the ones who are able to stop these offenses. The key for teams is not to passing for the most yards, or pass for the most touchdowns, but to be the team which is best at stopping those plays. Evidence for this is even apparent in this year’s Superbowl. The Seattle Seahawks are known for their Legion of Boom, perhaps the best secondary in the league, and the Patriots, coming off a loss to the Broncos in the 2013 AFC Championship, invested heavily in their defensive backs with the signing of Darrelle Revis. The teams with the best secondaries are playing for the best prize in football.
As a result, NFL teams should use this information to help them decide how to best build and invest in their teams. The Philadelphia Eagles, although mired by controversy over their decisions this offseason, have made decisions which improve their defensive passing game. They signed Byron Maxwell of the Seattle Seahawks, the top corner in free agency, to a six year, $63 million contract with $25.5 million guaranteed, and even though many analyst have called this contract overzealous, these analysts may be underestimating the importance of the passing defensive and the larger impact it has on wins compared to other team positions. The Eagles and Chip Kelly know what their team needs to win, and in a tumultuous NFC East, they should be the favorites to win the division.
Finally, in less than one month, the NFL draft will be held in Chicago, and all 32 NFL teams will have opportunities to build their team for the future. There are star quarterbacks, star defensive linemen, and star wide receivers, but according to our study, the teams who end up being the most successful in the next few years will probably be the ones who shy away from the flair of the offense, and find their Earl Thomas or Richard Sherman.