Yards Per Play Differential: Bills Lead NFL Rankings

The term “Yards Per Play Differential” is not nearly as complicated as it sounds.

And it’s the best measure you’ll find of which teams are really contenders. Traditionally, teams with a differential of 0.8 or higher are the best contenders, although New England has consistently been a great contender over the past 20 years even when it’s has been only a plus-0.3 yard better than opponents.

The number is based on the average number of yards a team gains on every offensive play it runs and the average of how many yards a team yields when it’s on defense.

You can adjust the stat a little more by factoring in the teams they have played against, especially if you ever use this for wagering purposes (which I caution anyone against doing since I’m not responsible for the money you might lose). That’s also a little deeper than I want to go in doing the math.

In addition, it’s early in the season to use this stat definitively because one or two games can easily sway the numbers. However, for now, here’s a look at the team ranked by YPPD.

1. Buffalo +2.3 – The Bills have the best offensive average (6.7 yards per play) and second-best defensive number (4.4 allowed). The issue? Nine turnovers.

2. San Francisco +1.7 – Allowing only 4.0 yards per play on defense.

3. Philadelphia +1.2 – It helps to have forced 11 turnovers.

4. Denver +0.7 – A very good defense is getting no help from it’s offense or head coach.

5. Tampa Bay +0.6 – The Bucs know they are good and will turn it on as necessary.

6. Kansas City +0.5 – The defense is coming along faster than usual.

7. New Orleans +0.5 – Doing this despite injuries at quarterback.

8. Dallas +0.4 – That D is serious because the offense is only workable.

9. Jacksonville +0.4 – What a difference a real coach makes.

10. New England +0.3 – If they can get more out of the quarterback, they have a chance.

11. Green Bay +0.2 – People complain about the offense, but the defense is mediocre

12. Baltimore +0.1 – If the secondary gets healthy, this number will improve progressively.

13. Las Vegas +0.1 – Raiders should be better than 1-4.

14. Seattle 0.0 – Geno Smith has been a great surprise. Just don’t mistake that he’s great.

15. N.Y. Jets 0.0 – Solid to be at this point despite starting Joe Flacco early on.

16. Indianapolis 0.0 – The number belie the fact that the Colts have played some really bad football.

17. Miami -0.1 – The injuries at quarterback are holding back progress on offense.

18. N.Y. Giants -0.2 – Great start, but expect some regression as the season goes on.

19. L.A. Chargers -0.2 – Defense is allowing 6.1 yards. Should be way better.

20. Cleveland -0.3 – How are the Browns allowing 6.0 yards per play by opponents?

21. Atlanta -0.3 – Falcons are surprisingly competitive.

22. Detroit -0.3 – Lions are fun (6.2 offense), but defensively challenged (6.5 defense)

23. Carolina -0.4 – This is actually a better number than you’d expect if you watch them.

24. Cincinnati -0.4 – Averaging only 4.8 yards on offense, which is stunningly bad.

25. Chicago -0.4 – As bad as they are on offense, you’d this would be worse.

26. L.A. Rams -0.6 – How is it that both the Rams and Cincy are at a league-worst 4.8 yards?

27. Washington -0.6 – Turnovers kill this team and the defense (5.6 allowed) must improve.

28. Minnesota -0.7 – That defense is putting a lot of stress on Kirk Cousins to keep up.

29. Houston -0.8 – Playing out the string as they figure out the QB situation.

30. Arizona -1.0 – A year ago at this time, they were one of the top 4 in the league in YPPD.

31. Pittsburgh -1.1 – Not surprisingly, this is the worst offense in the league.

32. Tennessee -1.4 – How did the Titans defense (6.3 allowed) get this bad this fast?

Written by
Jason Cole has covered or written about pro football since 1992. He is one of 49 selectors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame and has served as a selector since 2013. Cole has worked for publications such as Bleacher Report, Yahoo! Sports, The Miami Herald, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, and started his career with the Peninsula Times-Tribune in Palo Alto. Cole’s five-year investigation of Reggie Bush and the University of Southern California resulted in Bush becoming the only player to ever relinquish his Heisman Trophy and USC losing its 2004 national championship.