NFL Situation Spotlight #25 – Red Zone Conversion

Red Zone Conversion percentage is one of those basic-box score stats that has been around for so long, it’s easy to overlook it in today’s 12-15 page NFL Gamebooks. It’s a deceptively simple, yet powerful statistic–teams that consistently convert Red Zone drives into touchdowns are the same teams that win games, and cover spreads. Teams with strong rushing games and tall, athletic receivers usually do well in the Red Zone, while teams that have trouble pounding the ball up the middle and don’t have the corners of the end-zone staked out will be kicking field-goals more often than not.

The fact that a high RZC% has a direct correlation with both SU and ATS wins should come as no surprise to even the casual fan. What is more interesting; however, is that RZC% also serves as an excellent tool in the prediction of future outcomes when used appropriately.

The power of RZC% as a handicapping tool truly becomes apparent when we compare how well one team has performed in the Red Zone while on offense, season-to-date, against the percentage that their upcoming opponent has surrendered scores in the Red Zone over the same time period. I actually analyze match-ups of opposing offensive and defensive units in many different areas and for many situations to determine if one team has an advantage (AD for short) over the other that can be significant enough to affect the end result versus the spread.

Before we can determine which team may or may not have an advantage, we need to know the league average for the statistic in question. In this case, the league average for converting drives that enter the Red Zone into touchdowns is roughly 50%. Therefore, if Team A were to have a RZC% For (Offense) of 55%, and Team B was to have a RZC% Against (Defense) of 60%, this would effectively give Team A a RZC%F AD of +15%. The formula would be:

(Team A’s RZC%F – League Average) – (League Average – Team B’s RZC%A)

Which gives us: (55 – 50) – (50 – 60) = +15%.

When we combine Team A’s better-than-average results in the Red Zone (+5%), plus, Team B’s worse-than-average ability to defend in the Red Zone (-10%), Team A ends up with a distinct advantage that they may be able to exploit if the two were to meet head-to-head.

And that is where Situation #25 fits in. The premise is this: Since 2002, teams that have a RZC%F AD of > 7.5 are an awesome 161-98 (62.2%) ATS when they also have a RZC%A > 50 and an Above Average Rushing Game Rating (this is ROF + RDE). Not impressed? Let’s put things into monetary terms–if you had wagered $110 to win back $100 on each game, you would have netted a tidy profit of $5,320 based on the results of these 3 different factors, over the past 7 seasons.

The last Primary condition for this situation involves looking at how often the current opponent of the team in question surrenders a first-down in Short-Yardage situations on 3rd and 4th down (S3C%A). This applies to all 3rd-4th down plays with 2 or less yards-to-go. When we remove all opponents that have a worse-than-average (greater than 65%) S3C%A, the record for this situation jumps to an incredible 104-37 (73.8%) ATS.

There are 3 different Secondary conditions (i.e., tighteners) that round out this situation. Secondary conditions normally exclude only a small percentage of games from the pool of NFL contests that apply. One example would be to ‘Exclude all Monday Night Games’, or, in the case of this particular situation–games in Week 17 are not included when many of the high-level teams involved are resting players as well as any games played prior to Week 4. Teams in a situation where they may be ‘looking ahead’ to playing an opponent with a winning percentage above .800 in their next game are also eliminated.

Excluding games in Week 17 makes sense for this situation, but, one needs to be careful when including too many Secondary conditions and things can get out of hand very quickly in this regard. It’s important that Secondary conditions fit into the context of the main logic, or building blocks of the situation itself. Tightening this particular situation by removing games in Week 9 only, or teams that had exactly 2 pre-season wins, are examples of out-of-context conditions that will only serve to falsely inflate the win percentage and reduce the situations potential for matching its past success in future games.

Here is the full summary for Situation #25 and all it’s related stats.

(Notes: ASMR stands for Average Spread Margin Rating. A positive rating indicates a trend that is stronger than average versus the line, negative–weaker than average. TDIS% is the percentage of teams in the league that have been involved in this situation at one time or another. WT% is the percentage of teams that are .500 or better and SPR is the average spread for teams in this situation. For more details, please consult Page 13 of my 2007 NFL Game Sheets Guide.)

Situational Trend #25 Summary (Last Updated: Jan 15th, 2008)

Primary Conditions (Building Blocks)

1) Red Zone Conversion% For Advantage (RZC%F AD) > 7.5.

2) Red Zone Conversion% Against (RZC%A) > 50.

3) Above Average Rushing Game Rating (AAVG RG).

4) Opponent S3C%A (OP S3C%A) Secondary Conditions (Tighteners)

1) Exclude Week 17 and Week 0.800.

Situation Stats

ASMR: -0.4

Home%: 50.4

Dog%: 45.0

TDIS%: 87.5

WT%: 66.1

SPR: -0.93

Top Teams: SD(20); KC(12); SEA(7); OAK(7)

Situation Records

Overall (Since ’01): 100-26 ATS

2007 Season: 11-4 ATS

2006 Season: 6-2 ATS

2005 Season: 13-2 ATS

2004 Season: 26-5 ATS

Last 3 Results. Pick in Brackets.

2007 WK19–NE 31 JAC 20 (JAC +13) W

2007 WK18–JAC 31 PIT 29 (PIT +2.5) W

2007 WK16–SD 23 DEN 3 (SD -9) W