Where you start has a lot to do with where you finish

  • By Pat Kirwan
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There are many factors that contribute to winning and losing every week. Which team has the better quarterback, who wins the turnover battle, a critical call by an official or a missed field goal can all determine the outcome of a game.

One often overlooked issue, though, is field position. In Week 7, the teams that had better starting position were 11-3. Through the first six weeks of the season the three teams with the best starting field position were a combined 15-1 while the three with the worst starting field position were only 4-12. A stat this telling would make even the most casual football fan sit up and take notice.

Week 7 average starting field position
Team Start Team Start Winner
Colts Own 32 Jaguars Own 26 Colts
Vikings Own 22 Cowboys Own 29 Cowboys
Rams Own 24 Seahawks Own 41 Seahawks
Bears Own 31 Eagles Own 28 Bears
Chiefs Own 30 Raiders Own 25 Chiefs
Titans Own 46 Texans Own 22 Titans
49ers Own 30 Giants Own 38 Giants
Cardinals Own 34 Redskins Own 39 Redskins
Buccaneers Own 27 Lions Own 32 Lions
Ravens Own 28 Bills Own 29 Bills
Patriots Own 31 Dolphins Own 18 Patriots
Steelers Own 27 Broncos Own 26 Broncos
Jets Own 32 Bengals Own 31 Bengals
Falcons Own 31 Saints Own 27 Saints

Football is often called a game of inches, but as the aforementioned statistics indicate, it is also can be a game of yards. The numbers don't lie. Defensive-minded head coaches always play the field position game.

Heading into last weekend, only three teams had a differential in starting field position of 6 yards or more -- that is, their average starting position was 6 yards better than their opponents' average start. Those teams are the Steelers (6.9 yards), the Patriots (6.4 yards), and the Colts (6.0 yards). Isn't it interesting that all three of these team's head coaches are defensive-oriented?

Both the Colts and Patriots easily won the field position battle again this week. The Patriots had a 13-yard difference and the Colts hit their 6-yard differential right on the nose. The Steelers' starting position in Denver slipped significantly from the 33-yard line to the 27, and they lost the game by a field goal.

The worst three teams heading into Week 7 were the Broncos, Saints and Bengals. As pointed out above, Denver made huge strides in this area during its victory. The Bengals started on a field 2 yards shorter than their previous five-game average and also won. The Saints, also victorious Sunday, were accustomed to opponents starting at the 34-yard line but the Falcons were 3 yards behind that at the 31.

Following Week 7's results, the worst team in the NFL when it comes to where their opponent starts a drive is now the Miami Dolphins. They entered Week 7 with opponents playing on a field 65 yards long. The Patriots played them on a field 69 yards long but the Dolphins offense played on a field 82 yards long. They didn't have a chance.



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