Football NFL

NFL Team Classifications

With only the Super Bowl left in the 2019-2020 NFL season, now is as good of time as ever to look back on the season that was. This post classifies team’s based on their performance this season.

All graphics in this post are looking at the 2019-2020 regular season. Every graphic has the average value (represented as a line) and the 95% confidence interval (represented as a shaded band) for each measure.


The first graphic determines if a team’s offense overachieved or underachieved. Teams are categorized by comparing their total offensive expected points to their points scored per game.

Overachievers are teams with below average expected points, but above average points per game. Underachievers are teams with above average expected points, but below average points per game. Good teams are above average in both categories and bad teams are below average in both categories.

The Baltimore Ravens are without a doubt the best team by these measures. They had high expected points, but also scored 33.2 points per game this season. The two Super Bowl teams, the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs, are also clearly classified as good.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the team which overachieved the most offensively. Of course, its hard to not overachieve offensively when your quarterback, Jameis Winston, throws 33 touchdowns.

The Oakland Raiders were the most underachieving team. By the expected points measure they were better than four playoff teams; but with only 19.6 points a game, the Raiders clearly had little to be proud of on offense.

The Buffalo Bills were the only bad team to make the playoffs. This goes to show that a team can still have a successful season with a bad offense.


The next two graphics look at offensive and defensive penalties committed. Bad penalty teams are those with a low number of penalties, but high number of penalty yards. Good penalty teams are those with a higher than average number of penalties, but lower number of penalty yards. Disciplined teams are below average in both categories, while undisciplined teams are above average in both.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Arizona Cardinals, and the Detroit Lions are the three teams with the undisciplined classification for both their offense and defense. These three teams also didn’t make the playoffs or have particularly good seasons which would be hard to do when penalties are being committed on both sides of the ball.

The Minnesota Vikings and Washington Redskins are the only two teams with disciplined offenses and defenses. Although, it’s interesting that the Redskins were absolutely terrible this year – it certainly wasn’t the penalties that were losing them games.

The defense of the Kansas City Chiefs sticks out in the good penalties section. While they committed 116 penalties this season, they only had 844 penalty yards, or 7.27 yards per penalty.

The Green Bay Packers defense was a different story. They committed 97 penalties for 968 yards, or 9.97 yards per penalty. This certainly didn’t help their defense out and makes you wonder how they actually won 13 games this season.


The final two graphics look at how a team scored or allowed touchdowns, either rushing or receiving. Receiving heavy teams score more receiving touchdowns than average, but less rushing. Rush heavy teams score more rushing touchdowns than average, but less receiving. Good and balanced score more receiving and rushing touchdowns than average. Balanced, but bad score less than average in both categories.

Note that for the defensive graphic the “good and balanced” and “balanced, but bad” classifications are switched.

The Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins, and Oakland Raiders are in both offensive and defensive balanced, but bad categories. Conversely, the Baltimore Ravens, Minnesota Vikings, and San Francisco 49ers are in both offensive and defensive good and balanced categories. I do not think it is a fluke that all teams in both bad categories did not make the playoffs, while all teams in the good categories did.

The Carolina Panthers and Los Angeles Rams are both offensive and defensive rush heavy teams. However, the Carolina Panthers were by far the worst defensive rushing touchdown team. They allowed 31 rushing touchdowns, 8 more than the Jacksonville Jaguars who were second worst.

The New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, and Detroit Lions were in both receiving heavy categories. Offensively this isn’t too surprising with Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and Matthew Stafford as their quarterbacks. These are all players who can certainly throw the ball well.


What’s interesting about these classifications is very few teams are in the same categories on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. It goes to show that teams can be successful even if they are not at the same talent level on both offense and defense.

Go Chiefs!

Data: https://www.pro-football-reference.com/

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