Chargers' PYP an Indicator of Where They've Been, What Could Come

Glenn CravensContributor IMay 28, 2009

DENVER - SEPTEMBER 14:  Defensive end Luis Castillo #93 of the San Diego Chargers defends against the Denver Broncos during NFL action at Invesco Field at Mile High on September 14, 2008 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Chargers 39-38.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The mathematicians of the world might be mostly entrenched in the baseball realm, but there's some moving over to the football world as well.

A unique stat that is breaking ground is Potential Yardage Percentage (PYP). It's a simple one to monitor; it's the percentage of yardage a team could have obtained during the game.

So, if a team starts on the 50 yard line and goes one yard, then they only gained two percent of their potential yardage.

If you have a better PYP than the other team, does that mean you're always going to win? That still has to be determined; a team could have a great PYP and lose 12-0 on four field goals.

But that was the case for the Chargers. Eight times during the season, they had a better PYP than their opponent. They won all eight games. So for a team that went 8-8 you can imagine what happened when they didn't have a better PYP than the other team.

Who do you pin that on? It's hard to tell. PYP is still making its way to the forefront. And the Chargers' PYP gained and allowed was all over the board last season.

But there was something to note; the Chargers seemed to stay even with a lot of their opponents. When their opponents had a low PYP, the Chargers seemed to have a low one as well.

There were a couple of big differences. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Chargers' PYP was only 38.16 percent, and the Steelers dominated for 51.59 percent.

In the Chargers' final loss before their miraculous run, Atlanta had a PYP of 58.61, while San Diego only had 21.76 percent.

The Chargers' best performance of the season in terms of PYP differential was the week after the Atlanta loss, when they virtually made Oakland irrelevant. Oakland's PYP in that game was a putrid 14.81 percent.

San Diego, meanwhile, only had a 41.12 PYP in that game (below their season average of 47.00), but it didn't matter because they destroyed the Raiders.

In the eight losses, it's hard to tell where things went wrong. Aside from the Pittsburgh and Atlanta games, the Chargers' PYP wasn't horrible. It's tough to solely blame it on the offense for not doing more or the defense for not holding down the opposition better.

I think we're going to see a big shift this season because of the defense. The draft acquisitions plus the return of Shawne Merriman should make the defense stronger than it was last season.

Also, Philip Rivers continues to improve; his quarterback rating has increased every season. The offensive PYP should go up slightly, but I expect the opponents PYP to go down.

San Diego Chargers Potential Yardage Percentage Statistics

*Regular season only

  • 2008 Defensive PYP average allowed: 47.38 percent
  • 2008 Offensive PYP average: 47.18 percent
  • Record when having a better PYP than opponent: 8-0
  • vs. 2008 playoff teams: 0 wins when having a worst PYP than opponent (5 teams)
  • Best Offensive PYP performance: 78.78 percent (Week 17 vs. Denver)
  • Worst Offensive PYP performance: 21.76 percent (Week 13 vs. Atlanta)
  • Best Defensive PYP allowed: 14.81 percent (Week 14 at Oakland)
  • Worst Defensive PYP allowed: 63.07 percent (Week 8 vs. New Orleans in London)
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