Can the San Francisco 49ers Repeat Last Season's Successful Run?

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Another thing we can look using our updated Markov model is how teams were expected to perform based on where they took over on the field. In other words, based on starting field position, how many touchdowns was a team expected to score on the year? And further, how many touchdowns did they actually score.

Not surprisingly, New Orleans, Green Bay and New England were the top three offenses in terms of touchdowns scored above expectation. Drew Brees and the Saints scored just shy of 26 additional touchdowns above expectation at the start of their drives. That's a whopping 182 points. By comparison, the St. Louis Rams scored 193 points total in 2011.

Click here to see the full table of expected number of each drive-ending state based on starting field position over the course of 2011 for each team.

San Francisco was given the most advantageous starts, which should have resulted in about 31 field goals and 47 touchdowns on average. Akers kicked a record 44 field goals but SF scored a miserable 32 offensive TDs. Other notable expectations are the Broncos' expected 104 punts and Giants' expected 102 punts, the most and second-most in the league.

Now let's look at each team's absorptions over expectation (OE). They are color coded green (above expectation) to red (below expectation). All categories are such that positive numbers are better. So, TD OE is total touchdowns scored above expected touchdowns, while INT OE is how many fewer interceptions were thrown than expected. Note: turnover on downs, safeties, and missed field goals were removed from this table, but the full table can be seen here.


What pops out most is San Francisco's seven fewer fumbles and 12 fewer interceptions than expected. One of the biggest reasons for the Niners success in 2011 was their ability to limit turnovers. Turnovers are one of the most variable stats (especially fumbles) on a year-to-year basis, so don't expect as steep a difference between reality and expectation in 2012.

We can also do this type of analysis looking at specific situations -- downs, distances, spots on the field -- to get an understanding of how the team is performing tasks versus expectation in those situations.

Update: Check out Defensive Absorptions Over Expectation here. You can also download a sortable spreadsheet here (make sure you click the "Click here to start download from sendspace").

Keith Goldner is the creator of Drive-By Football, and Chief Analyst at - The leading fantasy sports analytics platform.  Follow him on twitter @drivebyfootball or check out numberFire on Facebook.

Get more great NFL analysis over at Advanced NFL Stats.