Talk of the fortunes of the 2014 Buffalo Bills is most typically centered on the play of EJ Manuel. If he isn't a disaster, it is said, he has a chance of being the first Bill to start a playoff game since Rob Johnson. It’s hard to disagree with the notion that QB play will be the determining factor for the 2014 Bills – but I would like delve a little deeper into what the Bills need out of EJ to field a successful campaign. What goals should we set for EJ that would ensure the Bills can make the playoffs?
I recently asked the Around The League Podcast – which apart from already claiming the Bills to have no realistic shot at winning the Super Bowl (while the Jets and Dolphins do) does a fantastic job – whether the Bills take the AFC East if EJ Manuel has a season of 4000 yards, 25 touchdowns.
#ATLMailbag Clearly little confidence in EJ. If he improves to 25/12 &4000, do Bills take the AFCE w/ their otherwise ATL-certified talent?— Michael Sebring (@SyraBillsLican) June 19, 2014
Now I pulled these numbers out of a hat, but it turns out they are nearly identical to Ryan Tannehill’s numbers last year (his second season in the NFL). The ATL podcast roundly ridiculed the thought that Manuel would reach these figures (Chris Wesseling will eat "all the softball pants" if Manuel does).
But it got me thinking: what level would Manuel need to perform at to give the Bills a realistic shot at the playoffs.
I put my rudimentary stats skills to the test and looked at the passing offenses for the 2012 and 2013 seasons to ascertain a cut off point for playoff QB play. Unfortunately, as you might expect of a game which relies on defense and the run game as well as passing offense, results are not conclusive, but an interesting pattern does develop.
-*Asterisks denote playoffs*
Passing yards are not a good predictor, or even prerequisite for win totals or playoff appearances, in fact they seem completely IRRELEVANT. Teams with over 4000 yards passing are about just as likely to MISS the playoffs as they are to make the playoffs. Yards need to be scaled back in terms of emphasis for EJ Manuel this year.
Touchdowns are more predictive and provide a positive correlation to wins, though still aren't a tight correlation.
I'll look at interceptions and yards per attempt soon, which I suspect have much more of a correlation to wins than these bare statistics I've analyzed today.
Here is a running tally of the goals (aka baseline playoff production):
Anyway, I hope to see more of this:
"Today was red-zone emphasis, and we’ve been doing that for a second day, so it should be better than the day before," Lewis said. "I think a lot of the young guys are gaining confidence."
NOTE: I did not take statistics in high school or college, so I’ll leave the R-squared methodology to any ambitious commenter.