Friday, September 23, 2005

Pregame Stat of The Week for 9/25

After much deliberation in the Raider Take laboratory, I have chosen third-down conversion rate as my pregame stat of the week, which narrowly beats rushes per game by the Raiders (more rushing, please!). A "conversion" occurs when a team gets a first down on third-down play.

Sure, it’s a no-brainer that the higher the opponents’ conversion rate, the bigger your problems (and vice versa on your offensive side). But third-down conversion rate is also a window into larger issues of focus, preparation and adjustments. It bares a team’s soul as it hovers delicately between a punt and touchdown drive, its mettle and determination on the line.

On that note, the Raiders defense has done a great job of holding opponents to third-down conversion rates of 38% and 31% for the first two games. Unfortunately, on the offensive side, the Raiders have essentially matched their opponents, with rates of 31% and 33%. Now come the Eagles, who have held their opponents to rates of 20% and 25% over the first two games (meanwhile, the Eagles converted 70% on offense against the 49ers last week).

I predict that the outcome of this game will be clearly reflected in the third-down conversion rates at the end of the day (which isn't always the case, I might add). Specifically, we need to take our offensive rate up a few notches if we are going to beat the Eagles, to a percentage beyond what we and their opponents have done to date. Methodically moving the chains is going to be crucial to success, because the disciplined Eagles defense won't allow a lot of big plays. So how do we do it? Maybe we’ve come full circle, back to rushes per game, to improving the balance on offense and adjustments on the coaching front.

Last Week’s Stat in Review: I said that penalties would be a crucial factor in the Chiefs game, and they were. We kept the total under double digits, which was a big improvement. But horrible infraction timing combined with referee hallucination drove nails into the coffin.


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