Are The Texans Beneficiaries Of An Easy Schedule?

Nick Matthews' post on Ultimate Texans highlights that the Texans have "the best, most balanced team in the AFC" due to their statistical ranking in total/pass/rush/scoring offense and total/pass/rush/scoring defense. He highlights that they are in the top 5 in rushing and scoring offense and top 4 in all defensive categories.

But how much of that is the product of playing teams with a collective 79-90 record? Are we really as good as we think we are or are we just beating up on a soft schedule? I crunched some numbers to find out.

Although there are many ways you could neutralize the impact of opponents on a teams' stats (DVOA on Football Outsiders is a great stat), I looked at one simple relationship: how our opponents have performed against the Texans vs. how they performed against the rest of the league. I looked at two simple measurements: yards allowed/yards gained and points scored/points allowed.

Defense is legit

It turns out that the Texans' defense has allowed their opponents to gain 64 fewer yards and score 3.7 fewer points than those opponents have averaged against the rest of the league. Sure, there've been exceptions, but on the aggregate, our defense really is outperforming. Here's the opponent-by-opponent tally for yards. Anything negative means the Texans' D held that opponent to less yards than their average this season.


As you can see, only New Orleans and Jacksonville have gained more yards against us than they've averaged this season, and then only barely. I'd say that's a pretty stout performance over the course of the year by Cushing & Co.

As for points, there's a little more noise but the storyline is basically the same: teams haven't scored as many points against us as they have against the rest of the league:


So New Orleans, Baltimore, Oakland, and Jacksonville have done better against us than the rest of their schedule. But that's it. Pretty decent performance at keeping the other team off the scoreboard.

Offense has outperformed as well.

The offense sings a similar tune, on average gaining 35 more yards against their opponents' D than would be expected, and scoring 4.3 more points than would be expected.

Breaking it down by each opponent shows two games where we gained significantly less than the team's average opponent - Baltimore (the only game where we were outplayed) and the second Jacksonville game (when Leinart broke his collarbone and Konserviak kept Yates' hands tied):


So we've been able to more consistently move the ball against other defenses than the rest of the NFL has. But has that translated into more points than would be expected?

As for offensive scoring, Oakland, Baltimore, Atlanta, and Cincinnati all held the Texans under what the average NFL team put up against them; this was partially explained by red zone turnovers by our Texans in at least a few of those games. But the Texans' offense has done well in the other games:


All in all, I don't believe this analysis should really change your opinion at all. The Texans have had, at least statistically, one of the best seasons in the AFC, if not the league, so far. And there are certainly questions about how good the offense will continue to be now that it's T.J. Time.

But now maybe you have perhaps a little more confidence that our high rankings in yards and points on both sides of the ball are not just products of an easy schedule.

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