- 2011 All-WPA Teams: AFC Defense
By Brian Burke
The NFC continues its dominance for a second year at the DE position. We have to dig down to #5 overall to get to Houston's J.J. Watt and his 1.40 +WPA. Watt is also #16 in +EPA, #6 in SC, and #4 in TF. Watt is not a big sack guy--just 6 on the season. He's generating his numbers in all around play. Oddly, his biggest play came in the big game-winning drive allowed to IND last Thursday night, in which he broke up a 2nd down pass with only 30 seconds to go. Last season, fellow Texan Mario Williams held the top spot in the AFC, but this year he's been absent due to injury. That's a credit to Watt, who's been effective without Williams to absorb double teams.
Andre Carter has been effective for NE, putting up 1.27 +WPA. He's also #8 in EPA, #4 in SC, and #7 in TF. His biggest play of the year was a forced fumble on WAS's Rex Grossman in the end zone, recovered by Vince Wilfork for a TD.
Alternates for the All-WPA Bowl, to be played in my backyard, will include CLE rookie Jaball Sheard (1.23 +WPA/ 42.5 +EPA/ 44 SC/ 8 sacks) and DEN's Elvis Dumervil (1.22 +WPA/ 33.8 +EPA/ 40 SC/ 11 sacks). Dumervil missed 3 games too. Good to see that he's regained his form after missing all of last season with an injury.
Geno Atkins of CIN leads the AFC with 1.45 +WPA. He's also #1 in +EPA, #4 in SC, but #22 in TF. So he's making his impacts largly doing other things besides making routine tackles. He's #1 for DTs with 9 sacks, 15 QB hits (#2), 10 tackles for losses, and has 3 tipped passes and 2 forced fumbles. Quite a year for the second-year DT. Lots of consistent play from Atkins, as he has no outlier big play. The biggest was a 4th quarter sack on 3rd down against CLE's Colt McCoy, good for 0.12 WPA.
Haloti Ngata makes the team for the second consecutive season, primarily on the strength of 3 devastating early-season games. Since then, however, he's been good but not great. Ngata is fourth overall with 1.22 +WPA. He's also #2 in +EPA, #1 in SC, and tied at #4 in TF. Add in 5 sacks, 4 tipped passes, 8 flattened QBs, 2 forced fumbles, and 6 tackles for losses. Ngata's biggest play was a 0.15 WPA fumble recovery following a Terrell Suggs strip-sack of Ben Roethlisberger.
AFC alternates will be the enormously wide Vince Wilfork (1.08 +WPA/ 42.5 +EPA/ 44 SC/ 0.90 TF) and CLE rookie Phillip Taylor (1.03 +WPA/ 27.7 +EPA/ 37 SC/ 1.14 TF).
OLB Terrell Suggs leads all NFL linebackers with 2.14 +WPA. He's also a distant #1 in EPA with 76.1--the next closest is London Fletcher with 57.6 +EPA. Suggs is #3 in sacks with 13 and #8 QB Hits. His numbers suggest he's not just a pass-rushing specialist and he is just a pass-rushing specialist. Suggs' SC is #10 in the league, but his TF number is astonishingly low--only #78. When he does make tackles, they're success plays. His biggest play of the year was a 3rd quarter interception of a Roethlisberger screen pass worth 0.25 WPA.
ILB D'Qwell Jackson is second in the AFC and just a hair behind Suggs with 2.12 +WPA. Jackson is #3 in +EPA, #9 in SC, and tied for #3 in TF. Jackson does a little bit of everything, with 4 sacks, 3 passes defended, 6 QB Hits, a forced fumble, 11 tackles for losses, and an interception. His biggest play was a game-saving pass defense on the final play against JAX on 3rd and goal from the 1, worth 0.69 WPA.
Rookie OLB Von Miller rounds out the AFC linebacker corps in 2011 with 1.90 +WPA. Miller is also tied at #10 in total +EPA, tied at #21 in SC, and like Suggs is far down the list at #72 in TF. (Which also tells me I really need to split these categories into MILB/ILB/OLB/3-4/4-3.) MIller is tied with Suggs at #3 with 13 sacks and at #2 in tackles for losses, #6 in QB Hits, and had 3 forced fumbles. But it's really not fair for Miller to be on the list, you know, because he had Tim Tebow rooting for him and everything.
Alternates will be JAX's Daryl Smith (1.78 +WPA/ 52.7 +EPA/79 SC/ 1.08 TF), BUF's Nick Barnett (1.73 +WPA/ 49.7 +EPA/ 72 SC/ 1.21 TF), and NYJ'S David Harris (1.71 +WPA/ 53.8 +EPA/ 58 SC/ 1.08 TF). The most notable aspect of the list of top AFC LBs is the absence of a single Steeler. PIT owned all 3 starting spots last season.
The top spot in the AFC goes to Eric Weddle with 1.54 +WPA. Weddle is also #6 in +EPA, and #17 in SC. He leads all safeties in interceptions with 7 and is tied for the lead in passes defended with 12. His biggest play was a game-saving interception of a Matt Cassel pass with 1:26 to play.
Troy Polamalu has climbed into the #2 spot for the AFC after a slow start to 2011 with 1.52 +WPA. He's #3 in the league in total +EPA, #3 in SC, tied at #5 in passes defended. Add in 1 sack, 3 QB Hits, and 6 tackles for losses. Remarkably, Polamalu only has 1 int all year. He must be saving those up for the playoffs. Polamalu's biggest play came against IND. Following a James Harrison strip-sack of Curtis Painter, Polamalu recovered the ball and returned it 16 yds for a TD, worth a whopping 0.43 WPA. Looking back at that game, I'm amazed at how close IND played PIT--tied right up until that play with 5 min left in the game. IND was even able to tie it up once more, only to allow a PIT FG on the final drive of the game.
Alternates include KC's Kendrick Lewis (1.36 +WPA/ 34.9 +EPA/ 20 SC) and CIN's Reggie Nelson (1.21 +WPA/ 41.4 EPA/ 40 SC).
Darrelle Revis headlines the AFC's corners with a league-best 1.79 +WPA. He's also #10 in +EPA, but only #28 in SC. Most of his statistical production comes from his 19 passes defended, tied for second in the league. Revis' biggest play was an interception of a Tony Romo pass with only 1 minute to play in a tie game. He returned the int 20 yds to the DAL 34, which led to a NYJ game-winning FG.
Nate Clements is second in +WPA with 1.56. He's #12 in EPA and tied at #13 in SC. Clements' biggest play was a recovery of a Blane Gabbert aborted play fumble with 1:19 to play, allowing CIN to hold on to its 3-point lead.
Alternates are DEN's Andre Goodman (1.16 +WPA/ 18.3 +EPA/ 20 SC) and PIT's William Gay (1.12 +WPA/ 32.1 +EPA/ 33 SC), who was one of last year's selectees.
Congratulations to the 2011 All-WPA Team! Your officially-licensed Advanced NFL Stats sweatshirt is on the way. And to avoid some very awkward confrontations we had last year, selectees have to find their own place to stay while in Reston for the All-WPA Bowl. No, you can't stay at my house.
published on 12/31/2011