Runs Plus Completions Keys Browns’ Success

Michael Salfino
January 5, 2024 9:43 AM

They say the best defense is the least defense, meaning keeping that unit rested on the sideline while you tire the opposing defense with your offense.

Going back to the heyday ofBud Goode, the Bill James of the NFL, the preferred way for coaches to measure ball control during the game was simply adding runs plus completions.

NFL teams and coaches still use this shortcut, though it’s little known in the general community.

They add runs plus completions for and subtract from that the runs plus completions allowed.

Runs and completions are called “move” plays because they move the ball and the clock.

The difference in those gained minus allowed are categorized as “Move-Net.”

The Cleveland Browns (11-5) are the champions of this stat in 2023 through Week 17.

It’s the key to their strength. Their ball control dominance measured this way keeps their defense on the field the least amount of time in football –27:12 minutes per game.

They tally 10 more runs plus completions per game than opponents.

That’s 1.56 more than the second-place Lions. And it’s nearly three times the average distance between teams.

Here’s how all 32 clubs rank in Move-Net (runs plus completions per game minus those allowed):

RkTeamMove Net
1CLE10.00
2DET8.44
3DAL6.44
4BUF6.00
5BAL5.44
6NOR5.25
7KAN5.06
8CHI4.69
9MIA4.06
10SFO4.00
11PHI3.44
12JAX1.94
13LAR1.88
14ATL1.06
15PIT-0.56
16CAR-0.81
17CIN-1.94
18LAC-1.94
19HOU-2.00
20TAM-2.00
21GNB-2.38
22DEN-3.25
23IND-3.50
24MIN-3.81
25ARI-3.81
26NYG-4.06
27NWE-4.19
28WAS-5.25
29NYJ-6.44
30LVR-6.56
31TEN-6.88
32SEA-8.31

Move-Net typically doesn’t correlate very strongly with winning, not nearly as well as turnover differential and the difference between a team’s yards per pass play gained minus allowed.

But this year is different for the stat, with eight of the top 10 teams in Move-Net slated for the postseason, including both conference No. 1 seeds.

And it could be nine of 10 if the Saints qualify,which the oddsmakers say is a 35% chance.

Move-Net Could Key Bears Win at Green Bay

Looking at the bottom 10 teams in the rankings, eight are out of the playoffs for sure. The Seahawks, last at minus-8.31, have a 75% chance to miss the postseason, currently sitting at 8-8. Th

e 23rd-ranked Colts have a 41% chance of being excluded from the postseason dance. So all 10 of the bottom 10 teams may miss the postseason.

The interesting game in Week 18 for the statistic is the Bears (7-9) visiting the Packers (8-8).

If the game goes to form, the Bears should control play.

The expected edge for the Bears is around seven move plays or about 3:30 of extra time with the ball.

Note that the Packers are 3-5 in games where they have lost the possession battle. Yet they are a three-point favorite over the Bears in Green Bay in this must win game for their playoff hopes.

But regardless of the general predictive value of a stat, in the extreme, it’s always meaningful.

And it can be a signature trait of a winning team, as it is for the 2023 Browns.

About the author

Michael Salfino writes about sports and the sport industry. His numbers-driven analysis began with a nationally syndicated newspaper column in 2004. H...

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