Packers, Steelers, Falcons Rank Near The Top Of The NFL Competitive Rankings

I ran across this piece from Kevin Seifert bringing to light a remarkable accomplishment the Green Bay Packers are on the verge of completing. The article notes the Packers could become the first team in 48 years to finish a season having never trailed by more than seven points at any point in a game. That's impressive but I wanted to go further.

I wanted to see which teams in 2010 played the highest percentage of games in which they led at any point. Whether it's a first quarter field goal that gave that team a three-point lead or a fourth quarter touchdown, a lead is a lead. The results were not surprising.

Follow the jump for the rankings.

Rank Team Pct. of Games Led
1 Baltimore Ravens 100
2 Green Bay Packers 94.7
3 Pittsburgh Steelers 94.4
4 New England Patriots 94.1
4 Atlanta Falcons 94.1
4 New Orleans Saints 94.1
7 Oakland Raiders 93.8
7 Cleveland Browns 93.8

 

We can see the Ravens were the most "competitive" team in 2010. In every game they played (including the playoffs) they led at some point. The other seven teams all led in every game but one this past season. The Atlanta Falcons are tied with the Patriots and Saints for the fourth-highest percentage by leading 16 of 17 games played. Of those seven, all were playoff teams except the Raiders and Browns. Something for Raiders and Browns fans to keep an eye in 2011 especially because the primary reason both head coaches were fired is probably due to this stat showcasing their inability to finish games they held a lead.

The only game the Falcons did not hold a lead was Week 6 at Philadelphia. For the Packers it was their Week 12 loss to the Falcons. Interestingly, the only games the Patriots and the Saints never led were against the Browns. In fact, the Browns had the second-worst winning percentage in games they held a lead (only the Panthers were worst). This table shows the best teams at holding onto a lead.

Rank Team Record
1 New England Patriots 14-2
2 New York Jets 13-2
3 Pittsburgh Steelers 14-3
4 Atlanta Falcons 13-3
5 Chicago Bears 12-3
5 Jacksonville Jaguars 8-2

 

From here we can see the teams that have a kller instinct. When they get a lead, they press the accelerator and don't let up. The Patriots led the way winning 14 of the 16 games they held a lead. The Falcons were fourth-best at 13-3 in 2010 giving away leads against the Steelers, Saints and Packers.

Best Closers

Let's take it a step further. Six teams were undefeated when tied or leading at the start of the fourth quarter. (Patriots, Jets, Seahawks, Raiders, Vikings, Bills). Of those six, only two won more than half their games that way (Patriots and Jets). The Falcons were 9-1 this past season when tied or leading at the start of the fourth quarter, tied for ninth-best in the NFL.

Overall, the Packers were tied or leading at the start of the fourth quarter in 18 of their 19 games this season, yet they lost five of those games, a league-high in 2010. Does this make them a great team who could have been on the verge of an undefeated season or an undisciplined team who can't close out games? The record for games lost while tied or leading at the start of the fourth quarter is seven held by the 1997 Arizona Cardinals.

This past season, the Falcons led in all but one of their games, lost only three games they did lead in and won nine of 10 games they either led or were tied going into the fourth quarter. All these things are evidence of a disciplined, highly-competitive team. Barring a major coaching disruption in the offseason and a mass free agent exodus, the Falcons are in a position to be very good again in 2011.

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