By now, some of you might be a little tired of my reliance on FootballOutsiders, and my constant proselytizing about the site.  But one of their more interesting tenets concerns teams’ performance on third down, and how teams that are strong on first and second down, but weak on third down, will improve the following year, and vice versa.

From the FO website (in the Football Outsiders basics section, a must read):

“Teams get fewer opportunities on third down, so third-down performance is more volatile – but it’s also a bigger part of a team’s overall performance than first or second down, because the result is usually either very good (four more downs) or very bad (losing the ball to the other team with a punt).  Over time, a team will play as well in those situations as it does in other situations, which will bring the overall offense or defense in line with the offense and defense on first and second down.”

So let’s look at the Giants.  First the offense, which put up a DVOAs of 19.0% on first down, 20.5% on second down, and 37.5% on third and fourth downs.  To put adjectives to those numbers, we were very good on first and second downs, but we were fucking awesome on third down.  This year, it’s more likely that we’ll be merely very good on third down, so expect some regression there.

On defense, we were very good on first down (-17.8%), below average on second down (5.0%), and pretty bad on third and downs (-9.4%).  So we should expect some improvement on defense, even aside from our improvement in personnel.

For us Giant fans, the critical importance of third and fourth down should be fresh in our minds.  In our playoff loss to the Eagles, we went 4 for 16 in these situations, while the Eagles went 7 for 14.