Clustering all 32 NFL offenses from the 2023 season

2W9D76G San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (23) runs during an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Monday, Dec. 25, 2023, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Scot Tucker)

• K-means clustering groups together similar units: The algorithm created four groups based on 2023 offensive production.

• Four explosive units stand out in Cluster 2: The Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers earned the highest average offensive and passing grades of the clusters.

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We can better understand how NFL offenses performed in 2023, and how they may stack up in 2024, by clustering them using PFF grades and metrics from this past regular season. PFF has in previous years performed clustering on wide receivers and quarterbacks.

Clustering is a mathematical technique used to group similar observations. The most common form is the k-means clustering algorithm, which completes its iterative process when each observation is in the cluster that best represents it. In other words, there is no other cluster whose center (or mean of all the variables) is closer to that observation than the one it currently belongs to.

The graphic below shows the clusters formed by the algorithm and how similar NFL offenses are based on the two most important variables (called components).

Cluster 1

Cluster 1 contains teams that were pass-heavy and fairly successful when throwing in 2023. The teams in this cluster earned at least a 70.0 PFF offensive grade in 2023 and had high average pass rates (63.5%), but they were not as successful as Cluster 2 when passing.

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals’ offense earned the 15th-best offensive grade (75.6) and ranked 16th in EPA per play (-0.03) in 2023.

Denver Broncos: The Broncos’ offense in 2023 was slightly above average, ranking 12th in offensive grade (78.4). However, they ranked just 21st in EPA per play (-0.07).

Green Bay Packers: The Packers’ offense ranked 10th in offensive grade (80.4) last season. When passing, Green Bay converted to a new set of downs at the fifth-best rate in the league (35.6%).

Houston Texans: The Texans generated -0.03 EPA per play in 2023, ranking 14th.

Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars passed at the eighth-highest clip in the league in 2023 and were successful when doing so, producing an 11th-ranked passing grade (82.7). They were not as successful at converting to a new set of downs when passing, ranking 16th in conversion rate (33.1%).

Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs passed the ball at the second-highest rate in the league (66.7%).

Los Angeles Chargers: Despite recording a 10th-ranked passing grade (83.0) in 2023, the Chargers ranked only 18th in first-down conversion rate (32.3%).

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings led the league in receiving yards in 2023 (4,700) and ranked seventh in receiving grade (79.6). They converted to a new set of downs at the eighth-highest rate when passing (34.6%), making use of their solid receivers.

New Orleans Saints: The Saints averaged -0.01 EPA per play last year, ranking 11th. They were a below-average rushing team, ranking 21st in rushing grade (75.7). Despite that, they converted to a new set of downs on runs at a 23.5% clip, the 12th-best rate in the league.

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks’ offense was strong in 2023, ranking 11th in offensive grade (79.6). They were a more efficient offense when running the ball, converting to a new set of downs at the seventh-best rate in the NFL (25.1%).

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Buccaneers ranked last in PFF rushing grade in 2023 (67.2). They were also the NFL’s worst team at converting to a new set of downs when running the ball (16.8%).

Washington Commanders: The Commanders led the league in pass rate in 2023 (69.6%) but ranked only 26th in passing grade (60.9).

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Cluster 2

Cluster 2 contains the explosive offenses, both passing and rushing, in 2023. They marched down the field and often converted to a new set of downs, 32.4% of the time on average. These teams had the highest average offensive (88.4) and passing grades of the clusters (87.3).

Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys earned the highest passing grade in the league last season (90.2). They were right behind the 49ers in conversion rate when passing, at 38.2%.

Detroit Lions: The Lions placed right behind the 49ers in 2023 with an 88.2 offensive grade. They were a top-10 team in conversion rate when passing and running.

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins trailed only the Cowboys in passing grade in 2023 (89.7). When passing, they converted to a new set of downs at the third-highest rate (37.7%).

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers led the league in offensive grade (92.4) and EPA per play (0.16) in 2023. They also produced the highest first-down conversion rate on passing plays (41.2%).

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Cluster 3

Cluster 3 teams were the best at converting on fourth downs in 2023, doing so 62% of the time on average. They also recorded 80.0-plus offensive grades and played the most 11 personnel on average (69%).

Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens’ offense ranked fifth in offensive grade (84.3) and seventh in EPA per play (0.04) in 2023. The unit converted to a new set of downs 34.8% of the time when passing, ranking seventh in the league.

Buffalo Bills: The Bills got to a new set of downs at the highest rate in the league (29.1%) when running the ball in 2023. They also earned the NFL’s fourth-highest team rushing grade (90.9).

Los Angeles Rams: The Rams’ offense ranked eighth last season in offensive grade (82.5) and EPA per play (0.03). They were more successful at running the ball, ranking sixth in rushing grade (90.0).

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles were the NFL’s best at converting to a new set of downs (29.1%) on runs. They also converted on fourth downs at the highest rate (73.1%).

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Cluster 4

Cluster 4 contains the least successful teams from 2023. They earned the lowest average offensive grade of the four clusters (68.5), relied on the run more than other teams and generated the lowest average EPA per play figure (-0.12). They were also the least successful teams at fourth-down conversions (49.9%) on average.

Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals ranked 21st in offensive grade (72.3) and 20th in EPA per play (-0.07) in 2023. They did manage to garner the highest rushing grade in the league (92.4).

Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons’ passing game ranked second to last in the league in 2023, with a 73.6 grade. They passed at a 30th-ranked rate of 55.3%. They were more successful running the ball, ranking 18th in rushing grade. However, they converted to a new set of downs on runs only 22.2% of the time, ranking 21st.

Carolina Panthers: The Panthers ranked 30th in EPA per play (-0.19) last season. Their run game was slightly more successful, earning a 20th-ranked grade (77.2).

Chicago Bears: The Bears ranked 18th in EPA per play (-0.06) and 24th in offensive grade (71.8) in 2023.

Indianapolis Colts: The Colts’ offense ranked 22nd in PFF grade (72.2) and 17th in EPA per play (-0.04).

Las Vegas Raiders: The Raiders’ offense was about average in 2023 in terms of offensive grade, ranking 17th (73.7). They struggled to convert to first down, ranking 25th with a 26.7% rate.

New England Patriots: The Patriots’ offense was well below average in 2023, ranking 29th in offensive grade (65.1) and conversion rate (24.2%).

New York Giants: The Giants were the NFL’s worst offense in 2023 at converting to a new set of downs when passing (24.3%). They also ranked last in receiving grade (62.7).

New York Jets: The Jets ranked 31st with a 68.0 rushing grade in 2023. The offense placed 29th in converting to a new set of downs on runs, doing so on 19.6% of their attempts.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Steelers quarterbacks passed at the second-lowest rate in the league last year (55.3%). They ranked 23rd in passing grade (64.5) and 26th in conversion rate (29.6%) when passing. The offense as a whole ranked 22nd in EPA per play (-0.07).

Tennessee Titans: The Titans’ run game was solid in 2023, ranking seventh with an 89.0 grade. That was fueled by a 23.1% first-down conversion rate, which ranked 14th among NFL teams.

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