Ben vs. Eli follow-up

This is just a quick follow-up to my previous post on Ben vs. Eli. In the comments, Varmint had a request:

As a follow-up, it would be interesting to know which division had the better pass and rush defenses. Obviously, a better rush defense puts more pressure on the QB to get the job done. The combined defensive rank is more important, but I think knowing both categories would be an interesting addition.

So, I went back and looked at the opposing defensive ranks broken out by pass and rush defense rank. First, as Varmint asked, I looked at the defenses just in the division, but then, for my own gratification, I did the same for all teams that Ben and Eli have faced in their careers. As before, I did not include the defensive ranks of teams that the Steeler or Giants faced in which the player did not play.

So, here is the average ranking of opposing defenses within the division for each player:

Ben Roethlisberger
Year Division Opponents’ Pass Defense Rank Division Opponents’ Rush Defense Rank
2004 13.33 9.33
2005 16.33 12.67
2006 19.33 17.67
2007 21 23.33
2008 13.33 10.33
Career Avg 16.67 14.67
Eli Manning
Year Division Opponents’ Pass Defense Rank Division Opponents’ Rush Defense Rank
2004 9.33 13.33
2005 14 14.00
2006 19.67 18.67
2007 9 15.67
2008 5 5.00
Career Avg 11.4 13.33

Within their own divisions, Eli clearly faced better defenses, although the average difference in rush defense is pretty small. In fact, that seems to fly in the face of mantra that the NFC East is so much more of a physical division than the AFC North.¬†But, there is a fairly significant difference in the pass defenses of the two divisions, giving Eli the edge in this case. So, let’s take a look at the ranks when including all opponents faced.

Ben Roethlisberger
Year All Opponents’ Pass Defense Rank All Opponents’ Pass Defense Rank
2004 11.5 15.75
2005 19.63 15.82
2006 14.93 14.53
2007 18.44 19.31
2008 12.53 13.68
Career Avg 15.4 15.82
Eli Manning
Year All Opponents’ Pass Defense Rank All Opponents’ Pass Defense Rank
2004 12.63 11.00
2005 18.53 14.35
2006 15.53 19.18
2007 16.05 14.35
2008 11.29 11.94
Career Avg 14.81 14.16

When looking at these numbers, the average ranking of all opposing pass and rush defenses is really pretty¬†similar in both cases. So, from what I can see, overall, the difference in average opponents’ faced is probably largely due to the difference in division. However, since that only accounts for six games of the season, I think that is a negligible difference. Let’s remember, it’s not like the Browns and Bengals have completely sucked every year Ben’s been in the NFL, nor have the Cowgirls, ‘skins, or Eagles been top tier teams every year the Eli’s been in the league. The NFC East has been stronger overall, but not by the wide margin that some think.

Feel free to add your thoughts.

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