This installment will look at two little things that don't often show up - well, they're not usually focused on, anyway. But they can have a huge impact on the game: penalties and average field position. Let's start with penalties. 2011 Regular Season Stats NY - 5.9 penalties per game, 50.4 penalty yards per game NE - 5.0 penalties per game, 46.7 penalty yards per game Last 5 games (carrying on with my theme of this being the "Giants are hot" period of the season) NY - 5.4 penalties per game, 47.2 penalty yards per game (last two games: 12 penalties for 90 yards total) NE - 3.2 penalties per game, 36.4 penalty yards per game (last two games: 3 penalties for 25 yards total) So over the past 5 games, the Giants have committed about 2 penalties and 10+ yards per game more than the Pats have. A couple of extra penalties here and there could prove to be very costly. An illegal contact - 5 yds, automatic first down - could extend a key drive. A false start penalty could stall a drive in the red zone and force a FG instead of a TD. The Pats are playing more disciplined football than the Giants are recently. Probably a small factor, especially since one big PI penalty could sway the game either way, but still, it's something to throw into the mix. Now, what about the hidden yardage of starting field position? On the season, here's where each team ranked in terms of average starting field position: NY - 26 (25.97 to be technical) NE - 29 (28.94 to be technical) NY's opponents - 29 (28.56) NE's opponents - 24 (24.06) So the Pats have a +5 average starting position over their opponents. The Pats had 173 drives this season. That's an average of about 11 drives per game. That means that the Pats have a "hidden yardage advantage" of +55 per game. The Giants have a -3 average starting position relative to their opponents. The Giants had 191 drives this season. That's an average of about 12 drives per game. That means that the Giants have a "hidden yardage disadvantage" of -36 per game. Therefore, the Pats have, in total, an average of +91 hidden yard advantage over the Giants per game during the course of the regular season. Over the last 5 games? Here are their average starting positions: NY - 29 (28.9); Opp - 28 (28.1) NE - 32 (31.9); Opp - 24 (23.9) So the Giants, over their last 5 games, are +1 per drive, at 13 drives per game, that's a net +13 hidden yard advantage per game for the Giants. The Patriots, meanwhile, over their last 5 games, are +8 per drive, at 11.6 drives per game (call it 12). That's a net +96 hidden yard advantage per game for the Pats. So the Giants, over their last 5, have seen an improvement of +49 hidden yards per game. The Pats, meanwhile, have seen an improvement of +5 hidden yards per game. In other words, the Giants are getting a bigger field position boost, relatively speaking, than the Pats are, over their last 5 games. Now, it's still clear that the Pats have a decided advantage in hidden yards. We can probably chalk their advantage in hidden yards up to a couple of important factors: (1) Special Teams. The Pats have a 41.4 net punt yds per attempt this year, while their opponents have a 38.9. That's a +2.5 hidden yard advantage per punt for the Pats in the punting game over their opponents. The Giants, meanwhile, have a 39.5 net punt yds per attempt this year while their opponents have a 40.5. That's a hidden yard disadvantage of -1.0 yards per punt. There's an average of 4.8 punts per team (9.6 for both teams) per game this year in the NFL, meaning that the Pats, roughly, gain about 24 yards per game on their opponents in the punting game, while the Giants lost about -9.6 yards per game in the punting game. In terms of kickoffs, the Giants average 23.3 yds per kickoff return and their opponents average 22.9 yds per return. Thus, the Giants are +0.4 yds per kickoff return over their opponents. The Giants average 2.0 touchbacks per game and their opponents average 2.1 touchbacks per game. The Pats, meanwhile, average 21.4 yds per kickoff return and their opponents average 21.6 yds per return. Thus, the Pats are -0.2 yds per kickoff return over their opponents. The Pats average 2.6 touchbacks per game and their opponents average 1.4 touchbacks per game. Long story short, the Pats' special teams give them an edge in field position. (2) Turnovers. The Giants had 31 takeaways compared with 24 giveaways, which amounts to just under a half a turnover difference per game on the positive side of the ledger for NY. The Pats had 34 takeaways to just 17 giveaways, which comes to just over a full turnover difference per game on the positive side of the ledger. The average turnover costs a team about 59 yards of field position versus a punt (from a study I did earlier in the year). So that half-turnover difference between the Giants and the Pats is a huge factor in hidden yards. Obviously, in one game anything can happen. But the Pats' edge in special teams and giveaway/takeaway ability could mean much improved field position over the course of an entire game.