I will try to find some stats in regards on how long our defense has to stay on the field.
According to the official NFL stats, the Niners are pretty good so far in average time of possession per game, ranking 11th in the league with an offensive average possession time of 31:07, so about 31 minutes per game out of sixty minutes
. That means the defense is on the field about 29 minutes per game right now.
With this number, I think the Niners are in good company, all other teams ranked above the Niners are teams with pretty good offenses who can move the ball like the Saints, Packers and also Eagles, Chargers and Cowboys (I said "move the ball", "not score points when they really need them"
Well, to be honest, there is also Cleveland above the Niners in that ranking, who are a bit of a statistical anomaly because they got a big recent boost in that category from the stinker Seattle put up against them where Seattle had the ball for only 17 minutes! This early in the season, that skews the numbers significantly and put Seattle right to the bottom with an average of only 24 minutes per game.
To compare that, the top team in average TOP per game last season was San Diego with 33 minutes per game offensive TOP. The Niners last season were ranked near the bottom at 25 with 28:47 TOP per game. So we did really improve there and you could make the argument that the defense should be well rested this season as the offense holds the ball longer.
You can see those for yourself here: http://www.nfl.com/stats/categorystats?seasonType=REG&offensiveStatisticCategory=GAME_STATS&d-447263-n=1&d-447263-o=2&d-447263-p=1&d-447263-s=TIME_OF_POSS_SECONDS_PER_GAME_AVG&tabSeq=2&season=2011&role=TM&Submit=Go&archive=false&conference=null&defensiveStatisticCategory=null&qualified=true
On the other hand, this number does not really tell you that much about how the team played and how the defense was affected. For example, last season the Patriots were ranked just 23rd in TOP per game, two spots above the Niners with a TOP of 29:24. However, they were also the highest-scoring team in the league on average which I think their defense did not really mind
. In comparison, the Rams last season had a season TOP per game that was nearly the same as the Niners this season at about 31 minutes, yet our Niners currently outscore the 2010 Rams by about nine points per game (and the current 2011 Rams by about double that
Those stats are at the same site as mentioned above, just select "2010" from the menu above the stats.
There are also the stats on plays from scrimmage for defensive teams, which could be another indicator about how many snaps the defense has to play. Interestingly, that stat seems to be lower than the 416 snaps mentioned here, those could possibly include snaps wiped out be penalties though which could possibly be ignored in the stats but where obviously the defensive players played a snap. In the rankings of defensive scrimmage plays, the Niners rank 22nd with 385, tied with the Chiefs and Patriots and just above the Ravens. If those stats are correct, it would mean the Niners play comparatively very few snaps on defense and thus should be more rested than other teams.
You can see those for yourself here:
So I would think there is some statistical evidence that our players are well rested, but as always, those stats can be misleading and we will see how the team plays later in the year and how they will hold up then. But I think the early signs should be encouraging and we should not feel uneasy about the workload of our players yet