Commentary

Week 8: Numbers Crunching

Originally Published: October 25, 2007
By Aaron Schatz | Football Outsiders.com

Each week, Football Outsiders takes a look at every game on the NFL schedule with a mix of interesting numbers and in-depth statistical analysis. Much of the analysis is based on DVOA, which takes every single play during the season and compares it to the league average based on situation and opponent. DVOA and Football Outsiders' other advanced stats are explained here.

All times Eastern

Colts at Panthers, 1 p.m.

Don't expect Peyton Manning to see much pass pressure. The Colts' offense has the league's best adjusted sack rate, while the Panthers' defense has the league's worst adjusted sack rate.

Normally, the leading playmaker on a defense is a linebacker. Not in Indianapolis. The two Indianapolis defenders who have made the most plays are the starting cornerbacks, Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden. Just six other teams have a cornerback as one of its top two playmakers.

Although Tampa-2 defenses often have trouble with star receivers like Steve Smith, the Colts actually are the league's top team this season when it comes to defending the other team's top receiver. Intel Report | EA Simulation

Redskins at Patriots, 4:15 p.m.

In the red zone, the Patriots have the league's best DVOA when passing the ball but are just 27th when running. On defense, the Patriots have a similar split: sixth against the pass in the red zone, but 30th against the run.

New England might force Washington to punt a lot, but the Redskins have a field position advantage in that part of the game. The Pats rank 30th in punt return value, while the Redskins are third in net punting.

Washington is the only NFL team Tom Brady has never beaten as a starter (other than New England, of course). Intel Report | EA Simulation

Jaguars at Buccaneers, 4:05 p.m.

Tampa Bay's defense ranks 28th in the league in DVOA on third-and-long (7-plus yards to go). Jacksonville's offense is the best in the league in those situations -- at least it was when David Garrard was quarterback. With Quinn Gray, all bets are off.

Last year, Tampa Bay threw more passes to Joey Galloway than to every other wide receiver on the team combined. So far this year, Ike Hilliard has 25 percent more pass targets than Galloway.

In a related note, Jacksonville's defense is third in the league against the opponent's No. 1 receiver but is average against other wide receivers. Intel Report | EA Simulation

Lions at Bears, 1 p.m.

Just in case the Bears needed any more reason to use more of Adrian Peterson and less of Cedric Benson, the Lions have the league's worst defense when it comes to stopping passes to running backs.

Chicago's defense leads the NFL with 11 sacks on first down. Detroit's defense is second with nine sacks on first down. Chicago and Detroit are two of the four defenses with more sacks on first down than on the other three downs combined (the other two are Cleveland and Indianapolis). Intel Report | EA Simulation

Steelers at Bengals, 1 p.m.

The best strategy for Pittsburgh in this game: Run to the right. Willie Parker is averaging 5.8 yards per carry when he runs to the right side, 4.9 yards per carry when he runs to the left side and just 3.2 yards per carry when he runs up the middle or behind a guard. Cincinnati allows 6.3 yards per carry on runs to the right side, 5.4 yards per carry on runs to the left side and 4.3 yards per carry on runs up the middle or behind a guard.

Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are the two worst teams in the NFL on punt returns. The Bengals have lost an estimated 4.3 points worth of field position, while the Steelers have lost an estimated 6.6 points worth of field position. Intel Report | EA Simulation

Giants at Dolphins (London), 1 p.m.

Even though he's not a regular starter, Giants defensive end Justin Tuck leads all NFL defensive linemen in defeats, a stat that combines turnovers, tackles behind the line of scrimmage and tackles that prevent a third- or fourth-down conversion.

On 20 deep passes (16-plus yards through the air) to the middle of the field, Eli Manning is averaging 15.1 yards per pass. On 24 deep passes to the sides of the field, including one 32-yard gain on pass interference, Manning is averaging just 7.6 yards per pass.

The Dolphins, of course, are getting killed by deep passes. Even if we don't consider the two ridiculous catches by Randy Moss in double coverage last week, the Dolphins are allowing an average gain of 16.1 yards on deep passes. Intel Report | EA Simulation

Browns at Rams, 1 p.m.

Just four teams have a better offensive DVOA than Cleveland in the second half of games, and they happen to be the four best teams in football: New England, Indianapolis, Dallas and Pittsburgh. St. Louis, on the other hand, has the worst offensive DVOA in the NFL in the second half.

The Rams have 10 carries from the opponent's 10-yard line or closer. Only two of those carries gained positive yardage: Steven Jackson gaining 6 yards on first-and-goal from the 8 against Carolina, and Jackson getting 2 yards on second-and-8 from the 9 against Tampa Bay. Intel Report | EA Simulation

Eagles at Vikings, 1 p.m.

Philadelphia starts its average offensive drive at the 27.3-yard line. Only two offenses start their average drives in worse field position -- but one of them is Minnesota, which starts its average drive at the 26.5-yard line. (Denver has the league's worst opening field position on offense, the 25.8-yard line.)

The great Vikings run defense isn't about just the defensive line. Linebacker E.J. Henderson makes his average run tackle after a gain of just 1.1 yards, the best figure in the league for any linebacker with more than 10 tackles on running plays. Ben Leber makes his average run tackle after 1.5 yards, which is fourth. Chad Greenway makes his average run tackle after 3.6 yards, about the league average. Intel Report | EA Simulation

Raiders at Titans, 1 p.m.

Tennessee has the No. 1 pass defense DVOA in the NFL, yet teams pass against the Titans on 71 percent of plays, the highest percentage in the league.

Oakland has the worst defense in the league when the opposing offense is backed up behind its own 20-yard line. Intel Report | EA Simulation

Bills at Jets, 4:05 p.m.

No safety is more active than Donte Whitner when it comes to stopping the run. Whitner has been involved in 19 percent of all Buffalo run tackles, which means he is leading all NFL safeties for the second straight season.

Jets rookie Darrelle Revis leads all cornerbacks with 38 total tackles (including assists) on completed passes. This is not a stat in which you want to lead the league. Intel Report | EA Simulation

Texans at Chargers, 4:05 p.m

In 2006, the three strongest defenses against tight ends were Chicago, New England and Green Bay. In the first three weeks of 2007, Antonio Gates caught 27 passes against these three defenses for a combined 297 yards and two touchdowns.

San Diego has allowed only one run longer than 15 yards, while Houston has only two runs longer than 15 yards. Intel Report | EA Simulation

Saints at 49ers, 4:15 p.m.

San Francisco ranks fourth in the NFL when defending passes to the other team's top receiver, but the 49ers are 29th when defending passes to the No. 2 receiver.

New Orleans is the only offense in the league that has yet to take a sack on third down. Intel Report | EA Simulation

Packers at Broncos (Monday), 8 p.m.

Denver's offense ranks 28th in the NFL on short passes (no more than 15 yards through the air) in the middle of the field. Green Bay's defense has the second-best DVOA in the NFL on similar passes.

Green Bay's defense ranks 26th in the NFL in the first half of games but is the best in the league in the second half -- with an even bigger advantage over the rest of the league in the fourth quarter. Intel Report | EA Simulation