- Aaron Schatz, Football Outsiders
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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
Broncos at Lions, 1 p.m.
To slow down the Lions offense, Denver must improve its defense on first down. Detroit's offense is eighth when passing on first down, and a surprising fourth when running the ball. Denver's defense is 28th against the pass on first down, and 25th against the run.
Given how much the Lions pass, it's no surprise that they run the fastest offense in the league in the first half of games, averaging a play every 25 seconds. Denver runs the third-slowest offense in the first half, averaging a play every 30.2 seconds. Only Buffalo and Pittsburgh run slower offenses in the first half.
• More Broncos-Lions: Intel Report | Madden Simulation
Packers at Chiefs, 1 p.m.
The Packers should be able to get out to an early lead. The Green Bay offense ranks third in DVOA during the first quarter, while the Kansas City defense ranks 28th.
Once the Packers have that early lead, their defense will make it tough for the Chiefs to come back. The Packers have the second-best defense in the NFL in the second half of games, while the Chiefs offense ranks 24th.
• More Packers-Chiefs: Intel Report | Madden Simulation
49ers at Falcons, 1 p.m.
The 49ers punt a lot, but they're very good at it. They rank first in the league in net punting value, while the Falcons are below-average on punt returns.
San Francisco has excellent run defense on runs to the left towards defensive end Marques Douglas and weakside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain. They have below-average defense on runs to the right, and extremely poor defense on runs up the middle. That won't help the Falcons much, since they are the league's worst team at running up the middle.
• More 49ers-Falcons: Intel Report | Madden Simulation
Bengals at Bills, 1 p.m.
When it comes to forcing a three-and-out, the two worst defenses in the NFL belong to Buffalo (13.5 percent of drives) and Cincinnati (13.8 percent of drives).
The Bills may win the field-position game with their colossal advantage on special teams. Buffalo's Terrence McGee has been the third-best kickoff return man in the league this year, and Cincinnati ranks 30th on net kickoffs.
The Bills also have the edge when they kick or punt. Buffalo ranks second in net punting, seventh in net kickoffs. Cincinnati ranks 31st on punt returns and 28th on kick returns.
• More Bengals-Bills: Intel Report | Madden Simulation
Chargers at Vikings, 1 p.m.
This game pits strength against strength when each team gets into the red zone. San Diego has the top offense and defense in the red zone -- a bit of a surprise since red-zone defense was San Diego's biggest weakness in 2006. Meanwhile, the Vikings offense is third in the red zone -- the only place on the field their offense is really any good -- and their defense is fourth.
San Diego is much more successful running to the left than it is running up the middle or to the right. Minnesota's run defense is much more successful against runs to the left or up the middle than against runs to the right.
• More Chargers-Vikings: Intel Report | Madden Simulation
Jaguars at Saints, 1 p.m.
New Orleans is the NFL's only team that has yet to commit a penalty on a punt or kickoff. Jacksonville has only two such penalties, less than any other team except New Orleans.
Just three teams have a safety as their leading playmaker this season on defense. Jacksonville (Sammy Knight) and New Orleans (Ramon Harper) are two of them. The third is Cincinnati (Madieu Williams).
• More Jaguars-Saints: Intel Report | Madden Simulation
Redskins at Jets, 1 p.m.
Washington has 50 running back carries around left end, 12 more than any other offense. Washington's defense also has faced the most runs by opponents listed as "left end," facing an average of seven per home game and seven per road game, including nine in Philadelphia and 11 in Green Bay.
For some reason, the Redskins just love to run left end, and other teams love to run left end against them.
By the way, the Jets offense ranks 29th in Adjusted Line Yards when running around left end, and the Jets defense ranks 29th in Adjusted Line Yards against runs around left end.
• More Redskins-Jets: Intel Report | Madden Simulation
Cardinals at Buccaneers, 1 p.m.
Although their defense is average overall, the Cardinals force their opponents to go three-and-out more often than any other defense except Chicago. Tampa Bay's offense goes three-and-out on 27 percent of drives, which ranks 28th in the NFL.
When the Cardinals force those three-and-outs, they will also get a nice advantage on the Tampa Bay punt. Josh Bidwell has been the worst punter in the NFL this year, and the Cardinals are getting excellent returns from Steve Breaston.
• More Cardinals-Bucs: Intel Report | Madden Simulation
Panthers at Titans, 1 p.m.
Thanks to their great defense, the Titans offense has the best average starting field position in the NFL, past its own 34-yard line.
Tennessee stuffs runners at the line 30 percent of the time, stopping opposing running backs for a loss or no gain. That's not a good matchup for Carolina's DeShaun Foster, known for mixing a few good runs with a lot of carries that go nowhere.
Seahawks at Browns, 4:05 p.m.
This is a matchup of two of the three best special teams units in the NFL this year (Buffalo being the other). Josh Cribbs has been the league's best kickoff returner, but Seattle's Josh Brown has been the second-best kicker.
Get ready for a lot of flags to be thrown on the Browns. Cleveland is third in the NFL in penalties, while Seattle is fourth in the NFL in penalties called against its opponents.
• More Seahawks-Browns: Intel Report | Madden Simulation
Texans at Raiders, 4:15 p.m.
Houston's Von Hutchins leads all cornerbacks with 19 run tackles. This is not a good stat, considering that these tackles take place after an average gain of 10.7 yards.
Robert Gallery and Barry Sims of the Raiders are tied for the league lead in penalties, 10 apiece. The other player with 10 penalties is -- surprise, surprise -- Jason Taylor of the Dolphins.
• More Texans-Raiders: Intel Report | Madden Simulation
Patriots at Colts, 4:15 p.m
New England's biggest advantage over Indianapolis may be on kickoff returns. The Patriots rank third in kickoff return value this year, behind only the Jets and Browns. The Colts rank 21st in net kickoff value. A lot of scoring means a lot of kickoffs, so don't be surprised if a long Ellis Hobbs return turns out to be the difference.
The Patriots have scored on every opening drive this year, and they probably will do it again Sunday. The Colts' defense ranks 20th in DVOA during the first quarter, but only Tennessee's defense has been better once the first quarter is over.
Just like last year's AFC Championship game, the Colts will have a shot to come back after halftime. The Pats have the best defense in the league in the first half, but rank only 18th in the second half.
• More Patriots-Colts: Intel Report | Madden Simulation
Cowboys at Eagles, 8:15 p.m.
The Cowboys should be able to gain nice chunks of yardage every time they have a new first down. On first downs, the Cowboys rank fifth in DVOA passing, and seventh rushing. The Eagles defense on first down is 24th against the pass, 18th against the run.
No defensive lineman in the league has been involved in a higher percentage of his team's plays than Philadelphia's Trent Cole. Mike Patterson is also in the top 10 for defensive linemen.
• More Cowboys-Eagles: Intel Report | Madden Simulation
Ravens at Steelers (Monday), 8:30 p.m.
Bart Scott leads all NFL linebackers with a Stop Rate of 86 percent, and Terrell Suggs is second with a Stop Rate of 84 percent. Add in Jarret Johnson (75 percent) and the Ravens have three of the top eight linebackers in Stop Rate (minimum 20 plays).
Don't expect the Ravens offense to do much on second down, especially if it can't gain many yards on first down. Pittsburgh has the best defense in the league on second down, especially second-and-long. Baltimore's offense ranks 30th in the league on second down, and the club is the worst on second-and-long.
Aaron Schatz is president of Football Outsiders Inc. and the lead author of Pro Football Prospectus 2007 and 2008.
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