Commentary

Week 10: Numbers Crunching

Originally Published: November 8, 2007
By Aaron Schatz and Ryan Wilson | 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

Rams at Saints, 1 p.m.

When it comes to stopping teams in third-and-long situations, New Orleans (31st) and St. Louis (32nd) are the two worst defenses in the NFL. The Saints' offense ranks 10th in converting such opportunities, while the Rams are 26th.

Expect a nice game from Torry Holt; New Orleans is last in the league defending opposing teams' No. 1 receivers. The Saints have been torched for over 100 yards by fast guys (Roddy White), old guys (Bobby Engram), and fast old guys (Joey Galloway).

After an 0-4 start, New Orleans' offensive DVOA has improved in each of the last four games; St. Louis' defense has declined for three straight weeks.
• More Rams-Saints: Intel Report | Madden Simulation

Bills at Dolphins, 1 p.m.

Miami should do whatever it can to keep its defense off the field, which means rushing the ball, preferably inside. Miami running backs are averaging 4.9 Adjusted Line Yards running between the guards, and 6.1 ALY behind the left tackle.

If Marshawn Lynch struggles early, Buffalo should target wideout Roscoe Parrish. He catches 82 percent of the passes thrown in his direction, and Miami ranks 30th against opponents' No. 2 receivers.
• More Bills-Dolphins: Intel Report | Madden Simulation

Jaguars at Titans, 1 p.m.

Tennessee has the highest-rated defense in the league, and what's amazing is that it doesn't stand out in any one area. The Titans rank fifth or better against the pass, against the run, on first down, on second down, on third down, in the first quarter, in the third quarter, and in the fourth quarter. They are seventh in the second quarter and eighth in the red zone.

The Titans have the best run defense against runs behind the tackles, and rank second against runs up the middle, but are merely average against runs around the ends. The Jaguars are most effective running around the left end, averaging 6.1 ALY. They are below-average running around the right end.
• More Jaguars-Titans: Intel Report | Madden Simulation

Browns at Steelers, 1 p.m.

The Steelers lead the league in converting third-down opportunities, and second-year player Santonio Holmes is emerging as the teams' eventual No. 1 receiver, maybe even by 2008. Holmes is second in DVOA among all wide receivers; Hines Ward is 42nd.

The Browns' offense is fourth in the NFL in late-and-close situations (second half, score within eight points), while the Steelers' defense is 25th in similar situations.
• More Browns-Steelers: Intel Report | Madden Simulation

Eagles at Redskins, 1 p.m.

Brian Westbrook could get a lot of work against the Redskins, particularly running to the left. Philadelphia is the NFL's best team on rushes around the left end, averaging 6.1 ALY per carry, and Washington's defense gives up 5.1 ALY per carry in that direction.The Redskins have yet to throw a touchdown pass to a wide receiver.
• More Eagles-Redskins: Intel Report | Madden Simulation

Falcons at Panthers, 1 p.m.

Carolina is last in the league on special teams. The two worst areas: the Panthers have lost an estimated 6.8 points worth of field position on kickoffs, and 11.6 points worth of field position on kick returns.

It could be a big day for Roddy White, and a quiet one for Alge Crumpler. Carolina ranks 30th against No.1 receivers, but fourth against tight ends. By the way, Crumpler is on pace for just 44 catches, which would be his lowest total since 2003. He led the Falcons in receptions last year, but is fifth this year behind four different wide receivers.
• More Falcons-Panthers: Intel Report | Madden Simulation

Broncos at Chiefs, 1 p.m.

Denver's offense goes three-and-out on 14 percent of its drives, less often than any other offense in the league except for Indianapolis. (Yes, the Broncos go three-and-out less often than the Patriots.) Kansas City's offense goes three-and-out on 34 percent of drives, the highest percentage in the league.

Because of Denver's 29th-ranked rushing defense, the Chiefs might try to establish the ground game even though they are last in the NFL in running the ball. Kansas City's best chance for success is running behind left tackle; backs are averaging 4.6 ALY per carry, and Denver's front seven is allowing 4.5 ALY per carry in that direction.
• More Broncos-Chiefs: Intel Report | Madden Simulation

Vikings at Packers, 1 p.m.

The game is not over if the Vikings get down early, because the Vikings are so good against the run and the Packers have so much trouble running out the clock. Only three defenses are better than Minnesota's when trailing by more than a touchdown, and the Packers offense ranks 31st in DVOA when leading by more than a touchdown.

Expect a lot of flags when the Vikings are on offense. Minnesota is fifth in the league in offensive penalties, while Green Bay leads the league in defensive penalties. Of particular interest: Green Bay leads the league with nine defensive pass interference penalties. No other team has more than six.
• More Vikings-Packers: Intel Report | Madden Simulation

Bengals at Ravens, 4:05 p.m.

Cincinnati's offense is the best in the NFL in goal-to-go situations, but Baltimore's defense is third in the league preventing success in goal-to-go situations.

It might be a good night for field goals, because while the Cincinnati defense is 29th in DVOA overall, it is fourth in the red zone. Outside of St. Louis, no team has a worse offense in the red zone than the Ravens do.
• More Bengals-Ravens: Intel Report | Madden Simulation

Lions at Cardinals, 4:15 p.m.

The Lions' offense is 30th in the league in third-and-long situations, but the Cardinals' defense ranks 28th in the same category. In the red zone, look for Kevin Jones. When the other team is in the red zone, the Cardinals defense is 27th against the run and second against the pass. Arizona is last in first-quarter offense, but only three teams have a more efficient offense in the fourth quarter.
• More Lions-Cardinals: Intel Report | Madden Simulation

Bears at Raiders, 4:15 p.m.

The resistible force meets the movable object: The Bears' offense is the worst in the league on first down. The Raiders' defense shares this same distinction. Chicago is last in the league in DVOA against slot receivers.
• More Bears-Raiders: Intel Report | Madden Simulation

Cowboys at Giants, 4:15 p.m.

If Dallas gets an early lead, it will be difficult for New York to come back; the Cowboys are third in the NFL in offensive DVOA when leading by eight points or less -- they are first when up by at least nine -- and only the Colts' offense finishes close games better. Dallas' offense leads the NFL in second-half DVOA.

Tony Romo has thrown 17 passes classified as "deep right" (16-plus yards through the air), gaining 16.6 yards per pass with four touchdowns and no interceptions. He has thrown 35 passes classified as "deep left" or "deep middle," gaining 9.8 yards per pass with four touchdowns and four interceptions.
• More Cowboys-Giants: Intel Report | Madden Simulation

Colts at Chargers, 8:30 p.m.

If the Chargers choose to attack the Colts through the air, LaDainian Tomlinson could play a big role. The Colts rank in the top 10 against wide receivers and tight ends, but are just average against pass-catching running backs.

The Colts' running game is most effective up the middle, averaging 5.1 ALY per carry, and the Chargers' defense ranks 30th in this situation, allowing 4.8 ALY.
• More Colts-Chargers: Intel Report | Madden Simulation

49ers at Seahawks (Monday), 8:30 p.m.

With their offense going nowhere, the 49ers punt a lot, and they are good at it -- but Seattle happens to have the league's best punt return numbers this season. The 49ers have gained an estimated 12.6 points worth of field position on punts, and the Seahawks have gained 13.3 points worth of field position on punt returns.

Get ready to see Alex Smith go down: Seattle's defense is fifth in Adjusted Sack Rate, while the San Francisco offense is 30th.
• More 49ers-Seahawks: Intel Report | Madden Simulation

Aaron Schatz is president of Football Outsiders Inc. and the lead author of Pro Football Prospectus 2007 and 2008. Ryan Wilson writes for Football Outsiders and Pro Football Prospectus 2008