- 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 (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), 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
49ers at Panthers, (Sunday) 1:00 p.m.
So far this year, Carolina is the team with the NFL's worst home-field advantage. The Panthers rank 19th in offense and 13th in defense on the road, but 31st in offense and 26th in defense at home.
The average running back carry for Carolina comes with 9.0 yards to go for a first down. The only team worse is . . . San Francisco, where the average running back carry comes with 9.1 yards to go for a first down. (NFL average is 8.2; New England has the lowest, averaging 7.3 yards to go.)
Bills at Redskins, 1:00 p.m.
Redskins middle linebacker London Fletcher will face his old team for the first time. With Buffalo in both 2005 and 2006, Fletcher was third in the league in total defensive Plays. This year in Washington, Fletcher is once again third in the league in total defensive plays. Meanwhile, back in Buffalo, outside linebacker Angelo Crowell is fourth in the league in total defensive plays, and first among outside linebackers. (The two players ahead of Fletcher and Crowell are Patrick Willis and Ray Lewis.)
Buffalo's defense has the league's best defense on runs around left end (0.8 yards per carry) but the league's worst defense on runs around right end (8.7 yards per carry).
Texans at Titans, 1:00 p.m.
Tennessee leads the league with 54 quarterback hits, plays that knock the quarterback to the ground without an official sack (Football Outsiders' totals include plays cancelled by penalties). Antwan Odom leads the NFL with 14, Kyle Vanden Bosch has 13, and no other defender in the NFL has more than 11. (Albert Haynesworth, in case you are wondering, has seven.)
The quarterback hit stat is still somewhat new, and official scorers in different stadiums are wildly inconsistent about marking it. This affects the totals for many teams -- but the Titans aren't benefiting from home cooking. They have 27 hits at home and 27 hits on the road, even though they've played one more game at home.
On the other side of the ball, Houston is 29th in the NFL in quarterback hits.
Falcons at Rams, 1:00 p.m.
If the Rams get into third-and-short, that doesn't necessarily mean converting for a new first down will be easy. The Rams' offense is just 26th in the NFL on third-and-short (1-3 yards to go) while the Falcons' defense is a shocking fourth. Looking at numbers by type of play rather than yards to go, the Falcons have the best run defense in the NFL on third or fourth down. (In case you are wondering, cutting Grady Jackson after Week 7 didn't seem to affect these numbers one way or the other.)
Inside linebacker Will Witherspoon leads the Rams in defensive plays, but the next four defenders are all defensive backs: Oshiomogho Atogwe, Corey Chavous, Ron Bartell, and Fakhir Brown. The Rams are the only team in the NFL where four of the top five defensive playmakers are defensive backs. This is not a good sign.
Seahawks at Eagles, 1:00 p.m.
Seattle throws 53 percent of passes to the right side, only 30 percent to the left side. That's the biggest difference in the NFL. Philadelphia opponents throw 43 percent of passes to the right side, only 28 percent to the left side. That's the biggest difference of any defense in the NFL. (To answer a question I got when I mentioned this a couple weeks ago, this left/right dichotomy is present both when Lito Sheppard is healthy and when he was injured and replaced in the starting lineup by William James).
Seattle and Philadelphia are tied for the fewest offensive penalties in the NFC, just 24 apiece. The only team in the league with fewer offensive penalties is Tennessee. Philadelphia has a league-low six false starts, while Seattle is particularly good at avoiding holding calls. (Man, irony is just a kick in the head sometimes.)
Lions at Vikings, 1:00 p.m.
Detroit has the league's worst defense against running backs in the passing game. The Vikings' running backs average 7.7 yards per pass, the best in the league by more than a yard, and they combined for 90 receiving yards the first time these two teams met.
Detroit's defense ranks 30th in the NFL in the first half, but fifth in the NFL in the second half.
Minnesota has the league's best defense against tight ends, which isn't much of a help considering Detroit has only 26 passes to tight ends, fewer than any other offense.
Jaguars at Colts, 1:00 p.m.
On first down, the Colts have the best defense in the league against the pass, but rank just 25th against the run. The Jaguars have run Fred Taylor almost twice as often as Maurice Jones-Drew on first downs, even though Jones-Drew averages 5.4 yards per carry on first down and Taylor averages just 4.1 yards per carry.
Ernest Wilford has been thrown more passes on third down (23) than first and second down combined (20). When compared to first and second down, Wilford also catches a higher percentage of passes and gains more yards after catch.
Chargers at Chiefs, 1:00 p.m
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Good week to play John Carney on your fantasy team? The Chiefs' offense ranks 30th in the NFL in the red zone, while the Chargers' defense ranks second.
Irresistible force vs. five immovable objects: Kansas City's pass rush is sixth in the NFL in Adjusted Sack Rate (7.7 percent, 27 sacks), but San Diego's offensive line is third in the NFL in Adjusted Sack Rate (3.5 percent, 13 sacks).
Jets at Dolphins, 1:00 p.m.
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Miami's offense gets successively better each quarter, while New York's offense gets successively worse each quarter.
Miami does not have a single wide receiver who has caught more than 50 percent of intended passes, including Chris Chambers before he was traded to San Diego.
Broncos at Raiders, 4:05 p.m.
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The Raiders have 65 penalties on offense -- no other NFL team has more than 50 -- but just 12 penalties on defense, the third-lowest figure in the league.
Have you been looking for the right week to start Brandon Stokley on your fantasy team? Oakland is the best defense in the NFL against the other team's No. 1 receiver, but the Raiders are 31st against No. 2 receivers and 28th against No. 3/slot receivers.
Browns at Cardinals, 4:05 p.m.
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One of the best battles in this game will match Cleveland kick returner Josh Cribbs against Arizona kicker Neil Rackers. Cribbs, not Devin Hester, is the top kickoff returner of the year by our metrics. (Both have two touchdowns, but Cribbs is averaging seven yards more per return.) Rackers is second in the NFL with 15 touchbacks, and he has been the best kickoff man in the league by our metrics. However, Arizona is below average when a kickoff is returned, because their coverage team isn't very good. So when Rackers can't get it into the end zone, watch out.
The Cardinals have the league's biggest difference between quarterback hits on offense (43) and quarterback hits by their defense (17). The Browns have the second-biggest difference in the other direction, with many more hits from their defense (32) than hits taken by their quarterback (14).
The Cardinals lead the league with 113 penalties (including declined and offsetting) while the Browns are tied for second with 98 penalties. Let the flags fly!
Buccaneers at Saints, 4:15 p.m.
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Whoever gets out to an early lead could run away with this game. Tampa Bay ranks eighth in defense overall, but the Bucs have the league's worst defense when down by more than a touchdown. New Orleans has the league's second-worst defense when down by more than a touchdown.
Reggie Bush is averaging four yards per carry on runs up the middle or behind a guard, 3.2 yards per carry on runs left tackle or right tackle, and 3.1 yards per carry on runs around left end or right end. So much for the idea that Bush is at his best when he gets the ball in space.
Giants at Bears, 4:15 p.m.
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The Giants have thrown to the middle of the field on 34 percent of passes, more often than any other team. Their passes are almost exactly one-third in each direction (left, middle, and right). Plaxico Burress leads all NFL receivers with 18 passes to the "deep middle" (16-plus yards through the air) and he's caught eight of those for a total of 244 yards.
How can you tell the difference between a strong safety and a free safety? Adam Archuleta and Brandon McGowan each make their average run tackle 5.1 yards past the line of scrimmage. Danieal Manning makes his average run tackle 12.5 yards past the line of scrimmage.
Bengals at Steelers, 8:15 p.m.
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The big matchup in this game takes place when the Steelers offense hits third down. Pittsburgh's offense ranks 20th on first down, 25th on second down, but third in the NFL on third or fourth down. Cincinnati's defense ranks 30th on first down, 29th on second down, but fifth in the NFL on third or fourth down.
Justin Smith has been involved in 18 percent of Cincinnati run tackles, the highest percentage of any defensive end in the league.
Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are two of the four NFL defenses which have allowed a conversion on only 50 percent of short-yardage runs.
Patriots at Ravens (Monday), 8:30 p.m.
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Notice how the Patriots lead almost every game right out of the gate? The Pats have the league's best offense and defense during the first quarter. The Ravens have the second-best defense during the first quarter, but only two teams are worse on offense.
In late and close situations (second half, score within eight points), the only defense better than New England is Indianapolis, and the only offense worse than Baltimore is St. Louis. Of course, the chances of this game actually being in a "late and close situation" are pretty slim.
Aaron Schatz is president of Football Outsiders Inc. and the lead author of Pro Football Prospectus 2007 and 2008.