Commentary

Week 14: Numbers Crunching

Originally Published: December 6, 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 (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), which takes every 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 Bengals, (Sunday) 1 p.m.

Welcome to the T.J. Houshmandzadeh show! The Rams are the worse defense in the NFL against the oppositions' No. 2 receiver. Don't worry, Ocho Cinco fans -- the Rams also are below average against No. 1 receivers.

In the fourth quarter, the Rams have the worst offense and the worst defense in the league.


• More Rams-Bengals: Intel Report | EA Simulation

Cowboys at Lions, 1 p.m.

The Lions love to throw long; only Cincinnati has thrown more "deep" passes (16 or more yards past the line of scrimmage). However, Cowboys opponents have completed only 31 percent of deep passes, the best figure for any defense in the NFL.

Thirty-eight percent of runs against the Lions have gone around either the left end or right end, the highest percentage in the league. Dallas is the best team in the NFL at running around the right end, although it has been merely average on runs around the left end.

The Lions have thrown 38 percent of passes to third or fourth wideouts, the highest percentage in the league. The Cowboys have thrown just 6 percent of passes to third or fourth wideouts, the second-lowest percentage in the league.


• More Cowboys-Lions: Intel Report | EA Simulation

Raiders at Packers, 1 p.m.

It's a good week to own Greg Jennings or James Jones if you are in the fantasy football playoffs. The Raiders are the best defense in the NFL against opposing No. 1 receivers, but they rank 31st against No. 2 receivers and 28th against No. 3 and No. 4 targets.

Oakland is the most penalized team in the NFL on offense, with 20 percent more penalties than any other team. However, Green Bay is the most penalized team in the NFL on defense, with 30 percent more penalties than any other team.


• More Raiders-Packers: Intel Report | EA Simulation

Dolphins at Bills, 1 p.m.

On third down, the Buffalo defense is fifth in the league against the pass but 31st against the run.

Miami has the league's worst defense in the red zone.


• More Dolphins-Bills: Intel Report | EA Simulation

Buccaneers at Texans, 1 p.m.

Houston's offense is 27th on first down but ninth on third and fourth downs. Tampa Bay's defense is second on first down but 22nd on third and fourth downs.

Tampa Bay has thrown the highest percentage of passes to running backs (32 percent). The Bucs also have faced the highest percentage of passes to running backs when they are on defense (28 percent).

Tampa Bay has a turnover margin of plus-11, third in the NFL. Houston has a turnover margin of minus-10, 31st in the NFL.


• More Buccaneers-Texans: Intel Report | EA Simulation

Chargers at Titans, 1 p.m.

Opposing offenses have picked up offensive holding penalties against San Diego's defense 20 times. No other defense has drawn more than 16 offensive holding penalties. However, Tennessee has drawn a league-low four flags for offensive holding (not counting holding on punt and kickoff returns).

San Diego opponents throw to their No. 1 receivers on 31 percent of passes, the highest percentage in the league. That means a big day for … um … who counts as Tennessee's No. 1 receiver, anyway?


• More Chargers-Titans: Intel Report | EA Simulation

Panthers at Jaguars, 1 p.m.

Jacksonville has gained more value on kickoffs than any other team in the NFL, an estimated 14.0 points worth of field position compared to average. Carolina has lost more value on kickoff returns than any other team in the NFL, an estimated 14.4 points of squandered field position compared to average.

Carolina is the league's worst offense on third-and-short (1-3 yards to go), while Jacksonville is the second-best defense in the same situation.


• More Panthers-Jaguars: Intel Report | EA Simulation

Giants at Eagles, 1 p.m.

The Eagles are the best offense in the league at running behind the left tackle. Although the Giants have a run defense that is good overall, fourth in adjusted line yards, they rank just 24th against runs behind the left tackle.

In the fourth quarter, the Eagles get much worse on offense and much better on defense. Through the third quarter, they are seventh on offense and 22nd on defense. In the fourth quarter, they are 21st on offense but sixth on defense.


• More Giants-Eagles: Intel Report | EA Simulation

Cardinals at Seahawks, 4:05 p.m.

Over the past couple of years, Qwest Field has led all NFL stadiums in false starts by visiting offenses. That's not good news for Arizona, which already is third in the NFL with 26 false starts.

Get ready for lots of punt return yardage. Seattle ranks second in the league in value on punt returns, and Arizona has the worst punting in the league, although this might be less of a problem now that punter Mike Barr was replaced last week by veteran Mitch Berger. Things aren't much better when the Seahawks punt; Arizona ranks seventh in punt returns while Seattle is 28th in net punting.


• More Cardinals-Seahawks: Intel Report | EA Simulation

Vikings at 49ers, 4:05 p.m.

San Francisco and Minnesota rank 30th and 31st, respectively, in adjusted sack rate on offense.

Minnesota has thrown only 48 deep passes, fewer than any other team, and the Vikings have completed only 25 percent of those passes, the lowest completion percentage in the league.


• More Vikings-49ers: Intel Report | EA Simulation

Steelers at Patriots, 4:15 p.m.

In the red zone, the Patriots have the best pass offense in the NFL but are only average running the ball. The Steelers have the best run defense in the NFL but are only average against the pass. So don't go expecting a big fantasy football afternoon from Heath Evans.

New England's secret weapon in this game: kickoff returns. The Patriots are fourth in kickoff return value, while the Steelers are 29th in net kickoff value. Overall, the Pats are seventh in the Football Outsiders special teams ratings, while the Steelers are 21st.

Pittsburgh and New England are second and third, respectively, in the NFL in adjusted sack rate on defense.


• More Steelers-Patriots: Intel Report | EA Simulation

Browns at Jets, 4:15 p.m.

This game matches the league's two best kickoff return men. What, did you say something about some guy named Devin Hester? Yes, he's the best overall return man in the NFL, but kick returns and punt returns require different skills, and the top two kickoff returners are Josh Cribbs of the Browns and Leon Washington of the Jets.

Cribbs is more likely to show up in the highlights, because Phil Dawson and the Browns' coverage team rank 10th in net kickoff value, while Mike Nugent and the Jets' coverage team are 25th.

Cleveland has the league's fourth-best offense in the red zone, while the Jets have the league's 30th-ranked defense.

Cleveland has more penalties this year than every team except Arizona; the Jets have fewer penalties than every other team except Seattle.


• More Browns-Jets: Intel Report | EA Simulation

Chiefs at Broncos, 4:15 p.m.

Denver's defense ranks 30th in the NFL against tight ends, but the one tight end who has had a terrible day against the Broncos this season is Tony Gonzalez. Unlike most other tight ends, Gonzalez gets the attention of Champ Bailey or Dre Bly, and back in Week 10, he caught just three of nine intended passes for a mere 29 yards. It was the lowest amount of yardage the Broncos gave up to a tight end in any game since Week 3.

Chiefs fullback/H-back Kris Wilson has caught only 46 percent of intended passes, making him the only running back or fullback with at least 12 pass targets and a catch rate below 50 percent. (If you prefer to consider Wilson a tight end, there is one other tight end with a catch rate that low: San Francisco's Delanie Walker.)


• More Chiefs-Broncos: Intel Report | EA Simulation

Colts at Ravens, 8:15 p.m.

The Indianapolis offense ranks third in the NFL in adjusted line yards and is particularly strong (second) when running up the middle. The Baltimore defense ranks second in the NFL in adjusted line yards and is particularly strong (second) against runs up the middle.

Baltimore's Derrick Mason leads the NFL in pass targets on third or fourth down. The Ravens have thrown to Mason 50 times; no other receiver has more than 42 pass targets on third or fourth down.


• More Colts-Ravens: Intel Report | EA Simulation

Saints at Falcons, (Monday) 8:30 p.m.

If you are a No. 1 receiver in the NFL, playing New Orleans is something like winning the lottery. Roddy White gets to win the lottery twice; the first time, he torched the Saints for 110 yards and caught all eight intended passes. Leaguewide, No. 1 receivers have caught 59 percent of intended passes, but against the Saints, that number is 75 percent.

The Saints rank second in the NFL in red-zone run defense, while the Falcons rank 30th in red-zone run offense.

Strange as this sounds, the Falcons are the only offense in the NFL that has not turned the ball over in the red zone.


• More Saints-Falcons: Intel Report | EA Simulation

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