Week 11: Numbers Crunching
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. Unless listed otherwise, all rankings are of league-wide DVOA.
All times Eastern
Broncos at Falcons, 1 p.m.
Atlanta has the best offensive DVOA in the NFL when on its own side of the field, and Denver ranks third. In opponent territory, however, Atlanta ranks 17th and Denver ranks 16th.
Lions at Panthers, 1 p.m.
Both teams depend heavily on one star wide receiver, but only one defense is prepared for that. Carolina has the best defensive DVOA in the league against the opponent's No. 1 wideout. Detroit has the worst defensive DVOA in the league against the opponent's No. 1 wideout.
Although the Lions have one of the worst running games in the league, they rank first when it comes to success running in power situations (third/fourth down with 1-2 yards to go).
Eagles at Bengals, 1 p.m.
A poor Cincinnati pass rush (31st in adjusted sack rate) will have trouble getting to Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb. McNabb has been sacked 13 times, but because that's partly because the Eagles pass so much. Their pass protection has been better than that number would otherwise indicate, and the Eagles rank fourth in adjusted sack rate.
Philadelphia tight end L.J. Smith is one of only two tight ends with more than 10 pass targets and a catch rate below 50 percent. His backup, Brent Celek, has an 82 percent catch rate, the highest of any tight end with more than 10 pass targets.
Bears at Packers, 1 p.m.
Don't expect a lot of scoring after halftime: both Chicago and Green Bay improve on defense in the second half of games, but decline on offense.
Texans at Colts, 1 p.m.
Don't expect Adam Vinatieri to get a lot of field goal opportunities in this game, which matches the league's top red-zone offense by DVOA (Indianapolis) with the league's worst red-zone defense (Houston).
Houston is going to have problems getting its defense off the field. The Texans have the league's worst DVOA on third downs, and Indianapolis ranks third in offensive DVOA on third downs.
Saints at Chiefs, 1 p.m.
New Orleans has the worst second-down defense in football; meanwhile, the Chiefs' best down on offense is second, where they rank a respectable 12th despite being dead last on first down and 22nd on third and fourth down.
The movable objects face a resistible force: Kansas City gives up a higher percentage of rushing yards on long runs (10+ yards) than any other defense, but New Orleans gains a lower percentage of rushing yards on long runs than any other offense.
Raiders at Dolphins, 1 p.m.
Apparently, Oakland has a defensive playbook that only has plays for third-and-long. While the Raiders' defense is second-worst in the league in third-and-short situations, they're second-best in the league in defending third-and-long.
Greg Camarillo is leading Miami in receiving yards, but the Dolphins have thrown to him 17 times on third or fourth down, and only three of those passes earned a new set of downs.
Ravens at Giants, 1 p.m.
This game matches the league's top running game and the league's top run defense, but there's one place where the Giants might be able to find holes in the Baltimore front: going around left end. The Giants lead the league in adjusted line yards on runs around left end, while the Ravens' defense is just 20th.
Another battle in this game: getting off to a good start. The Giants have the NFL's best offensive DVOA in the first quarter, while the Ravens have the best defensive DVOA in the first quarter.
Vikings at Buccaneers,1 p.m.
Looking at DVOA for each individual game, only two offenses (Arizona and Philadelphia) are more consistent than Tampa Bay. But only one defense (the Giants) is less consistent than Tampa Bay.
Minnesota's Bernard Berrian has been the intended receiver on five defensive pass interference calls this year, more than any other receiver in the league.
Rams at 49ers, 4:05 p.m.
Based on DVOA, St. Louis and San Francisco are the NFL's two worst offenses in the red zone.
San Francisco's kickoff returns have been worth 10.7 points in estimated field position compared to the NFL average, more than any team except Cleveland. St. Louis' kickoff returns have cost them 9.8 points in estimated field position, worse than any team except Detroit.
Cardinals at Seahawks, 4:05 p.m.
If Seattle wants to win, it needs to get out to a big lead early. The Cardinals have the second-best offense in the league in late and close situations (second half, score within one touchdown) while the Seattle defense ranks 28th in those situations.
Wondering why the Cardinals benched Eric Green for rookie Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie a week ago? No team has a larger difference between yards per pass allowed on one side of the field compared to the other. Opponents have gained 5.0 yards per pass on the right (generally Roderick Hood's side) but 8.9 yards per pass on the left (Green's side until Rodgers-Cromartie took over last week).
Titans at Jaguars, 4:15 p.m.
The Titans like to use speedy rookie running back Chris Johnson in the passing game, and that's an excellent strategy against the Jaguars' defense. Jacksonville ranks 31st in DVOA against running backs in the passing game
While Tennessee's defense should have the advantage in most spots on the field, Jacksonville's goal-to-go offense ranks fourth in the league, while Tennessee's defense in the same spot is only ninth.
Chargers at Steelers, 4:15 p.m.
Heath Miller's injury clears the way for Matt Spaeth to have a big game against San Diego. After adjusting for strength of schedule, the Chargers have given up 11 passes per game to opposing tight ends, for 83 yards. Both figures lead the NFL.
San Diego averages 10.7 yards per pass when throwing in the middle of the field, best in the NFL -- but the Pittsburgh defense allows just 6.5 yards per pass in the middle of the field, the lowest figure in the AFC.
Cowboys at Redskins, 8:15 p.m.
Washington leads the league with the best defensive DVOA against tight ends -- but don't tell Jason Witten that. Witten had 90 yards and a touchdown when these teams faced each other in Week 4. In eight other games, tight ends playing the Redskins have averaged just 20 yards per game and scored no touchdowns.
Dallas and Washington rank as the league's top two offenses in the fourth quarter.
Browns at Bills, 8:30 p.m. (Monday)
Buffalo's offense peaks on first down, where they're sixth-best in the league; they drop all the way down to the bottom on second down. Meanwhile, Cleveland's defense is third-worst in football on first down, but climbs back up to 18th on second down.
The fourth quarter is when the Buffalo defense is at its best and the Cleveland offense is at its worst. The Bills' defense is just 28th in DVOA for quarters 1-3, but improves to fourth in the NFL during the final quarter. The Browns rank 13th in offensive DVOA for quarters 1-3, but 30th in the fourth quarter.
Aaron Schatz is president of Football Outsiders Inc. and the lead author of "Pro Football Prospectus 2008," now on sale online and in bookstores everywhere.