Week 12: 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
Eagles at Ravens, 1 p.m.
Expect the Eagles to come after rookie quarterback Joe Flacco on Sunday, but don't expect a repeat of their sack bonanza against the Bengals last week just because Flacco's a rookie. Since Jim Johnson took over in 1999, veteran quarterbacks facing the Eagles have hit the turf an average of 2.4 times per game. Rookie quarterbacks have gone down for 2.8 sacks per game against them, only a slight increase.
This game gives us two offenses with opposite philosophies when it comes to pass/run ratio. Overall, the Ravens run on 54 percent of downs, more than any other team. The Eagles pass on 64 percent of downs, more than any team except Detroit and Indianapolis, and are one of only five teams to pass more often than run even when they have a lead in the second half.
Texans at Browns, 1 p.m.
Despite the presence of bruising Jamal Lewis and an excellent offensive line, the Browns have the second-worst rushing attack in the red zone this year. Fortunately for them, the Texans have, by far, the worst red zone rush defense in football.
Houston throws up the middle 33 percent of the time, more often than any other team. Cleveland's defense faces passes up the middle 31 percent of the time, more often than any other defense in the AFC.
49ers at Cowboys, 1 p.m.
If the 49ers win this game, they'll win it on special teams. San Francisco ranks first in the Football Outsiders special-teams ratings with a well-balanced unit that places in the top 10 of all five elements of special teams (field goals, kicks, punts, kick returns and punt returns). Dallas, on the other hand, is just 30th, extremely poor on both kickoffs and punts. We estimate that the difference between these two special-teams units is worth an average of five points per game.
The Cowboys' offense continues to have the best third-down offense in football, despite having the 18th-best first-down offense and the second-worst second-down offense.
Buccaneers at Lions, 1 p.m.
Tampa Bay apparently uses the pirate ship to intimidate opposing offenses; although its defense is the best in football at home, they rank only 17th on their travels away from Raymond James.
Vikings at Jaguars, 1 p.m.
Adrian Peterson fans hoping for a bunch of touchdowns might be disappointed. As the Vikings' red zone rushing attack continues to be disappointing, ranking sixth-worst in football, their passing attack remains adequate inside the 20 at 14th. Meanwhile, although the Jaguars have the 13th-best rush defense in the red zone, their pass defense in those situations is second-worst in the league.
Chad Greenway has been involved in 17 percent of Minnesota's defensive plays, the highest percentage of any outside linebacker in the NFL this year.
Bills at Chiefs, 1 p.m.
Welcome to the battle of bad halftime adjustments! The Chiefs have the worst offense in the league in the third quarter, but the Bills have the third-worst defense in the same period.
Buffalo is the number one team in the league rushing around left end (6.2 Adjusted Line Yards per carry), while the Chiefs rank 31st in defense against left end runs (5.7 ALY/carry).
Patriots at Dolphins, 1 p.m.
The Patriots' offense is second-best in the league at running the ball on first down, but when they throw it, they're fourth-worst. These strengths match those of the Dolphins, who rank 11th against the run on first down but 23rd against the pass.
Over the last couple of weeks, while nobody was looking, the Patriots' special teams have imploded, plummeting from first in the Football Outsiders rankings to 15th. We estimate that poor special teams have cost the Patriots 11.5 points over the past two games -- and the win against the Jets. The biggest problem has been the coverage that allowed a kick-return touchdown to Leon Washington of the Jets and an 85-yard return to Leodis McKelvin of the Bills. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski has also been subpar over the past two weeks.
Bears at Rams,1 p.m.
The Bears' offense starts strong and then falls off a cliff; they're second in the league in the first quarter, but drop to fourth-worst in the second. Fortunately, the Rams' defense is accommodating enough to be third-worst in the league in both quarters.
Chicago's running game is good up the middle, but subpar when running around the ends. The Rams' run defense is extremely weak on the edges, but only slightly below average up the middle.
Jets at Titans, 1 p.m.
The Jets' defense is fourth in the league in the first half, then drops to 28th in the second half of games. That's the opposite of the Tennessee defense, which ranks eighth in the first half but becomes the best defense in football once the third quarter starts.
Not that the Titans aren't a great team, but there's a hidden reason why they've been able to win close games and stay undefeated: They've been lucky enough to face a lot of opposing kickers having bad days. Tennessee opponents are a miserable 9-for-16 on field goals, with an aborted extra-point attempt tossed in for good measure. Only one of those misses was a block; otherwise, these missed opportunities have nothing to do with the quality of Tennessee's special teams. We estimate that an average kicker in the same situations would have scored an additional 14.5 points against the Titans.
Raiders at Broncos, 4:05 p.m.
When you consider their performance in either running or passing the ball on each down, the Raiders are above-average in exactly one spot: Running the ball on third and fourth downs, where they rank 13th.
The Broncos rank fifth in offensive DVOA, but 27th in offensive consistency. By sheer coincidence, they rank 27th in defensive DVOA, but fifth in defensive consistency. (Consistency, of course, is not a good thing when you are playing consistently poorly.)
Panthers at Falcons, 4:15 p.m.
The only quarter in which Carolina's offense ranks above 16th is the second, during which they're fourth in the NFL. That's also the worst quarter for the Falcons' defense -- they're 25th in the second period.
Is Carolina the team that can finally stop Roddy White? White ranks second in overall value this year according to the Football Outsiders DYAR stats (the ones you see in Quick Reads each Monday), but Carolina has been the NFL's best defense against opposing No. 1 receivers.
Giants at Cardinals, 4:15 p.m.
Arizona will benefit from playing the Giants at home; there, the Cardinals' offense is the best in football. Although the Giants' defense is sixth in the league at Giants Stadium, it's only 16th on the road.Arizona safety Adrian Wilson led all starting safeties in Stop Rate in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Injuries last year knocked him from the top spot, but he's back in 2008. Wilson's Stop Rate of 65 percent leads all safeties, and the only other safety over 55 percent is Troy Polamalu (at 62 percent).
Redskins at Seahawks, 4:15 p.m.
Attention Matt Hasselbeck: This might be a good week to look to the left. Seattle throws 52 percent of passes to the right side, more than any other offense -- but they gain just 4.6 yards per pass on those throws, which ranks a dismal 29th in the NFL. Coincidentally, 4.6 yards per pass is also the average gain allowed by the Washington defense against passes to the right -- the best figure in the NFL.
Both the Seahawks' offense (30th) and the Redskins' defense (25th) are worse on first down than on second or third down.
Colts at Chargers, 8:15 p.m.
The Colts have the best red zone offense in the league; the Chargers' defense is an adequate 17th, but they excel in goal-to-go situations, where they're third-best in stopping the opposition.
Marvin Harrison has caught 60 percent of intended passes every season since 1999, Peyton Manning's second year. This year, it looks like that streak is over. Harrison has an extremely poor 51 percent catch rate, which pales in comparison to 60 percent for Reggie Wayne, 64 percent for Dallas Clark and 71 percent for Anthony Gonzalez.
Packers at Saints, 8:30 p.m. (Monday)
Green Bay has the best second-quarter offense of anyone in football; it's also the worst quarter for the Saints' defense, which ranks 30th in the NFL in the second quarter.
The Saints' offense gains more yards per pass on the left side than any other offense. The Packers are below-average against passes on the offense's left side, but they have the best defense in the league against passes in the middle of the field.
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.