Commentary

Week 16: Numbers Crunching

Originally Published: December 18, 2008
By Aaron Schatz | Football Outsiders

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 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. Unless listed otherwise, all rankings are of leaguewide DVOA.

Some of this data, such as formations, blitzes and play-action tendencies, comes from the Football Outsiders game-charting project. Please be aware that this data (such as formations and blitz tendencies) is unofficial and is missing a handful of games that are not charted yet.

All times Eastern

Ravens at Cowboys, 8:15 p.m. (Saturday)

The Ravens will have a big advantage in this game when they need to convert in short-yardage situations. They've converted 75 percent of runs in power situations (1 to 2 yards to go on third down, fourth down or at the goal line), the highest figure in the league. Dallas, on the other hand, has allowed an 81 percent conversion rate on defense. (Only Oakland is worse.) By the way, on the other side of the ball, the stellar Dallas running game and the stalwart Baltimore defense are both surprisingly mediocre in short-yardage situations.

Baltimore's offense ranks 25th in the first half of games but improves to 14th after halftime. The Dallas defense, meanwhile, ranks eighth in the first half and declines to 16th after halftime.

How much will the Ravens defense' affect the Cowboys' locker-room soap opera? Not that much, actually. Baltimore has the best defense in the league against tight ends but the second-best defense against opposing No. 1 receivers.

• More Ravens-Cowboys: Intel Report | EA Sim

Chargers at Buccaneers, 1 p.m.

The Chargers have drawn 13 penalties for defensive pass interference this season. No other defense has drawn more than 10. However, the Bucs aren't exactly set up to take advantage of this -- Tampa Bay's opponents have drawn just one flag for defensive pass interference all season. (The answer to the trivia question: Aaron Rouse of Green Bay in Week 4.)

San Diego uses running backs in the passing game more than any other offense, throwing 30 percent of passes to running backs through Week 15. That's a bit of a problem against the Buccaneers because Tampa Bay has the league's best DVOA against running backs in the passing game.

• More Chargers-Buccaneers: Intel Report | EA Sim

Bengals at Browns, 1 p.m.

All-Pro sophomore Joe Thomas may be over on the left side of the offensive line, but this season's Browns have been far better when running to the right. Cleveland ranks 16th in adjusted line yards (explained here) when running around left end, 30th behind left tackle and 21st up the middle, but ranks seventh in the NFL when running behind right tackle or around right end.

Bengals opponents average 8.2 yards per pass when throwing right but only 5.8 yards per pass when throwing left. Only Detroit gives up more average yards on passes to the right, but only Pittsburgh gives up fewer average yards on passes to the left.

• More Bengals-Browns: Intel Report | EA Sim

Saints at Lions, 1 p.m.

Did a possible 0-16 team get shafted in the Pro Bowl voting? Based on the Football Outsiders special-teams ratings, Detroit's Jason Hanson leads the league in field goal value compared to an average kicker, and he's fourth in net kickoff value. Calvin Johnson is averaging 9.3 yards per pass -- nearly 4 yards per pass more than the rest of Detroit's wide receivers (who average 5.6 yards per pass).

The Saints ranked 27th in pass defense DVOA through Week 9 but rank a surprising tenth since Week 10.

• More Saints-Lions: Intel Report | EA Sim

Dolphins at Chiefs, 1 p.m.

Kansas City's offense has improved dramatically since midseason, when Tyler Thigpen took over as full-time quarterback and the Chiefs began to use the "pistol" formation, a cross between shotgun and I-formation pioneered at the University of Nevada. Through Week 7, DVOA ranked the Chiefs last in pass offense and 31st in run offense. Since Week 8, the Chiefs have been 13th in pass offense and 11th in run offense.

Miami's offense has the best DVOA in the league if we combine first and second down, but the Dolphins rank 21st on offense on third down.

• More Dolphins-Chiefs: Intel Report | EA Sim

Cardinals at Patriots, 1 p.m.

The Cardinals' pass rush ranked sixth in adjusted sack rate through their first seven games (8.3 percent) but has ranked just 28th in the NFL in the team's past seven games, sacking quarterbacks half as often (4.1 percent). On the other hand, New England's offense had the league's worst ASR through seven games (12.8 percent) but ranks 10th in ASR allowed in the past seven games (5.3 percent). (ASR is explained here.)

The Cardinals use play-action on just 6 percent of pass plays, the lowest percentage in the league. That means they can't take advantage of one of New England's biggest weaknesses: The Patriots have one of five defenses that gives up more than 10 yards per play when there's a play fake.

• More Cardinals-Patriots: Intel Report | EA Sim

49ers at Rams, 1 p.m.

Mike Martz returns to St. Louis to face a Rams defense that is completely vulnerable to the offensive scheme he made famous with the Rams' offense. Rams opponents have thrown deep (more than 15 yards through the air) on 25 percent of passes this season, the highest figure in the league.

The Rams have given up a ridiculous 11.4 yards per pass when opponents throw the ball in the middle of the field, more than a yard more than any other defense. The 49ers throw deep 23 percent of the time, the most in the NFC, and they average 9.1 yards per pass throwing to the middle of the field, much more than they get when throwing to the sides.

• More 49ers-Rams: Intel Report | EA Sim

Steelers at Titans, 1 p.m.

Although the Titans rank just 14th in total offensive DVOA, they rank second on DVOA in the red zone. (The identity of the team ahead of them might be even more surprising: Miami.)

As the irresistible force against five immovable objects, Pittsburgh's defense leads the AFC with 47 sacks and ranks third with 8.6 percent adjusted sack rate. However, Tennessee has the best pass protection in the league, leading the league with just eight sacks allowed and 2.7 percent adjusted sack rate.

• More Steelers-Titans: Intel Report | EA Sim

Bills at Broncos, 4:05 p.m.

Denver's offensive line has been phenomenal this season, both with run-blocking and pass-blocking. The Broncos rank first in the league in ALY, which has given them a good running game even though they've started about 137 running backs this season. The Broncos also rank fourth in ASR and have allowed a league-low 12 quarterback knockdowns.

Despite some struggles from kicker Rian Lindell, the Bills are back in their usual spot on the top of the Football Outsiders special-teams ratings. During the past four seasons, Buffalo has led the league in special teams twice and finished second and sixth the other two years.

• More Bills-Broncos: Intel Report | EA Sim

Texans at Raiders, 4:05 p.m.

Houston has the most successful offense in the league when the opponent sends a big blitz (six or more pass-rushers), averaging 10.9 yards per play. Oakland has the least successful offense in the league when the opponent sends a big blitz, averaging just 1.8 yards per play.

Houston has allowed opponents to convert 79 percent of runs in power situations. Only three defenses are worse, but one of them is Oakland's, which has allowed opponents to convert 82 percent of runs in power situations.

• More Texans-Raiders: Intel Report | EA Sim

Jets at Seahawks, 4:05 p.m.

Seattle runs this season's fastest offense, with a situation-neutral pace (defined here) of one play every 26.7 seconds.

The Jets lead the league with 17 declined penalties.

• More Jets-Seahawks: Intel Report | EA Sim

Eagles at Redskins, 4:15 p.m.

These are the two biggest-blitzing defenses in the National Football League. Philadelphia has sent six or more pass-rushers on 18 percent of pass plays, Washington on 17 percent of pass plays.

The Redskins' running game ranked fourth in DVOA through Week 9 but is just 25th since Week 10.

• More Eagles-Redskins: Intel Report | EA Sim

Falcons at Vikings, 4:15 p.m.

The Falcons rank fifth overall in offensive DVOA but just 21st in the NFL in the red zone. That's a problem when facing a Minnesota defense that ranks best in the red zone.

Bernard Berrian has drawn a league-high six defensive pass interference penalties this season for a total of 127 extra yards. However, the Falcons have done a good job avoiding pass interference -- they've drawn only three flags for just 30 yards.

• More Falcons-Vikings: Intel Report | EA Sim

Panthers at Giants, 8:15 p.m.

Back in the pre-championship days, Giants fans got used to cursing out the television any time a false-start flag was thrown. Sunday night, however, those false starts probably will work in their favor. Carolina leads the league with 30 false starts, while the Giants have just 13 -- tied for 26th in the NFL.

The Giants are the best team in the league when running up the middle, while the Panthers' defense ranks just 23rd in adjusted line yards against runs up the middle. On the other hand, Carolina is the best offense in the NFL when it comes to rushing yardage gained on runs more than 10 yards, and the otherwise-excellent Giants run defense is just average when it comes to preventing long runs.

• More Panthers-Giants: Intel Report | EA Sim

Packers at Bears, 8:30 p.m. (Monday)

This is a chance for either Green Bay's pass defense or Chicago's aerial attack to get back on track. Through Week 9, Green Bay's defensive DVOA against the pass trailed only Tennessee's. Since Week 10, the Packers have ranked 19th against the pass. Their opponents in Chicago ranked a respectable 14th in pass offense through Week 9 but are a dismal 27th since Week 10.

Green Bay tackle Michael Montgomery has a (stop rate of 43 percent on running plays, as his average run tackle comes after a 3.5-yard gain. No other defensive lineman with at least 25 run tackles has a stop rate of less than 50 percent.

• More Packers-Bears: Intel Report | EA Sim

Aaron Schatz is president of Football Outsiders Inc. and the lead author of "Pro Football Prospectus 2008," on sale online and in bookstores.