Championship 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.
Some of this data, such as formations, blitzes and play-action tendencies, comes from the Football Outsiders game-charting project. Please be aware this data is unofficial and is missing a handful of games that are not charted yet.
All times ET
Eagles at Cardinals, Sunday 3 p.m.
Philadelphia led the league in usage of zone blitzes, the only team to zone-blitz more than 10 percent of the time. Arizona's offense had a problem with zone blitzes, gaining two fewer yards per play when the defense zone-blitzed. (Note that the phrase "zone blitz" here means that a lineman drops into coverage while at least one linebacker or defensive back rushes the passer. It does not necessarily imply complete zone coverage behind the blitz. Philadelphia would be better off going with a "double-cover Larry Fitzgerald and zone everywhere else" blitz.)
Based on gross value (i.e. assuming average returns), kicker Neil Rackers and punter Ben Graham were both above-average. However, the Cardinals gave up more value on kickoff returns than any team except Kansas City, and more value on punt returns than any teams except Minnesota and Washington. Combined, the Arizona coverage teams gave up an estimated 22 points' worth of field position compared to the NFL average.
The Cardinals were significantly better at home this year. At home, DVOA ranks them eighth in offense, 17th in defense. On the road, they were 17th in offense, 24th in defense.
The experts at Football Outsiders take an in-depth look at the numbers for Championship Weekend of the playoffs. Insider
• More Eagles-Cardinals: Intel Report
Ravens at Steelers, Sunday 6:30 p.m.
The Steelers and Ravens have very similar offenses, except in one area: third-and-short. The Steelers were better than the Ravens on first and second down, but the Ravens were far better than the Steelers on third and fourth down, and the difference is almost entirely based on performance with just 1-3 yards to go. Baltimore converted these situations 73 percent of the time. Pittsburgh converted only 58 percent of the time with a league-high six turnovers.
A strange thing happened during the second half of the season. Ben Roethlisberger started taking fewer sacks. In the first eight games, Roethlisberger was sacked 29 times. In the final eight, he was sacked only 20 times, while dropping back to pass almost 50 more times.
Baltimore's pass rush didn't get to the quarterback as often as Pittsburgh's did, but the Ravens certainly disrupted things. Our game charters mark the reason for every incomplete pass. The Ravens led the league in incompletes caused by hitting the quarterback in motion. They were second in passes intentionally thrown away and third in passes tipped or batted down at the line of scrimmage.
• More Ravens-Steelers: Intel Report
Aaron Schatz is president of Football Outsiders Inc. and the lead author of "Pro Football Prospectus 2008," on sale online and in bookstores.
MORE NFL HEADLINES
- Manziel admits to offseason 'rookie mistakes'
- Seahawks' Carroll: Wish Lynch was with us
- Source: Colts RB Ballard suffers torn Achilles
- Veteran Nicks, Bucs 'mutually agree' to part
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
2008 NFL Playoffs
The road to Tampa for Super Bowl XLIII on Feb. 1, 2009, began Jan. 3 with the wild-card playoff round. Will the Steelers or Cardinals replace the Giants as champs?
Championship Game results: NFC | AFC
COLUMNS/FEATURES• Wojciechowski: May the bitter team win
• Chadiha: McNabb lets good times roll
• Football Outsiders: Numbers Crunching
• Sunday Countdown: Predictions and more
• Clayton: First and Goal
• Garber: This Philly Story seeks proper ending
• Clayton: Peaking Steelers should advance
• Chadiha: Eagles will soar in desert
• Wojciechowski: Book Eagles for Tampa
• Football Outsiders: Any Given Sunday
• Football Outsiders: Quick Reads
CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES (Jan. 18)
Steelers 23, Ravens 14• Polamalu's INT return secures win
• Playoff page | AFC North blog
Cardinals 32, Eagles 25• Fitzgerald leads Cardinals to first Super Bowl
• Playoff page | NFC West blog ... East
DIVISIONAL ROUND (Jan. 10-11)
Steelers 35, Chargers 24• Walker: The Bus sparks Parker
• Williamson: Bolts need season-long urgency
• Recap: Steelers knock out Chargers
• More | AFC West blog ... AFC North
Ravens 13, Titans 10• Graham: Battered Ravens pass physical
• Kuharsky: Titans failed to answer critics
• Recap: Turnovers doom Titans
• Zoom Gallery
• Fleming: Can anyone stop the Ravens?
• More | AFC North blog ... AFC South
Cardinals 33, Panthers 13• Sando: Desert bloom for Arizona's faithful
• Sando: No denying Cards' makeover
• Yasinskas: Carolina's big plans fall apart
• Recap: Delhomme's 5 INTs doom Panthers
• Zoom Gallery
• More | NFC West blog ... NFC South
Eagles 23, Giants 11• Wojciechowski: Book Eagles for Tampa
• Mosley: Giants lost to better team
• Recap: Defense smothers Giants
• Zoom gallery
• Chadiha: Eagles' defense hitting stride
• More | NFC East blog
WILD-CARD ROUND (Jan. 3-4)
Ravens 27, Dolphins 9• Wojciechowski: Scary Ravens' D
• Recap: Ravens' defense overpowers Dolphins
• More | AFC North blog ... AFC East
Eagles 26, Vikings 14• Mosley: Eagles' run continues
• Recap: Westbrook, big plays carry Eagles
• More | NFC East blog... NFC North
Cardinals 30, Falcons 24• Sando: Cards' winning identity
• Recap: Strong second half powers Cards
• More | NFC South blog ... NFC West
Chargers 23, Colts 17• Williamson: 5-6 Sproles comes up big
• Recap: Chargers shock Manning, Colts in OT
• More | AFC South blog ... AFC West