Friday, December 21, 2012
Final Word: AFC North
By Jamison Hensley
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 16:
Busting loose: Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis has six runs of 20-plus yards in his past five games (106 total rushes), according to ESPN Stats & Information. This is quite a hot streak for Green-Ellis, who had six 20-plus yard runs in his first 62 career games total (667 rushes). The Steelers have been stingy when it comes to allowing big runs. Pittsburgh has given up four runs of 20-plus yards this season, but two have come in the past three games (Ray Rice ran for 34 yards and DeMarco Murray broke free for 28).
BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been hitting home runs lately; the Steelers defense allows few.
Tiger tamer: Ben Roethlisberger can become the winningest quarterback against the Bengals with a victory Sunday. He currently has a 13-4 record against Cincinnati in the regular season. Only Warren Moon, who was 13-7 against the Bengals, has as many wins against Cincinnati. The only team that Roethlisberger has beaten more is the Browns (14 wins). In his past three games against the Bengals, Roethlisberger has completed 67 percent of his passes and has averaged 233 yards passing with a passer rating of 95.2.
Flacco factor: Everyone knows the Ravens' success when Rice gets the ball at least 20 times. But there's another key factor to the Ravens' victories. Since Joe Flacco was drafted in 2008, Baltimore is 11-1 when he throws for more than 300 yards. The Ravens are 4-0 this season when he goes over that mark. But Flacco has slumped recently, posting a Total QBR of below 50 in four of his past five starts. Since Week 11, he ranks just 29th in the NFL in Total QBR (25.2). The Ravens need a strong game from Flacco against the Giants, who are vulnerable in the secondary. New York has the 28th-ranked pass defense.
Sound protection: The Browns have done a solid job in protecting rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, who has been sacked a total of six times over the past three weeks despite throwing the ball at least 30 times each game. Cleveland has allowed 26 sacks this season, which is tied for the eighth-fewest in the league. Denver has been putting a lot of pressure on quarterbacks this season, ranking second in the NFL with 42 sacks. The Broncos' Von Miller has 10 sacks in his past seven games. Miller will line up across from rookie right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, who has given up 4.5 sacks this season.
Red hot in the red zone: The Bengals have risen to 10th in fewest points allowed on the strength of their red zone defense. In winning five of its past six games, Cincinnati has allowed just 13 trips inside its 20-yard line, giving up three touchdowns (23.1 percent). In their last game, the Bengals held the Eagles to one touchdown in three red zone possessions. Roethlisberger has the fourth-best QBR in the red zone this year (only Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are better) with 16 touchdowns and no interceptions.