Friday, December 16, 2011
Final Word: AFC West
By Bill Williamson
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 15:
Will Tim Tebow lead another late-game comeback to beat the Patriots?
Tebow in the fourth quarter: The most compelling storyline of the Denver Broncos' 7-1 journey with Tim Tebow as their quarterback has been the team’s ability to overcome deficits in the fourth quarter. The Broncos have trailed in the fourth quarter in all of their past four games and won them all. They are the second team in NFL history to accomplish that feat. There’s no doubt, Tebow is a special player at the end of the game and it will be the New England Patriots' job Sunday to keep him from starring late. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Tebow is second in passing yards in the fourth quarter and overtime with 691 yards. He is tied for fourth with five fourth-quarter touchdown passes and he is fourth in yards per pass attempt at 8.6 yards. He is also tied for second in passing first downs with 32 after the final quarter starts. Tebow is completing a league-worst 37.5 percent of his passes from inside the pocket in the first three quarters. His pocket completion percentage in the fourth quarter, you ask? A strong 64.4 percent. There is no denying Tebow is a much different, much better quarterback when it most counts.
An epic penalty battle?Ndamukong Suh’s first game back from a two-game NFL suspension highlights a battle between two of the NFL’s most penalized teams when the Detroit Lions and the Oakland Raiders play Sunday. The Raiders are the most penalized team in the NFL and the Lions are fourth. Oakland has been penalized 130 times for 1,116 yards, Detroit 105 for 894 yards. Oakland is on pace to set records for the most penalties and most penalty yards in NFL history. The 1998 Kansas City Chiefs were penalized 158 times for 1,304 yards. Oakland is on pace for 160 penalties for 1,373 yards. Thanks to ESPN Stats & Information for these numbers.
Rivers is starting to click against stacked defensive backfields:San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has improved immensely the past three weeks. One area in which he has made big strides is against a stacked secondary. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Rivers has thrown five touchdowns and no interceptions against defensive sets featuring at least five defensive backs in the past three games. In his first 10 games, Rivers had a minus-6 TD-interception differential in such defenses. Rivers has thrown 17 interceptions this season, all in the first 10 games.
Wiegmann about to hit remarkable milestone: Kansas City center Casey Wiegmann is on pace to play his 11,000th consecutive snap Sunday against Green Bay. He has played 10,966 snaps in a row dating to 2001. Think about that. For Wiegmann to play that many consecutive snaps at a position where there is significant physical engagement on every play is stunning. Wiegmann, who is undersized at about 280 pounds, has started 172 straight games dating to September 2001. The streak could be coming to an end soon. There is a chance Wiegmann, 38, will retire after the season. He has considered retirement the past couple of years.
Stopping the Gronk: While so much attention has been given to Tebow, one of the main reasons Denver has won six straight games is its defensive success. If the Denver defense is going to contribute to a win over the Patriots on Sunday, it must keep star tight end Rob Gronkowski from taking over. That won’t be easy. Gronkowski has 71 catches for 1,088 yards and a whopping 15 touchdowns. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Denver hasn’t had to deal with intense tight end receiving play this season. Denver has faced the second-fewest tight end targets in the NFL. It has allowed 46 completions to tight ends on 67 attempts -- a completion percentage of 68.7 that is ranked 23rd in the NFL. It has allowed five touchdowns to the tight end, which is tied for 12th in the league. Stopping the tight end must be a priority Sunday.