Stats & Info: NFL

Power Rankings: Another top-10 matchup

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25

Bill Haber/APColin Kaepernick’s performance has dropped off in the second half of games this season.
The top two teams in the weekly NFL Power Rankings (the New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers) play Sunday, but there’s another top-10 matchup taking place this week that has major playoff implications.

The San Francisco 49ers (No. 9) host the Seattle Seahawks (No. 7) on Thanksgiving night. Neither team has looked as strong as it did last season when they met in the NFC Championship, but the 49ers’ offensive struggles this season have them looking like the odd team out this season.

Colin Kaepernick is 1-3 in his career against the Seahawks (including playoffs) with a 36.9 Total QBR. With two games against them in the next three weeks, can Kaepernick and the 49ers’ offense figure it all out in time?

Red-zone woes
The 49ers are averaging 20.7 points per game this season, their lowest since 2010, the last season before Jim Harbaugh took over as coach.

One of the biggest weaknesses for the 49ers’ offense has come in the red zone. The 49ers have scored a touchdown on 40 percent of their red-zone drives this season, worst in the NFL. Nine times this season the 49ers reached the red zone and failed to score.

Vernon Davis, who had eight red-zone touchdowns last season, has been targeted once in the red zone this season. Davis led the 49ers in red-zone targets last season but is tied for fifth this season.

Kaepernick has no rushing touchdowns this season after he scored seven in the red zone his first two years as starter.

Late-game struggles
Another key factor in the 49ers’ offensive problems has been a failure to move the ball in the second half.

The 49ers have scored 155 points in the first half of games this season with a plus-39 scoring margin. They’ve scored 70 points in the second half, better than only the Jets (64 points), with a minus-39 scoring margin.

It is especially rough in the fourth quarter, where the 49ers have scored three touchdowns this season, one of which was on defense. Blaine Gabbert has as many touchdown drives in the fourth quarter as Kaepernick this season.

This trend of poor second-half play is a continuation from the 2013 NFC Championship against the Seahawks. The 49ers blew a 10-3 halftime lead in that game as Kaepernick was 11-of-19 with two interceptions in the second half.

Home sweet home?If history is any indication, the 49ers could have the edge Thanksgiving night. The home team in the Seahawks-49ers rivalry has won all five times (including playoffs) since the Seahawks drafted Russell Wilson. The road team has not scored more than 17 points in a game in that stretch, averaging 11.2 points per game.

Ravens' key combo: Forsett, Flacco, Tucker

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
The Baltimore Ravens continued their success against the NFC South with a big win.

The Ravens improved to 7-4 and created a four-way logjam in the division with their 34-27 win over the New Orleans Saints on Monday night.

The Ravens are now 5-1 all-time against the Saints, with wins in their past three meetings. They snapped the Saints streak of 12 straight wins in prime-time games played at home.

The Saints have lost three straight home games for the first time since a four-game skid that spanned the 2006 and 2006 seasons.

Difference maker: Justin Forsett
Ravens running back Justin Forsett ran for a career-high 182 yards, 170 coming between the tackles. That’s the second-most yardage anyone has had rushing between the tackles in a game this season, surpassed only by Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell’s 196 against the Titans in Week 11.

Forsett is averaging a league-best 5.7 yards per carry when running between the tackles. On Monday, he excelled hitting the hole between the center and the right guard, gaining 106 yards on his 10 rushes that went to the right side.

Forsett put the Ravens in a lot of good situations with runs on first down. He had 163 yards on first down on Monday, an average of 11.6 per carry.

Forsett had 115 first-half yards, matching the NFL’s top opening half this season (DeMarco Murray against the Titans in Week 2).

Flacco excels from deep
Joe Flacco’s touchdown pass to Steve Smith was his 11th TD on a throw at least 15 yards downfield this season. The only quarterback with more is Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers with 12.

Flacco also excelled against the blitz, completing 13 of 17 attempts for 222 yards and a touchdown against the Saints’ added pressure.

Flacco found the Smiths when the Saints sent the blitz. Flacco was 9-of-11 for 187 and one touchdown when targeting Steve Smith Sr. and Torrey Smith against the blitz. The totals accounted for every reception by both Smiths.

Drew Brees, Flacco's quarterback counterpart, was 13-for-16 against blitzes but threw a third-quarter interception that was returned for the score that put the Ravens ahead for good.

It was the third interception returned for a touchdown against Brees this season. Only Blake Bortles and Austin Davis have more (4).

So does Justin Tucker
Ravens kicker Justin Tucker made his fourth field goal of at least 50 yards this season. Tucker and Phil Dawson are the only kickers to have at least four field goals that long in each of the past three seasons.

Elias Sports Bureau stat of the night
This is the first time in NFL history in which every team in a division (in this case, the AFC North) is at least three games over .500 at the end of a week of play.

It’s also the first time in NFL history that every team in a division (the NFC South) is at least three games under .500 at the end of a week of play.



MNF Preview: Ravens-Saints

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24

Sean Gardner/Getty Images
Jimmy Graham and the New Orleans Saints host the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football
The New Orleans Saints (4-6, first in NFC South) host the Baltimore Ravens (6-4, last in AFC North) on "Monday Night Football" at 8:30 PM ET on ESPN.

Here are the top 10 stats to know heading into the game.

1. Joe Flacco and the Ravens are 3-0 and averaging more than 38 points per game against the NFC South this season.

2. Flacco has a Total QBR of 97 in those three games against the NFC South, the second-highest by a quarterback against one division in the last five seasons (minimum 50 attempts).

3. Flacco has 10 touchdowns and five interceptions on passes throws 15 yards or more downfield (three touchdowns, nine interceptions in 2013)

4. Torrey Smith’s five touchdown receptions since Week 6 were tied for the fourth-most in the NFL entering Week 12

5. Justin Forsett rushed for a season-high 112 yards in the Ravens' last game (Week 10) and is averaging the most yards per rush among running backs this season at 5.4 (Jamaal Charles is second at 5.2).

6. The Saints have lost two straight home games and are trying to avoid their longest home losing streak since they lost four in a row across the 2006-07 seasons.

7. The Saints have won 12 straight home games in prime time (7 PM or later). According to Elias, that’s the longest streak since the 1970 merger.

8. Drew Brees has won seven straight home starts on "Monday Night Football", one win shy of the all-time record held by Peyton Manning.

9. Brees has thrown a touchdown pass in 30 straight games, the third-longest active streak in the NFL behind Manning (49 games) and Tony Romo (37 games).

10. Mark Ingram rushed for 67 yards last week but still leads the NFL in rushing since Week 8 with 459 yards (Charles is second with 402).

Patriots/Packers matchups to know (QB/special teams)

November, 23, 2014
Nov 23
There’s a potential Super Bowl preview next week pitting the two hottest teams in the NFL –- the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots -- against each other. We’re sure you’re going to want to hear a lot about the matchups this week, so we’re here to oblige with some information on a matchup you’ll hear a lot about and another that you may not hear much about, but that you’ll want to keep in mind as you follow this game.

The matchup that will get a lot of attention …
You’re going to hear a lot about the Tom Brady versus Aaron Rodgers matchup this week.

Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have never started in a game against each other. Rodgers got some mopup duty in a blowout loss against the Patriots in 2006. Matt Flynn started when the Packers and Patriots concluded the regular season with a 31-27 Patriots win in 2010.

Rodgers and Brady have the two highest QBRs in the league since Week 4. Rodgers has 25 touchdowns and two interceptions in eight games. Brady has 23 and six in that same span. The two are separated by one percentage point in completion percentage, with Rodgers up 68.3 to 67.3.

Brady can expect to see a lot of blitzing from the Packers defense, which has sent extra men on 178 opposing quarterback dropbacks (fifth-most in the NFL). But that’s of little concern to him. Brady’s QBR against the blitz is 93.1, best in the league.

Rodgers ranks fourth-best against the blitz, but he probably won’t see it often. The Patriots have blitzed 97 times, 28th-most in the NFL.

And the matchup you might not (but that you should watch closely)
The Green Bay Packers rank first in the NFL in Expected Points Added (EPA) on offense. The New England Patriots rank third. In other words, their offenses have performed with the highest level of success in the NFL

The Packers rank 11th in Defensive EPA. The Patriots rank 13th.

The two teams are fairly even within those two aspects of the game.

But where do they differ?

The biggest differential is in special teams’ performance. The Patriots have the edge there by a good margin.

The Patriots rank second in the NFL in special teams EPA. The Packers rank 26th.

The Patriots’ special team excellence comes in a couple of areas.

Their kicker, Stephen Gostowski, leads the NFL with 26 field goals and has missed only once all season. He ranks eighth in kicking accuracy over the last three seasons (90 percent). Packers kicker Mason Crosby ranks 35th in that same span (79.5 percent), though he’s a steady 16 for 18 on tries this season.

The Patriots are also helped by a pair of blocked kicks against opponents field goals. Opposing kickers are 19 for 24 against them this season. Opponents are 15 for 16 against the Packers.

The Patriots have a solid kick return game on both ends, ranking sixth in yards per kick return and fifth in yards per kick return allowed. The Packers are 27th and 24th.

The two also rank about even in punting performance, though some may give Ryan Allen a slight edge based on their most recent recollection of him- his booming 66-yard punt against the Lions on Sunday.

The player to watch in the return game is Julian Edelman, who ranks second in the league at 13.5 yards per punt return. The Packers have only allowed 5.8 yards per punt return, fifth-best in the NFL and haven’t allowed a punt return longer than 13 yards all season.


Browns survive Hoyer's rough day

November, 23, 2014
Nov 23
Once again, the Cleveland Browns were in a game that was up for grabs at the end. This was another they managed to put in the win column.

The Browns have played five games this season in which the winning score came in the final two minutes and four that were decided in the final three seconds of regulation time.

They’ve won two, pushing them to a 7-4 record. They are 7-4 or better through 11 games for the second time since returning to the NFL in 1999. The other instance was in 2007.

Hoyer-to-Gordon was both good and bad
Yes, Josh Gordon had eight receptions for 120 yards in his season debut, but it didn’t come easily.

Gordon was targeted 17 times, tied for the most by anyone in a game this season. It was tied for the second most in a game for Gordon in his career (he had 18 against the Vikings last season).

Hoyer was 8 for 17 with two interceptions targeting Gordon, including 2 of 8 on passes thrown at least 15 yards downfield. He was 12 of 16 for 170 yards and no interceptions targeting other Browns receivers, though none of those passes were thrown at least 15 yards downfield.

After entering Week 11 with the league's best completion percentage on deep throws (15+ yards downfield), Hoyer has completed only 6-of-22 of those throws

Coming through against the blitz
Hoyer entered the final drive 3 of 11 against the Falcons blitz. But on his final five dropbacks, Hoyer went 3 for 3 for 37 yards and three first downs against blitzes, including the 11-yard completion to Miles Austin to set up the game-winning field goal.

An unusual combo
Hoyer became the third quarterback since the AFL and NFL merged to throw for 300 yards, have no touchdown passes and three interceptions in a win (Billy Joe Tolliver in 1989 and Matt Ryan in 2012).

But Isaiah Crowell had a good day
Isaiah Crowell rushed for 88 yards on 12 carries. He has seven rushing touchdowns this season. Only two Browns rookies have had more in a season- Trent Richardson with 11 in 2012 and Jim Brown with nine in 1957.

Cundiff for the win
Billy Cundiff hit a 37-yard field goal with no time left for the winning points.

Cundiff is 2 for 2 on go-ahead field goal tries in the final minute of the fourth quarter this season. Prior to that, he was 4 for 7 on such attempts for his career.

Did you know?
Hoyer is only the third Browns quarterback to throw for 300 yards in back-to-back games, joining Brian Sipe (multiple times) and Otto Graham (once).

It’s the first time a Browns quarterback threw for at least 300 yards in consecutive games since Sipe did in 1983.


Cardinals reminiscent of 2012 Ravens

November, 21, 2014
Nov 21

Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesAndre Ellington has helped the Arizona Cardinals overcome the loss of Carson Palmer and maintain the best record in the NFL this season.
One of the teams in Sunday’s Seattle Seahawks-Arizona Cardinals showdown is following a tried-and-true Super Bowl formula.

A productive running back and a quarterback who isn’t afraid to throw deep have complemented an excellent pass defense, just like in a recent Super Bowl season. No, not the Seahawks again. It's the Cardinals who look almost identical to a recent Super Bowl champion -- the 2012 Baltimore Ravens.

On the ground
Start with the running back. Andre Ellington has accounted for 28.5 percent of his team’s yards from scrimmage this season, third most in the league.

Ellington’s versatility is reminiscent of Ray Rice during Baltimore’s Super Bowl season. Rice also was responsible for over one quarter of the Ravens' yards from scrimmage, and (like Ellington) was equally capable of making an impact as a receiver.

In the air
With Ellington as the focal point of the offense, the Cardinals haven’t been afraid to throw down the field, regardless of the quarterback.

Sixteen percent of Arizona’s pass attempts have been thrown at least 20 yards downfield, fourth highest in the league and the same percentage as the 2012 Ravens (second highest in the league).

Carson Palmer’s injury has left Drew Stanton as Arizona’s signal-caller for the rest of the season.

But Stanton has been impressive throwing downfield so far this season. He’s completed 10 of 25 downfield attempts (40 percent) for 325 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions despite facing the Lions (second in QBR allowed), 49ers (sixth) and Broncos (14th).

Those numbers look similar to what Joe Flacco did in Baltimore’s postseason run. Flacco was 14-of-29 (48.3 percent) for 504 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions during the Ravens’ four-game playoff stretch.

On defense
If Stanton stays hot and the Cardinals put up points, Arizona’s elite pass defense can hold up against teams throwing to catch up. The Cardinals have allowed a 45.4 QBR this season, fourth best in the league and right on par with the 2012 Ravens.

No team in the league has a better QBR allowed when targeting wide receivers than the Cardinals (55.8), the only team below 60.

The Cardinals’ pass rush diverges from how Baltimore pressured opposing quarterbacks.

Arizona has sent extra rushers on 42.2 percent of dropbacks this season, second most in the league. The Ravens blitzed on only 28.7 percent of opponents’ dropbacks.

Though they went about it in different ways, the result was largely the same. Quarterbacks haven’t been comfortable against the Cardinals, who pressure (sack, under duress or hit while throwing) on the 12th-highest percentage in the league (26.8 percent).

Baltimore’s 2012 rank in pressure percentage? Eleventh.

Neither defense had problems stopping the run. The Cardinals have allowed 3.5 yards per rush this season, fifth best in the league. The 2012 Ravens also allowed fewer than 4.0 yards per rush (3.99).

And special teams, too!
The similarities don’t stop at offense and defense. Even the Cardinals' special-teams unit resembles the 2012 Ravens, a group that played a critical role in the 34-31 Super Bowl victory, when Jacoby Jones took the second-half kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown to go up 28-6.

The Ravens’ special teams contributed 1.75 expected points per game, fourth best in the league. The Cardinals’ special teams have contributed 1.71 points per game, seventh in the league.

Top stats to know: Raiders get 1st win

November, 21, 2014
Nov 21
The streak is over.

The Oakland Raiders snapped their 16-game losing streak with a 24-20 win over a Kansas City Chiefs team that entered with a five-game winning streak.

Murray accomplishes a first
An early spark for the Raiders was a 90-yard touchdown run by Latavius Murray. It was the fourth-longest touchdown run in Raiders history, the longest by a Raiders running back since Bo Jackson had a 92-yarder against the Cincinnati Bengals in 1989.

The Raiders had 114 rushing yards to that point, matching their most in any game this season. They finished the game with 179 yards, an average of 6.0 per carry.

Murray finished with 112 yards on four rushes. The Elias Sports Bureau noted that broke the "record" for most rushing yards in a game by a player with fewer than five rushes. The previous mark of 109 was set by Essex Johnson in 1971.

Murray has led the Raiders in rushing in each of the past two games.

He's had four carries each week (43 rush yards last week, 112 Thursday night).

The Chiefs allowed two rushing touchdowns in this game. They entered the game having allowed none all season. The Raiders entered with an NFL-low two rushing touchdowns all season.

Chiefs couldn't connect downfield
Despite trailing for most of the game, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith did not attempt a pass more than 20 yards downfield.

Smith had three completions of more than 20 yards in the Chiefs' first two games this season. Smith has one such completion in Kansas City's past nine games.

Chiefs' schedule gets tougher
The Chiefs had a chance for a gimme win and couldn't take advantage. Their remaining opponents have a combined .577 winning percentage. Theirs is the fourth-toughest remaining strength of schedule, topped only by the Seattle Seahawks (.683), San Diego Chargers (.623) and Atlanta Falcons (.589).

The Chiefs' two remaining road games are against the 9-1 Arizona Cardinals and 7-4 Pittsburgh Steelers.

Elias Sports Bureau stat of the night: Chiefs can't beat winless teams
Amazingly, the Chiefs fell to 1-4 all-time against teams with a record of 0-10 or worse. They've lost the past four such games they've played, with the other three coming against the 0-11 Chargers in 1975, the 0-10 Oilers in 1984 and the 0-11 Chargers in 2000.


Smith, surging Chiefs visit Raiders

November, 20, 2014
Nov 20

Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY Sports Jamaal Charles and the Chiefs won 56-31 in Oakland last season.
Week 12 of the NFL season kicks off Thursday night as the surging Kansas City Chiefs visit Oakland, where they scored the second-most road points in franchise history last season, winning 56-31.

Historically, facing teams as bad as the 0-10 Raiders hasn't been a good thing for Kansas City.

In four previous games against teams with a record of 0-10 or worse, the Chiefs have won only once, though that victory came against Oakland in 1962, the sole other time the Raiders lost their first 10 games.

Chiefs and Smith turn it around
After losing their first two games this season, the Chiefs had a 12 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to

By winning seven of eight games since then, including its last five, Kansas City has raised its playoff odds to 85 percent, third best in the AFC behind the Patriots and Broncos.

Alex Smith, who threw a career-high five touchdown passes against Oakland last season, has been key to this year's turnaround.

After throwing three interceptions in Week 1, Smith has been picked off once in nine games. Only Aaron Rodgers has a better touchdown-to-interception ratio over that span.

Smith doesn't take many chances down the field, though, averaging nearly a full air yard fewer per throw than any quarterback in any of the last five seasons.

Whether because of Smith's choices or the quality of the receiving corps, Chiefs wide receivers have yet to catch a touchdown pass, and they're last in the NFL in both receptions (79) and yards (917), trailing seven other individual wide receivers in yards this season.

Raiders streaking the wrong way
The Raiders haven't won a game in over a year, since winning at Houston on November 17 last season.

Their 16-game losing streak is three away from the franchise record, and it's more than three times longer than the next-longest active streak of five, held by the Giants and Panthers.

According to, Oakland has a 13 percent chance of joining the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only teams to go 0-16 in a season. On the bright side, the Raiders have a 70 percent chance of finishing with the league's worst record and getting the first pick in next year's draft.

The Raiders have only led once in the second half this season (Week 6 vs. Chargers). And during their 16-game losing streak, they've run a total of seven second-half plays with a lead. Every other team has run at least 83 such plays in that span.

Thursday night isn't likely to be easier for the Raiders, at least on the ground. Oakland has a league-low two rushing touchdowns, and the Chiefs have yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season, becoming the fifth team to do that through 10 games in the Super Bowl era.

Stafford’s poise, deep ball lacking

November, 20, 2014
Nov 20

Mark Cunningham/Getty ImagesMatthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson have not been able to connect at their normal rate this season.
Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions look to avoid consecutive road losses on Sunday, as they travel east to face a red-hot New England Patriots squad riding an impressive six-game winning streak.

Although the Lions lead the NFC North, Stafford is in the middle of a down year by his standards, on pace for his fewest passing yards in a full NFL season.

Much of Stafford’s drop-off in production undoubtedly came as a result of the injury to Calvin Johnson, who returned in Week 10 after not being fully healthy for five games.

But Stafford has thrown as many interceptions as touchdowns in the two games since Megatron’s return, so what is causing Stafford's struggles?

Deep ball disconnect
After last week, the deep-ball connection between Stafford and Johnson should officially raise eyebrows.

Not only has Stafford completed just 14 percent of his passes at least 20 yards downfield to Johnson the past two weeks, he has also thrown an interception on those deep targets in each of their past four full games together.

Stafford and Johnson have combined for their worst completion percentage on deep passes since 2010, with plenty of blame to go around.

Half of the incompletions on these throws, including half of the interceptions, have come as a result of an off-target pass from Stafford.

But Johnson has also dropped two of his 17 deep targets this season. From 2009 to 2013, Johnson had a total of two drops on 138 such targets from Stafford.

Stafford missing poise under pressure
After posting his best season under pressure last season, Stafford looks to have fallen back into bad habits.

His completion percentage under pressure has dropped from 42 percent last season to 34 percent this year, his lowest in a season since 2010.

Stafford had huge success under pressure in Week 1 against the New York Giants, completing 75 percent of such attempts with two touchdowns.

Since Week 2, Stafford has completed 28 percent of pressured pass attempts. The only quarterback with a worse completion percentage since then is Geno Smith (21 percent).

Additionally, the only other quarterback who has started each game since Week 2 and not thrown for a touchdown under pressure is Cam Newton.

Late-game performance a tale of two extremes
The Lions have led by more than 10 points entering the fourth quarter once this season (Week 1), leading to an increased importance in Stafford’s late-game production.

And as tends to be the case, whether or not Detroit wins or loses largely depends on how well Stafford plays in the fourth quarter.

The difference in wins and losses has been stark for Stafford this season, but his production can be linked with his protection.

In the Lions’ seven wins, Stafford was sacked four times (on 64 dropbacks) in the fourth quarter. In their three losses, Stafford was sacked eight times (on 44 dropbacks) in the fourth quarter.

NFL Power Rankings: Broncos slip to No. 4

November, 18, 2014
Nov 18

Tom Gannam/AP PhotoThe Rams saddled Peyton Manning and the Broncos with their second loss in three games.
The Denver Broncos have lost two of their last three games and have dropped to No. 4 in the weekly NFL Power Rankings. Although the No. 4 spot is still high, it’s the lowest in-season rank for the Broncos since Week 14 of 2012.

Tough games await the Broncos the next two weeks, and a recent “slide” by Peyton Manning and a number of injuries could result in an even deeper fall for Denver.

Suddenly average passing?
Manning has thrown multiple interceptions in each of his last three games after throwing three interceptions in his first seven games. Entering this season, Manning hadn’t thrown multiple interceptions in three straight games since 2010, and he hasn’t done it in four straight since the first four games of the 2001 season.

The increase in interceptions is a concern, but Manning has also been completing fewer passes for fewer yards on average. Manning’s three worst Total QBR games of the season have all come in his last three games.

Things have the potential to worsen, too, if the Broncos are without tight end Julius Thomas and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders for an extended period of time. Both were injured in the Week 11 loss to the St. Louis Rams, and their status for Week 12 is in doubt.

Thomas and Sanders have combined to catch 19 of Manning’s 30 passing touchdowns this season, including 13 of his 18 red-zone touchdowns. In fact, Manning has targeted those two 26 times in the red zone this season and seen only three of those passes fall incomplete. His 88.5 completion percentage to the duo in the red zone is nearly 26 percentage points higher than his percentage to everyone else (62.9 percent).

Lack of rush offense
One of the problems with the passing offense of late may be an overreliance on it. Three of the Broncos’ four highest dropback rates have come in the last three games. The Broncos have dropped back on nearly 78 percent of their plays the last three games after doing so 60 percent of the time the first seven games.

The Broncos are averaging 89.9 rush yards per game this season on 3.7 yards per rush. Both totals would rank as the lowest for Denver since the team acquired Manning.

Tough road ahead
The Broncos will need to work out their recent offensive issues quickly as their next two games are home against the Dolphins (6-4) and then at Kansas City against the Chiefs (7-3).

The Dolphins pose a threat as a top pass defense. Their 33.1 opponent Total QBR this season is best in the NFL, and they’ve proven strong against top quarterbacks this season. Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Philip Rivers (all top five in QBR along with Manning and Tony Romo) posted their worst completion percentages of the season against the Dolphins.

As for the Chiefs, they have not defeated the Peyton Manning-led Broncos, but they have won five straight and have the Raiders (0-10) before their Week 13 meeting with Denver. The Chiefs’ defense is tied for third this season with 30 sacks.

Bell gashes Titans between the tackles

November, 18, 2014
Nov 18

AP Photo/Wade PayneLe'Veon Bell rushed for a career-high 204 yards in the Steelers' comeback win.
Le'Veon Bell became the first player to top 200 yards on the ground this season. Bell took it straight to the Tennessee Titans on Monday night and ran for 204 yards, including 196 between the tackles.

A big reason for Bell’s career night was a dominant performance by the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line, as 111 of the 204 yards came before contact.

Into the record books
For a team that historically ranks as a run-first team, this was just the fifth 200-yard rushing game in Steelers’ franchise history. Bell rushed for more yards Monday than either Franco Harris or Jerome Bettis ever did in a single game for Pittsburgh.

Bell also became the fifth player to run for 200 or more yards in a Monday Night Football game. He joined Bo Jackson (1987), Thurman Thomas (1990), Ricky Williams (2002) and Shaun Alexander (2006).

Unexpected output
In recent weeks, Bell had been more of a factor catching the ball than on rushes. In his previous four games, he had 215 yards on receptions and 205 yards on the ground.

His 33 rushes Monday were seven more than his previous career-high of 26, set in the Steelers’ second-to-last game of the past season.

The most recent time a Steeler running back carried that many times was in November 2010, when Rashard Mendenhall rushed 36 times in a win over the Buffalo Bills.

Bell averaged 6.2 yards per rush. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no other player in Steelers history has made that many carries in a game while averaging at least 6 yards per run.

Sprinting to the finish
Bell finished strong and racked up 74 yards in the fourth quarter. That's more than he had in total in five of his previous 10 games.

In the Steelers' final, clock-killing drive, they ran 12 plays. Eight of the plays were runs by Bell, including a stretch of six straight plays. The other four plays were two Ben Roethlisberger passes and two Roethlisberger kneel-downs.

Top stats to know: Steelers at Titans

November, 17, 2014
Nov 17

Getty Images Ben Roethlisberger and Zach Mettenberger are set to square off tonight in Monday Night Football.

The Tennessee Titans host the Pittsburgh Steelers in a chilly Monday Night Football showdown tonight at 8:30 ET on ESPN.

A win tonight vaults the 6-4 Steelers towards the top of the AFC North, the most tightly contested division this season. Every team in the AFC North sits at least two games over .500 – the first time every team a division has been at least two games over .500 this late into the season since the 1970 NFL/AFL merger.
Roethlisberger's Road Struggles
But the Steelers are hitting the road, a place when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has struggled this season. Roethlisberger has thrown four interceptions and five touchdowns on the road, compared to his 18 touchdowns and one pick at this season at Heinz Field.

He’ll look to get a boost from Pro-Bowler Antonio Brown, who has at least 70 receiving yards in each of his last 12 games, one shy of tying Reggie Wayne and Mike Wallace for the longest such streak in the last decade.

Titans Rolling on Monday Night
At 2-7, the Titans are off to their worst start since 2006 and have lost five games this season by 14 or more points. But Tennessee enters the game having won each of its last four Monday night games, the third longest active winning streak on Monday Night Football.

To keep that streak intact, Zach Mettenberger will need to find a way past the Steelers, something few rookie quarterbacks have been able to do since Dick LeBeau became the Steelers defensive coordinator in 2004.

Rookie starting quarterbacks have a combined record of 2-17 vs the Pittsburgh in the LeBeau era, with only wins coming from Troy Smith (2007 Ravens) and Brandon Weeden (2012 Browns).

Is Mettenberger up to the task? Despite posting of Total QBR of 96 in the first quarters this season, the rookie has seen that number drop to 7 (out of 100) over the final three periods with three interceptions.

Did You Know?
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, with Roethlisberger and Mettenberger starting under center, this will be the most letters in the last names of two opposing quarterbacks in any game in NFL history. It eclipses the previous long by one letter - the storied Roethlisberger-Ryan Fitzpatrick rivalry, which happened in five games, including Week 7 earlier this season.


Top stats to know: Rodgers dominant again

November, 16, 2014
Nov 16

AP Photo/Tom LynnAaron Rodgers has thrown 322 straight passes at home without an interception, an NFL record.

Rodgers had 341 yards and three touchdowns as the Green Bay Packers once again showed why they are the best home team in the NFL. Here are the top stats to know about Rodgers and the Packers’ home dominance.

• Rodgers has thrown for at least three touchdowns in all five of his home starts this season, tying the longest streak of his career, from his MVP season of 2011. At home this season, Rodgers has thrown for 282 yards per game with 18 touchdowns against no interceptions.

• Rodgers extended a few NFL home-game passing records on Sunday, according research by the Elias Sports Bureau. He has not thrown a pick in any of his past 11 home games and has thrown 29 straight touchdown passes without a pick, both extending his own records. He’s also thrown 322 straight passes at Lambeau Field without a pick, breaking the previous record of 288 held by Tom Brady.

• This season is eerily reminiscent of Rodgers’ 2011 MVP season. Through 10 games that season, Rodgers averaged 317 yards per game and had a touchdown-interception ratio of 31-4. Rodgers is averaging 275 yards per game this season through 10 games and boasts a touchdown-interception ratio of 28-3.

• Many visitors might be asking if they can just skip trips to Lambeau Field with the way the Packers are playing there this season. The Pack improved to 5-0 at home on the season, and over the past four home games, they’ve outscored opponents 128-9 … in the first half, According to Elias research, the Packers are the first team in NFL history to score at least 28 points in four straight home games.

• The Packers showed their versatility Sunday, too. They scored offensive, defensive and special teams touchdowns in the same game for the first time since Week 9 of the 2010 season, against the Cowboys. The Packers also scored a touchdown on a fumble return, an interception return and a punt return, just the second time in franchise history they’ve achieved that.

Chiefs: No TD from WR ... and that's OK

November, 14, 2014
Nov 14

AP Photo/Wilfredo LeeAlex Smith hasn't looked downfield to his wide receivers much this season.
You might have noticed that the Kansas City Chiefs are succeeding in an unusual way this season. They’ve somehow managed to win without getting a single touchdown reception from a wide receiver.

Let’s examine this more closely from a statistical perspective.

The lack of WR scores
The Chiefs have no touchdowns from their wide receivers. Every other NFL team has at least three such touchdowns.

The Chiefs have gotten 899 yards from their wide receivers this season. There are four players (Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas, T.Y. Hilton and Golden Tate) who have more than that.

No Chiefs wide receiver has gained 100 yards receiving in a game this season. Only three other teams (Rams, Dolphins, Titans) have no 100-yard games from their wide receivers.

Dwayne Bowe has accounted for 55 percent of the Chiefs' wide receiver yards this season, the highest percentage in the NFL. But 31 wide receivers have more yards than Bowe this season.

Why the Chiefs' offense doesn’t need them
Alex Smith’s average pass has traveled 5.6 yards past the line of scrimmage this season, shortest in the NFL (the league average is 8.1 yards).

He has thrown an interception on 1.5 percent of his pass attempts this season. Only Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer have been better.

The Chiefs are averaging 135.8 rushing yards per game this season, the fifth most in the NFL.

The Chiefs average 3.4 yards before contact on rushes this season, second best in the NFL.

Jamaal Charles is averaging 7.8 yards per rush in the fourth quarter, the best average in the NFL.

The Chiefs are converting on third down at the third-best percentage (47.8 percent) and converting in the red zone at the fourth-best percentage (69.0 percent).

The Chiefs' defense makes up for it
One reason the Chiefs have been able to get away without their wide receivers contributing scores -- their defense has put them in position to win regardless.

Chiefs opponents are scoring 16.8 points per game this season, second best in the NFL.

The Chiefs have recorded a sack on 8.2 percent of dropbacks, the third-best rate in the NFL.

The Chiefs are allowing touchdowns on 42.3 percent of red zone trips this season, the second-best rate in the NFL.

The Chiefs have not allowed a rushing touchdown this season. Every other NFL team has allowed at least four.

Top stats to know: Dolphins 22, Bills 9

November, 13, 2014
Nov 13
The difference between being 6-4 and 5-5 through 10 games is pretty significant in terms of the chance of making the playoffs.

Since 1990, teams that are 6-4 make the playoffs 61 percent of the time. Teams that are 5-5 make it only 28 percent of the time.

The Bills and Dolphins each had a chance to get to 6-4 and on this night, the Dolphins were the better team, winning 22-9 to hit that mark through 10 games.

The Dolphins have won four of five and are over .500 through 10 games for the first time since being 6-4 in 2008.

The Bills are 2-11 in their past 13 November games. They finished with a season-low 237 yards.

Tannehill wins by playing catch
Ryan Tannehill kept it short and sweet, connecting on 25 of 28 passes for two touchdowns on throws that traveled fewer than 10 yards in the air. The 89 percent completion percentage and 223 yards gained on those throws were both career highs for him.

He was 5-of-5 for 46 yards, five first downs and a touchdown when targeting Jarvis Landry.

Tannehill improved to 6-9 in divisional games with the win. He’s completed 73 percent of his pass attempts in his past three games and has nine touchdowns and only two interceptions in his past five games.

Orton-Watkins connection not effective
Bills quarterback Kyle Orton was 3-for-7 for 32 yards when targeting Sammy Watkins.

That’s a far cry from how E.J. Manuel fared with Watkins in the first meeting between the teams.

That day Manuel was 8-for-11 for 117 yards and a touchdown when targeting Watkins.