Freeman at his best when it matters most


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Josh Freeman has been average at best when facing five pass rushers or more this season, completing 54 percent of his passes with an 82.7 passer rating. However, in the fourth quarter of one-score games when facing at least five pass rushers, his completion percentage jumps to 68.8 percent. He’s thrown two touchdowns, no interceptions with a passer rating of 134.9.

Josh Freeman

FreemanMike Williams is becoming one of the league’s top deep threats, trailing only the Denver Broncos' Brandon Lloyd in targets at least 15 yards downfield. While impressive, his chemistry with Freeman can still use some polishing. Freeman has overthrown Williams 10 times this season deep throws, second most in the league.

Bucs Pass Defense Last 2 Seasons
4 Pass Rushers or Fewer

On defense, the Buccaneers have 11 interceptions when they send four pass rushers or fewer, two shy of their 2009 total. Third-year cornerback Aqib Talib has led the charge for Tampa Bay, intercepting a league-best five passes when the Bucs send four pass rushers or fewer.

• The Atlanta Falcons disappointed in 2009, in part because of their struggles to throw the ball downfield. In 2008 and 2010, Matt Ryan completed 50 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions on throws at least 15 yards downfield.

Roddy White has been a biggest benefactor of Atlanta's deep passing game. Last season, White was targeted 44 times on throws at least 15 yards and only came down with 16 of them. This season, White already has 15 catches on 21 targets of throws at least 15 yards downfield.

Brandon Marshall may be the Miami Dolphins big-name receiver, but it’s Davone Bess who has been Chad Henne’s go-to guy in crucial situations. Henne has completed 85 percent of his passes to Bess on third down compared to just 57 percent to Marshall.

• The Seattle Seahawks have the best red zone pass defense in the NFL, holding opposing quarterbacks to a 56.3 passer rating (league average is 92.7). However, the Seahawks will have their hands full with Hakeem Nicks on Sunday, who has caught all but one ball thrown his way in the red zone this season. He’s been targeted nine times, has eight receptions, six touchdowns and no drops.

Eli Manning has been very efficient this season throwing the ball into the end zone, completing 10-of-16 such passes. His 10 end zone completions are the most in the NFL.

• The Oakland Raiders have 406 rushing yards towards the sidelines through eight games this season, closing in on their total from all of 2009 (442 yards). Not only have the Raiders improved from last season, but they have gained more rushing yards than any team in football on sideline rushes this season.

The Raiders success running the football has opened up the play-action pass as a significant weapon for offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. On play-action this season, the Raiders are averaging 9.4 yards per attempt with five touchdowns and two interceptions.