Stats & Info: Minnesota Vikings

Patterson makes things happen efficiently

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11

Michael B. Thomas/Getty ImagesWide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson ran for 102 yards and a touchdown on only 3 carries on Sunday.
It didn’t take long for Minnesota’s Cordarrelle Patterson to remind the league that he’s one of the most explosive players in football. Patterson ran for 102 yards on only three rushes in Sunday’s season-opening win against the Rams, including a 67-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

Patterson’s 67-yard run is tied for the second-longest rush by a wide receiver in the last five seasons, and tied for the second-longest rushing touchdown by a wideout in the last nine seasons.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Patterson is the second player since 1950 to gain at least 100 rushing yards in a game with three or fewer rushes.

Patterson has gained at least 50 yards rushing in each of his last three games. Dexter McCluster is the only other wide receiver since 2001 to have three games with at least 50 rushing yards (all in 2011), and no other wideout has done it in back-to-back games during that span.

Patterson isn’t gaining empty yards - he’s a real threat to score whenever he touches the ball. He has five career rushes lined up in the backfield. Three of them have finished in the end zone, all gains of at least 33 yards.

Patterson has scored at least one touchdown in each of his last six games, the longest active streak for any skill player and the longest streak for a wide receiver since Wes Welker had eight straight games with a score over the 2012-13 seasons.

Patterson only had one total touchdown in his first 11 games of his career, and there is still room for his role to grow in the Vikings offense.

Patterson has averaged 2.8 receptions per game in his career, but is the only receiver on the Vikings roster to catch a pass in all 17 games since the start of last season.

While the Patriots game plan for Patterson this week, it’s worth noting he could have been a Patriot. Patterson was the 29th selection in the first round of 2013 NFL Draft, a pick originally owned by New England.

New England traded that pick to Minnesota for four picks, two of which were used on players still on the roster.

Cornerback Logan Ryan tied for fifth in the league with five interceptions last year, while linebacker Jamie Collins is the only Patriot with a sack, forced fumble and interception in the last eight games.

Can Bridgewater handle freezing temps?

May, 12, 2014
May 12

AP Photo/Frank Franklin IITeddy Bridgewater has never started a game in freezing temperatures.
The Minnesota Vikings took Teddy Bridgewater with the final pick of the first round and he is expected to compete for the starting job in training camp.

The Vikings do have two quarterbacks on their roster -- Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel -- but neither rank higher than 25th in Total QBR among qualified quarterbacks since 2009.

Bridgewater’s ability to handle pressure in college bodes well for his success at the next level. He ranked third in completion percentage when under duress among quarterbacks from BCS Automatic Qualifying (AQ) schools, and only Brett Hundley had a higher completion percentage against five or more pass rushers among AQ quarterbacks.

His accuracy also earned him high grades among pro scouts. Bridgewater led all AQ quarterbacks in overall completion percentage last year despite having an average target distance of more than nine yards downfield.

Yet there is one lingering question about his transition to the Vikings: How will Bridgewater adapt to the cold weather in the NFC North?

The Miami native played college football at University of Louisville and did not start a single game in freezing temperatures while in college.

The coldest game that Bridgewater ever started was a 34-degree game against Connecticut on Nov. 24, 2012. Louisville lost that game 23-20 and Bridgewater had a 55.1 Total QBR, which was well below his season average (77.3).

In addition to Bridgewater’s inexperience in cold temperatures, he has a below-average hand size (9.25 inches), which could make it difficult to grip the ball when the temperature drops.

The average hand size for all quarterbacks measured at the combine since 2008 is 9.55 inches. Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Nick Foles all have hands larger than 10 inches.

With the Vikings playing their home games outdoors for the next two seasons, in addition to away games at Green Bay and Chicago every season, Bridgewater’s ability to adapt to cold temperatures could have an impact on his long-term success.

QBs highlight 1st round

May, 9, 2014
May 9
The first round of the 2014 draft was highlighted by the three quarterbacks selected Thursday night: Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater.

The teams that made those selections – the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings – had all drafted a quarterback in the first round in one of the three previous drafts. Only three teams had ever drafted two quarterbacks in the first round in a four-year span in the common draft era previously.

But how will those quarterbacks fit into their new landscapes?

Jaguars – Blake Bortles

Bortles is the third quarterback taken in the first round in Jaguars history (Blaine Gabbert and Byron Leftwich). Since drafting Gabbert in 2011, the Jaguars have posted the lowest Total QBR in the NFL (24.7).

One of Bortles’ strengths in college was his deep ball. Bortles completed 52.9 percent of his passes thrown at least 25 yards downfield last season. That’s the highest of any first-round pick from the past three seasons.

The Jaguars lacked a downfield element last season. As a team, the Jags attempted a league-low 26 passes at least 25 yards downfield and completed five (19.2 percent). Only the Panthers had a worse completion percentage on those throws last season (17.9 percent).

Browns – Johnny Manziel

Johnny Manziel was drafted 22nd overall after the Browns traded into the spot. In 2012, the Browns drafted Brandon Weeden 22nd overall after a trade, and in 2007 the Browns drafted Brady Quinn 22nd overall following a trade.

Since the Browns returned to the NFL in 1999, the team has used a league-high 20 starting quarterbacks. Manziel will likely be the 21st.

Manziel will bring a different element to the Browns’ quarterback position. In two years in college, Manziel rushed for 2,169 yards (1,400 via scrambles). Browns quarterbacks have combined to rush for 1,796 yards since 2001.

Although Manziel’s legs helped make the highlight reels in his two seasons at Texas A&M, his ability to throw from the pocket should not be overlooked.

Manziel completed 73.5 percent of his passes from inside of the pocket last season, highest among any AQ quarterback. Browns quarterbacks completed an NFL-worst 56.9 percent of their passes from the pocket last season.

Manziel will also be paired with a top receiver in Josh Gordon, something he benefited from last season with Mike Evans. Evans led AQ-receivers with 13.4 yards per target last season. Gordon was second in the NFL with 10.7 yards per target last season.

Teddy Bridgewater – Vikings

With Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel already on the roster, the Vikings were probably the least in need of a quarterback of the three teams. However, since 2009 Ponder ranks 25th in Total QBR (45.3) and Cassel ranks 30th (40.3).

Bridgewater was one of the most accurate quarterbacks in college football last season. His 71.0 completion percentage was best of any of the BCS-AQ quarterbacks despite the highest average distance of passes.

How Bridgewater might fare in the elements is a point to consider, however. The Vikings play their home games outdoors the next two seasons at the University of Minnesota. Bridgewater has never started a game in freezing temperatures.

Whether he wears a glove may not matter either. Bridgewater’s hands measured 9.25 inches. There have been 39 quarterbacks since 2008 who have had a hand size of 9.25 inches or smaller at the NFL combine. Of those players, only 18 percent have started half of an NFL season (eight games) and none has made the Pro Bowl.

Ravens, Vikings put on historic finish

December, 9, 2013
The Ravens and Vikings combined to score 5 touchdowns in the final 2 minutes, 1 second of their game. All 5 touchdowns caused the lead to change hands. The score went from a defensive-looking 12-7 to 29-26 in a blink.

Here is a win probability breakdown after each touchdown in the final 2:05:

𔅖:01: 1-yd Pass TD Flacco-Pitta - 26.9% win probability change, to Ravens 74.3%
𔅕:27: 41-yd Rush TD Gerhart - 40.8% win probability change, to Vikings 88.8%
𔅕:16: 77-yd KO ret TD Jones - 69.1% win probability change, to Ravens 84.0%
𔅔:45: 79-yd Pass TD Cassel-Patterson - 75.4% win probability change, to Vikings 96.4%
𔅔:04: 9-yd Pass TD Flacco-Brown - 59.4% win probability change, to Ravens 98.4%

According to Elias, the five touchdowns in 2:01 were the fastest that five touchdowns have been scored in the last 50 seasons -- by more than 3 minutes.

Patriots Defying Probability
In the past 3 weeks, the Patriots have rallied after facing deficits of 24 points (against the Broncos), 10 points (Texans) and 16 points (Browns). In all 3 games, the Patriots’ win probability reached below 15%.

The small likelihood of victory seems to have inspired Tom Brady. In the second halves and overtime of those games, Brady has completed 75% of his passes (67-of-89) for 6 touchdowns and no interceptions.

After Jason Campbell's touchdown pass to Jordan Cameron gave the Browns a 26-14 lead with 2:39 left, the Patriots’ win probability dropped to 2.0%. After Brady's touchdown pass to Julian Edelman, it was only 2.5%, but it really swung after the onside kick recovery, increasing the Patriots’ likelihood of winning by 21%.

According to Elias, the Patriots are the first team to win 3 consecutive games (all in one season) in which it trailed by double digits in the second half since the 1993 Eagles (weeks 2-5), who had Randall Cunningham at QB.

Pats Offense Below Average Before Gronk
Based on expected points added -- which takes into account everything an offense does to move the ball and score points -- the Patriots’ offense contributed -1.9 expected points per game to the team’s net scoring margin in 6 games without Rob Gronkowski (19th in the NFL). In 7 games since Gronkowski’s return, the Patriots’ offensive EPA is +8.7 per game, 4th in the NFL.

In the past seven games, the Patriots’ red zone touchdown percentage improved to 68.8% from 40.9% in the first six games. And Brady's Total QBR is 68.1 in the past seven games, compared with 52.7 without Gronkowski (50 is average).

RG III, Redskins in Tailspin
Robert Griffin's 6.7 Total QBR against the Chiefs was the worst of his career. His Total QBR this season is 40.1, down from 73.2 last season (fifth in NFL). That is a decrease of 33.1 points, the worst differential of any qualified QB in the NFL this season.

The Redskins allowed two special teams touchdowns to the Chiefs and have allowed an NFL-high five special teams touchdowns this season (one kickoff return, three punt returns and one blocked punt return). They are allowing the most yards per punt return this season (18.0), all reasons they have the worst special teams EPA in the NFL.

Their special teams expected points is -47.0, nearly a point a game worse than the Falcons’ -35.1.

On the flip side, the Chiefs have an NFL-high five special teams touchdowns this season, and they lead the NFL with 41.3 expected points added on special teams (next closest team: Patriots – 31.7).

Top stats to know: Redskins at Vikings

November, 7, 2013
Richard W. Rodriguez/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Getty ImagesSince 2012 the Redskins are 10-1 when Alfred Morris has 20 or more carries.
The Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings will kick off Week 10 on Thursday night. Here are five stats to know.

1. Last season Robert Griffin III set the NFL on fire. He posted a Total QBR of 73.2, fifth best in the league (Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers were ahead of him).

This season he has struggled as his Total QBR of 42.2 ranks 24th out of 34 qualified quarterbacks. A big reason for the decline is that Griffin has not been as effective as a runner in 2013.

Through eight games in 2012 he posted 476 rushing yards on 70 carries. This season he has just 257 rushing yards on 49 carries. Griffin has also overthrown or underthrown passes 51 times in 2013 after doing so 56 times all of last season.

2. The Redskins offense is best when establishing the run game. In Week 9 Alfred Morris ran the ball a season-high 25 times in an overtime victory over the San Diego Chargers.

It was the first time this season Morris rushed the ball more than 20 times. The Redskins are 10-1 when he has 20 or more rushes since drafting Morris, 3-10 when he’s failed to reach 20 carries.

3. The Vikings are off to a 1-7 start, tied for the worst eight-game start in franchise history (started 1-7 in their inaugural season of 1961). Minnesota won its ninth game against the Baltimore Colts that season and finished 3-11.

4. The Vikings lost in Week 9 despite a great day from Adrian Peterson, something that’s far from uncommon. Peterson rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown in a loss for the 11th time, six more than any other player in the NFL since he entered the league in 2007.

5. The Redskins defense has capitalized on mistakes this season. Washington has scored five defensive touchdowns as a unit, tied for the most in the NFL. The Vikings have turned the ball over 17 times this season, tied for third most in the league.

The Redskins defense has also been staunch on third downs. Opponents are converting just 35.4 percent of their third-down opportunities, a top-10 mark in the league.

Keys to not losing: Giants 23, Vikings 7

October, 22, 2013

Joe Caporeale/USA TODAY SportsAdrian Peterson could not get going against the Giants.

What were the keys to the New York Giants win over the Minnesota Vikings on "Monday Night Football"?

This game was more about what the Vikings couldn’t do then what the Giants could do.

Josh Freeman was all over the place
Josh Freeman had a rough go of it in his first start with the Vikings, completing only 20 of 53 passes. His 37.7 percent completion percentage was the lowest in a game by a quarterback with at least 50 attempts since Eli Manning completed only 34 percent of his throws against the Redskins in Week 15 in 2007 and tied for the fourth-lowest of all-time among quarterbacks with at least 50 attempts.

Our video-review crew charted Freeman with 16 overthrows. That’s the most overthrows by a quarterback in a game in the eight years in which we have data on the statistic.

Freeman has overthrown his receivers on 24 percent of his pass attempts in 2013. No other quarterback has a percentage of higher than 18 percent.

Freeman's 18 total off-target throws are the second most in a game since 2006. Tony Romo had 19 in Week 8 of last season, also against the Giants.

Freeman has also thrown an interception in seven straight games, tied with Carson Palmer for the longest active streak in the NFL.

Peterson kept in check again
The Giants limited Adrian Peterson to 28 rushing yards, his fewest in a game since Week 11 of 2011 against the Raiders (a game in which he was injured and had only six carries).

The Giants have held Peterson to 54, 26 and 28 rushing yards in his past three games against them. He has averaged 53 yards against them in four games. The only team against which he has had less success is the Redskins, against whom he's averaged 45 yards in four games.

The Vikings entered Monday's game averaging 338.4 total yards a game, but only finished with 206 vs. Giants. That's their lowest offensive output since Week 1 of 2011 (187 yards vs. Chargers).

Did You Know: Manning brothers always win
The win by the Giants not only was their first of the season, but it kept alive a personal streak for the Manning brothers.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Eli and Peyton Manning have now won at least once in each of the past 28 weekends in which both started.

That’s one shy of their best streak, a 29-week run spanning 2008 and 2009.

Eli Manning entered Monday’s game with an NFL-high 17 turnovers, but did not have any in this contest. He snapped a streak of six straight games with an interception.

Top stats to know: Vikings at Giants

October, 21, 2013

Rob Grabowski/USA TODAY SportsEli Manning leads the NFL in turnovers this season (17).
The Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants meet tonight on "Monday Night Football" (8:25 ET/ESPN). Here are six stats Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden might touch on tonight:

1. The Giants lead the NFL with 23 turnovers -- six more than any other team and two more than they had all of last season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, they’re the first team to have a turnover differential of -16 through six games since 1989, when the Lions and Cardinals were each -17 at that point.

Eli Manning leads all players with 17 turnovers, including 15 interceptions, already matching his interception total from all of 2012. He’s the first player to throw 15 interceptions in the first six games of a season since Dan Fouts in 1986.

His Total QBR of 3.0 in the fourth quarter is the lowest in the NFL this season. But he needs just 215 passing yards to pass Phil Simms for the most in franchise history.

2. Josh Freeman is expected to make his debut with the Vikings. Only three players (out of 37 qualified quarterbacks) have a lower Total QBR than Freeman this season (26.8).

Since going 10-6 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2010, Freeman is 11-23 (.324) as a starter. Blaine Gabbert is the only quarterback with a lower winning percentage since the start of 2011 (min. 20 starts).

3. Adrian Peterson is fourth in the NFL with 483 rushing yards. He'll need to pick up the pace to approach his 2012 total of 2,097 yards, which was the second-highest season total in NFL history.

He’s 75 yards shy of tying Earl Campbell for 31st on the league's all-time rushing list and 121 from tying Shaun Alexander for 30th.

4. This game features teams that rank last and next-to-last in the NFL in opponents’ third-down conversions, and are 30th and 32nd in the league in opponents’ points per game.

5. The Giants are 0-6 for the second time in franchise history (started 0-9 in 1976). According to Elias, they're the first team in NFL history to allow at least 25 points and commit at least three turnovers in each of its first six games.

6. Neither team has won a game in North America this season. The Vikings' only win came in London against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 4.

NFL roster stability usually equals success

September, 26, 2013
Your fantasy football team changes every year, but so do the players on real NFL teams. Their rosters turn over both in the offseason and in the regular season, usually due to injuries, though trades (like the recent one involving Trent Richardson) can happen.

“Roster stability” is a metric to track how much personnel changes from season to season based on work done in basketball by Dr. David Berri at Southern Utah University, and counts how many plays the players on the roster played last year and this year. Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor, who was on the roster last year but barely played and is now playing full time, represents a good amount of instability because he didn’t play much last year.

What “roster stability” captures is something about the philosophy of the team. Teams that are pretty stable year-to-year usually consider themselves to be in good shape, either because they were good last year or because they think the building blocks were already in place. You can see this with many of the top teams on the list. The Bengals, Vikings, Redskins, Texans, Seahawks, 49ers and Falcons were all successful last season and they kept a good number of their players around for this year. Note that keeping the same players doesn’t mean the same results, as both the Vikings and Redskins haven’t won a game yet this season.

On the other hand, teams at the bottom of the list are teams that wanted to change things up. The Raiders weren’t very successful last season and they particularly changed up their defense, which ranked 28th by expected points added.

A couple notes:
• The Bears, Chiefs and Cardinals all changed head coaches, changed a lot of offensive personnel, and have seen improvements offensively. The Bears, in particular, changed a significant part of their offensive line (their offensive line unit stability is 20 percent, the lowest in the NFL), which was considered important for protecting Jay Cutler. Now they have the second-lowest sack rate in the NFL after being 27th last year.

• The Patriots receiving corps, widely publicized for being so dilapidated, ranks 31st in stability at 30 percent, ahead of only the Jaguars. Their overall offensive stability is 21st. Note that their defensive stability ranks third, and their defense ranks second in the NFL in expected points added.

Remembering past games outside the U.S.

September, 25, 2013
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings will participate in the NFL’s 13th regular-season game played outside the United States on Sunday, traveling to Wembley Stadium for each team’s first international game.

Though the league has only recently held regular-season games outside the country, the NFL has held 58 preseason games outside the United States, including 13 in Tokyo alone.

Including preseason matchups, Sunday will be the 16th game London has hosted and seventh regular-season game, both the most of any city outside the United States.

Here’s a brief look at each regular-season game played outside the United States:

Oct. 2, 2005
Cardinals 31, 49ers 14
Estadio Azteca - Mexico City
Paid Attendance: 103,467

The first non-United States game in the regular season, this matchup also set an NFL regular-season attendance record that stood until 2009. The Cardinals-49ers tilt at the Azteca is still the only regular-season game outside the U.S. not played at London’s Wembley Stadium or the Rogers Centre in Toronto.

The Cardinals rolled behind a 385-yard, two-TD performance from Josh McCown. 49ers quarterback Tim Rattay was pulled in the fourth quarter after a poor showing, leading to Alex Smith’s first career completions.

Oct. 28, 2007
Giants 13, Dolphins 10
Wembley Stadium - London
Paid Attendance: 81,176

The NFL’s first effort in Europe was held in pouring rain. Eli Manning threw for 59 yards in this game and still won, sending the Dolphins to 0-8. Dolphins quarterback Cleo Lemon led an 80-yard touchdown drive late to make it 13-10, but Jay Feely’s onside kick went out of bounds.

Manning’s kneel downs led to boos from the Wembley crowd, not for the last time.

Oct. 26, 2008
Saints 37, Chargers 32
Wembley Stadium - London
Paid Attendance: 83,226

In what was the best pair of quarterback performances of the international games, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers combined for 680 yards and six touchdowns. Brees’s 339-yard performance with three touchdowns and no interceptions was enough to best his former backup.

Since the start of 2008, Brees has had nine games with at least 330 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, tied with Aaron Rodgers for the most in that span.

Dec. 7, 2008
Dolphins 16, Bills 3
Rogers Centre - Toronto
Paid Attendance: 52,134

This is the lowest-scoring international game to date, and was the start of Buffalo’s "home" series in Toronto. The Bills would lose their first three games in Toronto, and have only one win in five games north of the border.

J.P. Losman completed 1 of 10 passes at least 10 yards downfield, while Chad Pennington was 5-of-8 with a first-quarter touchdown to Anthony Fasano on those throws.

Oct. 25, 2009
Patriots 35, Buccaneers 7
Wembley Stadium - London
Paid Attendance: 82,254

Josh Johnson threw a touchdown pass to both teams in this game, while Tom Brady threw for over 300 yards. The quarterbacks did combine for five interceptions in this game, including a Brady interception by future teammate Aqib Talib.

Brady was excellent out of shotgun formations. Brady completed 16 of 20 attempts for 223 yards and all three touchdowns out of the shotgun in a Patriots rout.

Dec. 3, 2009
Jets 19, Bills 13
Rogers Centre - Toronto
Paid Attendance: 51,567

The only international game not played on a Sunday, the Jets won this Thursday night game in Toronto behind a sterling defensive effort. Buffalo gained 36 yards in the second half, the lowest second-half total by the Bills since 1996.

Second-year cornerback Darrelle Revis shut down Bills receiver Terrell Owens, holding Ryan Fitzpatrick to 2-of-8 passing for 16 yards and an interception targeting Owens.

Oct. 31, 2010
49ers 24, Broncos 16
Wembley Stadium - London
Paid Attendance: 83,941

Three straight 49ers touchdowns in the fourth quarter were too much to overcome for the Broncos. Troy Smith had a passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown without a turnover.

Kyle Orton threw for 370 yards but took four sacks and threw an interception. Orton would make five more starts for the Broncos before ceding the starting job to Tim Tebow.

Nov. 7, 2010
Bears 22, Bills 19
Rogers Centre - Toronto
Paid Attendance: 50,746

Buffalo fell to 0-8 after the loss in Toronto to the Bears, who handed the Bills their third straight loss by three points or fewer. Jay Cutler threw for two touchdowns and the Bears defense forced three turnovers in the second half.

The Bears have had 30 games with at least three turnovers forced since the start of 2008, the most of any team.

Oct. 23, 2011
Bears 24, Buccaneers 18
Wembley Stadium - London
Paid Attendance: 76,981

The first team to repeat in London, the Buccaneers stayed winless at Wembley by not shutting down Matt Forte. Forte rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown with 38 receiving yards. Forte quadrupled the Buccaneers' rushing total himself, as Tampa Bay managed 30 yards on 11 rushes.

Cutler became the first quarterback with multiple international wins. Cutler would be joined by Brady the next year, though Cutler is the only quarterback with wins in three countries.

Oct. 30, 2011
Bills 23, Redskins 0
Rogers Centre - Toronto
Paid Attendance: 51,579

Finally, the Bills won a game in Canada, and a convincing one at that. The Redskins are still the only team to be shut out in an international game.

The Bills had four sacks in their first six games of 2011 but sacked John Beck 10 times in the game. That was only the sixth time since the start of 2011 a team had double-digit sacks in a game.

Oct. 28, 2012
Patriots 45, Rams 7
Wembley Stadium - London
Paid Attendance: 84,004

The biggest Wembley crowd for an NFL game saw a dominant offensive performance by the Patriots. After the Rams took a 7-0 lead, New England scored 45 straight points, including touchdowns on their first five possessions.

The lone aspect of the Patriots offense to draw London’s ire was again the quarterback kneel down. Ryan Mallett drew boos for running out the clock, sealing a win that made New England the first team with multiple victories in England.

Dec. 16, 2012
Seahawks 50, Bills 17
Rogers Centre - Toronto
Paid Attendance: 40,770

Buffalo followed up a 2011 win in Toronto by allowing the most points in an international game. The Seahawks dominated the Bills, with Russell Wilson accounting for four touchdowns and Earl Thomas intercepting a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass and returning it for another.

The game drew more than 20,000 fewer fans than the typical Bills home game at Ralph Wilson Stadium (62,527).

Key stats for opening Sunday

September, 6, 2013

Getty ImagesCan Calvin Johnson (left) and Adrian Peterson (right) duplicate huge seasons in 2013?
Now that the NFL season is officially underway, we preview the top stats to know in preparation for Sunday’s action.

1. When the Atlanta Falcons visit the New Orleans Saints and the Dallas Cowboys host the New York Giants in Week 1, they'll each be looking to improve upon an NFL record. The Falcons are 6-0 all-time vs the Saints in season openers and the Cowboys are 6-0 vs the Giants in season openers.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, those are the best records against a single opponent in season openers in NFL history.

2. Adrian Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards last season, the second-most in NFL history and just eight yards short of Eric Dickerson’s single-season record of 2,105 from 1984.

Even if Peterson doesn’t get to 2,105 this year, he could set records by becoming the first player with multiple 2,000-yard rushing seasons or passing Dickerson’s mark for rushing yards in consecutive seasons. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Peterson needs 1,817 rushing yards in 2013 to break the latter record.

3. Calvin Johnson set an NFL record with 1,964 receiving yards last season. He also led the NFL in receiving yards in 2011. This year, he could join Jerry Rice from 1993-95 as the only players to lead the NFL in receiving yards in three straight seasons.

4. The Green Bay Packers visiting the San Francisco 49ers is a matchup of the only two NFC teams to win division titles in each of the last two years. Since 2011, the Packers (.813) and 49ers (.766) rank first and third in win percentage respectively.

The Packers drafted a pair of running backs in the first four rounds of April’s draft (Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin). Green Bay has gone 43 straight regular-season games without a 100-yard rusher, the longest active streak in the NFL.

5. Tom Brady leads the New England Patriots on the road to face the division-rival Buffalo Bills. Brady has performed very well against the Bills throughout his career.

Brady’s 20-2 career record against the Bills is the second-best of any quarterback against any single opponent since the 1970 merger (min. 15 starts vs team). Only Ben Roethlisberger, who is 14-1 against the Cleveland Browns, has posted a better mark. Brady has thrown 51 touchdown passes in his career vs the Bills, the most he’s had against any opponent (the Dolphins rank second with 39).

Peterson, Vikings will miss Felton

August, 27, 2013

Brace Hemmelgarn/USA Today SportsAdrian Peterson was at his best with fullback Jerome Felton on the field last season.

The NFL on Monday suspended Minnesota Vikings fullback Jerome Felton three games for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Nobody will miss the 2012 Pro Bowler more than his backfield-mate Adrian Peterson.

Peterson ran for more than 1,500 yards and averaged 6.9 yards per carry with Felton on the field; with Felton on the bench, he averaged only 4.6 yards per rush.

Peterson ran the ball 235 times out of two-back sets last season with Felton on the field for 201 of those. Should the Vikings be forced to adjust their playcalling sans Felton, it could impact the team’s offensive success. Minnesota averaged 6.1 yards per play out of two-back formations last season and 4.6 yards per play out of all other offensive sets.

Stewart among PUP hits
Tuesday at 4 eastern was the deadline for NFL teams to cut their rosters down to 75 and with that, a few notable players were placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.

The Carolina Panthers placed Jonathan Stewart on the PUP list with an injured right ankle. He’ll miss the first six games, which means DeAngelo Williams will open the season as the team’s top back. While Stewart and Williams have split carries since Stewart was drafted in the first round in 2008, Williams has seen a spike in production when Stewart sits.

According to Elias, in the seven games Stewart has been inactive since 2008, Williams has averaged 15.7 touches and 94.5 total yards per game. He’s averaged 14.6 touches and 78.3 total yards overall since 2008.

Harris heading to IR
Green Bay Packers running back DuJuan Harris was placed on injured reserve Tuesday after re-injuring his knee in Friday’s preseason game.

Harris, who finished last season as the team’s starter, averaged 5.3 yards per rush between the tackles last season, tops among all Packers running backs. All other Packers running backs combined to average 3.5 yards per rush between the tackles.

With Harris on the shelf, Green Bay will look to second round pick Eddie Lacy to carry the load. The Packers haven’t had a 100-yard rusher since Brandon Jackson in Week 5 of 2010, a stretch of 43 consecutive games. Lacy would be the team’s first rookie to rush for 100 yards since Ryan Grant in 2007.

Peterson held in check vs Packers

January, 6, 2013
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsThe Packers held Adrian Peterson to 99 rushing yards.
One week made a huge difference for the Green Bay Packers in containing Adrian Peterson.

Based on how Peterson shredded up the Packers defense during the regular season – he had 409 rushing yards in two games, including 199 a week ago – stopping Peterson seemed like an uphill battle for the Packers.

But the Packers found a way to force the Vikings to beat them through the air. And that became an even tougher battle for Minnesota when Joe Webb was named the starting quarterback in place of Christian Ponder before the game.

Adrian Peterson

Peterson rushed for 32 yards after contact after combining for 230 yards after contact in two regular season meetings against Green Bay. The Packers defense was able to limit Peterson partly because they put more defenders in the box than in the teams’ first two games. Green Bay limited Peterson to 23 yards and 3.3 yards per carry when it put eight or more defenders in the box Saturday.

Peterson was held to 20 rushing yards outside the tackles while gaining four yards after contact on such rushes. In his first two games against the Packers this season, Peterson had 205 rushing yards outside the tackles, including four rushes of 20-plus yards in Week 17.

Joe Webb

Webb failed to complete his first nine attempts at least 15 yards downfield, with eight of nine incompletions due to off-target throws. His first completion of that distance came with 3:39 left in the game when the Packers were winning by 21 points. Webb’s 28.0 completion percentage was the worst on such throws since he entered the league in 2010 (minimum 15 attempts).

The Packers defense was able to put Webb under duress on 12 of his 38 (32 percent) dropbacks. Webb was 0-of-7 with an interception and was sacked three times when under pressure. His seven pass attempts under duress without a completion are tied for the most in a game this season (Mark Sanchez – Week 8 vs. Dolphins, Tom Brady – Week 16 vs. Jaguars).

Webb was the first player in NFL history to start a postseason game after not attempting a single pass during the regular season (according to the Elias Sports Bureau).

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers saw four or fewer pass rushers on 30 of 38 (79 percent) dropbacks, and completed 21 of 28 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown against such pressure, continuing a season-long dominance against the Vikings standard pass rush. In his three matchups against the Vikings this season, Rodgers completed nearly 80 percent of his passes against standard pressure, and fewer than half of his attempts when Minnesota sent an extra pass rusher, including 2-of-5 Saturday with three sacks.

Rodgers earned his first postseason win at Lambeau Field, becoming the first Packers quarterback not named Brett Favre to win a playoff game at Lambeau since Lynn Dickey in 1982.

Ponder's deep ball key for Vikings

January, 3, 2013

Sam Riche/Getty ImagesWhich Christian Ponder will show up this weekend: the Week 13 or Week 17 version?
The Minnesota Vikings took a 14-10 lead into the third quarter against the Green Bay Packers in Week 13 and started the half with possession of the ball. Adrian Peterson quickly got the Vikings into the red zone after two rushes totaling 52 yards.

Facing 2nd-and-6 at the 8-yard line, the Vikings used play action and rolled Christian Ponder to the right. Ponder was under duress and forced a throw into the end zone: interception.

Later in the third quarter, now trailing by six, the Vikings were once again deep in Packers territory after a 23-yard Peterson run and 15-yard penalty. Once again a Ponder interception, this time at the Packers’ 10-yard line, ended a drive.

Although Peterson rushed for a combined 409 yards against the Packers this season, including 210 yards on 21 rushes in that Week 13 matchup, the fate of the Vikings may ultimately lie in the hands of their sophomore quarterback.

The difference in the Week 13 loss and the Week 17 victory for the Vikings was the play of Ponder, whose 3.1 Total QBR in Week 13 was the worst against the Packers this season, and whose 94.6 QBR in Week 17 was the best performance by a quarterback vs Green Bay in 2012.

Two factors contributed to Ponder’s ups and downs in those games: vertical passing and third downs.

Ponder attempted six passes thrown 15 yards or more beyond the line of scrimmage in Week 13. The only one that was caught was an interception by the Packers.

In Week 17, however, Ponder was 4-of-5 on such throws, including a 25-yard pass to Michael Jenkins on the final drive that put Minnesota into Packers territory.

Ponder has completed 36.9 percent of those downfield throws in his career, far worse than the league average of 42.3 percent.

He has struggled even more in Green Bay, going 3-of-14 with two interceptions in two games. The difference in his performance on deep throws against the Packers on the road compared to at home is stark, as show in the chart on the right.

The other key for Ponder will be his passing on third down. Ponder was 2-of-7 with two first downs in Week 13 on third down, compared to 8-of-11 passing with six first downs in Week 17.

The improvement was in large part due to a change in defensive strategy against Ponder.

In Week 13, the Packers sent five or more pass rushers after Ponder on 75 percent of his third down dropbacks.

In Week 17 the Packers did the reverse, sending added pressure only one-quarter of the time. Ponder picked apart the Packers secondary when seeing standard pressure but struggled against Green Bay’s blitz on third down.

Peterson is a good bet to run through the Packers defensive front, having already totaled 409 yards rushing against Green Bay this season. But if Ponder is unable to replicate his Week 17 success, Peterson’s yardage in the this weekend might not matter.

Vikings-Packers: What you need to know

January, 1, 2013
The Green Bay Packers host the Minnesota Vikings at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday in the NFC Wild Card Playoffs. Here are eight notes, nuggets and numbers you need to know heading into the matchup:

Familiar foes
The Vikings defeated the Packers to earn a playoff spot in the final week of the regular season. This marks the fifth time over the past 10 seasons that two teams will meet in the Wild Card round after facing off in Week 17. In the previous four occurrences, the regular season winner is 2-2 in the wild-card rematch.

Happy to see you
Adrian Peterson rushed for 409 yards in two games against the Packers this season, including 230 after first contact. No other player had more than 46 yards after contact against Green Bay in 2012 and, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 409 yards are the fourth-most by anyone against one opponent in single-season NFL history.

Lost Lambeau luster
The Packers are just 2-4 in their past six home playoff games after going a 13-0 in the franchise’s first 13 home playoff games. Minnesota will be looking for its first road playoff win since 2004 when it defeated -- you guessed it -- the Packers at Lambeau Field in 2004. That game is the only other time the two teams have met in the postseason.

What ground game?
The Packers have not had a 100-yard rusher since Brandon Jackson in Week 5 of 2010, a stretch of 43 consecutive games. Only three teams have won a Super Bowl without having an individual run for at least 100 yards in at least one game during the regular season. The San Francisco 49ers were the last to do it in 1981.

Rodgers-Cobb connection
Aaron Rodgers has completed 78.4 percent of his pass attempts to Randall Cobb this season, the second-highest rate for any quarterback-wide receiver duo with at least 50 attempts (Peyton Manning-Brandon Stokley: 78.9 percent). Cobb did not play in Week 17 but Rodgers went 6-for-6 when targeting Cobb against the Vikings in Week 13.

Peterson attacks the outside
Adrian Peterson averaged 13.7 yards per rush this season against the Packers on carries outside the tackles, accounting for nearly 37 percent of his total yards on such carries against all teams in 2012.

The Packers allowed 7.0 yards per rush outside the tackles overall this season, the second-highest rate in the NFL.

Just for kicks
Vikings rookie Blair Walsh is 35-38 on field goals in 2012, including a perfect 10-10 on attempts of 50 yards or more. His 10 field goals of at least 50 yards are the most in a single season in NFL history. On the other sideline, Packers kicker Mason Crosby missed 12 field goals this season, tied for second-most in the NFL, and was just 2-9 on attempts of 50 yards or more.

Too close for comfort
The Packers are 1-3 in games decided by three points or fewer this season and 6-14 in such games since Mike McCarthy took over as head coach in 2006. Their .300 win percentage is the worst over that span. The Vikings are 14-9 (.609 win pct) in such games over the same stretch, fifth-best in the league, including a 2-1 mark this season.

Week 17: One for the record books

December, 27, 2012
While Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson have commanded most of the attention to this point, they are not the only NFL players attempting to put a stamp on the record books in Week 17. In fact, there are several records that are much more likely to fall, both on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

Sacks: After sacks became official in 1982, Mark Gastineau established the standard with 22 in 1984. That mark stood until 2001 when New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan broke through for 22.5. Two different players enter Week 17 with a chance to take down Strahan’s record – J.J. Watt of the Houston Texas and the San Francisco 49ers’ Aldon Smith.
Watt leads the NFL with 20.5 sacks this season and needs two sacks to tie Strahan, a number he has hit in six of 15 games played this season. Statistically, his Week 17 opponent should provide him the opportunity, as he’s facing an Indianapolis Colts team against whom he registered three sacks – tied for his most in any individual game this season – in Week 15.

Watt has also disrupted a league-high 35.5 dropbacks this season, the most in the NFL over the last three seasons. Working in his favor is the fact Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has had 135 dropbacks disrupted this season, 26 more than the next-closest quarterback.

Smith, meanwhile, remains at 19.5 sacks after failing to record a sack in either of his last two weeks. Smith needs three sacks to tie Strahan’s mark, something he’s done only once in a game this season (five and a half sacks against the Chicago Bears in Week 11). He registered two sacks against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 8, and working in his favor is the fact that the Cardinals have given up more sacks this season than any team in the NFL (56).

And while he may not end up with the record, no player in the last three seasons has had more success with the standard pass rush – four or fewer rushers – than Smith, who has recorded all 19.5 sacks this way, four more than Jared Allen compiled last season.

Touchdown passes by rookie: While Luck and Robert Griffin III have received the publicity, Russell Wilson is the one who needs a single touchdown pass to tie Peyton Manning’s rookie record of 26 touchdowns set in 1998. Wilson currently stands four touchdown passes ahead of both Luck this season and Cam Newton last season, and his 25 touchdown passes ranks ninth in the NFL this season overall.

Perhaps no quarterback has been as effective as Wilson over the last nine weeks, considering his Total QBR of 88.7 ranks first over that span, while he has also compiled a plus-14 touchdown-to-interception differential since the start of Week 8, second in the NFL to Tom Brady (+15). It’s not all roses, though – Wilson produced a season-low 16.8 Total QBR against the St. Louis Rams in Week 4, including three interceptions and no touchdowns.

Pass attempts: Barring an injury or an extreme shift in play calling, Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions will break Drew Bledsoe’s record for most pass attempts in a single season. Entering Week 17, Stafford needs to throw the ball just seven times to pass Bledsoe, who recorded 691 attempts for the New England Patriots in 1994.