Stats & Info: Steve Smith

Top stats to know: 2014 NFL schedule

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23

Jennifer Stewart/Getty ImagesThe 2014 NFL season will culminate at Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Sure it is April, but the 2014 NFL schedule has been released and that means it is time to get ready for a season full of intriguing matchups.

From high-profile veterans facing their former teams, to the 16th meeting between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, here is a look at some of the early highlights of the 2014 season:

Reunion games
DeSean Jackson, Steve Smith, Chris Johnson, Darrelle Revis, Jared Allen and Julius Peppers.

Those are just a handful of veterans released during the off-season who will have a chance to play against their former teams in 2014.

After a career year in 2013, Jackson was released by the Eagles this off-season. He will face the Eagles twice this season (Week 3 in Philadelphia and Week 16 in Washington).

Smith, the Panthers career leader in touchdowns, receptions and receiving yards, promised there would be "blood and guts everywhere" if he faced the Panthers in 2014 after being released by the team in March. As a member of the Baltimore Ravens, Smith will get a crack at the Panthers on Sept. 28 in Baltimore.

Johnson only joined the Jets a little more than a week ago, but he's already slated for a Tennessee reunion. Johnson and the Jets will travel to Tennessee Week 15 to take on the Titans. Johnson has posted six straight 1,000-yard seasons, the longest active streak in the NFL.

Allen signed a 4-year deal with the Bears at the end of March after spending six seasons in Minnesota. Allen led the NFL with 85.5 sacks during his Vikings tenure. Allen will face the Vikings twice this season (Week 11 and Week 17).

Peppers is now on the other side of the NFL's most-played rivalry after signing a three-year deal with the Packers in March just days after being released by the Bears. Peppers totaled 38 sacks in his four seasons in Chicago and made three Pro Bowls.

And a college reunion
Former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly and the Eagles will play the NFC West this season as part of the standard division rotation.

Kelly will have the opportunity to coach against former Pac-10 coaching rivals Pete Carroll (USC) and Jim Harbaugh (Stanford). As a head coach, Kelly was a combined 2-1 against Carroll and Harbaugh with a win over each.

Kelly and the Eagles will also travel to Indianapolis in Week 2 for a Monday Night Football showdown against former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. Kelly's Oregon teams were 2-1 against Stanford during Andrew Luck's collegiate career.

Top games
On Nov. 2, Manning and Brady will meet for the 16th time, including the playoffs, tied for the most between any pair of Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks.

Manning will also face his former team for the second time as the Broncos will host the Colts to open their season. Manning and the Broncos lost to the Colts 39-33 in 2013.

Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, the top two picks in the 2012 draft, will meet for the first time in Week 13. In their young careers, Griffin III is 12-16, while Luck is 22-10.

A rematch of last year's Super Bowl, Broncos-Seahawks, will also take place this season. The Seahawks' 35-point margin of victory in the Super Bowl is tied for the third largest in NFL history.

Analyzing the relationship of NFL couples

February, 14, 2013
Today is Valentine’s Day, when the thoughts of young football fans turn to ... well ... more football.

Stats & Information looks at some NFL couples and lets you know who should stay together, who needs to rebuild their relationship and who might want to spend some time apart.

• Tom Brady and Wes Welker: Free-agent-to-be Welker has 672 receptions since joining the Patriots in 2007, the most for a player over any six-year span in NFL history.

• Eli Manning and Victor Cruz: Cruz, who is slated to become a restricted free agent, has 168 receptions and 19 touchdowns over the last two seasons. Along with Hakeem Nicks, he gives Manning one of the game’s best deep threats in the league.

• Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson: Johnson set an NFL single-season record with 1,964 receiving yards in 2012, while Stafford set an NFL record with 727 pass attempts. These two need to stay together if only to torture statisticians everywhere.

• Tony Romo and Dez Bryant: Early in the season, they didn't appear to be on the same page, but Bryant caught a league-high 10 TD passes from Week 10 until the end of the season.

• Aaron Rodgers and Jermichael Finley: Finley caught a career-high 61 balls in 2012, but just two went for touchdowns. At times it appeared that Rodgers had lost confidence in his tight end and reports have appeared that the Packers might release Finley.

• Cam Newton and Steve Smith: Smith was critical of Newton's sideline demeanor last season, and he could have a point. When trailing in the fourth quarter over the last two seasons, Newton’s QBR of 35.9 is 35th among 45 qualifying quarterbacks.

• Mark Sanchez and Rex Ryan: After going to a pair of AFC Championship games in their first two seasons together, the relationship hasn't worked recently. Sanchez regressed even further in 2012, and has an NFL-high 52 turnovers over the last two seasons.

• Alex Smith and Jim Harbaugh: Harbaugh has turned to the younger Colin Kaepernick. Since Kaepernick took over as the starter in Week 11, his 81.2 Total QBR is second to only Russell Wilson. Smith’s QBR of 54.1 since the start of 2011 is 19th among quarterbacks with at least 500 action plays.

• Matt Cassel and Andy Reid: The Chiefs and Reid’s Eagles were tied with the Jets for the most turnovers in the NFL last season with 37. Cassel struggled with 19 turnovers in just nine games.
Cam Newton
Cam Newton set the NFL record for pass yards in a debut with 422 last week in the Carolina Panthers' loss to the Arizona Cardinals. For an encore, he threw for 432 yards in another loss, this time to the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. His total Sunday was the most by a rookie in NFL history.

The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that Newton is the first player in NFL history to post two consecutive 400-yard passing games in a team’s first two games of a season. He’s also the only player to throw for more than 400 yards in his first two career starts, and he had the record for most pass yards ever, 854, in the first two starts of his NFL career.

Tom Brady, who threw for 517 yards in Week 1, threw for 423 yards in Week 2 to pass Newton for the record.

According to Elias, Newton is just the fifth quarterback in the past 25 years to post consecutive 400-yard games at any point in the season. Since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, his 854 yards are the seventh-most in consecutive games in a single season.

Since the merger, Newton has the second-most pass yards by any quarterback in the first two games of the season, behind Brady and ahead of Kurt Warner, who threw for 827 back in 2000. Warner’s St. Louis Rams went to the playoffs that season, but they also started 2-0.

The Panthers, on the other hand, are 0-2 for the third straight year and are 2-16 in their past 18 games.

One thing that is discouraging for Carolina is that even in the loss last week, Newton found All-Pro receiver Steve Smith early and often. This week, that connection didn’t work as well.

The Packers have won their road opener in six straight seasons, the longest active streak in the NFL and the longest for any team since the Bears won eight straight from 1984 to '91. Donald Driver caught just one pass for 10 yards but passed James Lofton for the most receiving yards in Packers history (9,666).

Aaron Rodgers threw for 308 yards and two touchdowns; he has 620 yards and five touchdowns and no interceptions in the first two games this season. His 620 yards are the most by a Packers quarterback in the first two games of a season since Brett Favre threw for 621 in the first two games of the 1999 season.

Vick caps unique comeback year with award

February, 5, 2011
In July of 2009, Michael Vick was in federal prison. 18-and-a-half months and 12 NFL starts later, he is picking up hardware as the AP's Comeback Player of the Year.

Michael Vick
He won the award after a season in which he set career highs in completion percentage, passing yards, passer rating, pass TD and rush TD. Vick's comeback award doesn't fit the same description as previous winners as his much-chronicled career has gone from 3-time Pro Bowler with the Atlanta Falcons to jail for running and unlawful interstate dog fighting ring and then back to the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles the last two seasons.

You have to go back to 2004 to find a player that won the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year award without coming off an injury or disability. That year, Drew Brees passed for over 3,000 yards for the 12-4 Chargers. The previous season, Brees started the first eight games, was benched for five and then started the last three games before the Chargers traded for Philip Rivers.

Since then, Steve Smith and Tedy Bruschi in 2005, Chad Pennington in 2006 and 2008, Greg Ellis in 2007 and Tom Brady last season, all won the award after suffering an injury or ailment the previous season. Much like Brees playing in 11 games the year before he won the award, Vick appeared in 12 games in 2009, totaling 13 pass attempts and 24 rush attempts.

So what made the post-incarcerated Vick even better than the one that played for the Falcons? He was always known as a mobile quarterback, capable of making throws on the run. But as part of his growth as a quarterback, he was one of the best in the league this season throwing inside the pocket. In fact, all of his numbers were better inside the pocket than out.

Of course, one could say that Vick's ability out of the pocket directly contributed to his growth within. This year, Vick was the ESPN's Next-level award winner for best QB outside the pocket.

Looking even deeper at the numbers that made Vick an MVP candidate in 2010 and a lock for Comeback Player of the Year - he averaged 11.1 yards per pass attempt on 3rd down with 6 or more yards to go (best in the NFL). And his 93.6 passer rating on throws of 21-yards-or-more was 3rd best in the league.