Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Updated: November 24, 2:08 PM ET
Week 12: Numbers Crunching
By Aaron Schatz and Ryan Willson
Each week, Football Outsiders takes a look at every game on the NFL schedule with a mix of interesting numbers and in-depth statistical analysis. Much of the analysis is based on DVOA, which takes every single play during the season and compares it to the league average based on situation and opponent. DVOA and Football Outsiders' other advanced stats are explained here.
All times Eastern
Saints at Panthers, 1 p.m.
Carolina has lost six straight home games, and if New Orleans builds a big lead early, the total should reach seven. The Panthers' defense is the worst in the NFL when trailing by at least a touchdown, and the offense isn't much better (25th).
Carolina's Steve Smith is on pace for his lowest per-game receiving totals since 2002, but he could have a big day against the Saints' secondary. New Orleans is the league's worst defense against No. 1 receivers.
• More Saints-Panthers: Intel Report | EA Simulation
Bills at Jaguars, 1 p.m.
Buffalo's offense ranks 19th on first or second down but 30th on third or fourth down. Jacksonville's defense is 19th on first or second down but seventh on third or fourth down.
One of the quieter trends in the league this year has been Jacksonville's move to a faster, more pass-based offense. Last year, Jacksonville's offense had the slowest situation-neutral pace of any NFL offense since 1998. This year, the Jaguars don't even have one of the 10 slowest offenses in the league -- but Buffalo does. The Bills are the league's slowest team in the first half and rank third in situation-neutral pace.
• More Bills-Jaguars: Intel Report | EA Simulation
Raiders at Chiefs, 1 p.m.
Something has to give: the Raiders are last in the league against the run, and the Chiefs own the worst rushing offense.
Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe leads all rookie wideouts in DVOA, but no team defends No. 1 receivers better than Oakland. If Bowe can't get open, Eddie Kennison could benefit; the Raiders are 31st against No. 2 receivers.
• More Raiders-Chiefs: Intel Report | EA Simulation
Seahawks at Rams, 1 p.m.
Seattle's offense ranks third in the NFL in situation-neutral pace, behind New Orleans and Indianapolis.
Seattle has the best defense in the NFL between the 40-yard lines.
No. 1 receiver Torry Holt has a catch rate of 66 percent, No. 2 receiver Isaac Bruce has a catch rate of 57 percent, and No. 3 receiver Drew Bennett has a catch rate of just 48 percent. (The NFL average for wide receivers is 58 percent.)
• More Seahawks-Rams: Intel Report | EA Simulation
Titans at Bengals, 1 p.m.
The Titans are near the top of the league in almost every defensive measure this year, but they are just average against No. 2 wideouts. The Bengals, of course, have one of the top No. 2 receivers in the NFL, T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
Rudi Johnson has the lowest DVOA of any running back with at least 70 carries. Kenny Watson, behind the same offensive line, ranks sixth out of 47 backs.
• More Titans-Bengals: Intel Report | EA Simulation
Redskins at Buccaneers, 1 p.m.
Washington had the second-best defensive DVOA in the NFL through Week 7. Since Week 8, only Cincinnati and New Orleans have been worse on defense. (Yes, these numbers are adjusted for having to face the Patriots juggernaut and the T.O. Show.)
Washington quarterback Jason Campbell might have trouble getting the ball to his favorite target, tight end Chris Cooley. Tampa Bay defends tight ends better than any team in the NFL.
• More Redskins-Bucs: Intel Report | EA Simulation
Vikings at Giants, 1 p.m.
Do you like old-fashioned teams that pound the rock and stop the run? This is the game for you. Minnesota has the league's best run defense, and on offense, the Vikings' running game (fourth) is far better than their passing game (23rd). The Giants rank seventh in run defense, and on offense, their running game (fifth) is far better than their passing game (20th).
The Vikings will want to run as much as possible to keep the Giants' great defensive ends away from Tarvaris Jackson. The Giants lead the league in sacks, and are third in Adjusted Sack Rate. Nine offenses have more sacks than Minnesota, but the Vikings are 29th in Adjusted Sack Rate because only Buffalo has thrown fewer passes.
• More Vikings-Giants: Intel Report | EA Simulation
Texans at Browns, 1 p.m.
If you like wild fourth-quarter shootouts, this is the game for you. Houston and Cleveland are two of the slowest starting offenses in the league, but both are in the top five in fourth-quarter DVOA. Both defenses are among the NFL's worst in late and close situations (second half, score within a touchdown).
The difference between these teams could come down to special teams. Cleveland ranks first in special teams, and Joshua Cribbs is the NFL's best kick returner, accounting for 29.4 points worth of field position. Houston's special teams are fairly average, although Kris Brown has had a good year kicking field goals.
• More Texans-Browns: Intel Report | EA Simulation
49ers at Cardinals, 4:05 p.m.
San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis wants to get more involved in the offense, but that will be tough against the Cardinals, who rank third in the NFL defending passes to opposing tight ends.
Davis is catching only 59 percent of intended passes -- far below the league average for tight ends, which is 67 percent. Even worse, second tight end Delanie Walker has caught only 35 percent of intended passes. No other tight end with more than 10 passes has a catch rate below 50 percent.
Teams often have a high number of penalties because the crews assigned to their games tend to throw more flags, not because those teams tend to break the rules more often. Arizona seems to be a good example of this; they lead the league with 102 penalties, but they are also third with 86 penalties called against their opponents.
• More 49ers-Cardinals: Intel Report | EA Simulation
Ravens at Chargers, 4:15 p.m.
Bart Scott makes his average run tackle 1.4 yards after the line of scrimmage, closer than any other linebacker in the league with at least 20 run tackles. The Ravens also have the linebackers who rank second and third in this stat: Jarret Johnson and Terrell Suggs.
Just seven quarterbacks with more than 75 pass attempts have a lower DVOA than Baltimore's Steve McNair. One of those players is Kyle Boller. Meanwhile, despite all his struggles, San Diego's Philip Rivers has an above-average DVOA rating this season.
• More Ravens-Chargers: Intel Report | EA Simulation
Broncos at Bears, 4:15 p.m.
The Broncos rank fifth in the NFL in the percentage of their rushing yards that come more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. The Bears have given up more rushing yards on double-digit runs than any other defense.
Denver has the league's best offense this year in third-and-long situations. (Chicago's defense ranks 13th.)
• More Broncos-Bears: Intel Report | EA Simulation
Eagles at Patriots, 8:15 p.m.
No offense is worse in third-and-long DVOA than Philadelphia's, and no team is better in third-and-short. New England's defense ranks second in both situations.
If the Eagles can keep the score within a touchdown in the second half, they may have a chance; their offense is sixth in close and late situations. Of course, the Patriots' average margin of victory is 25.4 points, and only one game was decided by fewer than 17 points.
• More Eagles-Patriots: Intel Report | EA Simulation
Dolphins at Steelers, 8:30 p.m. (Monday, ESPN)
The Steelers have won 12 consecutive home games on Monday night, dating back to 1991. Their offense is fourth in the NFL in DVOA at home, but 20th in DVOA on the road.
Miami's defense ranked 31st in the NFL through Week 7. In the last four weeks, it ranks 12th. Strange as it sounds, the one difference seems to be at middle linebacker, where perennial All-Pro Zach Thomas has sat out the last three games with concussion symptoms and was replaced in the starting lineup by Derrick Pope.
• More Dolphins-Steelers: Intel Report | EA Simulation
Aaron Schatz is president of Football Outsiders Inc. and the lead author of Pro Football Prospectus 2007 and 2008. Ryan Wilson writes for Football Outsiders and Pro Football Prospectus 2008.