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Thursday, December 27, 2007
Updated: December 29, 10:57 PM ET
Week 17: Numbers Crunching

By Aaron Schatz
Football Outsiders.com

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 (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), which takes every 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.

Seahawks at Falcons (Sunday), 1:00 p.m.

The Seahawks are last in the league with just 60 penalties (including declined and offsetting). The Falcons have more than twice as many (fifth in NFL with 121).

Often, teams without a lot of penalties also don't have many penalties called on their opponents; the low total is less about the teams and more about certain officiating crews that aren't as strict about certain rules. That's not the case with the Seahawks. Seattle opponents have been called for 112 penalties. Only five teams have benefited from more flags thrown on their opponents.

Seattle safety Deon Grant has a stop rate of 74 percent on his 38 run tackles. That's the highest stop rate for any safety with more than 15 run-tackle plays (defined here).
• More Seahawks-Falcons: Intel Report | EA Simulation

Saints at Bears, 1:00 p.m.

Can the Saints get their kicks past Devin Hester?

When the Saints use two or more tight ends, they pass 58 percent of the time, more often than any other offense.
• More Saints-Bears: Intel Report | EA Simulation

Bengals at Dolphins, 1:00 p.m.

Miami cornerback Travis Daniels leads all cornerbacks (minimum 20 plays) in the ratio of run plays made to pass plays made. Teammate Michael Lehan is second, and another Miami cornerback, Will Allen, ranks ninth.

The Bengals use two or more tight ends less often than any other team (just 6.6 percent of offensive plays).

The Bengals blitz six or more defenders more often than any other team (18.5 percent of plays).
• More Bengals-Dolphins: Intel Report | EA Simulation

Lions at Packers, 1:00 p.m.

Green Bay and Detroit rank first and second, respectively, in number of defensive penalties.

Green Bay's offense ranks first in DVOA on third-and-long. Only the Rams defense is worse than the Lions defense on third-and-long.

Lions defensive end Cory Redding has made 29 run tackles, keeping the offense to an average gain of zero yards. The only other defenders who have made their average run tackles at the line of scrimmage have four tackles or fewer.
• More Lions-Packers: Intel Report | EA Simulation

Jaguars at Texans, 1:00 p.m.

Houston's offense has been the NFL's most consistent this year from week-to-week. Their defense is third in consistency behind the Browns and 49ers. Oddly, seven of this year's eight most consistent defenses are below average; the only exception is Dallas.

Only two defenders in the NFL have made their average play behind the line of scrimmage with a minimum of 40 plays: defensive end Trent Cole of the Eagles and defensive end Mario Williams of the Texans. Drop the minimum to 25 plays, and seven defenders have made their average play behind the line of scrimmage. Now the list also includes two Jaguars: end Paul Spicer and tackle Rob Meier.
• More Jaguars-Texans: Intel Report | EA Simulation

Panthers at Buccaneers, 1:00 p.m.

How did the Buccaneers quietly win the NFC South? By playing the field-position game. Tampa Bay starts the average offensive drive on its own 33.4-yard line, the second-best average starting position in the league behind Chicago. The other team's offense starts its average drive against the Tampa Bay defense on its own 26.2-yard line, the best average starting position for any defense in the league.

According to the Football Outsiders game charting project, Tampa Bay averages 11.1 yards per play when using play-action, the best in the league. New England is the only other offense getting more than 10 yards per play with play-action. Carolina averages just 4.8 yards per play when using play-action, which ranks 30th in the league.
• More Panthers-Buccaneers: Intel Report | EA Simulation

Bills at Eagles, 1:00 p.m.

Buffalo has a significant advantage over Philadelphia on special teams. The Bills are sixth overall in our special teams ratings, with positive value in every area of special teams except for net kickoffs. The Eagles are 28th overall in our special teams ratings and have negative value in all five areas of special teams that we measure (field goals, net kickoffs and punts, and kickoff and punt returns).

The Eagles lead the league in DVOA when rushing on first down and are second in yards per carry on first down (5.26) behind the Giants. The Bills defense is 29th in DVOA against the run on first down and 31st in yards per carry allowed on first down (4.92), ahead of only the Raiders.
• More Bills-Eagles: Intel Report | EA Simulation

49ers at Browns, 1:00 p.m.

Rookie San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis has made 166 defensive plays (defined here), 27 more than any other player in the league. The difference between Willis and the player who is second, Denver linebacker D.J. Williams, is larger than the difference between Williams and the player who ranks 19th, St. Louis linebacker Will Witherspoon. Willis is also the only player who has been involved in more than 20 percent of his team's plays.

Cleveland's poor pass rush ranks 31st in the NFL in adjusted sack rate, but San Francisco's offensive line ranks 31st as well.

Kellen Winslow has been called for 12 penalties this year, the most of any offensive "skill position" player. That includes five false starts and four calls for offensive pass interference.
• More 49ers-Browns: Intel Report | EA Simulation

Steelers at Ravens, 4:15 p.m.

Pittsburgh's offense has more running back carries than any other offense and its defense has faced fewer running back carries than any other defense.

Baltimore and Pittsburgh are two of the league's four worst offenses on second-and-long.


• More Steelers-Ravens: Intel Report | EA Simulation

Chargers at Raiders, 4:15 p.m.

The Chargers lead the NFL in value on punt returns and are eighth in value on net punts. The Raiders are last in the league in value on punt returns and are 28th in value on net punts.

San Diego has blitzed only six or more defenders on 3.6 percent of plays, less often than any other defense. Oakland has faced only six or more defenders on 5.0 percent of plays, less often than any other offense.


• More Chargers-Raiders: Intel Report | EA Simulation

Cowboys at Redskins, 4:15 p.m.

Washington runs 38 percent of the time when using three or more wide receivers, more often than any offense except for Indianapolis.

Washington's defense ranks second in DVOA in the first half of games but 26th in DVOA in the second half.

If we cut the field into five 20-yard chunks and analyze each one, Washington's offense and defense are both better between the 40s than in any other area.
• More Cowboys-Redskins: Intel Report | EA Simulation

Rams at Cardinals, 4:15 p.m.

St. Louis throws an interception on 14 percent of drives, more often than any other offense. Arizona throws an interception on 13 percent of drives, which ranks second behind St. Louis.

St. Louis is the league's worst defense against the pass on third down. Arizona is the league's worst defense against the run on third down.
• More Rams-Cardinals: Intel Report | EA Simulation

Vikings at Broncos, 4:15 p.m.

Minnesota's offense is below-average on both first down and third down. But the Vikings are the fourth-best offense in the league on second down, primarily because of their running game. The Vikings average 7.1 yards per carry on second down. No other team averages more than 5.4 yards per carry on second down and only two other teams (Denver and Seattle) average more than 4.6 yards per carry on second down.

In 58 runs on second-and-10 or longer, the Vikings are averaging 9.8 yards per carry. The Vikings have scored five rushing touchdowns on second-and-10 or longer. The other 31 NFL teams have combined for six rushing touchdowns on second-and-10 or longer.

In the first eight games of the year, through his record-setting game against the Chargers in Week 9, Adrian Peterson averaged 6.4 yards per carry with a 50 percent success rate. Since Week 10, Peterson has averaged just 3.8 yards per carry with a 32 percent success rate. (This has less to do with Peterson hitting a "rookie wall" and more to do with Peterson hitting a "nine-men-in-the-box" wall.)
• More Vikings-Broncos: Intel Report | EA Simulation

Chiefs at Jets, 4:15 p.m.

The Jets have gained an estimated 16.0 points worth of field position from good kickoff returns, second in the league behind Cleveland. The Chiefs have lost an estimated 15.3 points worth of field position from bad kickoff returns, the worst figure in the league.

The Chiefs have the league's worst offense on second-and-short (1-3 yards to go). The Jets have the league's worst defense in the same situation.

Over the entire season, the Jets have been called for defensive offsides, neutral zone infraction or encroachment only once: Jonathan Vilma in Week 5 against the Giants.
• More Vikings-Broncos: Intel Report | EA Simulation

Titans at Colts, 8:15 p.m.

Tennessee's Rob Bironas leads all kickers in value on field goals, where he has scored 8.5 more points than the average kicker would if given the same opportunities. Indianapolis' Adam Vinatieri is in last place among all kickers, scoring 11.7 points less than the average kicker would if given the same opportunities. Bironas has hit 11 field goals of 40 yards or more this season, with only two misses. Vinatieri doesn't have a single field goal from 40 yards or more, but he has three misses.

While the Titans have been great against the run this year, they struggle to stop opponents on short-yardage runs. They've allowed conversions on 77 percent of runs in power situations (third down, fourth down or the goal line with 1-2 yards to go), which ranks 29th in the NFL. The Colts have converted 77 percent of runs in power situations, better than any other offense.
• More Titans-Colts: Intel Report | EA Simulation

Aaron Schatz is president of Football Outsiders Inc. and the lead author of Pro Football Prospectus 2007 and 2008.