NFL Week 4 Stat Notes

GAME STATS HELP ADD CONTEXT TO WILD WEEKEND IN NFL

It was a crazy week in the NFL, with wild finishes and badly timed turnovers wreaking havoc on the scoreboard. If you're trying to pick winners for this coming week's action, it's best to know which teams established true statistical dominance last week. You can't count on turnovers bailing you out every week!

As we'll do every Wednesday through the month, let's go game-by-game through the prior week's schedule to make note of important stat developments that you may have missed. If you're scoreboard watching all day to root for your bets...or if you're checking the highlight shows to see how the guys on your fantasy team were doing....you're likely to miss many of the major developments that will influence who wins and loses this week and beyond.

  • Dallas obviously handed away a game they should have dominated against Detroit. Tony Romo threw three touchdown passes to the wrong team. In some key stats, Dallas won total yardage 434-303, rushing yardage 113-63, and yards-per-play 5.8 to 5.3. The Dallas defense held Detroit to just 30% on third down conversions, and only allowed one scoring drive of 60 yards or more. This Dallas defense is better than the final score of 34-30 would suggest...and the Detroit offense has shown it's prone to play flat games in sandwich spots. Romo bailed out the Lions.

  • New Orleans was much more dominant in Jacksonville than the 23-10 final score made it sound. Total yardage was 503-274, and yards-per-play was 6.2 to 4.4. Third Downs went to the Saints 50% to 26%. This was basically a 34-10 rout with a couple of turnovers and stalled drives getting in the way. Jacksonville played more like a doormat than you might have realized.

  • So much went on in the San Francisco-Philadelphia game that it's hard to capture in stats. Has anyone ever seen a running back on a line plunge try to throw a backward pass as he's falling down? Maybe they need to put a question about that on the Wonderlic test. You may have heard some pundits suggesting that Philadelphia needed to change its offensive schematic to better protect Michael Vick. This after Philadephia gained 513 total yards 405 passing yards, and 7.5 yards-per-play against a good defense. Meanwhile, the defense allowed 164 rushing yards and 7.2 yards-per-play to a horrible offense. Yeah right, it's the Philadelphia offense that needs fixing. PLEASE! The Eagles do need to be smarter regarding turnovers. But, it's the defense that was blown off the field in the second half.

  • We've been pretty down on Sam Bradford of the St. Louis Rams. The media was dishonest in the extreme last year as they hyped him. He was putting up unimpressive stats vs. the softest schedule in the league. The schedule toughened this year, and he's playing like just another Blaine Gabbert. Bradford was 20-43-0-127 in the air...which is almost impossible to do. How can you throw for 127 yards on 43 attempts? Please stop thinking the Rams are a danger team with a hot young quarterback. They're a legitimate 0-4 with nothing but pour outings. Yards-per-play was 4.9 to 2.6 for Washington.

  • Tennessee has the look of a champion on some stats...but there are question marks in others. The good news...the Titans won yards-per-play 6.6 to 4.8, long distance scoring 21-7, and they played nearly flawless ball with just one turnover and no sacks taken. The bad news...the third down conversion rate was just 33%, meaning they were relying a bit too much on the big play. Champions grind, and ALSO get big plays. You can't count on big plays by themselves falling from the heavens every week. There is a record rather than a stat that's misleading in this one. Cleveland falls to 2-2 with the loss...but is playing much more like a 1-3 type team...or a 5-11 or 6-10 caliber team for the whole season. One win came very late against 0-4 Miami...while the other was a cakewalk against 0-4 Indianapolis who may have been in the tank. A close loss to Cincinnati...and a blowout home loss here. The Colt McCoy experiment looks bleaker by the week. The offense scored just 13 points in a game where he threw 61 passes.

  • Cincinnati was much more dominant over Buffalo than the 23-20 final score made it sound. The Bills had a defensive touchdown which helped disguise many ills if you were just scoreboard watching. Cincinnati won total yardage 458-273, rushing yardage 171-83, and yards-per-play 6.5 to 4.9. Buffalo's offense managed just 28% on third down tries. This was clearly a letdown performance for the Bills after their 3-0 start and upset of the Patriots. It may be better to think of this as a 27-10 type loss for Buffalo. They played much flatter than 23-20 would suggest.

  • Not much to say about Minnesota-Kansas City. The Chiefs won a close, hardfought 22-17 game in a battle of 0-3 teams. Both teams played like they cared. Neither was good enough to shake the other. Somebody had to win. It does look like Kansas City won't be satisfied for the time being to just blow off games and lose by five touchdowns any more. Maybe that's in the future of this disappointed Minnesota team. Donovan McNabb has been running on fumes for a few years...and eventually everybody's going to realize that.

  • Carolina is a unique animal. They're 1-3 with an offense that really piles up the yardage and doesn't make too many mistakes. This suggests that defenses are giving Cam Newton some things in the middle of the field while trying to keep control of the scoreboard. Chicago did bring pressure on third downs this week, resulting in just a 2 of 12 conversion rate. That's REALLY an odd combo..543 total yards but 2 of 12 on third downs. Jay Cutler was just 9-17-1-93 passing. There are reports that Mike Martz wanted to shut up critics by just running the ball all day. What's he going to do now that they won the game with that approach?! Taking the ball out of Cutler's hands is a good strategy in close games.

  • Houston certainly has the look of a playoff team this year. We don't mean the New England/Green Bay style of team that they used to emulate. They're much more of a smash mouth team in the mold of Baltimore and Pittsburgh. You could see that here in a 17-10 defensive struggle that had Houston winning the game on the ground offensively, and by getting five sacks of Ben Roethlisberger. Looks like the Houston-Tennessee battle could become very interesting in the AFC South.

  • Atlanta continues to disappoint the year after being a #1 seed in 2010. They did hold on to get a 30-28 win. But, the defense was stunningly bad considering they were facing the helpless Seattle offense. Seattle gained 7.0 yards per play, had 21 points on long drives, and passed for over 300 yards even though it was still Tavaris Jackson throwing the ball. What's Drew Brees going to do against the Atlanta defense in divisional battles? Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay gets to see them this week! Let's not forget the offense. A great first half was followed by just six points in the second half when the game was on the line. If not for a fortunate finish vs. Philadelphia, the Falcons would be a 1-3 team everyone was wondering about rather than the Eagles.

  • The Giants and Cardinals played a very evenly matched game that was probably destined to flip-flop back and forth for eternity if a game clock didn't bring festivities to an end. Home field means something...so the Giants should be about a field goal better in your Power Ratings. Is that good enough to make the playoffs? The road win over Philadelphia could ultimately loom large in tie-breakers. We're not all that excited about this Giants team...but we have lifted them in our ratings over the last few weeks. Kevin Kolb has been an upgrade at quarterback for Arizona...but the kind of upgrade that just gives you new headaches in different areas.

  • San Diego had blowout stats...but couldn't win a blowout against Miami. They had a turnover edge of 2-0, which should be about +8 points on the scoreboard right there. They only won by 10 points in a game with that 2-0 turnover edge AND a 411-248 yardage edge, a 6.7 to 4.5 ypp edge, and a 50-30% edge in third down conversions. This was more like a 31-13 game, or even worse. That being said, San Diego isn't getting as much out of its yardage as you'd expect this year...and that's likely to mean something against better opposition. Their three wins have come against Miami, Kansas City, and Minnesota (0-10 when not playing each other). The loss in New England saw them score just 21 points against a very soft Patriots defense. Tough to fly into the playoffs on field goals.

  • You get the sense that Green Bay's defense just relaxes with big leads...allowing opponents to run out the clock with their own offense. That could yield some bad reads down the road. We'll have to keep an eye on that. Denver really shouldn't get 6.9 ypp on the road against this defense. It ONLY happened because it was a garbage time game most of the way.

  • New England's win in Oakland wasn't quite as impressive as it seemed. This wasn't "restoring the natural order." It was catching two turnover breaks against a team that was moving at will. Oakland actually won total yardage 504-409, and ypp 7.6 to 6.7. Brady is always going to be a stud. The defense is in big trouble given what we've seen so far. Tough to string together playoff wins with a soft defense in colder weather...and it's hard to play mistake-free on offense in January too. Does New England have to re-learn that every year? The dynasty teams under Bill Belichick played defense!

  • Where do we begin with the Sunday Night game in Baltimore? How about we start by taking out all the non-offensive touchdowns. That moves a 34-17 final score to 13-3 for the Ravens. The stats are much more in line with that kind of game. The Jets had no offense on the night, gaining just 150 yards on 2.7 ypp. The Ravens weren't much better at 267 and 3.7. So...think of this as a 13-3 offensive debacle, and you'll have a better sense of the evening. Mark Sanchez and Joe Flacco were a combined 21-66-2-267 in the air...which may be the single worst passing game every played in adequate weather conditions. Those are monsoon or blizzard stats (worse actually). The media has so much invested in telling you how great Sanchez and Flacco are going to be that they're underplaying the incompetence to some degree. Even when they're being critical...they're not being as critical as those numbers would dictate. Be careful with the Ravens bandwagon. Flacco is STILL a guy who puts up great stats vs. losing teams, but horrible stats vs. good teams as a general rule.

  • Tampa Bay was more dominant at the point of attack than the scoreboard flow would have suggested this past Monday night. The Colts did bust loose with a couple of big pass plays when the Bucs fell asleep. Total yardage was 466-318 for Tampa Bay even with those two long TD's in the mix. Rushing yardage was 192-62, which tells a potent story in a close game (Tampa Bay wasn't running out the clock the whole second half with a lead...they won rushing yardage by more than a 3-1 margin in a tight game). The Colts are still a 4-12 type team or worse (possibly performing some late game limbo the last two weeks to stay in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes). Tampa Bay might be 3-1 in your newspaper standings...but they're sure playing like a 7-9 type team or worse. Everybody's beating the Vikings and Colts. The win over disappointing Atlanta was a home nailbiter. A playoff caliber team would turn a 192-62 rushing edge into a game that wasn't in doubt in the fourth quarter.

That wraps up our look at last week's NFL. We hope what you learned today will help you pick winners this Sunday and Monday. Note that we have our first bye week of the 2011 season. Baltimore, Cleveland, Dallas, Miami, St. Louis, and Washington are all off this week. The showcase games on the schedule are Philadelphia at Buffalo early Sunday, NY Jets at New England in the afternoon national TV window, Green Bay at Atlanta in the Sunday Night game on NBC, and Chicago at Detroit next Monday Night on ESPN.

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