With Playoff Hopes Decreasing, Here Are Draft Defensive Backs to Keep An Eye On

Week 14 of the NFL season is here and with it comes the disappointment of teams falling out of playoff contention. While only a fortunate two teams make the Super Bowl many others strive and focus on making the playoffs.

Compared to other major league sports NFL teams have a relatively tough chance of making the playoffs. In Major League Baseball (MLB) 10 of 30 teams make the playoffs or 33%. In the National Football League (NFL) 12 or 32 teams or 38% make the playoffs.  The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) has 8 of 12 teams make the playoffs or 67%.  Major League Soccer (MLS)  is composed of 23 teams and 12 teams make the playoffs or  52%.  The National Basketball Association (NBA) is composed of 30 teams with 16 teams making the playoffs for 53%. Finally the National Hockey League (NHL) is composed of 31 teams and 16 teams make the playoffs for 52%.

Following Sunday’s games of week fourteen six teams have been eliminated from playoff contention. They are the Jets, Jaguars, Raiders, Bills, Cardinals and 49ers.

In anticipation of the growing disappointment among NFL fans hoping for a playoff spot and the conclusion of the college football regular season, I decided to take a look at the NFL draft. The consolation prize that helps soothes a lost season. I started out by looking at the defensive players available. For the most part I did not include underclassmen that have not declared. I started looking at the defensive backs and will move on to linebackers and defensive linemen in future posts.

I looked at performance data for the 2018 college season. The criteria used was “market share data”. This is the evaluation of a player’s performance compared to the rest of their team. If a defensive end had 10 sacks for the season on a team that achieved 40 sacks then that player had a 25% sacks market share.  Research has shown a correlation between college market share production and NFL Pro-Bowl production.

Shown for each player are their 2018 totals for solo tackles, interceptions and passes defensed as well as their corresponding team market share (ms). For all players that met the market share thresholds I took the mean and standard deviation for the group in each category and then summed their standard deviations across all three categories. The sum of this standard deviation is shown. A higher sum is better. Keep in mind that these sums are relative to a group that meets the threshold criteria. So even with a low negative sum the player is still statistically speaking a good player.

Defensive Backs

The Top 100

Cornerback Deandre Baker of Georgia

Height: 5’11” | Weight: 185 lbs
Solo Tackles: 31 (7.9% ms)
Interceptions: 2 (5% ms)
Passes Defended: 9 (47.4% ms)
Sum Std Deviation: +0.40

Winner of the 2018 Jim Thorpe Award; AP First Team All-SEC; A two and a half year starter, Baker has accumulated 82 solo tackles, 7 interceptions and 23 passes defended over three seasons. ESPN’s Todd McShay had this to say “This dude is one of the more instinctive corners I’ve evaluated in years, and he is so tough for his size”. Other evaluators have questioned his top-end speed. However he has played in most schemes, is a physical player that tackles hard, and shows good ball skills. He is considered a ballhawk in off-man and zone coverage. In 2017 Baker allowed a completion rate of just 30.5 percent.

Cornerback Andraez “Greedy” Williams of LSU

Height: 6’3” | Weight: 184 lbs
Solo Tackles: 23 (6% ms)
Interceptions: 2 (5.3% ms)
Passes Defended: 9 (22.5% ms)
Sum Std Deviation: -2.78

Two year starter, red-shirt sophomore at LSU; One of fourteen semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award; 2017 Third Team All-America (AP), 2017 First Team All-SEC (Media). Per Pro Football Focus in 2017 Williams fielded the SEC’s lowest passer rating when targeted (22.9).  Noted for ball skills when turned around to the ball, and athleticism. Questions arise on tackling, ball tracking on deep passes, and handling physical receivers.

Cornerback Amani Oruwariye of Penn State

Height: 6’1” | Weight: 203 lbs
Solo Tackles: 37 (7% ms)
Interceptions: 3 (6.4% ms)
Passes Defended: 11 (39.3% ms)
Sum Std Deviation: -0.38

Amani made the 2018 AP Big-Ten First Team. He was one of 14 semi-finalists for the 2018 Jim Thorpe Award which is presented to the best defensive back in NCAA division I football. Amani is a redshirt senior that got his first start in 2018 and started nine games. Amani is noted for his strong awareness, ability to anticipate, and consistently break up pass plays. His area for improvement is tackling – being capable but inconsistent and allowing yards after contact.

Safety Juan Thornhill of Virginia

Height: 6’0” | Weight: 210 lbs
Solo Tackles: 58 (14.9% ms)
Interceptions: 5 (15.2% ms)
Passes Defended: 6 (13.0% ms)
Sum Std Deviation: +3.64

2018 All-ACC First Team; Three year starter that led team in interceptions all three seasons. He has been in the top ten in the ACC in interceptions for all three seasons. Out of 130 NCAA Division I colleges Virginia’s defense ranked 16th in opponent passer rating and 20th in opponent passing completion percentage. Thornhill was named twice in 2018 to ACC defensive back of the week. At Virginia’s strength program Thornhill posted a 40.5″ vertical jump and a 6.59 second three cone drill. Those numbers would have been in the top ten among all participants at the 2018 scouting combine. Thornhill has played both corner and safety. UVa coach Bronco Mendenhall says “He covers like a corner, he tackles really well at safety,…He has great range and ball skills.”

Day 3 Gems

Safety Saquan Hampton of Rutgers

Height: 6’1” | Weight: 208 lbs
Solo Tackles: 44 (10.4% ms)
Interceptions: 3 (9.7% ms)
Passes Defended: 13 (39.4% ms)
Sum Std Deviation: +2.27

In the Big Ten Hampton’s career 20 passes defended is 25th since 2005 and fourth best in the Big Ten in 2018. In November 2018 Hampton was named unanimous All-Big Ten Honorable Mention by coaches and media. Hampton was a three year starter at Rutgers and a team captain as senior. Hampton has experience playing corner in high school.  He earned Reese Senior Bowl Defensive Player of the week honors in the Rutgers – Wisconsin game for his 10 tackle, two interception performance. The Reese scout in attendance liked Hampton’s ball skills and his deep field instincts. “He looked natural playing the ball” and he “…consistently put himself in the position to make plays”.

Undrafted Free Agent Steals

Cornerback Nate Brooks of North Texas

Height: 6’0” | Weight: 180 lbs
Solo Tackles: 43 (10% ms)
Interceptions: 5 (14.7% ms)
Passes Defended: 9 (31% ms)
Sum Std Deviation: +2.77

One of fourteen semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award. A four year starter at North Texas.  Nate was a Pro Football Focus 2018 Second Team All Conference USA. Also Nate was 2018 All Conference USA Second Team. Nate joined Juan Thornhill and Kemon Hall in a six player tie for seventh place in the nation for interceptions in 2018.  Twice during North Texas career was named Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week including a two interception, six tackle and one pass breakup game in 2018.  Defensively North Texas is in the top 17% of teams nationwide for opponent pass completion and opponent passer rating.

Cornerback Kemon Hall of North Texas

Height: 5’11” | Weight: 190 lbs
Solo Tackles: 35 (8.2% ms)
Interceptions: 5 (14.7% ms)
Passes Defended: 12 (41.4% ms)
Sum Std Deviation: +2.86

Hall made Conference USA 2018 first Team, as well as Pro Football Focus All-Conference USA Team of the Year First Team.  Hall is tie for first nationally for interceptions returned for a touchdown with two in 2018. He is in a six way tie for seventh in the nation with five interceptions in 2018.

Cornerback Dakari Monroe of San Jose State

Height: 5’11” | Weight: 191 lbs
Solo Tackles: 32 (6.4% ms)
Interceptions: 4 (14.8% ms)
Passes Defended: 14 (41.2% ms)
Sum Std Deviation: +1.99

Monroe was selected Mountain West Player of the Week in their win over UNLV. In that game Monroe had two interceptions (one for a touchdown), two pass break ups and six tackles. He was selected by Pro Football Focus for the Mountain West Conference (MWC) team of the week in the loss to Colorado State. In that game Monroe had four pass break ups and three solo tackles. He was first in the MWC in interceptions with four in 2018. San Jose beat writer, Victor Aquino, had this to say about Monroe – “Then defensive back Dakari Monroe has always been a smooth operator to me with pro potential as well. He hits, covers big men and fast guys all with relative ease it seems.”

Cornerback Lee Moses of University of Massachusetts

Height: 5’11” | Weight: 193 lbs
Solo Tackles: 32 (7.4% ms)
Interceptions: 3 (12.5% ms)
Passes Defended: 7 (41.2% ms)
Sum Std Deviation: +1.80

A three year starter at UMass. Phil Steele’s 2016 Postseason All-Independent Second Team and his 2018 Pre-Season All-Independent Second Team. In the top ten of Independent Conference Passes Defended for all three years starting. Moses is number 5 on career passes defended Independent Conference since 2005 with 19 passes defended. Lee Moses has played both safety and corner at UMass.

Cornerback Anthoula Kelly of Fresno State

Height: 5’10” | Weight: 183 lbs
Solo Tackles: 45 (9.2% ms)
Interceptions: 3 (11.5% ms)
Passes Defended: 16 (29.6% ms)
Sum Std Deviation: +1.30

Two year starter at Fresno State. Number three in the nation in passes defended with 16 in 2018. In 2018 had an interception returned for a touchdown. At mid-point in 2018 Kelly was one of a trio of Fresno State defensive backs that form the  core of what is Pro Football Focus’s sixth-highest graded coverage team. Kelly was their ninth graded cornerback.

The Data

These are the standouts in a group that meet the market share thresholds. I have attached a spreadsheet of data that is composed of all defensive back players that meet the thresholds. The defensive backs sheet looked at solo tackles, interceptions and passes defended. The thresholds used are listed at the top on the line Min Target. Also shown in the first column is nfldraftscout.com’s position rank for the player in the 2019 NFL draft.

defense market share DBs

Don’t Write-Off These NFL Underdogs

Since 2001 twenty-four teams have gone from last in their division to first in their division the following year. Three times one went on to win the Super Bowl. Since my beloved Giants are currently a bottom dweller, I thought I would look at the five lowest ranked teams based on current projected 2019 draft order and see what rays of hope exist. Here are the current projected top five draft teams and what is good about their team this season that could surprise a team this year or turn it around next year.

San Francisco 49ers

Run the Ball, Stop the Run

The 49ers rank second in long rushing plays (20+ yards) with 13 plays through week 12. Matt Brieda, an undrafted free agent in 2017, has 896 yards from  scrimmage and a 3rd best yards per rushing attempt at 5.81 yards. He was a speedy back at his pro day earning a 40 yard dash time of 4.39 which would have been second best among backs at the combine. His 6.85 at the three-cone would have been third best among backs at the combine, and a 4.34 in the 20-yard shuttle lined up as 8th best at the combine.

Another undrafted free agent to watch is 2017 UDFA running back Jeff Wilson. He was recently promoted from the practice squad. Wilson had very impressive stats in college. In his senior year Wilson had upper percentile numbers in red zone TDs (32%), 1st down percent (31%), long plays percent (22%) and touchdown percent (7.5%). He averaged 6.46 yards per rush. His one outstanding flaw was a high fumble rate.

Opening up holes for Brieda and Wilson will be 2018 first round pick tackle Mike McGlinchey. Known coming out of college as an “earth-mover as a drive blocker”, he was a two-year team captain and known as a lunch-pail worker. Pro-Football Focus has McGlinchey graded as the top graded rookie offensive lineman.

On the flip side the 49 defense has allowed just 5 rushing plays of 20+ yards. That is tied for fifth best in the league. A player contributing to this is the run defense of defensive end Arik Armstead. According to Pro Football Focus, Armstead’s 84.4 run-defense grade ranks sixth among all edge defenders.

Tight end George Kittle was a fifth round pick in the 2017 draft. He ranks third among tight ends in yards with 823 yards and has three touchdowns. His 9.8 yards per target ranks fifth among tight ends with 30 or more targets. Kittle has had 84 targets which is third most among tight ends. Through week 9 Pro-Football Focus rated Kittle as the third best run blocking grade among tight ends in the league. His nfl.com draft profile included “..one of the better blocking tight ends in this draft.” Kittle had the third fastest 40-yard dash among tight ends at the combine.

Oakland Raiders

It’s almost exciting to think about all the room for improvement that we have.” — Geno Smith in 2014 on the Jets.

Center Rodney Hudson may be the best pass-protecting center in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus through week nine Hudson had given up only two pressures all season. Pro Football Focus has him graded as the top pass blocking center and third overall.

Tankathon.com has the Raiders listed as having ten 2019 NFL draft picks with three in the first round as well as two first rounders in 2020. Their 2019 draft capital is listed as the highest among all teams with the next team 700 points below.

Arizona Cardinals

No Passing Zone

Cornerback Patric Peterson was a top five pick in the 2011 draft. Since then he has been a yearly Pro-Bowler. In his eighth season he has accumulated over his career 21 interceptions and 71 passes defended. According to Pro Football Focus this season he owns the NFL’s second-best passer rating when targeted (57.1) and has allowed all of 189 yards all season long.

Defensive end Chandler Jones is fourth in the league with 11 sacks on the year. As of week 11, Chandler Jones led the league in disrupted drop-backs per ESPN . A disrupted drop-back is a passing down in which the player got a sack, interception, batted pass or defended pass. Jones led with a 4% with the next closest defender being Aaron Donald at 3.4%.

The Cardinals are fourth in the league in opponent passing yards per game with 219.8 yards. They are second in the NFL with a 19.3 disrupted drop-back percentage. They sacked Patrick Mahomes five times – a season high for him. The Cardinals held the Chiefs to 212 passing yards, which is the Chief’s lowest thru week 12. The Cardinals are sixth in the NFL in passing touchdowns allowed at 16. They are third in the NFL in passing plays of 20+ yards allowed with 30.

New York Jets

Hope springs eternal especially with rookie first round quarterbacks and a lights out safety.

Safety Jamal Adams was the sixth selection in the 2017 NFL draft. He is a versatile player that has lined up as a deep safety, a box safety, a linebacker position, a slot corner and as an outside corner. He excels across the board. This season Jamal has 12 passes defended which is 4th in the NFL. Through week 11 Adams had the most run stops for a safety (19) as well as the highest run stop percentage for a safety at 7.09%. Pro Football Focus picked Jamal Adams as the best box safety in the league. Adams is a team leader and earned a captaincy in his second season.

Through week twelve the Jets have allowed only 62.4% of pass completions. That is good for sixth best in the league. Their opponent average passer rating of 90.1 is ninth best.

Kicker Jason Meyers has made 92% of his field goal attempts which is good for seventh in the league for kickers with a minimum 10 attempts. He has scored 89 points this season which is sixth among kickers. Meyers leads the league in 50+ yard field goals made with five. He holds the fifth longest field goal of 56 yards.

Rookie tight end Chris Herndon has the tenth best yards per targets (9.24 yards) among tight ends with a minimum 12 targets. Among that group his catch percentage of 76.5% is also tenth best. His 3 receiving touchdowns is tie for ninth among tight ends.

New York Giants

Explosive offense that needs more consistency and a killer instinct

Saquon Barkley has the third highest yards from scrimmage (1,410) and highest total with zero fumbles. Saquon is on track to be one of only three nfl players of all time with over 2,000 yards from scrimmage in their rookie season. Barkley averages 3.54 yards after contact, fifth-most in the league, and leads all running backs with 25 missed tackles forced, according to Pro Football Focus. The Giants rank sixth in explosive rushing plays of 20+ yards with 11. Barkley is fifth in rushing touchdowns with eight. He ranks 11th in rushing yards per attempt (4.85 yards) among backs with over 100 attempts. Saquon Barkley has been in on 84.5% of the offensive snap counts which is fourth most among running backs.

Eli Manning has the 8th best completion percentage (69.1%) and the 11th best Interception percentage (1.75%). Both are career best. His quarterback rating of 96.2 is also a career best. The Giants are 10th in passing plays of 20+ yards (41 plays) and 7th in passing plays of 40+ yards (9 plays). The Giants are tie for 7th in turnover giveaways with only 12. They are one of eight teams (top 25%) that have two or more receivers with each over 500 yards receiving and with a catch percentage of greater than 64%. Beckham and Sterling Shepard have each been in on just over 93% of offensive snaps which is 6th and 7th among wide receivers. That is the most by any receiving duo in the league. Eli Manning sits at 11th place in all time 4th quarter comebacks. This year the Giants’ 4th quarter points/game is 8.5 which is tie for 5th best in the league. Last year it was 4.4 points/game which was 28th in the league.

Kicker Aldrick Rosas is one of fourteen kickers perfect on extra points. Rosas has the fifth best field goal percentage (95.8%) and the fifth most attempts. He is perfect on field goals within 50 yards.

There it is. I think all five have reason for hope. The Raiders with a beast at center and a ton of draft picks, the Jets with a Pro-Bowl safety and a potential franchise quarterback, the 49ers with a solid run game and a returning potential franchise quarterback next year, the Cardinals with a strong pass defense and a potential franchise quarterback, and lastly my Giants with an explosive set of offensive weapons and a quarterback that can still sling it.

As the season winds down only 12 of the 32 teams will make the playoffs, only 4 will make the Conference Championship, only 2 will make the Super Bowl and only one will win. For all the other teams and their fans remember the following quote.

I’ve missed more than 900 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan, six-time NBA champion

Enjoy the week 13 games!

Why the Giants can beat the Eagles.

The Eagles have had the Giant’s number lately. You need to go back five seasons for the last Giant victory over the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. That should change Sunday as the Giants can beat the Eagles at home. It would be the first three game Giants win streak since November 2016.

One could look at five key areas that determine a team’s success. Typically these areas are evaluated from both an offensive and defensive view and evaluated as a differential between getting and giving up. The areas in order of importance per Football Study Hall article football study hall article are

1) Explosiveness – measured by big plays of 20+ yards.
2) Efficiency – success value for each play.
3 – tie) Field position – starting field position for each change of possession.
3 – tie) Finishing Drives – points scored per drive.
5) Turnovers – interceptions and fumbles.

Based on the combined stats thru week 11, the Giants beat the Eagles in four of the five areas. They significantly beat the Eagles in explosiveness and turnovers.

In explosiveness the Giants rank tied at 19th in the league while the Eagles are 31st. The Giants have a minus two 20+ yards play differential to the Eagles minus 15. The Giants have had 37 passing plays of 20+ yards and 9 rushing plays. The Eagles have had 30 passing plays and 5 rushing plays. On defense the both given up 41 passing plays and on rushing plays the Giants gave up 7 to the Eagles giving up 9. Explosive plays differential has been weighted as the most valued area of the five. The top five teams in explosiveness differential in order from top are the
1) Bears,
2) Chiefs,
3) Chargers,
4) Rams and
5) the Saints.

Efficiency is the measure of success of each play. How many yards were gained (or if points were scored) for a play correlated with what down it was. For efficiency I used Football Outsiders statistics. Through week 11 the Giants are 21st in net efficiency in the league and the Eagles are 23rd. The Giants best group is special teams with the 11th ranked efficiency value. The Eagles are ranked 22nd across the board (offense, defense and special teams) in efficiency. The Giants rank 18th in offensive efficiency and 8th in defensive efficiency. The top five teams for overall efficiency are
1) Chiefs,
2) Rams,
3) Bears,
4) Saints, and
5) Chargers.

In field position differential the Giants are 17th in the league and the Eagles are 23rd. The Giants opponent starts on average at the 27 yard line which is 11th best in the league. The Giants field position differential is minus 0.34 yards to the Eagles minus 1.77 yards. The top five teams on starting position differential are the
1) Saints,
2) Chiefs,
3) Texans,
4) Rams, and
5) Dolphins.

Of the five areas the Eagles beat the Giants is in finishing drives. However I was surprised to see that this is not true on offense. It is on defense that the Giants fall short of the Eagles. The Giants rank 27th in finishing drives with a minus 0.46 points per drive to the Eagles minus 0.32 points per drive. The Giants rank 19th in offense points per drive with a plus 1.97 to the Eagle that rank 24th with a plus 1.83 points per drive. On defense the Giants rank 27th giving up 2.43 points per drive to the Eagles rank of 20th giving up 2.15 points per drive. The top five teams in points per drive differential are the
1) Saints,
2) Chiefs,
3) Bears,
4) Rams,and
5) Chargers.

In turnover differential the Giants are tied for 15th in the league with a turnover differential of plus two. The Eagles are tied for 28th in the league with a minus nine differential. The Giants have given up only 11 turnovers in 10 games which is tied for ninth best in the league. The Eagles’ defense has taken away only 7 turnovers which is roughly half of the Giants 13 and the Eagles’ seven is ranked tied for 29th in the league. The top five teams for turnover differential are the
1) Bears
2) Browns
3) Redskins
4) Rams, and
5) Seahawks.

Overall based on the weighted formula proposed in the football study hall article the Giants rank 23rd in the league with a 13.00. The Eagles rank 29th in the league with a 6.85. That is a significant difference in total score.The overall weighted formula of each team’s individual inverse rank per category is

35% (explosiveness rank) + 25% (efficiency rank) + 15% (Field Position rank) + 15% ( finish drives rank) + 10% (turnovers rank)

The rankings from best to worst with scores are

Formula Rankings
Formula Rankings

Based on this analysis the Giants have a definite winnable game Sunday against the Eagles. I am in the win as many games as you can camp and let the draft unfold as it falls out. No guarantees a higher pick would be a better pick.

Attached here is the full data on all teams through week 11.

Statistics Through Week 11

Everything is Not What It Seems

Invasion of the Body Snatchers “You know her uncle, Uncle Ira?…Well Miles, she’s got herself thinking he isn’t her uncle. She thinks he’s an imposter or something.”

What teams are better or worse than what the records and standings indicate. Here are three teams on both sides that are masquerading based on differential metrics of

  1. Explosiveness (20+ yard plays)
  2. Turnovers
  3. Starting Field Position
  4. Finishing Drives
  5. Drive Efficiency

Better Than Appear

Seattle Seahawks

Currently 3-3 and the eight seed looking from outside at the playoff teams. Even at this point one could say with some certainty that the Rams will win the NFC West. However the Seahawks have a clear shot to move up into the wildcard teams edging out the Packers or the Panthers.

The Seahawks lead the league in turnover differential. They lost Earl Thomas for the season and he contributed 3 interceptions. However his replacement, Tedric Thompson, in his first game starting had an interception against the Rams. For years the Seahawks have played with a swarm-to-the-ball mentality and routinely practice tip drills. Their defensive end Frank Clark is defensive player of the week in week 6 and has had three forced fumbles over the last two games.  Defensively they on average allow 1.71 points per drive which is seventh best in the league.

The Seahawks run the ball second most in the league and average 4.3 yards per carry. Per Pro Football Focus running back Chris Carson ranks first in yards per carry (2.3) and yards after contact (3.4) for backs with at least 25 carries in which they’ve been contacted at or behind the line of scrimmage.

Quarterback Russel Wilson ranks sixth among starting quarterbacks in 40+ yard passing plays (5) and ranks seventh in passer rating (104.8).

Houston Texans

The Texans are 3-3, second in the AFC South and at ninth seed in the playoff race looking from the outside at the playoff leaders.

Quarterback DeShaun Watson has been sacked 25 times and hit 70 times. Both are most in the league and the next closest team for hits has 49. Watson is a tough player. In week five he suffered a cracked rib, a bruised lung, and a partially collapsed lung during the Texans/Cowboys game. Yet he led the Texans on the game winning field goal drive. He played the next week against Buffalo.

This season among starting quarterbacks, Watson is seventh in passing plays of 20+ yards (24), fifth in 1st down percentage (41.1%),  ninth in average yards per attempt (8.3), fourth in average yards per completion (12.8) and eight in passing yards per game (299.7).   In his 13 games since his rookie start Watson has 3,497 passing yards which is fourth most in NFL history in that span.  Since his rookie debut Watson has 28 touchdown passes which is the second-most ever through 13 games, behind only Kurt Warner.

The Texan special teams are playing good. On average their starting field position is the 31.2 yard line and their opponent starting position is the 26.1 yard line. The differential starting field position is second best in the league.

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons are 2-4, last in the NFC South and a 13th seed in the playoff race.

Quarterback Matt Ryan ranks third among starting quarterbacks in passer rating. He ranks fourth in touchdown passes (14)  and fourth in 1st down percentage (41.1%) among starting quarterbacks.  Ryan is ninth in passes of 20+ yards (23).

The team ranks fourth in turnover differential and contributing to that is the fact that Ryan has thrown only two interceptions. That is tie for fourth best among starting quarterbacks.  The Falcons have only one fumble lost for the season which is tie for second.

What is killing the Falcons is that their defense is ranked last in points allowed per drive with 3 points per drive. Three of their four losses were by six points or less.

Not As Good as they Appear

New England Patriots

The Patriots are 4-2, top of the AFC East and a second seed in the playoff race.

You have to go back a decade to 2008 for a season that the Patriots did not win the AFC East. That year the Dolphins took the division title. This season the Jets and the Dolphins so far do not trail the Patriots by much statistically speaking. The one caveat is the return of receiver Julian Edelman in week five could significantly adjust the stats.

In explosive plays the Patriots and Jets have the same play differential. The Jets are better in offensive big plays and the Patriots better in defense limiting big plays. Turnover differential is a wash between the three teams. Starting field position differential is a clear win by the Jets and Dolphins with the Patriots being 24th in the league. In finishing drives the Patriots lead (7th), followed close by the Jets (11th). However the Dolphins are poor at finishing drives(20th). Finally overall play efficiency goes Dolphins, Patriots and Jets.

The AFC East should be interesting to see how things develop.

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers are 3-2, second in the NFC South and a fifth seed making the playoffs as a wildcard.

With the Saints (4-1) doing very well it looks like the Panthers would have to get in as a wildcard. However they show some troubling stats.

From an explosive play angle the Panthers are last in the league. They have 15 passing plays of 20+ yards  and have given up 21 passing plays of 20+ yards. In rushing they have 3 plays of 20+ yards and have given up 6 such plays. This puts their differential at minus nine and trailing the Raiders at minus eight.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans are 3-3, first in the AFC South and fourth seed in the playoff picture.

The Titans are last in the league in passing plays of 20+ yards with only nine in six games.  Compounding the problem is that they are 23rd in rushing plays of 20+ yards with only two. Their explosive play differential is 27th in the league at minus seven.

The Titans are 28th in the league in starting field position differential. They are 23rd in points per drive differential. This even though they are second in defensive points per drive. This again highlights a offensive explosiveness problem.

Enjoy the week 7 games and check out a good horror movie for Halloween!

Week Four Rankings Based on Five Key Factors

Bill Connelly, a writer for SBNation covering NCAA football, came out with a list of five factors for winning football games. His list is

  1. you make more big plays than your opponent,
  2. you are more efficient when you have the ball than your opponent,
  3. you finish drives and stop your opponent from doing so,
  4. you win the starting field position battle, and
  5. you win the turnover battle.

Based on this list and associated data I ranked the thirty-two teams. The data used was

  1. Differential of 20+ yard plays (pass and run) for each team minus their opponents from nfl.com stats,
  2. Net team efficiency as computed by Football Outsiders,
  3. Net Points per drive as computed by Football Outsiders,
  4. Net Starting field position from Football Outsiders, and
  5. Turnover differential from the Football Database.

Here is the ranking starting with the best and a little blurb on each team. The data used was from weeks one thru four of this season. The team’s record at week four is shown for each team.

1 ) Los Angeles Rams (4-0)

The Rams have the most passing plays of 20+ yards with 23 over four games. They are number one in net points per drive (1.52 points) and in 1st down % on passing plays (47.4%).

2) Chicago Bears (3-1)

The Bears are one of only three teams that have not given up a rushing play of 20+ yards. They are one of two teams that have not allowed a rushing touchdown. The Bears have the shortest long running play against them (15 yards).

3) Kansas City Chiefs (4-0)

The Chiefs have a league high 47% of their drives end in a touchdown. The Chiefs are fifth in 1st downs per game, third in third downs made percent (49%) and tie for first in forth downs made with 100% on three attempts.

4) Washington Redskins (2-1)

The Redskins are one of only three teams that did not give up a rush of 20+ yards. They have also given up the least number of 20+ passing plays with only five surrendered.

5) Jacksonville Jaguars (3-1)

The Jaguars have the best 20+ yards big play differential in the league. For 20+ yard plays they are 2nd in passing defense (7 plays), 4th in rushing defense (1 play), 14th in passing offense (14 plays) and 5th in rushing offense (3 plays).

6) Baltimore Ravens (3-1)

The Ravens are second in Net Points per drive due in large part being second in Defensive Points per Drive allowed. They are tied for second in 3rd down conversion percent on defense (28%) . Opposing quarterbacks have the lowest passer rating against the Ravens (69.1).

7) Cincinnati Bengals (3-1)

Receiver A.J. Green is second in receiving touchdowns (5) and fellow receiver Tyler Boyd is eighth among wide receivers in 20+ yard receptions (6). Boyd is most deadly in the middle of the field where he had six 20+yard receptions and an 81% first down conversion rate.

8) New Orleans Saints (3-1)

Drew Brees has the highest completion percentage among quarterbacks with over 20 attempts (75.8%) and the third best passer rating (115.3). He should pass Brett Favre this weekend to take the number two spot in career passing yards.

9) Los Angeles Chargers (2-2)

The Chargers are tie for most rushing plays of 20+ yards (6). The percentage of Austin Ekeler’s runs that go for at least 10 yards (28.6%) , is the best mark in the NFL. The Chargers have 20 total runs of at least 10 yards, which is the most in the NFL.

10) Houston Texans (1-3)

The Texans are number one in Net Line Of Scrimmage (LOS) per drive with a net 7.94 yards. On average they start almost at the 32 yard line and their opponent starts at almost the 24 yard line. Running Back Tyler Ervin is tie in second for kickoff returns of 20+ yards with seven.  At his combine Ervin was 8th overall in broad jump, 12th in vertical jump and 11th in the forty.

11) Miami Dolphins (3-1)

The Dolphins are tie for third in turnover differential with a plus four. They have a league high nine interceptions that are spread across six players. Cornerback Xavien Howard leads with three. Opposing quarterbacks have a 72.2 passer rating against the Dolphins. That is the second lowest in the league.

12) Green Bay Packers (2-1-1)

The Packers have the fourth best 1st down percentage (29.7) on rushes. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers contributes to that with 11 attempts and a 54.5% first down percentage. That is the best in the league for any player with over five attempts. Running Back Aaron Jones also helps with 17 attempts and a 41.2% which is 7th best.

13) Cleveland Browns (1-2-1)

The Browns lead the league in turnover differential with a plus seven. they have a league high six forced fumbles. Khalil Mack leads the league with four forced fumbles.

14) Atlanta Falcons (1-3)

The Falcons are 30th in points allowed per game with 30.5 points. On the bright side they are 6th in points scored per game. Still their Net points per drive is -0.16 which is 20th in the league.

15) Carolina Panthers (2-1)

The Panthers are third in the league in turnover differential. They are one of only three teams that have turned the ball over twice or less. On the flip side they are sixth in the league in interceptions with five. The Panthers are tie for last in explosive play (20+ yards) differential.  They have a league low seven passing plays of 20+ yards.

16) New England Patriots (2-2)

The Patriots are ninth in the league in Net Points per drive. In scoring touchdowns in the red zone the Patriots are 8th with 2 out of every 3 trips in the red zone scoring a touchdown.

17) Seattle Seahawks (2-2)

The Seahawks are tie for third in the league in turnover differential with a plus four. They are third in interceptions with seven. Their secondary has three players in the top twelve in interceptions – Earl Thomas (3), Shaquill Griffin (2) and Bradley McDougald (2). With the loss of Earl Tomas for the season due to injury it remains to be seen if this trend will continue.

18) Denver Broncos (2-2)

The Broncos are tie at 26th in turnover differential. Quarterback Case Keenum is tie for second in the league for most interceptions with six. If that keeps up Chad Kelly may soon be starting.

19) Indianapolis Colts (1-3)

Quarterback Andrew Luck does not seem to be pushing the ball downfield. The Colts are tie for 23rd in passing plays of 20+ yards with nine. They are in 30th for both passing average per attempt (6 yards) and average per completion (8.48 yards).

20) Detroit Lions (1-3)

What happened to Detroit in that opening game loss to the Jets of 48-17? In his last three games quarterback Mathew Stafford has thrown one interception and has had a passer rating of 109.8 (7th best across other teams).  Detroit is tie for 8th in passing plays of 20+ yards (17). They have been close in the other two losses. That first game drags them down to 20th in this ranking.

21) Tennessee Titans (3-1)

The Titans have gone for it on fourth down more than any other team (7 times) and have made it 71% of the time. The Titans, Cowboys and Panthers all have a league low seven passing plays of 20+ yards.

22) San Francisco 49ers (1-3)

The 49ers have the worst Net Average starting field position per drive. On average they start on the 24 yard line and their opponent starts on the 32 yard line. For explosive plays running back Matt Breida has a league high six rushing plays of 20+ yards.

23) New York Jets (1-3)

The Jets are tie for last with the Lions in giving up the most 20+ yard rushing plays with five surrendered. This contributed to the jets tied for worst big play (20+ yards) differential with minus six. The teams tied for last in big plays differential are the Jets, Panthers, Eagles and Giants.

24) Dallas Cowboys (2-2)

Dallas has the 30th ranked third down conversion percentage with a 28.26%. Their passing completion percentage of 61.7% is 26th. For overall team efficiency they ranked 24th. They also had the fourth lowest net starting field position with them starting on average at their 24 yard line and their opponent at their 29 yard line.

25) Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2-1)

The Steelers have the second worst net starting position with their average start on the 24 and their opponent on the 31. Their net points per drive of -.4 ranked 25th in the league.

26) Oakland Raiders (1-3)

The Raiders are 28th in big pass plays (20+ yards) given up with 19 and 27th in big rushing plays (20+ yards) given up with 4.  Their big play differential is minus five which ranks 27th. They rank 30th in finishing drives with a -0.61 net points per drive.

27) Minnesota Vikings (1-2-1)

The Vikings rank 30th in the percent of drives that produce points with 29.1% resulting in a score. The Vikings have a league second worst average point differential at the start of their drives of down by seven.

28) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2)

The Buccaneers are tie for a league high seven offensive interceptions with three coming in each of the last two games. Even the returned Jameis Winston had two. The Bucs are tie in last with a league low minus four turnover differential.

29) Philadelphia Eagles (2-2)

The Eagles are tie with the Panthers, Jets and Giants for worst big play differential with minus six. The Eagles are 29th in passing plays of 20+ yards with eight. Quarterback Carson Wentz has done better than Nick Foles in long passing plays but even Wentz only has five long passing plays over two games.

30) Buffalo Bills (1-3)

The Bills have the league lowest touchdown percentage on drives with only 10.2% of their drives ending in a touchdown and a league high 55% ending in a punt. Among current starting quarterbacks Josh Allen has the lowest completion percentage of 53.4% and the lowest passer rating at 63.8.

31) New York Giants (1-3)

The Giants are tie for last in big play (20+ yards) differential with the Panthers, Jets and Eagles at minus six. The Giants are ranked 31st in passing average per completion with an average of 8.3 yards.

32) Arizona Cardinals (0-4)

The Cardinals rank 32nd in passing average per completion with an average of 8.2 yards. They rank last in the league in scoring on drives with only 14.6% of their drives resulting in points.

Enjoy the week 5 games!

Picks for Starting Quarterback Padawans and Winless Teams

Back in my first post in August on the first and second year quarterbacks I referred to them as padawans. A term from Star Wars for young Jedi knights in training. Now in week four there are a total of eight padawans starting. The games and staring padawan are:

Browns vs Raiders  – Baker Mayfield

Texans vs Colts – DeShaun Watson

Bills vs Packers – Josh Allen

Chiefs vs Broncos – Patrick Mahomes

Jets vs Jaguars – Sam Darnold

Buccaneers vs Bears – Mitch Trubisky

49ers vs Chargers – CJ Beathard

Seahawks vs Cardinals – Josh Rosen

I have picked three of these games as being most likely for the padawan to get a win or loss. It happened that all three games include one of the three remaining winless teams. Here are the picks.

Browns vs Raiders (-2.5)

Baker Mayfield starts his first NFL game following being put in for an injured Tyrod Taylor in week three. In that week 3 game against the Jets, Mayfield helped lead the Browns to their first victory since December 24th 2016. He was 17 of 23 for 201 yards and a 100 passer rating.

The Browns and the Raiders are teams at opposite ends of the spectrum. The Browns are excelling in three main categories that are generally recognized as influencing the outcome of a game. Those three categories are explosiveness, starting field position and turnovers. For the sake of measurement explosiveness in this evaluation is the number of 20+ yard plays of the offense minus the number of such plays the defense gives up. The Browns are plus three in explosiveness, plus nine in turnover differential and fifth place in net starting position (their offense minus the opponent offense). The Browns are one of the top five teams in these categories combined. See my post on Best and Worst Teams by Turnovers and Big Plays. The Raiders on the other hand are one of the bottom five teams in these categories. They are minus five in explosiveness, minus four in turnover differential and twenty seventh place in net starting position.

Prediction: Look for Mayfield and the Browns to win and the Raiders to remain winless.

Texans vs Colts (-1)

DeShaun Watson and the Texans have had a bad start and are now one of only three teams without a win.  The Colts are a better team in turnovers and lead the Texans with a plus one turnover differential to a minus two differential for the Texans. However in terms of explosiveness the Texans are a plus five compared to the Colts minus three. In starting field position the Colts are a decent seventh place with a positive 5.17 yards Net Line of Scrimmage (LOS) starting field position. However the Texans are even better in third place with a positive 7.47 yards Net LOS.

Prediction: Watson and the Texans win and break their three game loss streak.

Seahawks (-3) vs Cardinals

Josh Rosen gets his first NFL start following replacing Sam Bradford with 4:31 remaining in the loss to Chicago in week three. He was 4 of 7 for 36 yards and one interception . The Seahawks have a plus three in turnovers, a minus one in explosiveness and are in 18th place in Net LOS with a minus 1.63 yards. On the other hand the Cardinals are minus three in turnovers, minus seven in explosiveness and in 15th place in net LOS with a minus 0.3 yards.

Prediction:  Seahawks to win as the Cardinals with Rosen remain winless.

So two of the three padawan quarterbacks get a win and two of the winless teams remain winless.  Enjoy the games!

Best and Worst Teams by Turnovers and Big Plays

Two factors that indicate a team’s win/loss potential are the takeaways/giveaway differential and the big play differential. The takeaways/giveaways are the difference in turnovers between the ones the offense gives up and the ones the defense take. The big play differential are plays (pass or run) of 20+ yards between those achieved by the offense and those given up by the defense.  Below are the teams that are excelling (positive) in these categories and those doing poorly (negative). Beside the team is their win/loss record followed by their big play differential and  turnover differential. Positive numbers are better. Teams are listed in order starting with best and decreasing. Criteria for selection was a combination of positive or negative in both categories.

Update: I added the Net Line Of Scrimmage (LOS) per Drive (Dr). It is the Offensive average starting field position minus the Opponent (Defensive) average starting field position. Positive is better. This is another indicator or contributing factor for win/loss outcome.

Positive Teams

Los Angeles Rams (3 W , 0 L)

Big Play differential: +6

Turnover differential: +3

Net LOS/Dr: 7.10 (4th)

Brandin Cooks is one of only five wide receivers to have reached over 1,000 receiving yards in each of the last three seasons.  This year his catch percentage of 76% is fourth among wide receivers with 100+ yards per game. His 17.7 yards per reception is third among wide receivers with 100+ yards per game. He is one of only nine wide receivers averaging 100+ yards per game. Though only 5’10” and 183 pounds Cooks has played every game over the last three seasons. Brandin Cooks ran the fastest forty yard dash at the 2014 NFL Combine (4.33 seconds). Cooks has got seven plays of 20+ yards, the second most receiving 20+ yards in the league.

Washington Redskins (2 W , 1 L)

Big Play differential: +6

Turnover differential: +2

Net LOS/Dr: -2.35 (21st)

Seven time Pro-Bowler in his nine year career, Adrian Peterson is starting 2018 strong. He has 100+ all purpose yards in two of his three games.In his week three game he averaged 6.3 yards per carry for 120 yards.  He has three rushing touchdowns for the season which is tie for fourth in the league. Peterson is one of only six running backs that have had a rush of 40+ yards. 

Cleveland Browns (1 W , 1 L , 1 T)

Big Play differential: +3

Turnover differential: +9

Net LOS/Dr: 5.93 (5th)

Rookie Denzel Ward was the fourth pick in the 2018 draft and the first defensive player chosen. He opened his rookie season with two interceptions and three passes defended against the Steelers. In his third game against the Jets Ward allowed just two receptions for nine yards in coverage. He also ripped a ball away from Jets receiver Robby Anderson and recovered the fumble to help the Browns to their first win.

Miami Dolphins (3 W , 0 L)

Big Play differential: +1

Turnover differential: +4

Net LOS/Dr: 7.97 (1st)

After returning from a season ending ACL injury in the 2017 preseason Ryan Tannehill is now enjoying what is so far the best season of his seven season career. His completion percentage has been above 70% in each of his three games for an average of 73%, the fifth best in the league.  He has the fourth best passer rating at 121.8. Tannehill’s touchdown to interception ratio of 3.5 is tie for seventh best among quarterbacks with at least one touchdown. He is sixth in touchdowns with seven. In week three he had a 34 yard touchdown pass to Kenny Stills and a 36 yard pass down the sideline to DeVante Parker. he had a 155 passer rating, three touchdowns and zero interceptions in the third game.

Atlanta Falcons (1 W , 2 L)

Big Play differential: +1

Turnover differential: +1

Net LOS/Dr: 4.23 (8th)

Rookie Receiver Calvin Ridley was chosen 26th in round 1 of the 2018 NFL draft. He is tie for first among wide receiver for touchdowns with four. His 90.9% first down percentage on receptions is second among wide receivers with more than five receptions. Ridley was a top wide receiver in the forty (6th) and three cone (10th) at the Combine.  In week three he was targeted eight times and had seven receptions, 146 yards and three touchdowns.

Negative Teams

Minnesota Vikings (1 W , 1 L , 1T)

Big Play differential: -1

Turnover differential: -1

Net LOS/Dr: -4.96 (28th)

The offensive line has been identified as a potential weak link in a strong team. Their run game has averaged  3.5 yards per carry which is 29th in the league. In the passing game they have given up nine sacks which is 22nd in the league. Minnesota has nine big passing plays (15th) and zero big rushing plays (27th).

Pittsburgh Steelers (1W, 1L, 1T)

Big Play differential: -3

Turnover differential: -1

Net LOS/Dr: -5.93 (30th)

The Steelers lead the league in penalties with 37 and 361 penalty yards. The next closest team in number is Buffalo with 28 penalties. The next team in penalty yards is the Eagles with 266 yards.

Philadelphia Eagles (2W, 1L)

Big Play differential: -5

Turnover differential: -3

Net LOS/Dr: -9.34 (32nd)

The Eagles have just five passing plays of 20+ yards which is tie for 28th in the league. Their receiving corps has been hurt by injuries losing both Mack Hollins and Mike Wallace.  The Eagles have only two passing touchdowns thru three games which is tie with eight teams for least in the league.

Oakland Raiders (0W, 3L)

Big Play differential: -5

turnover differential: -4

Net LOS/Dr: -4.19 (27th)

The Raiders traded Khalil Mack and are now hurting to generate a pass rush. They have three sacks in three games which is the least in the league.  Opposing quarterbacks have a 105 passer rating which is 26th in the league. The Raiders have given up 15 passing plays of 20+ yards which is tie for 29th in the league.

Arizona Cardinals (0W, 3L)

Big Play differential: -7

Turnover differential: -3

Net LOS/Dr: -0.30 (15th)

Arizona has just six big passing plays (27th) and zero big rushing plays (27th). Their 23% third down conversion rate is last in the league. On passing plays 21% achieve first down (last) but 23% of their rushing plays achieve first down (17th).

Week Three Television Main Events

Today we look at the television main games for week three. There are some interesting story-lines and two potential shootouts.

Sunday Late: Dallas @ Seattle (FOX)

These are two teams that want to get their run games going.

Seattle was 23rd in the league in 2017 in rushing yards per game with 101. They drafted running back Rashaad Penny in round one of the draft.Their 2017 seventh round pick, Chris Carson, returned in 2018 from a season ending injury in 2017. Carson has rushed for an average of 5.8 yards per carry this season which is sixth best for backs with at least 10 carries. Carson runs with power, can make a quick cut and shows good hands. Penny got off to a slow start in game one with only a 1.1 yard average on seven carries. He did have four receptions for 35 yards. He improved in week two averaging 3 yards a carry on ten attempts with a long of 10 yards.  Carson is listed as running back one on the depth chart. Will Penny push to take over that slot?

The Cowboys are 29th in the league in opponent rushing first down percentage (30.6%).  In passing defense the Cowboys are fifth in the league in opponent passing yards per game (183).

Ezekiel Elliot is 14th in the league in rushing average with 4.6 yards per carry for backs with a minimum 10 carries. He is 13th in rushing first down percentage at 25%.  he does have two rushing touchdowns which is tie for sixth in the league. The Seahawks are one of ten teams in the NFL that have yet to give up a 20+ yard running back play. I see these two teams working hard to dominate in the run game.

Sunday Night: New England @ Detroit (NBC)

New head coach Matt Patricia squares off against his former boss Bill Belichick.

Even though the Lions were 9-7 last season and they made the playoffs twice in the last four seasons they felt a coaching change was needed. You have to go back to 1991 since the Lions moved beyond the wild card game in the playoffs. Before Patricia the coach was Jim Caldwell. Caldwell’s record as Lions coach was 36–28 (.563), making him the first Detroit head coach (who lasted at least one season) to have a winning record since 1972. Caldwell’s .563 winning percentage was the best for a Lions’ head coach since the 1950s.  Patricia is now at 0-2 and faces a tough game against the Super Bowl competitor New England Patriots.

Record-setting quarterback Mathew Stafford had a horrible opening game against the Jets. He had four interceptions to one touchdown, a 58.7% completion rate and a 47.9 passer rating. He came back to form in the second game in the loss to the 49ers with a 101.7 passer rating. The Lions lead the league in passing attempts per game with 52.   The Lions may have the most talented three wide receiver set with Golden Tate, Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay. The Patriots now have a talented receiver group with Josh Gordon and tight end Rob Gronkowski. The pass defenses of these teams are not great. The Lions have yielded n opponent passer rating of 117.7 and Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay is questionable after suffering a concussion last Sunday. The Patriots have yielded a better opponent passer rating of 90.7 but have yielded an average 267 passing yards per game (23rd).  This could be a shootout.

Monday Night: Pittsburgh @ Tampa Bay (ESPN)

In passing yards per game these teams are ranked number one (TB – 405) and number two (PIT – 377).

Roethlisberger gets there with a combination of number of passing attempts coupled with decent yards per completion and receiver YACs. He leads the league in passing attempts per game (50). Only Lions’ Mathew Stafford is close with 49. Roethlisberger is ninth in yards/completion (12.7 yards). However his completion percentage (61.4%) and passer rating (86.5) are not that impressive. He is aided by two receivers in the top five per receptions – Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster. The Steelers are fifth in passing plays of 20+ yards with 10. However most of those are due to yards-after-the catch by the receivers. Per Pro Football Focus Roethlisberger has attempted 17 passes of 20+ yards and has connected on only three of them for 75 yards. He may be affected by an elbow injury that occurred in week one.

Amazingly Fitzpatrick is 24th in the league in passing attempts per game at 30. He is efficient with a completion percentage of 78.7% which is third in the league. His yards per completion of 17.1 yards is second in the league.  The Buccaneers have the second most passes of 20+ yards (12) and Pro Football Focus lists Fitzpatrick as the top quarterback in Big-Time throws with ten. The next closest is Russell Wilson with seven. The Buccaneer’s  receivers are not on the level of the Steelers but they do have three good receivers in DeSean Jackson, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Ryan Fitzpatrick has the highest passer rating thru two weeks with a 151.5. A perfect rating is 158.3.  The average passer rating for the first two weeks of the season going back to 2002 hovers in the range of 84 to 92.4. We’ll see Monday if these two teams continue to light it up.

Enjoy the week three games!


Intrastate Super Bowl?

Technically there has only been one Super Bowl where both teams were from the same state. It was Super Bowl XXIX on 1/29/1995 between the San Francisco 49ers and the San Diego Chargers. Technically because the Bills-Giants in Super Bowl XXV does not count as the Giants are from New Jersey and the Bills from New York. What teams have a shot to make another intrastate Super Bowl a reality?


Los Angeles Rams (2-0)

The Rams are 2-0 and have the largest positive point differential with a whopping +54 points. They have outscored their opponents by 67 to 13. The next closest team in point differential is the Baltimore Ravens with a +33 but they have a 1-1 record.

Los Angeles Chargers (1-1)

Quarterback Philip Rivers is fourth in completion percentage (73.1%) and also in passer rating 119.6 this season. Rivers is a seven-time Pro Bowler with 51,028 career passing yards (9th all time) and 348 passing touchdowns (6th all time).  His career passer rating of 95.1 is 8th all time and his career completion percentage of 64.4% is 9th all time.

San Francisco 49ers (1-1)

San Francisco running back Matt Breida leads the league in rushing yards (184) and in average per carry (8.4 yards) (for backs with a minimum 5 carries) and in attempts of 20+ yards (3).  The 49ers are third in rushing yards per game (140).

Oakland Raiders (0-2)

According to Pro Football Focus, quarterback Derek Carr’s adjusted completion percentage of 93.8% (accounts for drops, throw aways, etc) against Denver is the highest for any quarterback in the NFL this year. He completed 29 of 32 passes. This season tight end Jared Cook has six receptions of 20+ yards, the most by a tight end.


Jacksonville Jaguars (2-0)

Ninety percent of Keelan Cole’s ten receptions this season made first down. That is fifth best among receivers with a minimum of five receptions.

Miami Dolphins (2-0)

Receiver Jakeem Grant may be the hottest kick returner in the league after two weeks. He had three kickoff returns with all three going 20+ yards and one going 102 yards for a touchdown. He has done four punt returns and has averaged 11.8 yards which includes a 22 yard return. The Dolphins lead the league in lowest opponent passer rating (56.6).

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0)

The Bucs lead the league in average passing yards (13.4), passing yards per game (405), passing first down percentage (55.7%), passing plays of 40+ yards (4) and in passer rating (151.5).


Baltimore Ravens (1-1)

The Ravens lead the league in lowest opponent pass completion percentage with a low 46.7%. They also lead in passes defended with 21.

Washington Redskins (1-1)

The Redskins lead the league in lowest yards per game allowed (247) and lowest passing yards per game allowed (161).

New Jersey

New York Giants (0-2)

According to Pro Football Focus, Saquon Barkley ranks 3rd in yards after contact per attempt (4.38) this season among running backs with a minimum of 15 carries.

New York Jets (1-1)

The Jets are tie for first in the league in interceptions with five.  The five interceptions are spread among the team’s defense with Darron Lee (2) , Jamal Adams, Trumaine Johnson and Morris Claiborne all getting interceptions. They are fourth in the league in passes defended (17). The Jets are third in the league in lowest opponent passer rating (64.7).


Philadelphia Eagles (1-1)

The Eagles are tie for first in the league in rushing touchdowns with four. Running back Jay Ajayi is tie for first among rushers with three rushing touchdowns.

Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1-1)

Rookie James Connor has been a nice surprise filling in for Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers are tie for first in the league in rushing touchdowns with four. James Connor is tie for first among backs with three of those rushing touchdowns. He had one for 22 yards and the touchdown.


Dallas Cowboys (1-1)

Dallas is ranked second in the league in sacks with nine for the season. The sacks are spread across eight players. Six of those nine sacks came against the Giants.

Houston Texans (0-2)

Houston leads the league in rushing yards (315). Contributing to that total is quarterback DeShaun Watson with 84 yards rushing ad a team high 6.5 yards per carry. Unfortunately he has had two fumbles on those rushes.

The most likely candidates for an intrastate Super Bowl would be Rams vs Chargers or the Jaguars vs Buccaneers (if FitzPatrick keeps his streak alive). Those two would next be followed by Steelers vs Eagles. But for that game has a load of questions. Will Wentz be back to his old form? Will Roethlisberger and the Steeler defense improve?

Enjoy the week three games!

Top Nine Running Backs in Rookie or 2nd Season in Week One

Here are my top 1-2 year running backs based on week one performance. Both rushes and receptions are counted.

1) Alvin Kamara (NOR)

Kamara had 17 attempts (pass/rush) and had 141 yards, three touchdowns, an 8.3 yard average, a long of 35 yards, two touches of 20+ yards and a 47.1% first down conversion rate.

2 ) Saquon Barkley (NYG)

Barkley had the longest run of all 1-2 year running backs with a 68 yard touchdown run.

3) Austin Ekeler (LAC)

Ekeler had the highest average among 1-2 year backs on combined pass/rush with a 12.6 yard average on 10 attempts. He gained 126 yards and one touchdown. Ekeler had a 60% first down conversion rate.


4) Phillip Lindsay (DEN)

Lindsay had 17 attempts (pass/rush) for 102 yards, a 29 yard touchdown reception, a 6 yard average and 35% of his attempts made first down.

5) Joe Mixon (CIN)

Mixon had a run of 20+ yards in each of the two games he has played in and another 20+ pass play. He had


6) James Connor (PIT)

Connor had the most rushing attempts (31), rushing yards(135) and rushing touchdowns (2) of all 1-2 year backs. One of his touchdowns was a 22 yard run. He also had five receptions for 57 yards.

7) Chris Carson (SEA)

Though only attempting seven rushes, Carson had a whopping 7.3 yard average per rush which included a 24 yard long rush.

8) Christian McCaffrey (CAR)

McCaffrey had 16 touches for 95 yards averaging 5.9 yards per attempt.

9) Nick Chubb (CLE)

Though only having three attempts Chubb broke a long one of 17 yards.