Smarter Stats: The Early Games (Week 11 Edition)

Doug Farrar


Cincinnati Bengals (6-3) at Baltimore Ravens (5-3)                

If the Ravens wish to hand the ball to Ray Rice more than the five times they did against Seattle (and we'd heartily recommend that they do so), the Bengals are set up very well in matchups all along their offensive line — except to right tackle and around right end. According to Football Outsiders' Adjusted Line Yards metric (which separates the performance of a running back from the back's like to better assess line performance),  the Ravens are the ninth-best team around right end, with 4.43 ALY per carry, while the Bengals rank 21at in Defensive Adjusted Line Yards, allowing 3.82 yards per carry. The Ravens rush around right end just seven percent of the time this season, so they may want to investigate that.

What the Bengals might want to investigate is something that actually serves them well in this game — per FO's DVOA metric, they have the NFL's 10th-best offense on the road, and the 26th-best at home. Good deal for a team facing a Ravens defense that ranks first in home defensive DVOA.

Carolina Panthers (2-7) at Detroit Lions (6-3)

Both of these teams are looking to overcome pretty horrible (and atypical) Week 10  performances by their starting quarterbacks. Through the first half of the season (Weeks 1-9), the Panthers ranked ninth in Offensive Passing DVOA (after ranking 31st at the end of the 2010 season). But Cam Newton's performance against the Tennessee Titans was singularly unimpressive — he put up a -72.2% Passing DVOA performance, and Matt Stafford finished the Week 10 loss to the Chicago Bears with a -60.3% Passing DVOA after leading the Lions to the 13th best metric in the first half of the season.

(Believe it or not, Newton's wasn't the worst Passing DVOA performance of Week 10 — that award would go to the combined efforts of the Indianapolis Colts, who put up a -93.4% number. That's roughly the equivalent of having two Kyle Bollers paying for you at once.)

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-6) at Cleveland Browns (3-6)

Don't look for too many exciting passing performances in this game. Among all qualifying quarterbacks (quarterbacks who have throws 75 passes or more), Jaguars rookie Blaine Gabbert has the worst DYAR (FO's cumulative efficiency metric) in the NFL. Gabbert is also worst among qualifier in DVOA, FO's per-play efficiency metric. Cleveland quarterback Colt McCoy ranks 26th in DYAR and 29th in DVOA. And both of these teams are in the top 10 when it comes to pass defense DVOA — the Jags' underrated defense ranks sixth, and the Browns rank ninth. The Browns provide a better avenue through their run defense, which ranks 28th. But Jacksonville's run defense ranks fourth, so the Browns will have to find a way to beat the numbers.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5) at Green Bay Packers (9-0)

No doubt the Buccaneers defensive staff has been crushing game tape, trying to find a way to stop Aaron Rodgers. The best way is to get to him enough times to take him down, but if you blitz Rodgers, you'd best catch him, because he's generally even better when he's hurried. And the Bucs rank 30th in Defensive Adjusted Sack Rate, so that's probably out, unless they can get Albert Haynesworth to sit on Rodgers for a while.

How about in different formations? Well, how about Rodgers when he's got two wide receivers? Uh, whoops. He's got a perfect 158.3 passer rating in such formations. Three receivers? Nope. A 119.7 passer rating, which also leads the league. Four or more receivers? 116.2, which also leads the league. This is getting scary. Put all of that up against a Bucs defense that has been on the wrong side of horrible much of the year (they rank 31st in DVOA against the pass), and this could get ugly very quickly. Joe Buck may have us all napping by the end of the first quarter.

Dallas Cowboys (5-4) at Washington Redskins (3-6)

Though Tony Romo has been spinning the ball very well of late, he's also getting a lot of help from his receivers. Romo and Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick are the only qualifying quarterbacks who have more than half of their completion yards on yards after catch. The Cowboys rank fourth in FO's Offensive Adjusted Sack Rate metric (sacks per pass attempt adjusted for down, distance, and opponent), which is also a testament to Romo's ability to get the ball out quickly. That will be a key part of the game plan against a Redskins defense that ranks first in Defensive Adjusted Sack Rate.

Washington's offense has suffered a serious downward trend this season, dropping from 15th in DVOA in Week 1 to 30th after Week 10. That's not good against a Dallas defense that has risen from 12th to 5th in Defensive DVOA since the season began.

Buffalo Bills (5-4) at Miami Dolphins (2-7)

So, aside from Ryan Fitzpatrick's large YAC percentage, what else is going on with the Bills' passing offense? If it seems as if that part of their game has regressed, you're not mistaken. In their last two games, Buffalo has put up Passing DVOA metrics of -12.2% and -58.2%. Are the Dolphins set up to take advantage? Decidedly so. Miami's been playing much better of late, and their pass defense is a big part of that — ranked 29th in defensive Weeks 1-9, that defense put up a much better performance last Sunday and started off the second half of the season ranked seventh.

Oakland Raiders (5-4) at Minnesota Vikings (2-7)

The myth of the Raiders going deep with their receivers? Well, that's not to much the case this season. Darrius Heyward-Bey leads the Raiders among qualifying receivers with a 16.07 yards per reception average, good for 15th in the NFL (Steve Smith of the Panthers is highest at 18.65). Rookie Denarius Moore leads the team with five receptions of 25 yards or more, which is a little down the list as well.