Smarter Stats: Sunday Morning Edition


A few random numbers to hopefully help you enjoy today's games (and perhaps tweak your last-minute fantasy rosters)

Things could be interesting re: all the talk with Michael Vick and the roughing the passer calls. Per the NFL Network, when the Philadelphia Eagles take on the San Francisco 49ers today, the officiating crew will be led by Alberto Riveron, who called the NFL's most roughing the passer calls in 2010, with 10.

If you want to know one hidden reason for the unexpected success Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has been enjoying, look no further than his clean jersey — he's been sacked just once in 112 passing attempts, giving him the NFL's lowest sack percentage per pass attempt at 0.9% (per STATS, Inc.). Tom Brady is second-lowest at 2.2%, followed by Jason Campbell (2.4%), Colt McCoy (2.6%), and Matt Hasselbeck (3.4%).

Conversely, and somewhat surprisingly, Chicago's Jay Cutler does not have the NFL's highest sack-to-attempt ratio. San Francisco's Alex Smith is on the bottom with 11 sacks in 85 attempts (12.9%), followed by Seattle's Tarvaris Jackson (12.6%), then Cutler at 10.9%, then Eli Manning at 10.5%, and then Matt Ryan at 9.6%. Ryan has already been sacked 13 times this season after suffering just 13 takedowns in 2010 — as a result, his percentage shot up from 3.9% to this.

Where will Matt Hasselbeck miss receiver Kenny Britt through the rest of the season? On third down most of all. Through three games, Hasselbeck has the highest third-down passer rating in the AFC (Drew Brees has the NFL's highest), and the combination of Britt and Nate Washington had put up 15 catches for 188 yards and two touchdowns on third down in just three games. In addition, Britt led the league in catches that converted third downs with seven. Britt will also be missed in the red zone — only New England's Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker have more catches in the 20 than Britt's five.

Talk about fumble luck! Tony Romo has fumbled three times this season … and he's recovered six of Dallas' fumbles overall. Mix in a center who turns into Chuck Knoblauch in shotgun, and backup receivers who don't know how to run the right routes, and it's safe to say that Romo's played above those around him this season.

If you want to see turnover misfortune very much on the other side of things, look no further than the minus-9 in takeaway/giveaway the Steelers are facing so far. That's what happens when you have no interceptions, have recovered one fumble, and have given it up six times on the ground.

Three teams have given up just two touchdowns inside their own 20 this year, and it's probably not who'd you expect: The Carolina Panthers, the Tennessee Titans, and the San Francisco 49ers. Check out this week's Greg Cosell podcast to hear the NFL Films tape maven explain why he thinks the 49ers' front seven is the NFL's most underrated.

It's also past time to talk about Tennessee's defense, which Greg and I do on that same podcast. They run a lot of straight 4-3, or 4-2 nickel, but they alter their coverages and gap alignments in interesting ways post-snap … they sort of morph into different things in sneaky ways. That's one reason they're tops in the league in fewest yards allowed per game (261.0), and lowest percentage of red zone touchdowns allowed (33.3%).

Everyone's apoplectic about how often Matt Forte isn't running the ball, and justifiably so — but when you consider the disaster that Chicago's offensive line has become, it makes more sense to get the ball to Forte through the air. That's why he has 22 catches through three games, and why he leads the league in yards after catch with 257. He also leads the league in a less attractive category — stuffs, with 12.

No running back gets his team off to a better start on first-and-10 that Philly's LeSean McCoy — he has 26 carries on that down and distance, and he's averaging 7.7 yards per carry. The other guys who should get it right out of the box? James Starks (7.2), Fred Jackson (6.9), Darren McFadden (6.7), and Roy Helu (6.1).

Finally, in the "almost" coverage category, we have three cornerbacks with six pass deflections each — Kansas City's Brandon Flowers, Cleveland's Joe Haden, and Aaron Ross of the New York Giants.