Falcons and Redskins will be a display of Efficiency

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Oct 04, 2012



By Russell S. Baxter
Cold Hard Football Facts' Statistical Debate Captain

Last week, we got plenty of familiarity breeds contempt as nine of the 15 contests were divisional battles.

This time around, half of this week’s 14 games are of the interconference variety.

This season, the NFC leads the AFC in head-to-head meetings, 10-4. And that’s somewhat newsworthy because the National Football Conference hasn’t won the regular-season series since 1995.

But while those contests are always intriguing, it’s worth noting that the remaining 4-0 teams, the Cardinals, Falcons and Texans, are all playing within the conference and more significantly, away from home.

And in the case of Atlanta and Houston, both franchises will be looking to do something this week that they’ve yet to achieve in their brief and briefer histories.

It promises to be another intriguing week as the season moves into October.

Thursday Night, Oct. 4

Arizona (4-0) at St. Louis (2-2): The last time the Cardinals were 4-0, they not only resided in St. Louis but in the NFC East as well. In 1974, head coach Don Coryell led that club to a 7-0 start and the first of back-to-back division titles. Obviously, the Cards still remember their days in the Gateway City very fondly considering they’ve won seven straight road games in this series dating back to 2005. If the Rams can corral Patrick Peterson, who returned punts for scores in each of the two meetings a year ago, their odds of winning certainly increase…

Sunday, Oct. 7

Atlanta (4-0) at Washington (2-2): It took some late heroics by both teams to pull out wins last Sunday as Matt Ryan and Robert Griffin III led their teams to decisive field goals with 5 and 3 seconds to play, respectively. Now the Falcons look to open 5-0, something they’ve never achieved in their nearly 50 seasons in the league. But it won’t be easy against a Washington team that hasn’t beaten itself. After turning over the ball at least twice in 14-of-16 games in 2011, the Redskins have committed two turnovers in four games this season…

Baltimore (3-1) at Kansas City (1-3): In 2010, the Chiefs were AFC West champions and committed only 14 turnovers in 16 regular-season games. Four weeks into 2012, Romeo Crennel’s club has coughed up the ball a league-high 15 times, 10 of those by struggling quarterback Matt Cassel. The Ravens have had some extra time to get ready for this contest, but there’s still a bit of skepticism attached to a team (including playoffs) that’s 12-0 at home and just 4-6 on the road dating back to the start of 2011…

Buffalo (2-2) at San Francisco (3-1): Given from what we’ve seen so far this season, this trip to the West Coast shouldn’t be an issue for Chan Gailey’s team. In two games outside of their division this season, the Bills are 2-0 and have outscored the opposition a combined 59-31 (Of course, there are those losses to the Jets and Patriots by a combined 100-56, but who’s counting?). How dominant were the Niners vs. the Jets last week? San Francisco totaled 245 yards rushing and 134 net passing yards. Rex Ryan’s club amassed 145 total yards. Ouch…

Chicago (3-1) at Jacksonville (1-3): Amazing what a couple of weeks will do for a team as the Bears played one of their most complete games in recent seasons on Monday night in Dallas and have won back-to-back games since that debacle in Green Bay. Just as was the case a season ago, the Jaguars struggle to put points on the board and their defense has yet to live up to 2011 billing. And if you’re worried about Jay Cutler taking a beating in this tilt, keep in mind that Mel Tucker’s defense has totaled only two sacks in four games. But you never know…

Cleveland (0-4) at N.Y. Giants (2-2): The Browns have lost 10 straight games dating back to last season, have dropped nine consecutive road games and have scored 17 points or less in 17 of its last 20 contests. Cleveland has won a total of four games under head coach Pat Shurmur since 2011, equaling the Giants’ victory total during their Super Bowl XLVI postseason run. But which version of Big Blue will we see? One that scored a combined 34 points in two losses, or the club that totaled 41 and 36 points in wins over the Buccaneers and Panthers, respectively?

Denver (2-2) at New England (2-2): While both clubs are at .500 after the season’s first four weeks, the Broncos fell to the 4-0 Falcons and Texans, while Bill Belichick’s club lost to 4-0 Arizona and 3-1 Baltimore. We bring that up because we’re used to seeing either Peyton Manning or Tom Brady lead their teams to strong starts. Including playoffs, the Patriots’ signal-caller is 8-4 vs. this Manning, but Peyton has won four of the last six encounters. More importantly (including playoffs), New England smoked Denver twice last season by a combined 86-33 score…

Green Bay (2-2) at Indianapolis (2-1): The last these teams met at Indianapolis, quarterbacks Brett Favre and Peyton Manning staged a classic shootout in 2004. Now it’s Aaron Rodgers vs. Andrew Luck and both will be getting a look at some of the better pass-rushers in the league. But here’s something to ponder. While the Packers have allowed an NFL-high 16 sacks this season, eight came in the first half of that Week 3 loss to Seattle, meaning the other eight occurred in the 14 quarters of play. And Jeff Saturday returns to Indy on Sunday (I couldn’t resist)…

Miami (1-3) at Cincinnati (3-1): Dolphins’ rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw for 431 yards and a score last week at Arizona but committed three turnovers and was sacked four times. After losing by 31 points at Baltimore in Week 1, Marvin Lewis’ team has won three straight by a total of (you guessed it) by 31 points. After back-to-back overtime losses to the Jets and Cardinals, Joe Philbin probably wouldn’t mind settling things in regulation. But keeping Tannehill out of harm’s way against a Bengals’ team tied for the league lead in sacks (16) won’t be easy…

Philadelphia (3-1) at Pittsburgh (1-2): Mention Eagles vs. Steelers and immediately, the “Steagles” come to mind, the franchises merging in 1943. These days, the Birds have emerged into a team that knows how to win the close games, their three victories by a combined total of four points. Pittsburgh had an extra week to lick its wounds but could get some key personnel back this week in Troy Polamalu and Rashard Mendenhall. Despite hanging onto the ball in the win over the Giants, the Eagles still have twice as many turnovers (12) than touchdowns scored (6)…

Seattle (2-2) at Carolina (1-3): Both teams can tell you something about late-game heroics from different perspectives. In Week 3, Russell Wilson and Golden Tate combined for a Hail Mary touchdown pass to beat the Packers. Last Sunday, the Panthers’ secondary gave up a 59-yard completion to Roddy White when Carolina had Matt Ryan and company backed up on their own 1-yard line with less than a minute to play, paving the way for Atlanta’s game-winning field goal. Including the playoffs, the home team owns a 5-0 lifetime record in this series…

Tennessee (1-3) at Minnesota (3-1): After three performances where his raw numbers looked more like a locker combination than a rushing total, Tennessee’s Chris Johnson ran for 141 yards on 25 carries in a game the Titans lost by 24 points at Houston. Minnesota’s offense failed to score a touchdown in a surprising win at Detroit but that really doesn’t matter when you’ve managed to already match last season’s win total (3) in only four weeks. Of course, scoring points against these Titans (allowing 151 in 4 games) has been easier done than said…

Sunday Night

San Diego (3-1) at New Orleans (0-4): This primetime tilt should be switched to The History Channel. That’s because Philip Rivers’ and Drew Brees’ NFL time together began in San Diego in 2004. Of course, the latter can break Colts’ quarterback Johnny Unitas’ fabled consecutive game record with a touchdown pass at home against the team that he was originally drafted by in 2001 (and ironically, the team Unitas ended his career with). And the Saints eventually hope to do something the ’92 Chargers managed; reach the playoffs after a 0-4 start…

Monday Night, Oct. 8

Houston (4-0) at N.Y. Jets (2-2): How good have the Texans been to date? They’ve outscored their four victims by a combined 70 points and star defensive end J.J. Watt has more a league-high 7.5 sacks, while Wade Phillips’ defensive unit has given up only five touchdowns. It’s already been a rough week for the Jets, who lost 34-0 at home to the 49ers and lost leading receiver Santonio Holmes for the season. Gary Kubiak’s team has erased a lot of the franchise’s bugaboos as of late and next up is the Texans 0-5 lifetime record in this series…

Off this week: Dallas, Detroit, Oakland and Tampa Bay


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