Matter of Facts: Week 8 Statistical Onslaught

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Oct 24, 2013

Somewhere around the country, those 1972 Miami Dolphins are putting that bottle of champagne on ice.

Now this is a not a prediction of doom for the Kansas City Chiefs, the lone undefeated team in the league after seven weeks of play. But it does pay to be prepared and no one wants a warm cocktail should it come to that?

More importantly, we are nearing the halfway point of the season already. All eight division races are interesting as no first-place club owns more than a two-game lead at this stage.

So onto this week’s slate while many of us keep an eye on the World Series.

By the way, I like Boston over St. Louis courtesy of a late Adam Vinatieri field goal.

Thursday Night, Oct. 24

Carolina (3-3) at Tampa Bay (0-6): Greg Schiano’s team continues to walk the plank as the Bucs fell short at the Georgia Dome last week against the short-handed Atlanta Falcons. Following their usual early stumble, the Panthers have righted their ship (see what we did there) and continue to play impressive defense, allowing a mere 17 points and zero touchdowns in the first half this season. What’s really interesting here is that we are in late October and Ron Rivera’s team is finally playing its first divisional opponent. And a struggling one at that…

Sunday, Oct. 27

Atlanta (2-4) at Arizona (3-4): Mike Smith’s team was undermanned last week, especially on the offensive side of the ball. But quarterback Matt Ryan was on his game, completed 20-of-26 passes for three touchdowns, wasn’t sacked and didn’t commit a turnover in the team’s win over the Buccaneers. The Cardinals have had a few extra days to lick their wounds after a Thursday night loss to the visiting Seahawks. Atlanta’s pass rush isn’t awe-inspiring but neither has been the play of quarterback Carson Palmer, who has turned it over 14 times this season…

Buffalo (3-4) at New Orleans (5-1): The Bills come off a double rare feat; a road win and a victory over a divisional opponent as Doug Marrone’s club nipped the Dolphins last Sunday at Miami. The Saints have had two weeks to ponder exactly what went wrong in Foxborough as the Patriots handed Sean Payton’s club their first loss of the season. Buffalo defensive end Mario Williams has been hot lately, totaling 5.5 sacks in his last four games after going without a sack in two of his first three outings in 2013. But can he get to Drew Brees more than once?

Cleveland (3-4) at Kansas City (7-0): Good luck, Jason Campbell. The Browns will now be the second team this season to start three different quarterbacks as second-year pro Brandon Weeden gets ready to take a seat. Rob Chudzinski’s team is 0-4 when Weeden starts this season and has scored a combined 46 points in those losses. Of course, scoring any points against the Chiefs these days is a problem. They’ve allowed just 81 points this season and have yet to lose a game. Compare that to last year’s 1-6 start when Kansas City was barbecued for 209 points…

Dallas (4-3) at Detroit (4-3): What exactly are the odds? The Cowboys and Lions have both won four games, quarterbacks Tony Romo and Matthew Stafford have both thrown 15 scoring passes and Dez Bryant and Calvin Johnson have each scored six touchdowns. By the way, Dallas and Detroit are both plus-5 in turnover differential. But that’s where the similarities end, gang. The Cowboys are 29th and the Lions are 31st in the NFL in total defense. And Reggie Bush only has 426 yards rushing this season compared to DeMarco Murray total of 428…

Miami (3-3) at New England (5-2): That perfect start by the Dolphins in September has been long forgotten by most as last week’s 23-21 loss to the Bills was their third straight and second in a row at home. Last week, the battered Patriots’ defense eventually succumbed to the Jets’ ground game. More importantly, quarterback Tom Brady did his best but was sacked four times, didn’t throw a touchdown pass but was intercepted for a score. But those recent pass protection woes by the Pats don’t compare to the abuse Ryan Tannehill has taken this season…

N.Y. Giants (1-6) at Philadelphia (3-4): Fresh off their first win of the season, Tom Coughlin’s team squares off with the Eagles for the second time in four weeks. And if you’re the Giants, you have to be excited for the fact that this game is being played in Philadelphia where, incredibly, the home team has lost nine in a row. Michael Vick returns at quarterback for the Birds, who laid an egg last week at “The Linc” against the Cowboys. And can Eli Manning follow up on last week’s performance in which he didn’t throw an interception for the first time all season?

N.Y. Jets (4-3) at Cincinnati (5-2): An intriguing battle of two of the top defensive fronts in the league. So what are the chances that both Geno Smith and Andy Dalton get out of this game unscathed? The former has been sacked 25 times and turned it over on 14 occasions yet the team has a winning record and comes off an overtime victory over the Patriots. Only one team is giving up fewer rushing yards per game than New York, who bring a lot of heat (24 sacks) but don’t make a lot of big plays (4 takeaways). And that’s good news for Dalton and company…

Pittsburgh (2-4) at Oakland (2-4): Ah, memories! You just can’t say Steelers vs. Raiders without thinking “Immaculate Reception” and those five straight years in the 1970s when these teams clashed in the playoffs. No one’s thinking postseason at the moment when it comes to these clubs although Pittsburgh is at least taking aim at a third straight win. Dennis Allen’s team has had its good moments as has improving quarterback Terrelle Pryor and his legs figure to do him a lot of good here. And Oakland beat Ben Roethlisberger and company a year ago…

San Francisco (5-2) at Jacksonville (0-7) at London: Given the way the 49ers have played in recent weeks, they probably didn’t need a plane to get over to England. Jim Harbaugh’s team is suddenly soaring via a four-game winning streak and 31-plus points in each outing. Now the Niners take aim at a Jacksonville club that’s giving up more points per game and scoring fewer points per outing than any team in the league. Keep the fish and chips coming for this tilt as it figures to be another long afternoon for a Jaguars’ team that is simply undermanned…

Washington (2-4) at Denver (6-1): Far be it from me to give you any advice when it comes to putting a few sheckles on a game (I leave that to more “intelligent” people). Last week, the Redskins gave up 41 points in a four-point win over the Chicago Bears and the Broncos surrendered 39 points in a prime time loss to the Colts. In fact, John Fox’s club has allowed 106 points in their last three games. Perhaps another week with linebacker Von Miller back in the lineup helps, but defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio is scrambling like a Denver omelet these days…

Green Bay (4-2) at Minnesota (1-5): Ponder, Ponder, Ponder, Cassel, Cassel, Freeman and now Ponder again. Fortunately for the Packers, they don’t have the revolving door known as the Vikings starting quarterback derby. And Aaron Rodgers is getting ready to face one of his favorite foes. Including playoffs, the Green Bay quarterback owns a 7-4 mark vs. the Purple Gang, throwing 25 touchdown passes and just four interceptions. He’s also been sacked 38 times in those 11 outings, 16.5 of those courtesy of defensive end Jared Allen Is everybody happy?

Monday Night, Oct. 28

Seattle (6-1) at St. Louis (3-4): Last week, Pete Carroll’s club won a divisional road game, something they didn’t do in 2012. Of course, the Seahawks are winning just about everywhere these days and their defense has allowed the second-fewest total yards per game in the league. The Rams came out of last week’s loss to the Panthers minus quarterback Sam Bradford so it’s Kellen Clemens to the rescue. Jeff Fisher’s running game (without a rushing touchdown this season) is still struggling and frankly, this team doesn’t figure to go very Favre this season…

Off this week: Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers and Tennessee Titans

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