Week 1 of the 2012 Regular Season

Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants

Well, folks. Welcome to the 2012 version of CHFF Insider. You’ve seen the new bells and whistles with Spreadapedia, which is so powerful it’s not even funny.

But this where we put up or shut up. These are our aptly named "real and spectacuKaren McDougall camolar" game picks.

And rest assured, we almost always put up. We left off at the end of the 2011 season with a MONSTER hot streak intact.

We went 22-9 ATS in Weeks 16 and 17 of the 2011 season. We followed up that effort with a nifty 7-4 mark in the postseason – the toughest games to call of the year – and we still hit at .636 ATS.

That gives us a running total of 29-13 (.690) ATS over the final six weeks of pro football action.

The long-term results are pretty nifty, too, especially with our ability to mitigate risk. We’ve gone .500 or better in 40 of 51 weeks (.784) since the start of the 2009 season, picking every game, every week.

In other words, if you dutifully followed our picks since the start of 2009, you’ve suffered just 11 losing weeks in three whole seasons. We don’t care where you come from. As Hall of Fame QB Fran Tarkenton used to say, “That’s Incredible!

Keep in mind that our stats grow stronger and become better predictors of victory as we get further along into the season. And past performance is no guarantee of future results, as they say in the financial world.

We size up each team here in Week 1 with last year’s final stats. But as we all know, those stats will soon take on a new life here in 2012.

But we will follow each and every one of them dutifully, and we will report to you the statistical trends that will govern the new season long before anybody else – as we did last year with teams like San Francisco and Houston.

Without further ado, here is our look at the 2012 kickoff game, Dallas-N.Y. Giants. All other analysis and picks will be posted as we crank them out for you.

Dallas at New York Giants (-3.5)

There are two kinds of people in this world: the quick, and those who missed out a line that hits 73.1 percent of the time.

If you got the Giants at -3, you’re quick – and happy. If not, well, you missed out. The game moved the week before kickoff. We reported on Giants coach Tom Coughlin’s remarkable performance at -3 back on Aug. 15, a full three weeks before kickoff.Giants fan

But keep in mind, Spreadapedia offers you one set of tools to analyze games. We’ll offer another set of tools here with our aptly named real and spectacular picks.

It is, was and remains our strategy to analyze every single game as its own little statistical snow globe. Trends come and go. But each game is a once-in-a-lifetime unique statistical event onto itself.

And our real and spectacular picks will treat them as such.

In this case, we have an unusual number of concerns about the Giants, at least by the standards of an NFL champion. Yes, they won the Super Bowl just seven months ago. But they are a historical anomaly by any measure, with the worst record (9-7), worst point differential (-6) and worst Defensive Passer Rating (86.11) of any champion in NFL history.

They needed an NFL record seven fourth-quarter comebacks to produce those 13 wins last year (nine, plus four in the postseason). They were a team that got hot at the right time, and with a clutch QB and clutch coach pulled out another statistical miracle of a Super Bowl title.

These teams also met in the last game of the 2011 regular season, a dominating 31-14 win by the Giants in New Jersey.

The defending Super Bowl winner has won 12 straight opening-day games, a trend that largely coincided with the NFL’s decision to feature the champs in a single primetime game before the rest of the schedule kicks off. The champs are also an incredible 8-2-2 ATS in those same 12 games.

So they not only win, they win big, too, amid the excitement of the banner-raising and a new season in front of a home crowd.

But like we said, every game is its own statistical little snow globe, and this one is no exception. Dallas had dangerous passing game in 2011, and Tony Romo was razor-sharp in the preseason (117.1 rating).  Look for Dallas to keep it close, and maybe even steal a rare Week 1 win against the defending champs.

N.Y. Giants 24, Dallas 23

Cowboys Pre-Game Analysis Giants
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
18.55 19

Quality Stats Power Rankings

11.27 7
17.07 25

Scoreability

13.32 5
13.81 24

Bendability

17.85 5
6.64 12

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.84 10
6.75 22

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.96 25
79.96 16

Real Quarterback Rating

79.77 17
84.16 20

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

77.36 12
- 4.20 18

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

2.42 14
87.26 14

Offensive Passer Rating

84.09 18
94.84 27

Defensive Passer Rating

84.42 13
- 7.58 23

Passer Rating Differential

- 0.33 14
19.00 20

Offensive Hog Index

9.00 3
14.00 12

Defensive Hog Index

14.67 14
0.92 14

The Relativity Index

8.29 6
5031 15

Total Team Yards

5678 2
4817 10

Total Team Yards Allowed

5790 31
214 11

Total Team Yards Differential

-112 19
74.57 25

Offensive Rusher Rating

112.21 2
90.44 19

Defensive Rusher Rating

77.04 6
- 15.86 23

Rusher Rating Differential

35.16 3
23 28

Total Turnovers

16 9
31:45 7

Time of Possession

30:02 19

 

Atlanta Falcons at Kansas City Chiefs

Atlanta (-1) at Kansas City

The Chiefs were something of a statistical miracle last year: they finished the year No. 31 in scoring offense (13.2 PPG) and averaged a Stone Age-esque 9.3 PPG over the final nine games of the year – but still managed to go 7-9 and hand the 15-1 Packers their only loss of the season late in the year.Falcons cheerleader

Romeo Crennel took over the Chiefs for the final three games and managed a 2-1 record, including that win over Green Bay, before closing out the year with a 7-3 win over the AFC West champion Broncos (who re-defined the phrase “backing into the playoffs”).

Not bad for the guy who also led the 2007 Cleveland Browns to 10 wins, the most by the franchise since Bill Belichick coached the team in 1994.

Now he welcomes back a healthy QB Matt Cassel and RB Jamaal Charles. Of course, the offensive woes of 2011 haunted the team again in the 2012 preseason (15.2 PPG). So there still may be issues scoring points again this year. Remains to be seen.

Atlanta had its own issues in 2011: a VERY average pass defense (No. 14 in Defensive Passer Rating, No. 15 in Defensive Real QB Rating, No. 19 in Defensive Real Passing YPA) – and a terrible performance in third-down defense (29th).

Fortunately for the Falcons, the Chiefs – at least the 2011 version – was incapable of exploiting those Atlanta weaknesses. We’re not sure the 2012 version of the Chiefs will get it done, either.

The Cold, Hard Football Facts are NOT sold in the Falcons, nor on Matt Ryan, as we’ve noted several times through the years. Julio Jones may put up all the big numbers that so excite fans of Shiny Hood Ornament wide receivers. But at the end of the day, the impact of these guys on team success is vastly overrated.

With all that said, the Falcons were simply a better team than the Chiefs in 2011. We expect them to be a better team than the Chiefs in 2012 – but not by much.

Keep in mind that Atlanta produced a terrible needs-based draft this year, and we don’t expect big things out of the team.

But the Falcons should have enough even on the road to outlast a Kansas City team that was offensively inept in 2011 and that still has a long way to climb on that side of the ball, even if all hands are healthy and on deck.

Atlanta 21, Kansas City 16

Falcons Pre-Game Analysis Chiefs
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
11.68 9

Quality Stats Power Rankings

26.00 30
14.44 12

Scoreability

22.97 32
17.56 7

Bendability

12.64 31
7.28 4

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.43 29
6.49 20

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

7.40 30
89.99 7

Real Quarterback Rating

55.81 32
75.45 10

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

96.51 31
14.53 8

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 40.69 32
96.15 7

Offensive Passer Rating

63.14 32
82.15 10

Defensive Passer Rating

101.41 30
13.99 7

Passer Rating Differential

- 38.27 32
13.67 12

Offensive Hog Index

18.00 18
17.00 16

Defensive Hog Index

17.67 17
4.90 8

The Relativity Index

- 12.89 31
5085 13

Total Team Yards

4940 18
4823 12

Total Team Yards Allowed

4907 14
262 10

Total Team Yards Differential

33 15
90.00 12

Offensive Rusher Rating

71.15 29
108.87 29

Defensive Rusher Rating

90.86 21
- 18.87 25

Rusher Rating Differential

- 19.71 26
20 19

Total Turnovers

32 32
31:36 9

Time of Possession

31:31 10

 

Buffalo Bills at New York Jets

Buffalo at New York Jets (-3)

These AFC East rivals both enter the 2012 season with a lot to prove.

Buffalo, after yet another losing season, spent oodles of cash to upgrade its defense in the offseason, signing high-profile sack-master Mario Williams away from Houston and raiding division kingpin New England’s roster for pass rusher Mark Anderson, who had 10 sacks for the Patriots in 2011 and also registered 2.5 sacks in the post-season (including 1.5 sacks of Eli Manning in the Super Bowl).Jets cheerleader

The Bills also spent their first-round pick on highly touted cornerback Stephon Gilmore.

So it’s clear that Buffalo’s front office seems to understand that the main reason for last year’s 6-10 record was a defense that ranked No. 30 in Bendability, No. 26 in Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt, No. 26 in Defensive Real QB Rating, No. 26 in Defensive Passer Rating, and No. 27 in Defensive Rushing Yards per Attempt.

The Jets, on the other hand, gave us a strange offseason. There really wasn’t much wrong with New York’s defense in 2011, other than a lousy No. 29 ranking in Bendability—a ranking that certainly would have been better had the Jets’ struggling offense not consistently put the defense in poor field position situations.

Upgrading on offense clearly should have been the Jets’ main offseason priority, but New York instead spent its first round pick on a defensive end with “questions” about him (Quinton Coples) before tabbing Georgia Tech receiver Stephen Hill with its second round pick.

Then, of course, the Jets traded for Tim Tebow, creating what could be the most intriguing and controversial story line yet during the already intriguing and controversial Rex Ryan era.

Just how long will it take for Jets’ fans to take up a “We Want Tebow” chant? How about the instant embattled young veteran QB Mark Sanchez, whose performance regressed in 2011 (78 passer rating and 18 INTs), tosses his first pick of the season?

Hell, given the way both quarterbacks played in the preseason, it might not be long before we hear the “We Want McElroy” chants.

As for this game, it likely will come down to whether or not all of those shiny new baubles that Buffalo added on defense can actually play effectively on the field. Based on our 2011 Quality Stats, the Bills were better than the Jets in most offensive categories, though not by too much, while the Jets were clearly superior on the defensive side of the ball.

Buffalo’s offense lit up scoreboards around the NFL early in the 2011 season, but then in classic Bills fashion it all proved a cruel mirage: defensive coordinators began to figure things out, and Ryan Fitzpatrick (79 passer rating, 23 INTs) turned back into, well, Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Bills lost nine of their last 11 games.

Meanwhile, Gang Green had its own well chronicled offensive nightmare during the 2012 pre-season.

The Jets swept the season series last season, but the second meeting in the Meadowlands was a tight affair, and we expect another tight one here. In the Jets’ defense remains a top-flight unit that offers a competitive advantage. But like everyone else, we major concerns about the Jets’ offense going into 2012.

Given those concerns, it’s hard to see a runaway performance by the Jets.

Pick: New York Jets 19, Buffalo 17

Bills Pre-Game Analysis Jets
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
22.59 26

Quality Stats Power Rankings

23.50 28
15.69 18

Scoreability

15.47 17
13.12 29

Bendability

13.43 28
6.02 23

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.76 25
6.43 19

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.33 18
77.12 18

Real Quarterback Rating

66.69 30
84.86 22

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

79.04 15
- 7.74 21

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 12.34 25
83.54 20

Offensive Passer Rating

76.06 27
90.55 20

Defensive Passer Rating

84.82 15
- 7.01 21

Passer Rating Differential

- 8.77 24
11.00 8

Offensive Hog Index

21.67 27
25.33 28

Defensive Hog Index

27.33 31
- 6.84 27

The Relativity Index

- 3.44 23
4972 16

Total Team Yards

4751 24
5536 29

Total Team Yards Allowed

5182 20
-564 28

Total Team Yards Differential

-431 25
86.00 17

Offensive Rusher Rating

77.47 23
113.61 31

Defensive Rusher Rating

91.49 23
- 27.62 29

Rusher Rating Differential

- 14.02 22
22 24

Total Turnovers

22 24
29:53 21

Time of Possession

29:37 22

 

Indianapolis Colts at Chicago Bears

Indianapolis at Chicago (-10)

The Andrew Luck era has begun in Indianapolis, and he inherits an offense that ranked No. 28 or worse in five of our offensive Quality Stats shown below.

While Peyton Manning’s absence in 2011 garnered all the headlines and most of the blame for Indy’s terrible 2-14 record, the dirty little secret that the Manning ballwashers in the media won’t tell you is that the defense was the main reason for the Colts' demise.Bears cheerleader

Indy ranked No. 27 or worse in seven of our defensive Quality Stats in 2011, including No. 32 in Defensive Real QB Rating, No. 31 on the Defensive Hog Index, and No. 31 in the all-important Defensive Passer Rating category.

Luck may help the Colts win a few more games in 2012, but he’s not going to instantly re-invigorate a defense that needs a lot of reinforcements. In short, Indy’s rebuilding program has just begun.

The Bears at one point were 7-3 and appeared headed back to the playoffs in 2011, then they lost QB Jay Cutler and RB Matt Forte to season-ending injuries, and stumbled to the finish line.

Chicago still fields a high-quality defense that ranked No. 8 in Defensive Passer Rating and No. 10 in Defensive Real QB rating last year, and so the Bears’ defenders have to be salivating at the prospect of facing a rookie QB in his first-ever NFL start this Sunday.

But Chicago's defense in 2011 was not the pass-rushing threat on par with its reputation: the Bears ranked a humble No. 28 in forcing Negative Pass Plays, according to our year-end Defensive Hog Index.

Chicago’s offense also has its well-chronicled weaknesses.

So the Chicago front office rolled the dice on a big-time gamble this offseason that could pay huge dividends, or bust out badly: They acquired talented head case Brandon Marshall from Miami for what amounted to a 50 cents-on-the-dollar price.

Marshall is the epitome of the “Shiny Hood Ornament” receiver that the Cold, Hard Football Facts, and the overwhelming weight of football history, have long derided. But he’s also a tremendous talent and a very productive player.

Cutler needs all the help he can get. Since joining the Bears he has been sacked and smacked more often than Tina Turner in the Ike Years.

Blame an offensive line that has been among the worst in the NFL. Chicago’s Offensive Hogs clocked in at No. 25 last year, while ranking dead last in allowing Negative Pass Plays. That simply cannot continue if the Bears ever want to return to the Super Bowl while this current crew is together.

The Colts defense was terrible last year and should not pose a great threat to Cutler, while Luck will probably find that life in the NFL is a lot tougher once preseason.

But 10 is a big nut to swallow in any language, even in chipmunk-ese. The Bears, for example, are 7-0 since 1978 when favored by 10, but only 3-4 ATS – that data according to the power of Spreadapedia.

Pick: Chicago 24, Indianapolis 17

Colts Pre-Game Analysis Bears
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
21.86 25

Quality Stats Power Rankings

11.18 6
18.46 30

Scoreability

11.88 2
14.30 23

Bendability

19.30 2
6.43 15

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.37 30
6.63 21

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.24 3
73.13 24

Real Quarterback Rating

67.15 28
89.56 27

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

57.90 1
- 16.44 28

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

9.25 11
76.74 26

Offensive Passer Rating

78.60 25
96.65 28

Defensive Passer Rating

65.13 1
- 19.91 31

Passer Rating Differential

13.46 8
13.00 11

Offensive Hog Index

20.33 25
25.33 28

Defensive Hog Index

8.67 5
- 6.46 26

The Relativity Index

9.03 5
5195 10

Total Team Yards

4536 29
5087 18

Total Team Yards Allowed

4222 4
108 13

Total Team Yards Differential

314 9
82.63 21

Offensive Rusher Rating

89.10 14
107.02 28

Defensive Rusher Rating

61.97 1
- 24.39 28

Rusher Rating Differential

27.13 5
23 28

Total Turnovers

20 19
32:03 5

Time of Possession

32:18 4

 

Jacksonville Jaguars at Minnesota Vikings

Jacksonville at Minnesota (-4.5)

These two teams prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that “establishing the run” is the most ridiculous media meme in the NFL.

The Jaguars and Vikings have, in Maurice Jones-Drew and Adrian Peterson, arguably the two best running backs in the league. Yet both teams sucked so hard in 2011 that Jenna Jamison would have struggled to keep pace.Vikings cheerleader

The NFL is all about passing the ball effectively folks. The CHFF have been telling you this FACT for many years now. The Jaguars and Vikings were examples 1 and 1a of 2011.

Jacksonville had the worst passing attack in the NFL last year, ranking dead last in Real QB Rating, Real Passing Yards per Attempt and Offensive Passer Rating. They finished 5-11, despite the presence of Jones-Drew and his league-leading 1,606 rushing yards.  

Peterson, on the other hand, rushed for more than 900 yards last season before tearing his ACL and missing the rest of the year, but his productivity during the season’s first 12 weeks couldn’t help Minnesota do any better than a 3-13 record, in part because the Vikings’ passing game ranked No. 27 in Real Passing Yards per Attempt, No. 22 in Offensive Passer Rating and No. 23 in Real QB Rating.

Jones-Drew just ended his holdout a week before the season opener, so his status for this game is uncertain; ditto for Peterson, whose recovery from the ACL injury has gone well, but is listed as a “game-time decision” as we write these aptly named real and spectacular picks.

However, even at full health, neither running back is likely to determine the outcome of this game: The performance of second-year QBs Blaine Gabbert (Jaguars) and Christian Ponder (Vikings), both first-round picks in 2011, will determine the outcome.

Gabbert was God-awful in limited playing time during his rookie season. So the Jags tried to help him by drafting a Shiny Hood ornament, Oklahoma State wideout Justin Blackmon, with the fifth overall pick in last April’s draft. They probably would have helped Gabbert a lot more by instead bolstering an offensive line that was No. 27 in allowing Negative Pass Plays and No. 28 on the Offensive Hog Index in 2011.

The Vikings gave Ponder some help by taking USC tackle Matt Kalil with the fourth overall pick last April, but we wonder if Minnesota’s overall outlook would have been helped more if they’d instead tried to fix a pass defense that was dead last in the all-important Defensive Passer Rating category last year, and No. 31 in Defensive Real QB Rating.

In fact, Minnesota in 2011 posted the second-worst Defensive Passer Rating in NFL history, behind only the 0-16 Lions of 2008 (110.9).

Can’t stop the pass, can’t win NFL games.

It’s the difference between the defensive units that make us believe that the Jaguars will keep it close. Jacksonville’s defense wasn’t bad in 2011, ranking No. 11 on the Defensive Hog Index, and in the middle of the pack in both Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt and Defensive Passer Rating.

Pick: Minnesota 20, Jacksonville 17

Jaguars Pre-Game Analysis Vikings
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
26.23 31

Quality Stats Power Rankings

19.36 23
16.76 23

Scoreability

14.79 15
14.66 21

Bendability

14.87 19
5.52 28

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.31 31
7.07 28

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.85 7
71.46 25

Real Quarterback Rating

74.22 23
86.69 26

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

86.58 25
- 15.23 27

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 12.36 26
83.11 22

Offensive Passer Rating

82.00 24
89.62 19

Defensive Passer Rating

92.59 24
- 6.52 20

Passer Rating Differential

- 10.59 26
28.67 31

Offensive Hog Index

15.33 13
24.00 27

Defensive Hog Index

19.00 21
- 11.81 30

The Relativity Index

- 0.04 16
4071 32

Total Team Yards

4795 22
5772 30

Total Team Yards Allowed

4466 6
-1701 32

Total Team Yards Differential

329 8
67.73 32

Offensive Rusher Rating

88.29 16
100.43 26

Defensive Rusher Rating

89.48 18
- 32.70 30

Rusher Rating Differential

- 1.20 15
16 9

Total Turnovers

22 24
27:44 30

Time of Possession

28:26 27

 

Miami Dolphins at Houston Texans

Miami at Houston (-9.5)

The Texans may very well have represented the AFC in the Super Bowl last year had they not been decimated by injuries on the offensive side of the ball and relegated to starting a third-string rookie QB, T.J. Yates, in their close divisional playoff loss at Baltimore in January.Texans cheerleaders

Houston finished No. 1 across the board in our final 2011 Quality Stats Power Rankings, even after playing six games without starting QB Matt Schaub.

Of course, the CHFF knew that Houston was tempting fate by hiring Curse of Flutie architect Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator last year, and that the move would ultimately bite them in the butt.

We actually PREDICTED a week ahead of Schaub's injury on CHFF TV that the Curse of Flutie would haunt the Texans last year; and then chronicled the Curse in great detail on SI.com.

Phillips’ hiring was a double-edged sword for Houston. His defensive schemes helped the Texans improve dramatically on that side of the ball in 2011, to the point where Houston had the No. 4 scoring defense in the NFL and ended the season ranked in the top 10 in five of our defensive Quality Stats, including No. 2 in the all-important Defensive Passer Rating category.

But that double-edged sword eventually took down Schaub, handicapping Houston's playoff run. 

If we suffered  the weakness of human emotion, we would really love Houston heading into 2012, especially now that QB Matt Schaub is healthy again. In fact, our own Potentate of Pigskin, Kerry J. Byrne, picked Houston to win the Super Bowl this week as part of Sports Illustrated.com’s expert panel predictions this year.

But we also believe in every fiber of our being in the Curse of Flutie. And it is our greatest concern:  a seemingly immortal vulture of doom that circles over the heads of any team brave enough to employ Phillips, the architect of The Curse.

The Dolphins also field a pretty solid defense. Miami fielded our No. 5 Defensive Hogs last year and also ranked No. 6 in Bendability, meaning the Dolphins’ defense made its opponents work very hard for every point they scored. Miami also finished No. 6 in scoring defense, allowing just 19.5 PPG in what was a record-setting year for offenses around the league.

Miami’s problem for years—about 13 of them, or since Dan Marino hung up his spikes for good after the 1999 season—has been quality play at QB.

The Dolphins had a middle-of-the-pack passing offense in 2011, finishing No.Lauren Tannehill 18 in Real Passing Yards per Attempt and No. 18 in Real QB Rating, while coming in at a surprising No. 12 in Offensive Passer Rating with the likes of Chad Henne and Matt Moore slinging the football around for them.

Enter Ryan Tannehill. He may be a “reach” for some “draftniks” who get paid to analyze and over-analyze the NFL draft field every year, but we applaud Miami for finally showing some balls when it comes to upgrading the QB position. Oh, and have we mentioned that we’re going to love talking about the Dolphins this year for one other reason: Tannehill’s new bride, Lauren, is a stone-cold smokin' hot babe.

Bravo, Miami!

Alas, Tannehill’s hot wife won’t be much help this week on the road against one of the best defenses in the NFL. The Texans lost a couple of pieces from their 2011 defense to free agency—star pass rusher Mario Williams being the biggest name to depart.

But Houston still killed it on defense for the entire 2011 season despite Williams being lost with a season-ending injury in October, so his departure will not hurt much.

We normally are reluctant to give this many points, especially this early in the season, but the Texans basically are returning the same team that was, when healthy, a Quality Stats juggernaut in 2011 – No. 1 across the board in our Quality Stats Power Rankings.

Miami, on the other hand, is sending a rookie QB to the wolves in Week 1, on the road against one of the NFL’s best defenses. Roll the dice with the Defensive Juggernaut vs. the Rookie QB.

Pick: Houston 31, Miami 16

Dolphins Pre-Game Analysis Texans
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
18.55 19

Quality Stats Power Rankings

5.77 2
16.75 22

Scoreability

13.28 4
17.45 8

Bendability

16.67 10
6.23 19

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.93 7
6.25 16

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.74 6
69.74 26

Real Quarterback Rating

87.89 9
78.24 14

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

70.06 5
- 8.50 22

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

17.83 5
74.13 29

Offensive Passer Rating

92.79 11
82.99 12

Defensive Passer Rating

78.44 7
- 8.85 25

Passer Rating Differential

14.35 5
19.67 23

Offensive Hog Index

9.33 4
10.00 6

Defensive Hog Index

7.00 3
- 5.07 25

The Relativity Index

9.83 4
4681 26

Total Team Yards

5670 3
5292 25

Total Team Yards Allowed

5086 17
-611 29

Total Team Yards Differential

584 5
97.64 9

Offensive Rusher Rating

107.39 4
80.65 9

Defensive Rusher Rating

72.77 5
16.99 7

Rusher Rating Differential

34.62 4
21 23

Total Turnovers

14 6
28:52 25

Time of Possession

35:28 1

 

New England Patriots at Tennessee Titans

New England (-7) at Tennessee

New England’s well-oiled victory machine rolled to 13 regular season wins in 2011, and the Patriots reached their fifth Super Bowl in 11 years, a feat that only Tom Landry’s Cowboys (5 appearances in 9 years) have been able to top.Maria Menounos

But there has been something missing in Foxboro since the Patriots last hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy in February 2005: A defense good enough to make the big stops during crunch time.

Three times since 2006, a New England defensive unit has failed to hold a late fourth-quarter lead in a championship game, the most recent failure coming in last year’s Super Bowl, when they surrendered an 88-yard TD drive in the final four minutes to Eli Manning and the Giants in a bitter 21-17 defeat.

To his credit, Bill Belichick, after spending the previous few offseasons slowly rebuilding the Patriots’ roster by moving up and down the draft board – mostly down it – went “all in” last April and traded up twice in the first round to select Syracuse DE Chandler Jones and Alabama LB Dont’a Hightower.

He also selected defensive players in the second, third, sixth and seventh rounds of the draft, and signed several free agents on the defensive side of the ball.

Clearly, Belichick realized that he couldn’t field the same defense in 2012 that he sent out there every week in 2011. It was a unit that ranked No. 21 in Defensive Passer Rating, No. 29 in Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt, No. 24 in Defensive Real QB Rating, No. 28 in third down defense and No. 25 on the Defensive Hog Index.

The Titans, who finished 9-7 last year, were the definition of mediocre. They were good enough defensively to rank No. 5 in Bendability and No. 5 in Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt, but bad enough to rank No. 30 on the Defensive Hog Index, No. 20 in Defensive Real QB Rating, and No. 32 in forcing Negative Pass Plays. The Titans finished in EXACTLY the middle of the pack (No. 16) in our final Quality Stats Power Rankings for 2011.

Tennessee’s 2012 fate has been placed in the hands of second-year QB Jake Locker, a so-called “reach” in the first round of the 2011 draft who completed just 54 percent of his passes in college.

The Titans drafted a Shiny Hood Ornament receiver in the first round of the draft last April, Baylor’s Kendall Wright. We completely disagreed with the pick, of course, given that Tennessee’s biggest problems in 2011, for the most part, were on the defensive side of the ball.

Tom Brady and the offense had some issues in preseason, mostly because the offensive line was missing some key starters throughout the summer. But as we’ve said before, preseason results should be taken with an ocean full of salt, not just a grain.

The Patriots should win this game, but a touchdown is a lot of points to give on the road, especially against a team like Tennessee, which has some playmakers on both sides of the ball and did, after all, post a winning record in 2011.

Keep in mind: Bill Belichick’s Patriots are 68-35 on the road and an awesome 64-38-1 (.627) ATS on the road, including 17-3 straight up and 11-8-1 ATS when favored by 7 points or more.

For what it’s worth – and past games in the Not For Long League are not often worth much – the Patriots have won four straight over the Titans dating back to 2003, outscoring them an awesome 154-67 along the way. The last meeting was a 59-0 New England win in the snow in 2009, tied for the NFL’s largest blowout since 1940.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results in football ... but those are some pretty powerful trends in New England's favor.

Pick: New England 30, Tennessee 20

Patriots Pre-Game Analysis Titans
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
7.91 3

Quality Stats Power Rankings

22.91 27
11.78 1

Scoreability

15.15 16
17.59 6

Bendability

12.87 30
7.34 2

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.90 24
7.22 29

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

7.07 27
102.00 1

Real Quarterback Rating

76.66 19
81.50 18

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

93.32 30
20.51 3

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 16.66 29
104.88 2

Offensive Passer Rating

82.50 23
92.97 25

Defensive Passer Rating

101.67 31
11.91 9

Passer Rating Differential

- 19.17 30
4.33 1

Offensive Hog Index

6.67 2
17.67 17

Defensive Hog Index

21.67 24
13.83 1

The Relativity Index

- 8.41 28
6173 1

Total Team Yards

5168 11
5284 24

Total Team Yards Allowed

5376 26
889 3

Total Team Yards Differential

-208 22
111.27 3

Offensive Rusher Rating

85.83 18
72.04 4

Defensive Rusher Rating

97.33 25
39.23 2

Rusher Rating Differential

- 11.50 20
11 1

Total Turnovers

18 13
30:42 13

Time of Possession

27:43 31

 

Philadelphia Eagles at Cleveland Browns

Philadelphia (-9) at Cleveland

How’s this for a potential nightmare opening day scenario for Browns fans: Rookie QB Brandon Weeden makes his first NFL start against a team registered 50 sacks and 15 interceptions last year.

The Eagles defense topped the NFL last year, forcing a Negative Pass Play on 11.44 percent of dropbacks.

But we have to give the Browns credit for admitting that Brady Quinn was a wasted first round draft pick in 2007, and that Colt McCoy also probably wasn’t going to be the answer at QB either.

So Cleveland now finds itself auditioning a third young QB taken high in the draft in just the last five years. Weeden, actually, isn’t all that young (he will be 29 next month), but the Browns decided that he was worth spending a first round pick on last April, despite his age. Given Cleveland’s on-field performance in recent years, you can’t blame them for shaking things up again.  Eagles fan

The Browns averaged just 13.6 PPG last season. Only the Chiefs and Rams were worse at scoring points in 2011. Therefore, something had to be done, and Cleveland did it, also drafting Alabama RB Trent Richardson third overall.

Relying on rookies, especially rookie QBs, to right your offensive ship is never a sure-fire strategy, but when you’re No. 31 in scoring offense the year before, you can’t do much worse. The Browns actually fielded a very strong defense last season: No. 9 in Bendability, No. 6 in Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt, No. 10 in Defensive Passer Rating and No. 7 in Defensive Real QB Rating.

So if Weeden and Richardson can improve the offensive production even a little bit, Cleveland could take a few steps back towards respectability in 2012.

The Eagles struggled early but finished fast last season, winning five of their last seven games. The Eagles were great rushing the QB last year, but they also suffered way too many turnovers on offense (Philly was No. 30 in turnover differential in 2011, at minus-14).

Philly largely ignored what was probably its biggest defensive weakness this offseason, a pass defense that was just No. 19 in Defensive Passer Rating despite its incredible pass rush.

Instead, the Eagles focused on their front seven with their first three picks last April, and also added LB DeMarco Ryans in a trade with Houston.  Still, with a pair of corners like Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the Eagles’ secondary has the talent to turn things around in 2012.

The big question for Philadelphia, of course, is whether or not Michael Vick can lead them to success over a full season. After a hot start as a relief pitcher in 2010, Vick’s performance has cooled off as his bank account has swelled.

Part of the problem has been his inability to stay healthy – he has played only one full season, back in 2006. But a bigger part of the problem is the fact that Vick’s career passer rating is just a notch below 81 (80.9), and that he remains, at age 32, a better runner than a passer. It’s never a good thing for a team with a very talented, potentially Super Bowl-caliber roster, to rely on a starting QB with a career passer rating that is so perfectly mediocre.

But the Super Bowl is a long way off, and as far as Sunday’s game in Cleveland goes, we really can’t imagine a worse way for Weeden to begin his career. Philadelphia, despite all of its problems early last season, still ended up ranked No. 10 in our Quality Stats Power Rankings, while the Browns, dragged down by their terrible offense, ended up ranked No. 24.

That said, Philadelphia is on the road facing a team with a solid defense. It’s not a great scenario for a blowout.

Pick: Philadelphia 21, Cleveland 14

Eagles Pre-Game Analysis Browns
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
24.00 29

Quality Stats Power Rankings

18.95 22
21.35 31

Scoreability

16.06 20
13.48 26

Bendability

16.06 12
5.59 26

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.58 27
6.80 23

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.96 11
68.64 27

Real Quarterback Rating

66.78 29
90.91 28

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

76.15 11
- 22.26 31

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 9.37 24
75.85 28

Offensive Passer Rating

70.89 30
94.53 26

Defensive Passer Rating

82.69 11
- 18.69 29

Passer Rating Differential

- 11.80 27
15.33 13

Offensive Hog Index

23.00 30
20.00 23

Defensive Hog Index

11.00 8
- 9.02 29

The Relativity Index

- 3.39 22
4908 19

Total Team Yards

4893 20
5388 27

Total Team Yards Allowed

5173 19
-480 26

Total Team Yards Differential

-280 24
72.22 27

Offensive Rusher Rating

89.12 13
85.18 12

Defensive Rusher Rating

81.96 10
- 12.96 21

Rusher Rating Differential

7.15 12
27 31

Total Turnovers

17 12
30:42 14

Time of Possession

27:50 29

 

St Louis Rams at Detroit Lions

 St. Louis at Detroit (-9)

The Lions were the feel-good story for most of 2011 in the NFL. After years of being a laughingstock, and just three years removed from an historic 0-16 season, Detroit roared out of the starting gate in 2011 with a 5-0 record.

But reality began to catch up to the Lions as the season progressed, as they went just 5-6 over their last 11 games and also garnered a reputation of being an immature, undisciplined team full of cheap-shot artists. The season ended with a 45-28 beatdown loss at New Orleans in the first round of the playoffs.Lions cheerleader

The Lions were a Quality Stats juggernaut for most of 2011, and they finished ranked No. 7 in our Quality Stats Power Rankings. Offensively, Detroit was a very strong team that ranked no lower than No. 12 in all but one of our offensive Quality Stats (No. 20 in success on third down).

Detroit’s shortcomings last season were mainly on defense (No. 20 in Bendability and No. 30 in Defensive Rushing Yards per Attempt), joining the short list of just 22 teams in history that surrendered 5.0 YPA or more per attempt on the ground.

And so it was a little odd that the Lions would spend their first-round pick last April on an offensive lineman (Riley Reiff, a tackle from Iowa); but then again, protecting Matthew Stafford, who had a spectacular breakout season in 2011 after spending most of his first two seasons on the sidelines with injuries, has to be a huge priority at this point, given that Detroit’s offense without him is pedestrian at best.

Speaking of oddities, we bring you the St. Louis Rams, who were the only NFL team to score fewer than 200 points. The Rams continue to insist that Sam Bradford, the number one overall pick in the 2010 draft who has a career passer rating of 74.2 in 26 NFL starts, is a franchise QB.

The Rams took a unique approach to the draft last April, trading the second overall pick to the Redskins for a bushel of future draft picks, and then trading a few more times to pick up additional selections  before finally tabbing LSU defensive lineman Michael Brockers with the No. 14 overall pick.

Hey, the Rams needed a lot of help coming into 2012, and not just on offense, and so new coach Jeff Fisher’s approach of stockpiling future picks in order to rebuild a franchise that’s totally disintegrated since 2003 makes sense.

But Fisher’s offseason approach brought no immediate help to an offense that was beyond inept last season. And, on the surface anyway, it doesn’t appear that the Rams’ offense will be much better in 2012. However, it really can’t get any worse, can it?

Not surprisingly, Detroit enters this game as a big favorite. The Rams can’t move the ball and Detroit’s offense averaged just a shade under 30 PPG in 2011.

Gridiron Godfather Roger Goodell recently banned the practice of feeding Christians to the Lions, part of his effort to sissify the game. So we'll have to settle for a bloody mauling of the Rams, instead.

Pick: Detroit 31, St. Louis 17

Rams Pre-Game Analysis Lions
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
19.73 24

Quality Stats Power Rankings

16.77 15
17.75 27

Scoreability

17.01 24
14.76 20

Bendability

13.51 25
6.11 21

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.53 13
6.07 14

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.99 12
76.14 20

Real Quarterback Rating

82.12 14
80.60 17

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

85.98 24
- 4.46 20

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 3.86 17
84.34 17

Offensive Passer Rating

85.26 16
84.76 14

Defensive Passer Rating

92.42 23
- 0.42 15

Passer Rating Differential

- 7.16 22
20.00 24

Offensive Hog Index

10.33 7
11.33 10

Defensive Hog Index

22.33 25
- 2.18 21

The Relativity Index

- 1.14 19
4672 27

Total Team Yards

5248 9
4819 11

Total Team Yards Allowed

5265 23
-147 21

Total Team Yards Differential

-17 17
76.33 24

Offensive Rusher Rating

102.31 7
114.35 32

Defensive Rusher Rating

88.05 16
- 38.02 31

Rusher Rating Differential

14.26 9
16 9

Total Turnovers

19 17
30:03 18

Time of Possession

31:50 6

 

Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints

Washington at New Orleans (-9.5)

When a team trades its next THREE first round draft picks, plus a valuable second rounder away just so they can draft a QB with the second overall pick in the 2012 draft, and that QB is now making his NFL regular season debut, that would normally be the top story heading into a game.

Ah, but not this time, because this game in the Superdome marks the Saints’ first regular season appearance since “Bountygate” decimated their coaching staff and their roster.Saints fans

The Gridiron Godfather, Roger Goodell, for the second time in five years, settled all NFL family business at the expense of the reputations of a Super Bowl-winning coach and franchise.

He handed down severe penalties against Sean Payton, most of his coaching staff, the Saints’ organization, and several of their key players, including star LB Jonathan Vilma, in the wake of the “Bounty” scandal that was uncovered at the end of last season.

The good news for the Saints is that QB Drew Brees has a new contract that should guarantee he’ll be in New Orleans for the rest of his prime playing years, and that they still have one of the most explosive and deadly offensive attacks in the NFL.

Alas, a 2011 draft trade with New England cost New Orleans its 2012 first-round pick  and “Bountygate” cost them their second rounder, so the Saints will pretty much go into battle in 2012 with the same cast of characters, sans Vilma, that went 13-3 and came within one play of going to the NFC title game last season.

As for the Redskins, they were the team that traded all of those draft picks away so that they could draft Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III out of Baylor.

We applaud the move. Washington has struggled for years despite spending tons of money on free agents during Daniel Snyder’s stewardship of the franchise, and the main reason for that is very simple: They have not received quality play at the QB position since Mark Rypien was tossing accurate bombs to Gary Clark in Super Bowl XXVI more than 20 years ago.

Hey, if you need a QB, and there’s a guy out there that you are convinced is the right one for you, then do whatever the hell it takes to get him. You simply do not win in the NFL, at least not consistently, without great play at QB.

Now we’ll find out if coach Mike Shanahan’s gamble—a worthwhile one in our opinion—pays off.

The gamble may very well pay off in the long run for Washington, but this Sunday, the Redskins appear to be in trouble. New Orleans averaged more than 40.0 PPG at home last season, and the Redskins’ defense ranked No. 24 in Defensive Passer Rating, No. 22 in Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt, and No. 23 in Defensive Real QB Rating.

Numbers like that against Brees and the explosive Saints’ offense in the Superdome spell super doom for Washington.

Pick: New Orleans 31, Washington 20

Redskins Pre-Game Analysis Saints
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
12.27 11

Quality Stats Power Rankings

17.45 16
14.35 11

Scoreability

13.64 8
15.07 17

Bendability

16.46 11
7.16 5

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.89 9
6.88 24

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

7.68 31
100.00 2

Real Quarterback Rating

92.62 5
82.63 19

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

92.70 29
17.38 6

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 0.08 16
102.51 5

Offensive Passer Rating

98.61 6
88.40 16

Defensive Passer Rating

100.77 29
14.11 6

Passer Rating Differential

- 2.16 16
17.33 16

Offensive Hog Index

9.67 6
23.67 26

Defensive Hog Index

26.00 30
1.49 12

The Relativity Index

0.14 15
5257 8

Total Team Yards

5338 6
5256 22

Total Team Yards Allowed

6068 32
1 16

Total Team Yards Differential

-730 31
105.24 5

Offensive Rusher Rating

91.43 11
86.47 14

Defensive Rusher Rating

95.02 24
18.77 6

Rusher Rating Differential

- 3.59 18
12 3

Total Turnovers

14 6
30:50 12

Time of Possession

27:19 32

 

Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Panthers cheerleaderCarolina (-2.5) at Tampa Bay

The Panthers were a pretty easy team to diagnose in 2011: an exciting young team with a brilliant young quarterback and great ground game hijacked by a pathetic pass defense.

The Buccaneers were also easy to diagnose in 2011: an offense and a young quarterback with great potential that badly underachieved, paired with the worst defense in franchise history.

Carolina’s pass defense wasn’t only bad last year. The Panthers finished with the 10th worst pass defense in the Super Bowl Era, based upon Defensive Real Passing YPA (7.58).

But the Bucs were barely better, surrendering 7.57 Real Passing YPA, while allowing a franchise worst 494 points and 97.2 Defensive Passer Ratings.

Both teams took bold steps to improve those defenses in the off-season, specifically in the draft.

Carolina, meanwhile, should have a number of key players who were injured last year back on the field.

So we have more confidence in Carolina’s defense, which was already a step ahead, showing the greater improvement of the two. We also have near certainty that the Panthers offense will be far more explosive this year than Tampa Bay’s.

Keep in mind, Carolina QB Cam Newton not only set a rookie record for passing yards and total TDs (35), he also helped spur the No. 7 rushing attack in ALL OF NFL HISTORY (5.43 YPA).

Carolina wiped out Tampa twice in December last year by a combined score of 86-35. You rarely see one team blow out another three times in a row in the NFL.

But we simply believe the Panthers should be the superior team this year. We pick them to win on the road with confidence.  

Pick: Carolina 31, Tampa Bay 24

Panthers Pre-Game Analysis Buccaneers
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
17.55 17

Quality Stats Power Rankings

13.36 13
17.47 26

Scoreability

12.96 3
14.41 22

Bendability

17.20 9
7.08 6

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

7.32 3
5.96 10

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

7.78 32
82.77 13

Real Quarterback Rating

88.64 8
80.57 16

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

85.17 23
2.20 15

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

3.47 13
83.25 21

Offensive Passer Rating

94.57 10
88.93 18

Defensive Passer Rating

90.74 21
- 5.68 19

Passer Rating Differential

3.83 13
21.33 26

Offensive Hog Index

12.33 9
17.67 17

Defensive Hog Index

16.67 15
- 1.53 20

The Relativity Index

3.66 11
4715 25

Total Team Yards

5070 14
4770 8

Total Team Yards Allowed

5190 21
-55 18

Total Team Yards Differential

-120 20
96.58 10

Offensive Rusher Rating

103.93 6
87.87 15

Defensive Rusher Rating

90.49 20
8.71 11

Rusher Rating Differential

13.45 10
18 13

Total Turnovers

11 1
28:46 26

Time of Possession

30:07 17

 

San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers

San Francisco at Green Bay (-5)

The 49ers and Packers represent the tightest and most compelling statistical battle of Week 1 2012 – at least based upon 2011 numbers. And, as we all know as football observers, those numbers may or may not prove completely relevantPackers cheerleader by year end.

For now, they’re all we got and they give us hope for a battle between two tightly matched statistical powers:

  • Green Bay was 5-0 vs. Quality Opponents in 2011; San Francisco was 4-1
  • Green Bay was No. 1 in Scoreability; San Francisco was No. 1 in Bendability
  • Green Bay was No. 2 on the Relativity Index; San Francisco was No. 4
  • Green Bay was No. 4 in our Quality Stats Power Rankings; San Francisco was No. 3

The Packers did it last year with a brilliant passing attack overcoming a flawed defense. The 49ers did it last year with a hugely efficient offense (No. 2 in Scoreability) and young playmaking defense.

Green Bay was 15-1 last year, but it was San Francisco that enjoyed the greatest statistical mismatches. The Packers averaged just 3.95 YPA rushing the football, among the worst in the league. The 49ers were tops in the NFL stopping the run, allowing just 3.49 YPA and just three rushing TDs, all of them late in the year.

Barring a dramatic change in the fortunes of each of those units, expect the Packers to be wholly one dimensional this week.

Of course, that’s not necessarily a bad thing when you have the prolific Aaron Rodgers, the highest-rated quarterback in history, running the show. The Packers couldn’t run the ball last year, either, and still went 15-1 while hanging the second-highest point total (560) in NFL history.

Then again, they didn’t face a defense on par with San Francisco’s all year, either.

The 49ers don't just stop the run, they were brilliant getting after the passer last year, too: No. 5 at forcing Negative Pass Plays. And, in fact, we picked second-year defender Aldon Smith as our 2012 NFL Defensive Player of the Year in CHFF publisher Kerry J. Byrne's preseason predictions on SI.com.

Look for Green Bay to have enough firepower to win, especially as San Fran QB Alex Smith continues to work to break in all his new offensive toys. Plus, there’s no evidence yet that Smith can match the sudden efficiency he displayed last year.

We can see Green Bay winning at home. But it's hard to see them laying waste to a team that we expect will be solid in all phases of the game again in 2012.  

Pick: Green Bay 26, San Francisco 24

49ers Pre-Game Analysis Packers
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
4.77 1

Quality Stats Power Rankings

12.00 10
14.57 14

Scoreability

13.82 9
19.75 1

Bendability

15.63 14
6.91 8

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.34 17
5.12 1

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.93 9
95.87 4

Real Quarterback Rating

92.37 6
71.13 7

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

72.57 9
24.74 2

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

19.80 4
103.61 4

Offensive Passer Rating

106.26 1
76.76 4

Defensive Passer Rating

78.94 8
26.86 2

Passer Rating Differential

27.32 1
17.33 16

Offensive Hog Index

19.00 20
5.00 2

Defensive Hog Index

11.00 8
12.03 2

The Relativity Index

4.47 9
5321 7

Total Team Yards

4970 17
4110 1

Total Team Yards Allowed

4624 7
1211 2

Total Team Yards Differential

346 7
118.53 1

Offensive Rusher Rating

79.76 22
69.13 3

Defensive Rusher Rating

103.06 27
49.40 1

Rusher Rating Differential

- 23.30 27
15 8

Total Turnovers

13 4
31:37 8

Time of Possession

29:59 20

 

Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals

Seattle (-3) at Arizona

The Cardinals were a bad team last year, posing as a .500 club on the backs of some sweet miracle wins when John Skelton was at quarterback.Seahawks cheerleader

It’s made Skelton a nice statistical storyline for us this off-season. But don’t expect the miracles to continue. They appear more to us like a statistical cluster than a sustainable trend.

A look down our Quality Stats charts indicates just how bad the Cardinals truly were, despite the record: of the20 indicators in our statistical tables, they ranked No. 20 or worse in 12 of them.

Yet somehow Arizona fielded the top third-down defense in football last  year, allowing opponents to convert only 31.4 percent of attempts (go figure) while finishing with a Top 10 unit of Defensive Hogs.

Seattle’s greatest strength was also in its defensive front: No. 4 on our Offensive Hog Index. The Seahawks were also better than the Cardinals in 16 of our 20 indicators. In other words, Seattle was largely a better team top to bottom.

Now they try to do it with a rookie quarterback, Russell Wilson, opposing a QB in Skelton who has made just 11 NFL starts.

With that said, the teams split their two games last year, each winning a 3-point victory: Seattle won at home 13-10 in September; Arizona won at home 23-20 on New Year’s Day.

Besides being statistically batter throughout 2011, the Seahawks were rather dominant in the 2012 preseason, with a 4-0 record while outscoring opponents 122-44 – both the best offense and best defense in the preseason. The Cardinals went just 1-4.

We NEVER put stock in preseason results. But in this case, those results are consistent with what we expected last year and consistent with what we expect out of both teams – relative to one another – in 2012.

Keep in mind, though, Seattle is a notoriously bad road team: 104-175 straight up on the road since 1978, and just 123-148-8 ATS, according to the power of Spreadapedia. This record includes a 4-7 mark both straight up and ATS at Arizona. Just a word of caution there.

Pick: Seattle 27, Arizona 21

Seahawks Pre-Game Analysis Cardinals
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
11.41 8

Quality Stats Power Rankings

18.45 18
15.91 19

Scoreability

17.84 28
18.39 4

Bendability

15.89 13
6.48 14

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

4.82 32
5.43 5

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.02 13
84.75 11

Real Quarterback Rating

60.69 31
69.23 3

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

65.12 2
15.52 7

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 4.43 19
95.74 8

Offensive Passer Rating

70.66 31
75.36 3

Defensive Passer Rating

74.27 2
20.38 4

Passer Rating Differential

- 3.61 18
18.67 19

Offensive Hog Index

31.33 32
19.00 21

Defensive Hog Index

7.33 4
3.83 10

The Relativity Index

- 3.71 24
4422 30

Total Team Yards

4281 31
4284 5

Total Team Yards Allowed

4808 9
138 12

Total Team Yards Differential

-527 27
83.22 20

Offensive Rusher Rating

83.67 19
86.33 13

Defensive Rusher Rating

77.28 7
- 3.11 17

Rusher Rating Differential

6.38 13
18 13

Total Turnovers

19 17
31:14 11

Time of Possession

30:38 15

 

Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos

Pittsburgh at Denver (-2)

Wethinks fans and wise guys have memories of a single game from the 2011 season dancing in their little opinion-filled heads.

Last time we saw these two teams play, in the AFC wildcard playoffs, Tim Tebow shredded Dick LeBeau’s defense like cabbage for cole slaw. Mmmm ... cole slaw.

It was one of the more remarkable statistical feats in NFL history, actually.Steelers fan

Tebow averaged 15.04 YPA, the greatest average in postseason history (min. 20 attempts).

What’s more remarkable, though, is that this once-in-a-lifetime effort came against Pittsburgh: a team that was the best in the NFL at bottling up the passing game. Steelers opponents last year averaged just 4.87 Real Passing YPA in 2011, lowest in the NFL.

LeBeau’s defenses, meanwhile, are consistently among the best in the league in that indicator, putting up defensive numbers in terms of YPA that rival those of the mighty Steel Curtain defenses  of the 1970s.

All of which is a long way of saying that we believe that Tebow’s performance was a random, one-time event, not a sign that Pittsburgh’s defense is suddenly a disaster.

We believe Peyton Manning, facing bullets for the first time since 2010, will find a pretty tough row to hoe on Sunday. The Steelers defense was not its lights-out best in 2011, especially its normally stout Defensive Hogs (No. 19 on the DHI last year).

But Pittsburgh still managed to finish No. 1 in Defensive Real Passing YPA, No. 3 in Bendability, No. 3 in Defensive Real QB Rating and No. 4 in Defensive Passer Rating – oh, and let’s not forget, No. 1 in scoring defense (14.2 PPG).

We’re not entirely sold on the Broncos this year, even with the Manning acquisition, because they struggled mightily last year on defense, too: No. 24 in scoring defense and No. 28 in Defensive Passer Rating. In fact, Denver’s 93.12 DPR was the third worst of any playoff team in NFL history.

We wrote in great detail about Denver’s defensive woes soon after they landed Manning (Peyton to Denver: Broncos still far from Super Bowl ready). Short version: the 2011 Broncos defense was worse than all but two of the defenses Manning played with during his 13 years quarterbacking the Colts.

We believe Pittsburgh is the better team, despite its dreadful effort in Denver just eight months ago.

The power of Spreadapedia also tells us that the Steelers are just 5-7 all time in Denver, but 7-5 ATS.

Pick: Pittsburgh 24, Denver 21

Steelers Pre-Game Analysis Broncos
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
13.00 12

Quality Stats Power Rankings

8.55 4
16.18 21

Scoreability

13.55 7
13.47 27

Bendability

15.35 16
6.14 20

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

7.42 1
5.15 2

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.30 4
82.93 12

Real Quarterback Rating

97.53 3
71.27 8

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

69.95 4
11.66 9

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

27.58 1
88.70 12

Offensive Passer Rating

104.52 3
77.74 6

Defensive Passer Rating

79.73 9
10.96 10

Passer Rating Differential

24.79 3
12.33 9

Offensive Hog Index

9.33 4
10.00 6

Defensive Hog Index

3.00 1
- 0.59 18

The Relativity Index

10.85 3
4832 21

Total Team Yards

5461 4
4135 2

Total Team Yards Allowed

4142 3
697 4

Total Team Yards Differential

1319 1
72.10 28

Offensive Rusher Rating

69.43 30
88.77 17

Defensive Rusher Rating

79.78 8
- 16.66 24

Rusher Rating Differential

- 10.35 19
20 19

Total Turnovers

24 30
33:29 2

Time of Possession

29:04 24

 

Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens

Ravens girlCincinnati at Baltimore (-6)

There’s no question Baltimore was the better team in 2011.

Look at those Quality Stats rankings: a lot of 1s and 2s in there for the Ravens. In fact, Baltimore ranked in the Top 8 in 16 of our 20 indicators. That’s amazing.

Included on that list was No. 2 in our Quality Stats Power Rankings, beyond only the statistical juggernaut Texans. If not for a couple bad breaks in the AFC title game, Baltimore would have gone to, and perhaps won, the Super Bowl.

Cincinnati, meanwhile, was a nice story in 2011, but a mediocre team that boasted just 1 Quality Victory and failed to beat a single playoff team all year.

Just not ready for primetime, in other words.

We have concerns about Baltimore’s defense without Terrell Suggs and with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed still great players, but growing old fast in a young man’s sport.

The Ravens bested the Bengals three times in 365 days, beating them on Jan. 2, 2011, Nov. 20, 2011 and Jan. 1 2012. However, the Ravens won those games by 6, 7 and 8 points, respectively. Not exactly blowouts.

In general, and this is based only on expectations at this point in the year, and not on the preponderance of evidence from our Quality Stats on which we normally rely, we anticipate the Bengals will improve this year, while the Ravens will drop off slightly.

The 6-point expectation, meanwhile, is rather large by most standards, especially two divisional rivals who have played each other closely in recent games. Plus, the Bengals have a bright young, possible rising-star QB in Andy Dalton, while this rivalry is not nearly as one-sided as you might imagine.

Baltimore holds an 18-14 advantage straight up, and only 16-15-1 ATS. The last time the Ravens covered 6 or more points at home vs. the Bengals was as defending Super Bowl champs in 2001. The 10.5-point favorite Ravens that day beat the Bengals 16-0.  

But that win was more than a decade ago, for those of you keeping score at home.

Pick: Baltimore 23, Cincinnati 21

Bengals Pre-Game Analysis Ravens
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
14.09 14

Quality Stats Power Rankings

10.32 5
13.98 10

Scoreability

13.53 6
14.89 18

Bendability

18.73 3
6.71 11

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.43 16
5.86 8

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.18 15
86.86 10

Real Quarterback Rating

81.19 15
77.65 13

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

70.14 6
9.21 12

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

11.05 10
95.66 9

Offensive Passer Rating

86.89 15
88.64 17

Defensive Passer Rating

77.48 5
7.02 12

Passer Rating Differential

9.41 11
19.33 22

Offensive Hog Index

16.67 15
13.33 11

Defensive Hog Index

14.00 12
1.44 13

The Relativity Index

5.36 7
5105 12

Total Team Yards

5366 5
5045 16

Total Team Yards Allowed

5009 15
60 14

Total Team Yards Differential

357 6
89.07 15

Offensive Rusher Rating

99.28 8
91.30 22

Defensive Rusher Rating

83.48 11
- 2.23 16

Rusher Rating Differential

15.80 8
18 13

Total Turnovers

13 4
30:19 16

Time of Possession

27:55 28

 

San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders

San Diego at Oakland (-1)

Ahhh, our Week 1 MNF double-header West Coast nightcap brings us two teams from the division nobody wants to win.

Just one game separated the division-champ Broncos (8-8) from the last-place Chiefs (7-9), while the Chargers and Raiders each blew enough opportunities last year to earn a spot in the pigskin porn Hall of Fame.Raiders fan

Hell, the Raiders were 7-4 at one point last year and appeared in control of their own destiny. Then they managed to get blown out for the Dolphins, a team that hasn’t blown anybody out since Dan Marino last played QB.

Oakland was still 8-7 entering Week 17 last year and would have won the division with a victory at home over the Chargers, a team they beat on the road in November.

Instead, Oakland got smoked like a Romeo Y Julieta Churchill, and lost 38-26 – their playoff dreams up in a puff of imported Cuban smoke.

As for the Chargers, they were sitting pretty at 4-1 and atop the division last October, before choosing to go on an ill-timed six-game losing streak (as opposed to the well-timed six-game losing streak).

Included in that skid were losses to all three division rivals, among them pesky OT hiccups against the Chiefs and Broncos.

For our money, this is the hardest game to read of any in Week 1. We have a solid statistical bearing on most, but it’s our duty as slaves to the data that we tell you when we don’t – a rare occurrence that can be expected in Week 1, but that rarely if ever befalls us late in the season. Our late-season ATS victory machine has proven that our numbers get better later in the season, as we get more data under our rather large belts.

The Raiders actually passed the football surprisingly well in 2011, averaging 7.22 Real Passing YPA (No. 6). San Diego’s pass defense, meanwhile, was a disaster: No. 28 in Defensive Real Passing YPA and Defensive Real QB Rating.

San Diego was also dead last in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert 49.2 percent of attempts.

Given those likely advantages on Monday night, Oakland appears poised to hang on at home.

Pick: Oakland 28, San Diego 24

Chargers Pre-Game Analysis Raiders
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
18.77 21

Quality Stats Power Rankings

27.32 32
14.56 13

Scoreability

17.94 29
15.54 15

Bendability

11.71 32
6.06 22

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.32 18
6.31 17

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

7.01 26
75.33 22

Real Quarterback Rating

75.93 21
84.64 21

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

97.70 32
- 9.31 23

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 21.77 30
87.95 13

Offensive Passer Rating

83.98 19
91.02 22

Defensive Passer Rating

101.92 32
- 3.07 17

Passer Rating Differential

- 17.93 28
22.33 28

Offensive Hog Index

22.67 29
18.33 20

Defensive Hog Index

28.67 32
- 0.53 17

The Relativity Index

- 13.00 32
4599 28

Total Team Yards

4792 23
4824 13

Total Team Yards Allowed

5446 28
-225 23

Total Team Yards Differential

-654 30
72.61 26

Offensive Rusher Rating

68.16 31
68.77 2

Defensive Rusher Rating

110.75 30
3.84 14

Rusher Rating Differential

- 42.59 32
22 24

Total Turnovers

20 19
32:33 3

Time of Possession

29:29 23





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