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Week 4 of the 2012 Regular Season

Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens

Week 3 of the 2012 season will certainly go down as one of the wildest in the history of the NFL.

In fact, it was more wild than a night in Vegas with a real and spectacular pigskin prognosticating muse wrapped in camo lingerie.

Now that's wild.

We witnessed two Hail Mary’s in Week 3 – one of which was a success, the other which was “ruled” a success.

The Lions roared back against the Titans only to blow it in OT. The Chiefs shutdown the Saints for an amazing comeback win.

The Cardinals and Falcons produced statement victories and now rank Nos. 1 and 3, respectively, in our Quality Stats Power Rankings.

And young guns clearly have outplayed the old warriors in the early weeks of the season. As we noted this week on Twitter (@footballfacts) and on CHFF TV:

  • Big Ben, Peyton, Brady, Brees and Rodgers have won 8 of the last 11 Super Bowls. They are 4-11 so far in 2012.
  • Kolb, Schaub, Ryan and Ponder have never won a playoff game. They are 11-1 so far in 2012.

Needless to say, the start of every NFL season provides plenty of unexpected twists and turns. And 2012 has been no exception.

But our history shows that the statistical tea leaves become easier to read as we get more data under our rather large and over-burdened belts.

We survived Week 3 by the skin of our chicken wings, but only because of the most controversial play in NFL history. Still, it is what it is. We reversed the first two-week ATS skid in our entire history and need to sling shot ourselves into big things ahead.

We entered 2012 at 85 games over .500 ATS since the start of 2009. So those expectations tell us that we should end the 2012 season with a four-year record of 113 games over .500 ATS.

That’s the history. That’s the record. That’s the goal. We got 14 more weeks to make it happen.

2012 season week-by-week performance
Week 1: 9-7 straight up; 7-9 ATS
Week 2: 10-6 straight up; 7-8-1 ATS
Week 3: 6-10 straight up; 8-7-1 ATS
Year to date: 25-23 straight; 22-24-2 (.478) ATS

On to the picks!

Cleveland at Baltimore (-13)
Wow, talk about a buzz kill.

Week 3 of the NFL season ended in grand, dramatic and controversial fashion, with a pair of contentious primetime thrillers.

It kicks off again Thursday with what is probably the greatest statistical mismatch of Week 4.

Baltimore is better than Cleveland in 16 of our 20 Quality Stats listed below. Specifically, the Ravens dominate in three key indicators in which we put a lot of trust.

  • Baltimore is an incredible 26.2 points better on average than Cleveland when we use the CHFF Relativity Index to measure the relative quality of each team’s performances through Week 3.
  • Baltimore is 40 points better in Passer Rating Differential, the Mother of All Stats.
  • The Ravens are No. 4 on our Quality Stats Power Rankings; Cleveland is No. 29.

Browns rookie QB Brandon Weeden showed signs of life in Week 2 against Cincinnati. But keep in mind the Bengals are No. 30 in Defensive Passer Rating.

Baltimore, meanwhile, does not have the lights-out pass defense it has had in past years. But against a struggling rookie it should be enough to allow the Ravens to cruise to a comfortable victory.

But there is one HUGE wildcard in this game. The Ravens are fresh off a hard-fought, controversial and emotional win Sunday night, and face the shortest turnaround time possible in today’s NFL: little more than 90 hours from the end of the last game until kickoff this game.

Plus, the Cleveland defense is not a complete pushover. It’s No. 8 forcing Negative Pass Plays, No. 10 on the Defensive Hog Index, No. 13 in Bendability, No. 13 in Defensive Real Passing YPA, No. 15 in Defensive Real QB Rating and No. 16 in Defensive Passer Rating.

It’s very easy to envision a situation in which Baltimore is not at peak form and Cleveland can keep it competitive for a while.

Pick: Baltimore 28, Cleveland 17

Browns Pre-Game Analysis Ravens
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
20.41 23

Quality Stats Power Rankings

11.59 9
12% 25

Quality Standings

43% 12
16.65 23

Scoreability

14.17 11
15.82 13

Bendability

16.32 8
5.71 25

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.25 15
6.15 17

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.14 16
68.09 28

Real Quarterback Rating

79.81 14
80.11 17

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

74.20 11
- 12.01 26

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

5.61 12
73.55 29

Offensive Passer Rating

86.43 16
86.64 16

Defensive Passer Rating

80.63 11
- 13.09 26

Passer Rating Differential

5.80 12
23.00 27

Offensive Hog Index

14.33 13
13.67 11

Defensive Hog Index

10.33 8
- 4.74 24

The Relativity Index

4.36 10
7172 17

Total Team Yards

7920 4
7345 18

Total Team Yards Allowed

7089 13
-173 17

Total Team Yards Differential

831 4
91.80 14

Offensive Rusher Rating

98.48 8
89.91 16

Defensive Rusher Rating

86.92 13
1.89 14

Rusher Rating Differential

11.55 10
26 15

Total Turnovers

20 5

 

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons

Carolina at Atlanta (-7)

Time to believe in the Atlanta Falcons.

Atlanta has been the NFL's  most overrated playoff participan of the past two seasons: first, according to our Quality Stats and then as evidenced by their terrible postseason performances. 

So we never bought the premature “elite” thing the “pundits” were selling about the Falcons.

But we are stocking up right now as if it were Buffalo wings and ammo before the End of Days.

It’s clear that Atlanta is elite and the NFL’s best team – at least now through three games.

The Falcons top our Quality Stats Power Rankings and also rank No. 10 or better in 15 other Quality Stats. That’s impressive.

What's more impressive? They are not only No. 1 in Passer Rating Differential, the Mother of All Stats, they are 20 points better than No. 2 Houston.

And even Atlanta’s weak link—a defense that ranks No. 31 in third-down success rate, No. 24 on the Defensive Hog Index and No. 30 in Defensive Rushing YPA — has one very strong and extremely important element in its favor: No. 2 in Defensive Passer Rating.

The Panthers, on the other hand, have more issues than our old cellmate at the Betty Ford Center.

Carolina ranks No. 26 in our Quality Stats Power Rankings, No. 28 on the Relativity Index, and generally grades out as at best a mediocre team, and at worst one of the NFL’s dregs through three games.

Even rushing the football, which was one thing Carolina did very well in 2011—historically well, in fact—has become a problem for the Panthers early in the 2012 season. They rank just No. 14 in Rushing YPA. They were the No. 7 team in NFL history last year running the ball (5.43 YPA).

The Falcons grade out as the vastly superior team right now, with enormous advantages in all of our most important indicators, such as Passer Rating Differential and the Relativity Index. Plus, the Falcons are at home, where their track record is just extraordinary in recent years.

Pick: Atlanta 34, Carolina 24

Panthers Pre-Game Analysis Falcons
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
13.45 14

Quality Stats Power Rankings

11.77 10
29% 17

Quality Standings

100% 1
16.17 21

Scoreability

14.10 10
14.68 22

Bendability

19.56 2
7.00 5

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

7.01 4
6.01 12

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.69 22
87.10 9

Real Quarterback Rating

93.19 7
82.13 20

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

74.18 10
4.97 13

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

19.01 6
86.50 15

Offensive Passer Rating

99.10 6
91.66 23

Defensive Passer Rating

77.10 5
- 5.17 19

Passer Rating Differential

22.00 5
11.33 7

Offensive Hog Index

12.33 9
14.33 13

Defensive Hog Index

23.00 23
0.83 15

The Relativity Index

6.24 8
7106 18

Total Team Yards

7066 20
6586 6

Total Team Yards Allowed

7280 16
520 9

Total Team Yards Differential

-214 19
107.13 5

Offensive Rusher Rating

92.99 13
85.43 12

Defensive Rusher Rating

105.19 30
21.70 6

Rusher Rating Differential

- 12.20 21
22 9

Total Turnovers

22 9

 

Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs

San Diego at Kansas City (pick 'em)

One of the great mysteries of life, ranking right up there with the existence(s) of God and a woman’s “g” spot, is how in the Hell Norv Turner has survived into his sixth season as San Diego’s head coach.

Cockroaches and horseshoe crabs want to know his secrets to survival.

Turner’s best season was his first, as he led the Chargers to the AFC title game, where they performed admirably in a tough loss to the then-undefeated Patriots. Since then it’s been one disappointment after another.  

San Diego is 2-1 here in 2012 but the wins have come against Oakland and Tennessee. Then last week, against their first Quality Opponent, the Chargers were smoked at home by Atlanta as if Winston Churchill himself had his chubby hands around a stogie.

San Diego grades out as an utterly mediocre team right now, and Turner’s leadership doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that they’ll be anything but mediocre going forward.

The good news for San Diego is that this week’s opponent is Kansas City.  The Chiefs won in dramatic fashion at New Orleans on Sunday, but still rank No. 32 in our Quality Stats Power Rankings, No. 32 in our Quality Standings, No. 32 in Passer Rating Differential,

That’s dead last in a 32-team league, for those of you keeping score at home.

The Chiefs are also No. 31 in Defensive Passer Rating. In other words, KC appears to be a pretty bad team through three games.

The Chargers own the Quality Stats comparisons below, by any measure, and they have pretty big edges in most of the key indicators, including the Relativity Index, Passer Rating Differential, and the Quality Stats Power Rankings.

You know our motto: Don’t trust San Diego. But trust the team that’s No. 32 in our Quality Stats Power Rankings even less.

Pick: San Diego 27, Kansas City 23

Chargers Pre-Game Analysis Chiefs
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
18.50 18

Quality Stats Power Rankings

27.27 31
0% 28

Quality Standings

0% 29
13.59 6

Scoreability

24.21 32
14.92 21

Bendability

13.42 27
5.71 24

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.27 31
6.07 15

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

7.20 30
74.74 22

Real Quarterback Rating

56.58 31
81.19 18

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

95.54 32
- 6.45 19

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 38.96 32
88.46 11

Offensive Passer Rating

63.81 31
87.95 19

Defensive Passer Rating

99.91 32
0.52 14

Passer Rating Differential

- 36.10 32
24.67 28

Offensive Hog Index

21.33 25
16.00 16

Defensive Hog Index

24.33 29
- 1.54 20

The Relativity Index

- 14.07 32
6370 30

Total Team Yards

6768 24
6901 10

Total Team Yards Allowed

7144 15
-531 26

Total Team Yards Differential

-376 23
68.04 32

Offensive Rusher Rating

78.62 25
78.76 6

Defensive Rusher Rating

91.58 19
- 10.72 19

Rusher Rating Differential

- 12.96 22
26 15

Total Turnovers

37 30

 

Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions

Minnesota at Detroit (-4)

The Lions are quickly slipping back to becoming the second-rate team that we knew and unloved for so many decades.

They were No. 7 in our overall Quality Stats Power Rankings in 2011, but have slipped back to No. 24 through three weeks this season. 

Even worse has been Detroit’s decline in three of our most important Quality Stats: Defensive Passer Rating, Passer Rating Differential and the Relativity Index.

The Lions finished No. 12 or higher in all three categories last year, but have slipped to No. 29, No. 26 and No. 29, respectively, so far this year.

But it gets even worse yet! Act now, and we’ll throw in yet another injury to starting QB Matt Stafford, whose status for this game remains unclear as we write this analysis. 

If Stafford can’t go, backup Shaun Hill gets the call. He led Detroit on a furious rally with two TD late passes in a losing effort at Tennessee last week.

The Vikings shocked the football world last week by knocking off the 49ers. And while it wasn’t exactly an upset of Ali-Liston proportions, it remains the biggest upset of the young season to date.

Minnesota’s early season improvement so far in 2012 can be traced, primarily, to the place that all trends in football can be traced, to play of the quarterback.

Christian Ponder is emerging as not only a good but perhaps a very good starting QB (105 passer rating, 70% completions, No. 5 in Real QB Rating, No. 12 in Real Passing YPA). 

Minnesota shot up 12 spots to No. 7 in our Quality Stats Power Rankings after last week’s win, and holds down top five spots in Real QB Rating, Offensive Passer Rating, and our Quality Standings.

But who are the real Vikings? The team that lost at Indianapolis in Week 2 or beat up the 49ers at home in Week 3? We'll know more by Sunday.

In either case, Detroit appears to have too many weaknesses right now, especially on defense, plus uncertainty at quarterback. Minnesota, meanwhile, suddenly has the appearance, the QB play and the statistical signatures of a team on the rise.

Pick: Minnesota 26, Detroit 24

Vikings Pre-Game Analysis Lions
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
16.18 15

Quality Stats Power Rankings

19.09 20
44% 11

Quality Standings

9% 27
14.21 12

Scoreability

17.58 27
16.09 10

Bendability

12.49 31
5.34 30

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.41 14
5.96 10

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.17 18
75.30 21

Real Quarterback Rating

77.92 16
84.67 23

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

86.08 25
- 9.37 22

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 8.16 21
81.23 22

Offensive Passer Rating

81.47 21
92.31 25

Defensive Passer Rating

91.74 24
- 11.07 24

Passer Rating Differential

- 10.27 23
11.33 7

Offensive Hog Index

9.67 4
18.00 18

Defensive Hog Index

19.33 21
2.77 13

The Relativity Index

- 3.35 22
7070 19

Total Team Yards

7658 9
6832 8

Total Team Yards Allowed

7617 26
238 11

Total Team Yards Differential

41 12
97.83 9

Offensive Rusher Rating

94.03 11
84.44 10

Defensive Rusher Rating

97.80 23
13.39 9

Rusher Rating Differential

- 3.77 16
26 15

Total Turnovers

33 27

 

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills

New England (-4) at Buffalo

New England invested great time, energy and resources into improving its pass defense during the offseason.

Those efforts have failed miserably so far.

The “bad old days ” for the defense continued Sunday night in the controversial and dramatic 31-30 loss at Baltimore. Tthe Patriots allowed Joe Flacco to throw for 382 yards, 9.8 YPA and a 117.7 passer rating.

The New England defense failed to hold a late lead in a key game, as they have so many times since 2004. In the wake of that debacle, New England is now on pace to field the worst pass defense in franchise history (95.13). The existing record is held by the 3-11 Patriots of 1972 (92.2).

The Patriots have tumbled all the way to No. 22 in Defensive Passer Rating and No. 21 in Defensive Real QB Rating. This week the defense must take on a Buffalo team that possesses the No. 6 scoring offense in the NFL.

Our Quality Stats reveal a pretty even matchup here.  Buffalo averages an awesome 5.56 YPA on the ground, a pace that puts it just shy of the existing record held by the 1963 Browns (5.63 YPA).

But New England ranks No. 5 in Defensive Rushing YPA, so that fight to control the ground will be an interesting battle.

In the passing game, Tom Brady and Ryan Fitzpatrick – right now anyway – are another even matchup. Buffalo ‘s pass defense grades out a lot higher, but remember that the Bills so far have faced the not-so-deadly QB trio of Mark Sanchez, Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden.

As we often do in close matchups, we look to the Relativity Index to provide us with guidance, and the Patriots have a fairly sizable 14.2-point advantage there. Remember, the Relativity Index predicted the winner in better than 2 of every 3 NFL games last year.

Belichick & Co. have not been 1-3 since 2001, after Brady made just his second NFL start. We don’t believe the Patriots are that far into their decline – yet. But it doesn't look like they're head and shoulders over the pack right now, either.

Pick: New England 28, Buffalo 27

Patriots Pre-Game Analysis Bills
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
7.50 4

Quality Stats Power Rankings

21.82 26
50% 7

Quality Standings

0% 31
12.29 1

Scoreability

15.95 20
18.04 4

Bendability

13.35 28
6.98 6

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.04 20
6.88 27

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.07 14
94.39 5

Real Quarterback Rating

76.68 19
77.42 13

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

81.42 19
16.97 7

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 4.73 18
97.66 7

Offensive Passer Rating

82.24 19
86.92 17

Defensive Passer Rating

84.40 15
10.74 7

Passer Rating Differential

- 2.16 17
6.67 1

Offensive Hog Index

11.00 6
12.33 10

Defensive Hog Index

26.67 32
14.13 1

The Relativity Index

- 7.16 27
8607 1

Total Team Yards

7282 13
7541 23

Total Team Yards Allowed

7831 29
1066 3

Total Team Yards Differential

-549 27
110.38 3

Offensive Rusher Rating

85.75 19
75.30 5

Defensive Rusher Rating

113.82 32
35.09 2

Rusher Rating Differential

- 28.07 30
19 3

Total Turnovers

34 28

 

San Francisco 49ers at New York Jets

San Francisco (-4) at NY Jets

The Jets won a tough OT battle at Miami last week, but they may have lost the war for 2012.

New York’s All-World CB Darrelle Revis suffered a torn ACL in the game against the Dolphins and is lost for the season.

It’s hard to overstate just how important Revis is to the Jets. Almost everything that Rex Ryan cooks up defensively for New York each week is predicated on Revis’ uncanny ability to completely shut down the opponent’s best receiver. With that element now missing from their defense, the Jets could be in for some big trouble going forward.

Despite last week’s shocking upset loss at Minnesota, we still believe in San Francisco, our pre-season NFC Super Bowl pick. But there are legit concerns about a defense that was abused by second-year QB Christian Ponder last week and has dropped to No. 22 on the Defensive Hog Index, No. 19 in Defensive Passer Rating and No. 22 in Defensive Real QB Rating.

San Francisco ranked in the top five in all three categories last season.

Keep in mind that the 49ers have faced a pretty high-quality cast of passers this year. Even Ponder is proving to be a rising star as passer.

That said, the Jets have problems passing the ball effectively:  they rank No. 24 in Offensive Passer Rating (Mark Sanchez’s rating has dipped to 78.3), so San Francisco’s defensive numbers could begin to make a recovery in this game.

Passer Rating Differential is the key difference between these teams right now – the 49ers have a 14-point advantage – while San Francisco’s No. 3 rushing offense should also have a big day against the Jets’ No. 27 rush defense.

San Francisco is making the dreaded cross-country trek for this game, but without Revis, it’s hard to envision the Jets hanging with the 49ers for four quarters.

We believe the REAL 49ers are the team that had gone 16-4 and 15-4-1 ATS before in the previous 20 games, and not the one that had a let down on the road against a rising Vikings team.

Pick: San Francisco 23, NY Jets 16

49ers Pre-Game Analysis Jets
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
5.55 1

Quality Stats Power Rankings

23.00 27
57% 5

Quality Standings

17% 23
14.58 15

Scoreability

17.04 25
17.25 7

Bendability

13.80 25
6.91 8

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.35 29
5.29 3

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.79 9
94.55 4

Real Quarterback Rating

57.47 30
74.08 9

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

74.33 12
20.47 4

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 16.86 29
101.19 4

Offensive Passer Rating

68.33 30
78.02 6

Defensive Passer Rating

78.21 7
23.18 4

Passer Rating Differential

- 9.89 22
17.67 20

Offensive Hog Index

25.00 30
6.33 2

Defensive Hog Index

18.67 20
9.55 4

The Relativity Index

- 6.09 26
7744 6

Total Team Yards

6546 28
6320 4

Total Team Yards Allowed

7139 14
1424 2

Total Team Yards Differential

-593 28
112.31 1

Offensive Rusher Rating

77.75 26
73.83 2

Defensive Rusher Rating

95.04 21
38.47 1

Rusher Rating Differential

- 17.29 25
20 5

Total Turnovers

37 30

 

Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams

Seattle (-3) at St. Louis

OK, we know that the replacement refs screwed up Monday night, and that Seattle should have lost to the Packers, but how about some love for Pete Carroll’s defense?

Seattle sacked the mobile Aaron Rodgers eight times last week and now ranks No. 8 in Bendability, No. 9 in Defensive Real Passing YPA, No. 8 in Defensive Passer Rating and No. 7 in Defensive Real QB Rating, after finishing No. 12 or higher in those four categories last season as well.

(We discussed Seattle's chase of the elusive single-game sack record this week on SI.com.)

The Seahawks also leapt up to No. 5 on the Relativity Index after their win over the Packers on Monday.

After a solid start, the Rams fell back to earth last week in Chicago. Sam Bradford’s passer rating dropped by more than 30 points after a 0 TD, 2 INT, 39.2 passer rating nightmare against the Bears.

So facing Seattle’s “pumped and jacked” defensive unit this week may not be the best thing for Bradford on the heels of his performance in Chicago.

Of course, the Seahawks have problems of their own passing the football. They rank No. 26 in Real QB Rating and No. 32 in Real Passing YPA with rookie Russell Wilson at the helm. 

In fact, the Rams actually have a big advantage in Passer Rating Differential (+8) coming into this game; but the Seahawks, overall, appear to be the better team.

Seattle has an enormous edge on the Relativity Index and in our Quality Stats Power Rankings.

Seattle of course, is historically a great home team and terrible road team. As Spreadapedia shows, the Seahawks on the road are 33-61 straight up and just 35-56-3 (.385) ATS since 2000.

Meanwhile the solid pass defense of the Rams (No. 6 in Defensive Passer Rating) should help make this a defensive tussle.

Pick: Seattle 17, St. Louis 16

Seahawks Pre-Game Analysis Rams
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
6.36 3

Quality Stats Power Rankings

18.41 17
83% 2

Quality Standings

33% 15
13.62 8

Scoreability

17.61 28
20.00 1

Bendability

15.75 14
6.92 7

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.00 21
5.42 5

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.01 13
93.29 6

Real Quarterback Rating

76.79 18
65.78 3

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

79.34 15
27.50 2

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 2.55 17
100.58 5

Offensive Passer Rating

82.75 17
71.80 3

Defensive Passer Rating

83.95 14
28.78 2

Passer Rating Differential

- 1.20 15
13.67 10

Offensive Hog Index

18.67 23
17.00 17

Defensive Hog Index

11.00 9
11.82 3

The Relativity Index

- 0.65 19
7056 21

Total Team Yards

6696 26
6438 5

Total Team Yards Allowed

6873 9
618 7

Total Team Yards Differential

-177 18
99.29 7

Offensive Rusher Rating

77.10 27
78.84 7

Defensive Rusher Rating

107.54 31
20.45 8

Rusher Rating Differential

- 30.44 31
21 7

Total Turnovers

22 9

 

Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans

Tennessee at Houston (-12)

Houston’s Quality Stats juggernaut rolled on last week, beating up Peyton Manning and the Broncos on the road in a game that was not nearly as close as the final score indicated.

But Denver’s late rally affected our Quality Stats enough to drop Houston from No. 1 to No. 2 in our Quality Stats Power Rankings.

However, the Texans are still tied with the Falcons for the No. 1 spot on our Relativity Index.

That tie is a rather rare statistical occurrence when you consider all the factors that go into creating it – the scores of every game by that team and all the scores of all their opponents’ games.

Bottom line: the Texans truly are a juggernaut. They rank in the Top 10 in 18 of our 20 Quality Stats categories below and no lower than No. 16 (Rushing YPA) in any of them.

This week’s game against a bad Tennessee team should provide the Texans with an opportunity to leap back into the No. 1 spot overall.

Second-year man Jake Locker has given the Titans some very solid QB play so far (91.9 rating, 4 TD, 0 INT, 6.97 Real Passing YPA).

But passing the ball and preventing Negative Pass Plays (ranked No. 1) are about the only things that the Titans have done well this year.

Tennessee has allowed a league-worst 113 points in three games (37.6 PPG), and ranks No. 32 in Defensive Passer Rating (118.96), No. 28 in Defensive Real Passing YPA, No. 32 in Defensive Real QB Rating and No. 31 in Passer Rating Differential.

Tennessee also ranks No. 31 in both our Quality Stats Power Rankings and on the Relativity Index.  

All those numbers spell bad news on the road against the most well-rounded team in football.

Twelve points is a big nut to cover, but Houston owns huge advantages just about everywhere you look.

The Texans should win this game easily – barring a classic back door cover, with a cheap late touchdown or two by the Titans.

Pick: Houston 38, Tennessee 20

Titans Pre-Game Analysis Texans
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
23.27 28

Quality Stats Power Rankings

8.27 5
0% 32

Quality Standings

50% 6
15.18 17

Scoreability

14.31 14
12.74 30

Bendability

15.63 15
5.74 23

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.58 13
6.57 20

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.78 8
70.75 27

Real Quarterback Rating

83.35 11
84.93 24

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

70.69 5
- 14.18 27

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

12.67 8
76.91 25

Offensive Passer Rating

89.22 10
92.69 26

Defensive Passer Rating

79.97 10
- 15.79 30

Passer Rating Differential

9.25 8
15.33 16

Offensive Hog Index

13.67 10
14.67 14

Defensive Hog Index

7.00 3
- 9.88 28

The Relativity Index

4.66 9
7410 11

Total Team Yards

7693 7
7552 24

Total Team Yards Allowed

7389 20
-142 16

Total Team Yards Differential

304 10
85.32 20

Offensive Rusher Rating

104.60 6
100.03 24

Defensive Rusher Rating

74.00 3
- 14.71 24

Rusher Rating Differential

30.60 3
28 22

Total Turnovers

19 3

 

Cincinnati Bengals at Jacksonville Jaguars

Cincinnati (-2.5) at Jacksonville

The Bengals have allowed 102 points through three games so far this year, which ties them with New Orleans for No. 31 in the NFL in scoring defense.

But Cincinnati is 2-1 on the season despite their poor defensive effort because their offense has scored 72 points in the last two games behind the stellar play of QB Andy Dalton (105 passer rating, 6 TDs, 3 INTs, No. 2 in Real Passing YPA, No. 2 in Offensive Passer Rating). 

Dalton’s performance so far this season is even more remarkable considering that he has been sacked 12 times playing behind Cincinnati’s No. 30-ranked Offensive Hogs.  In fact, this game will be the opposite of Hog Heaven.

Let’s call it Hog Hell, since Cincinnati’s O-Hogs are ranked No. 30 while their Defensive Hogs rank No. 23. Jacksonville’s Offensive Hogs are mediocre (No. 16), but its Defensive Hogs are ranked No. 30.

This game is a close call because both teams are either futile or mediocre in many of our key Quality Stats.

For example, only a few spots separates them in Passer Rating Differential, on the Relativity Index, and in our Quality Stats Power Rankings.

Maurice Jones-Drew  (314 rushing yards, 5.3 YPA) against Cincinnati’s No. 32-ranked rush defense could be a huge mismatch, and Jacksonville clearly grades out as the better defensive team.

That said, Cincinnati has the superior passing game, by far, and the team with the better passing game usually emerges victorious.

Still, the Bengals are on the road and have a bad defense facing a team likely to be able to run on them at will and keep it competitive. Expect a close one.

Pick: Jacksonville 24, Cincinnati 23

Bengals Pre-Game Analysis Jaguars
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
12.91 12

Quality Stats Power Rankings

27.59 32
60% 3

Quality Standings

11% 26
13.61 7

Scoreability

18.78 29
15.98 12

Bendability

13.71 26
6.11 19

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.38 28
5.56 6

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.90 28
79.41 15

Real Quarterback Rating

65.97 29
71.31 8

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

86.14 26
8.10 10

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 20.17 30
88.09 13

Offensive Passer Rating

74.65 28
80.66 12

Defensive Passer Rating

89.78 21
7.43 11

Passer Rating Differential

- 15.13 29
24.67 28

Offensive Hog Index

27.00 31
7.67 4

Defensive Hog Index

24.00 28
2.78 12

The Relativity Index

- 13.18 31
6956 22

Total Team Yards

6272 31
7021 11

Total Team Yards Allowed

7992 30
-65 13

Total Team Yards Differential

-1720 32
86.17 18

Offensive Rusher Rating

74.01 28
85.08 11

Defensive Rusher Rating

96.45 22
1.09 15

Rusher Rating Differential

- 22.44 28
27 21

Total Turnovers

26 15

 

Miami Dolphins at Arizona Cardinals

Miami at Arizona (-6.5)

Raise your hand if you had Arizona No. 3 on the Cold, Hard Football Facts Relativity Index (+16.33) and Kevin Kolb No. 3 in passer (108.6) through Week 4 of the NFL season.

Neither did we.

The Cardinals are probably the No. 1 surprise of the 2012 season. And it’s rather shocking to see them as a touchdown favorite in any game, let alone so early in the year. But the public is suddenly buying what that Arizona defense is selling.

And well they should be.

The Cardinals are No. 4 in Defensive Passing YPA, No. 4 in Defensive Real QB Rating, No. 5 in Defensive Passer Rating and No. 5 on the Defensive Hog Index.

And they’ve done it against two pretty productive quarterbacks over the past two weeks: Tom Brady and Michael Vick.

Those defensive numbers spell a long day for rookie Ryan Tannehill and one of the worst passing offenses in football. Miami IS No. 25 in Real Passing YPA, No. 29 in Real QB Rating and dead last, No. 32, in Offensive passer Rating.

How rare is it for the Cardinals to be favored so heavily? 

Spreadapedia tells us that they have been favored by 6.5 points or more just 19 previous times since 1978. This game is the 20th.

The Cardinals are 15-4 straight in those games but just 7-12 ATS.

However, we look at each game as a unique statistical event with our real and spectacular picks. And, right now, that unique collection of statistical circumstances tell us that Miami will struggle to move the ball all day long.

Pick: Arizona 20, Miami 10

Dolphins Pre-Game Analysis Cardinals
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
19.18 21

Quality Stats Power Rankings

21.09 24
29% 18

Quality Standings

22% 22
17.31 26

Scoreability

16.84 24
18.01 5

Bendability

15.14 20
5.88 22

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

4.51 32
6.19 19

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.01 11
71.04 26

Real Quarterback Rating

54.08 32
78.51 14

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

64.53 2
- 7.47 20

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 10.45 23
76.69 26

Offensive Passer Rating

63.10 32
83.44 13

Defensive Passer Rating

71.17 1
- 6.75 20

Passer Rating Differential

- 8.08 21
18.33 22

Offensive Hog Index

31.67 32
14.00 12

Defensive Hog Index

8.67 5
- 2.57 21

The Relativity Index

- 5.03 25
6532 29

Total Team Yards

6041 32
7324 17

Total Team Yards Allowed

7072 12
-792 30

Total Team Yards Differential

-1031 31
91.06 15

Offensive Rusher Rating

78.84 23
88.57 15

Defensive Rusher Rating

86.98 14
2.49 13

Rusher Rating Differential

- 8.14 17
26 15

Total Turnovers

34 28

 

Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos

Oakland at Denver (-6.5)

Don’t look now, but Peyton Manning has morphed into an ordinary quarterback right before our very eyes.

The Broncos are just No. 18 in Real QB Rating, No. 19 in Real Passing YPA, and No. 21 in Offensive Passer Rating

Of course, he has faced some tough pass defenses. And he’s not alone in his struggles among big-name veteran QBs, either. We discussed the statistical “changing of the guard” at QB this week on CHFF TV.

However, the Oakland defense should be just what Dr. Pigskin ordered for Mr. Manning and the Broncos offense. The Raiders are No. 28 in Defensive Passer Rating, No. 30 in Defensive Real QB Rating and the worst in the NFL at pressuring the passer (2.61 Negative Pass Play%).

Peyton should finally have time to get a little cozy in the pocket and pick apart a defense.

In past years, Oakland could normally rely on a fairly productive ground game to keep it competitive.

But this year the Raiders average just 3.4 YPA on the ground, among the worst in the league, while Denver is one of the best on run defense (3.34 YPA)

Both teams are 1-2 in the standings. But it’s very clear Denver has been much better while facing tougher competition. The Broncos are No. 4 in our Relativity Index (+15.67) while the Raiders are No. 27 (-11.33), a 27-point advantage for Denver.

Look for Peyton and the Denver offense to get its groove back before heading to New England in Week 5 for a meeting of storied old rival gunslingers.

Pick: Denver 27, Oakland 17

Raiders Pre-Game Analysis Broncos
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
25.77 30

Quality Stats Power Rankings

5.86 2
0% 30

Quality Standings

40% 14
18.98 30

Scoreability

13.23 2
12.80 29

Bendability

16.10 9
6.23 16

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

7.44 1
6.85 26

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.23 1
76.55 20

Real Quarterback Rating

98.89 2
92.95 31

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

69.01 4
- 16.39 28

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

29.89 1
82.45 18

Offensive Passer Rating

105.34 2
97.46 30

Defensive Passer Rating

79.44 9
- 15.01 28

Passer Rating Differential

25.90 3
20.00 24

Offensive Hog Index

9.67 4
23.67 26

Defensive Hog Index

2.00 1
- 10.62 30

The Relativity Index

12.30 2
6674 27

Total Team Yards

7882 5
7356 19

Total Team Yards Allowed

5897 1
-682 29

Total Team Yards Differential

1985 1
70.13 31

Offensive Rusher Rating

79.80 22
103.20 27

Defensive Rusher Rating

74.94 4
- 33.07 32

Rusher Rating Differential

4.86 12
26 15

Total Turnovers

28 22

 

New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers

New Orleans at Green Bay (-7)

Uh-oh. The 2012 season for the Saints is about to go from bad, to ugly to as ugly as it can get.

The coach-less team, the bloodied victim of another wave of violence by Gridiron Godfather Roger Goodell, is 0-3, can’t stop anybody, is fresh off a bad loss to the weak Kansas City Chiefs and now most walk into the hornet’s nest of Lambeau Field a week after the Packers were kicked in the nuts on national TV by replacement officials.

Other than that, how was the season, Mrs. Brees?

That’s a pretty sour recipe for a team seeking its first victory.

The problems for New Orleans are pretty clear when you size them up across the board in our Quality Stats below: the Saints can’t stop anybody, not even bad teams.

They are No. 25 in Defensive Passer Rating, No. 30 in run defense and No. 31 in Defensive Passing YPA.

Hard to win games when you can’t stop the pass and can't stop the run.

The BIGGEST concern is this: the Saints are 0-3 and haven’t played anybody yet! They’re losing to bad teams. And their true depths of their statistical depravity are evidenced by our Relativity Index.

The Saints are dead last on this indicator, -19.5 points on average worse than the performance of their opponents in their other games.

Drew Brees and the New Orleans offense have scored some points -- 27.7 PPG to be exact, good enough for No. 9 in the NFL.

But even that tried and true offense has plenty of statistical holes: No. 21 in Passing YPA and No. 25 in Offensive Passer Rating.

Meanwhile, the Packers counter with one of the best pass defenses in the NFL: No. 1 in Defensive Passing YPA and No. 1 at pressuring the passer, forcing a Negative Pass Play on nearly 1 in 5 drop backs (18.6 %).

We believe the Saints are too talented to suffer much longer. We feel that there will come a game when they’ll pull it back together and get some of the old mojo back and maybe ripping off a few wins in a row.

But we don’t make decisions based on feelings around here. We make decisions based on the harsh, inalterable reality of the Cold, Hard Football Facts. And they tell us that Green Bay should romp at home.

Pick: Green Bay 34, New Orleans 21

Saints Pre-Game Analysis Packers
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
17.91 16

Quality Stats Power Rankings

9.55 6
14% 24

Quality Standings

44% 10
14.26 13

Scoreability

13.28 5
15.51 17

Bendability

16.04 11
7.17 3

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.65 12
7.41 32

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.68 7
91.59 8

Real Quarterback Rating

95.30 3
87.50 28

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

70.96 6
4.09 14

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

24.35 3
96.39 8

Offensive Passer Rating

108.28 1
93.83 28

Defensive Passer Rating

76.77 4
2.56 13

Passer Rating Differential

31.51 1
7.33 2

Offensive Hog Index

18.00 21
26.00 31

Defensive Hog Index

15.33 15
1.48 14

The Relativity Index

6.98 5
8400 2

Total Team Yards

7512 10
8854 32

Total Team Yards Allowed

6818 7
-454 25

Total Team Yards Differential

694 6
93.43 12

Offensive Rusher Rating

87.28 17
104.20 28

Defensive Rusher Rating

101.33 25
- 10.77 20

Rusher Rating Differential

- 14.06 23
24 13

Total Turnovers

18 2

 

Washington Redskins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington at Tampa Bay (-3)

Both the Redskins and Buccaneers are 1-2, but this shapes us as a more compelling battle than you might think for two reasons.

One, each team obviously needs a win early in the year to keep pace in their respective divisions, and each should look at this as a winnable game.

Two, it’s a pretty compelling statistical showdown between rookie QB Robert Griffin III and the Washington offense against a Tampa defense that’s been surprisingly stout so early in the season considering its historic struggles to stop anybody in 2011.

We don’t need to re-hash the RGIII success story through three games. But from our point of view, the Redskins are No. 2 in Real QB Rating, No. 5 in Offensive Passer Rating and No. 8 in Real Passing YPA.

The Bucs, so dreadful on defense last year, are No. 8 in Defensive Real QB Rating and No. 12 in Defensive Passer Rating through three games. However, they are getting stung down field: No. 29 in Defensive Passing YPA.

There is even a compelling match-up on the ground: Washington No. 4 in rushing offense, Tampa Bay No. 1 in rushing defense.

One notable difference is that one team is clearly imbalanced while the other has displayed more balance.

Washington is No. 1 in scoring offense (33.0 PPG) and No. 29 in scoring defense (33.7 PPG); Tampa Bay is No. 24 in scoring offense (20.0 PPG) and No. 15 in scoring defense (22.3 PPG).

It's a pretty bad sign for the Redskins that they have the best offense in the league and stills surrender more points than they score.

From our vantage point, Tampa favored by 3 is probably the perfect expectation. But we are the Mighty Cold, Hard Football Facts. We don't sit on the sidelines at any game. We put our hefty ass on the field of battle, every game, every week.

We’ll put our trust in the more balanced team with the superior defense playing at home – a team that is 6 points better on the Relativity Index.

The Bucs, solid on pass defense, good at pressuring the quarterback and great on run defense, will bottle up RGII long enough to carve out a tough home win.

Pick: Tampa Bay 24, Washington 20

Redskins Pre-Game Analysis Buccaneers
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
11.09 8

Quality Stats Power Rankings

18.73 19
50% 8

Quality Standings

33% 16
14.06 9

Scoreability

14.96 16
15.57 16

Bendability

15.43 19
7.20 2

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.73 11
6.75 24

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

7.28 31
99.93 1

Real Quarterback Rating

77.04 17
80.05 16

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

88.38 29
19.88 5

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 11.33 24
102.06 3

Offensive Passer Rating

81.77 20
86.99 18

Defensive Passer Rating

93.46 27
15.08 6

Passer Rating Differential

- 11.70 25
13.67 10

Offensive Hog Index

14.33 13
23.67 26

Defensive Hog Index

18.33 19
3.29 11

The Relativity Index

- 0.50 18
7675 8

Total Team Yards

7198 16
7778 28

Total Team Yards Allowed

7478 22
-103 15

Total Team Yards Differential

-280 20
110.71 2

Offensive Rusher Rating

97.55 10
90.06 17

Defensive Rusher Rating

92.12 20
20.65 7

Rusher Rating Differential

5.43 11
16 1

Total Turnovers

23 12

 

New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles

N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia (-1)

We all know that turnovers are one of the keys to success in the NFL or at any level of football. We often like to call them the second most important stat in football, after final score.

We don’t track turnovers directly in our Quality Stats – but all those ugly turnovers manifest themselves in so many different ways.

One of the big ways is in our efficiency indicators. Teams that consistently win the turnover battle rank highly in Scoreability and Bendability. Teams that consistently lose the turnover battle rank lowly in Scoreability and Bendability.

The Eagles consistently lose the turnover battle.

As a result, the Eagles are No. 27 in Bendability, our measure of defensive efficiency, and dead last in Scoreability, our measure of offensive efficiency. That’s what happens when your offense coughs up the ball 12 times in three games.

Philadelphia’s Scoreability performance, 26.6 Yards Per Point Scored, is so bad it’s easily on pace to be the least efficient offense since we began tracking the number in 2004. That’s bad.

All those turnovers – nine by Michael Vick alone – also manifest themselves in Offensive Passer Rating (No. 29) and Real QB Rating (No. 30).

The big clash here is Eli Manning and New York’s highly productive passing attack (No. 3 in Real Passing YPA, No. 7 in Real QB Rating, No. 1 with a bullet in Clutch-Osity) against what has been a lights-out pass defense for the Eagles (No. 2 in Defensive QB Rating).

The difference will come when turnover-prone Vick stares down the barrel of New York’s great defensive front: No. 6 on the Defensive Hog Index and No. 3 at pressuring the passer.

The Giants have forced a Negative Pass Play on 1 in 8 dropbacks this season (12.5%). That unit will likely make the one play that tips the balance of power in favor of the Giants.

Pick: N.Y. Giants 24, Philadelphia 21

Giants Pre-Game Analysis Eagles
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
13.27 13

Quality Stats Power Rankings

25.59 29
43% 13

Quality Standings

29% 19
13.26 4

Scoreability

20.23 31
17.83 6

Bendability

12.37 32
6.84 9

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.69 26
7.17 29

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.74 23
82.64 12

Real Quarterback Rating

71.24 25
83.66 21

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

92.87 30
- 1.02 15

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 21.63 31
87.17 14

Offensive Passer Rating

78.64 24
88.69 20

Defensive Passer Rating

99.57 31
- 1.51 16

Passer Rating Differential

- 20.93 31
7.33 2

Offensive Hog Index

15.67 17
22.00 22

Defensive Hog Index

23.00 23
6.41 6

The Relativity Index

- 10.28 29
8080 3

Total Team Yards

7269 14
8449 31

Total Team Yards Allowed

7624 27
-369 22

Total Team Yards Differential

-355 21
109.38 4

Offensive Rusher Rating

73.48 29
80.72 8

Defensive Rusher Rating

91.10 18
28.66 4

Rusher Rating Differential

- 17.62 26
21 7

Total Turnovers

37 30

 

Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys

Chicago at Dallas (-3.5)

Has any team ever been more psychotically bi-polar than the recent-vintage Bears? Chicago is:

  • No. 1 on the Defensive Hog Index, No. 32 on the Offensive Hog Index
  • No. 1 in Defensive Real QB Rating; No. 32 on Offensive Real QB Rating
  • No. 2 at pressuring the passer on defense; No. 32 at protecting the passer on offense.

With that said, this match-up actually bodes well for the visiting Bears.

Dallas has plenty of big names, but right now is a shocking 31st in scoring offense. Tony Romo & Co. have produced just 47 points in three games.

You don’t need us to tell you that Dallas’s offensive production is more disappointing than our average dalliance with the ladies ... and shamefully pathetic at worst.

Now the Cowboys face a Chicago club that is traditionally tough on defense and is shaping up to be so again in 2012, even if the quality of offensive opponents has not been so hot.

Chicago has managed to stay alive at 2-1 thanks largely to a defense that has produced one score (an INT return last week against the Rams) while consistently giving its overwhelmed offense a fighting chance.

The Bears, for all their famous struggles on offense, are No. 2 in Scoreability this year.

The traditional inefficiency of the Cowboys is evident by its No. 31 ranking in Scoreability. Bottom line: a lot of yards from a talented offense, but few points. Or, as they say it in Texas: big hat, no cattle.

Chicago has a slight advantage in the Relativity Index while the Cowboys are traditionally overvalued by the public, even at home. The Bears will make it one long, tough fight. But will ultimately not have the gunpowder needed to win in the end.

Pick: Dallas 17, Chicago 16

Bears Pre-Game Analysis Cowboys
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
11.05 7

Quality Stats Power Rankings

19.55 22
25% 20

Quality Standings

22% 21
13.25 3

Scoreability

15.94 19
18.23 3

Bendability

14.22 23
5.67 27

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.81 10
5.41 4

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.76 25
71.70 24

Real Quarterback Rating

84.14 10
63.95 1

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

86.35 27
7.74 11

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 2.21 16
80.42 23

Offensive Passer Rating

91.32 9
71.28 2

Defensive Passer Rating

94.67 29
9.13 9

Passer Rating Differential

- 3.35 18
21.67 26

Offensive Hog Index

15.00 15
8.67 5

Defensive Hog Index

25.33 30
6.35 7

The Relativity Index

0.13 16
6745 25

Total Team Yards

7358 12
6180 3

Total Team Yards Allowed

7430 21
565 8

Total Team Yards Differential

-72 14
88.19 16

Offensive Rusher Rating

78.65 24
64.73 1

Defensive Rusher Rating

101.79 26
23.46 5

Rusher Rating Differential

- 23.13 29
24 13

Total Turnovers

29 24





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