Week 12 of the 2013 Regular Season

New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons

(Note: the Vegas Insider consensus we use for all our point spreads had this game listed at Saints -9.5 on Tuesday after opening at -7, apparently mistakenly. We referenced what seemed an odd and dramatic movement when we published our pick on Tuesday, as noted below. The VI consensus was listed back at a more understandable -7.5 on Thursday. Naturally, the game is more attractive to us at -7.5 than it was at -9.5 and does not change our pick or analysis.)

New Orleans (-7.5) at Atlanta

The mighty of 2012 have fallen – and fallen in rare and spectacular fashion here in 2013.

The Falcons were the NFC’s No. 1 seed in 2012. But any remaining notion that they were just an underachieving team bumbling along here in2013 was wiped out last Sunday, when Atlanta was wiped out at Tampa 41-28 – wiped out by a Bucs team that began the year 0-8 and is now only 2-8.

Atlanta is also now just 2-8 and the startling speed of their fall is evident in our Quality Stats table below: the NFC South rival Saints are better than the Falcons in every single one of our indicators.

It’s rare for one team to be better than another team everywhere on the field, but that’s the case in this game, a Thursday night showdown that certainly looked more attractive to one and all when the schedule came out in the summer.

Today it just looks like an ugly Christmas sweater worn too early in the holiday season.

You can’t pinpoint just one problem in Atlanta – the Dirty Birds suck almost everywhere you look. The Falcons rank in the top half of the NFL in just five of 23 indicators and as a result are No. 31 in our Quality Stats Power Rankings.

Offensively, Matt Ryan & Co. are largely a top-half-of-the-NFL but generally mediocre unit.

The most obvious issues are on defense, where Atlanta is No. 31 on the Defensive Hog Index and No. 32 in Defensive Passer Rating, a 105.8 mark that puts this team on pace to go down as one of the worst pass defenses in history.

None of that bodes well for Atlanta, as it hosts a deadly New Orleans Saints club that is clearly in Super Bowl contention after last year's exile.

The Saints are:

  • No. 1 in Real QB Rating Differential, which means nobody is winning the most important battle in sports more impressively
  • No. 1 in Total Team Yards Differential, which means they’re winning the territorial battles better than any team in football
  • No.2 on our Quality Stats Power Rankings behind only Seattle
  • No. 3 on the Relativity Index, at an average of +10.5 PPG, evenly split among offensive (+5.49 PPG) and defensive (+5.01 PPG) performance.

The big line is a problem. We wouldn’t touch this game unless doomed by the football fates as we are to pick every game every week straight up and against the spread. The number has also been jacked up from -7 to -9.5 over the past couple days, which means the value is on the Atlanta side. (See note above.)

But there’s no reason to believe the Falcons can statistically compete. And they’ve scored just 33 points total in their last three games against Quality Opponents, all of them losses, including a 33-10 home loss to a Seattle team statistically built much like New Orleans.

Drew Brees vs. Bad Pass Defense in a Dome not normally a good sign for the opponent.

If the number moves any further we may have to revisit our score. (See note above.)

Pick: New Orleans 31, Atlanta 21

Saints Pre-Game Analysis Falcons
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
7.14 2

Quality Stats Power Rankings

23.86 31
14.97 17

Scoreability

16.87 26
17.39 6

Bendability

13.57 24
7.55 3

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.33 11
5.50 7

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

7.25 30
100.66 2

Real Quarterback Rating

83.32 12
66.56 3

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

98.20 32
34.11 1

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 14.88 27
107.31 2

Offensive Passer Rating

89.72 10
77.68 8

Defensive Passer Rating

106.69 32
29.64 2

Passer Rating Differential

- 16.97 27
11.00 8

Offensive Hog Index

12.00 10
13.00 13

Defensive Hog Index

28.67 32
9.41 5

The Relativity Index

- 5.15 26
5305 5

Total Team Yards

4341 29
4179 3

Total Team Yards Allowed

4776 15
1126 1

Total Team Yards Differential

-435 25
87.63 18

Offensive Rusher Rating

77.30 28
96.96 23

Defensive Rusher Rating

97.51 24
- 9.33 23

Rusher Rating Differential

- 20.21 28
13 5

Total Turnovers

20 23
33:03 1

Time of Possession

29:17 23

 

Carolina Panthers at Miami Dolphins

Carolina (-4) at Miami

Fresh off a scintillating win over the Patriots last Monday night, the red-hot Panthers continue their tour through the AFC East with a trip to Miami to face the .500 Dolphins.

This is a matchup between two of the better pass defenses in the NFL, as the Panthers and Dolphins rank No. 6 and No. 7, respectively, in Defensive Passer Rating, and No. 4 and No. 7, respectively, in Defensive Real QB Rating.

Of course, Patriots-Panthers was a match-up of two strong bass defenses, and Carolina took that battle, too, albeit with a little controversy at the end.

Everywhere else on the defensive side of the ball, Carolina has the edge, with our No. 2 Defensive Hogs and a No. 2 ranking in Defensive Rusher Rating. The Panthers also are No. 1 in Total Team Yards Allowed. Miami is mediocre or worse in those same categories.

The biggest difference in this game, however, is in the passing game, where Carolina and Cam Newton have a decided advantage over Miami and Ryan Tannehill.

Carolina is No. 9 in both Real QB Rating and Offensive Passer Rating, while Miami is just No. 26 in the former category and No. 20 in the latter.

The Panthers also boast large advantages in Passer Rating Differential, Real QB Rating Differential and on the Relativity Index, where Carolina ranks No. 2 and Miami ranks No. 18.

Another huge mismatch in this game will be when Carolina’s No. 2 Defensive Hogs line up against Miami’s No. 26 Offensive Hogs.

This will be a good road test for Carolina, as the Dolphins’ defense should be able to slow down Newton and the Panthers’ offense. But it’s also very hard to envision the Miami offense doing much with one of the best defenses in the league.

Pick: Carolina 23, Miami 14

Panthers Pre-Game Analysis Dolphins
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
7.86 3

Quality Stats Power Rankings

18.86 22
13.59 8

Scoreability

14.89 15
21.67 1

Bendability

16.10 12
5.76 22

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.47 27
5.64 8

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.89 13
85.93 8

Real Quarterback Rating

69.83 26
68.17 4

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

70.67 8
17.76 4

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 0.84 18
88.30 12

Offensive Passer Rating

81.99 22
77.58 7

Defensive Passer Rating

75.85 4
10.72 7

Passer Rating Differential

6.14 13
15.00 16

Offensive Hog Index

23.33 27
5.00 2

Defensive Hog Index

13.67 14
10.59 2

The Relativity Index

- 0.34 16
4278 30

Total Team Yards

4354 28
4072 1

Total Team Yards Allowed

5021 21
206 10

Total Team Yards Differential

-667 30
96.18 8

Offensive Rusher Rating

89.27 14
66.51 2

Defensive Rusher Rating

99.46 25
29.67 1

Rusher Rating Differential

- 10.19 24
14 7

Total Turnovers

18 17
33:02 2

Time of Possession

28:20 27

 

Chicago Bears at St Louis Rams

Chicago at St. Louis (-1)

The Bears have continued to play well with Josh McCown (100 passer rating) taking the snaps in lieu of injured QB Jay Cutler (ankle), who has been ruled out for this game against the Rams.

Chicago, in fact, still ranks No. 3 in scoring offense (28.2 PPG), No. 3 in Total Team Yards and No. 3 on the Offensive Hog Index after years of ineptitude on the OL. All of that production is a tribute to the impact of first-year head coach Marc Trestman. The OHI represents a startling turnaround for an offensive line that had long been one of the league’s worst.

This will be a very tough test for McCown, because he will be facing a St. Louis pass rush that has registered 14 sacks over its last three games. In addition, the Rams’ defense nearly shut out the high-flying Colts on the road two weeks ago in a shocking 38-8 upset win.

Overall, however, the Rams’ rankings in our defensive Quality Stats categories are not all that impressive, as their highest ranking is No. 13 on the Defensive Hog Index. In fact, St. Louis, despite its recent defensive hot streak, still ranks a paltry No. 24 in Defensive Passer Rating and No. 22 in Defensive Rusher Rating.

Chicago’s defense also has rallied of late, but the unit is still a far cry from the dominant force it was during most of the Lovie Smith era.

A lot of the Quality Stats matchups for this game are basically even, but Chicago has solid edges in Passer Rating Differential, Real QB Rating Differential, and on the Relativity Index.

The Bears also have the edge in the battle of the backup QBs, as McCown has outplayed Rams’ backup Kellen Clemens (79 passer rating) by a wide margin.

This one should go right down to the wire, but the Bears need it more and are just that much better.

Pick: Chicago 21, St. Louis 19

Bears Pre-Game Analysis Rams
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
14.73 13

Quality Stats Power Rankings

17.45 19
13.52 7

Scoreability

13.42 6
13.39 25

Bendability

15.46 15
6.78 8

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.84 20
7.11 29

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.98 26
85.80 9

Real Quarterback Rating

77.44 19
78.87 17

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

81.92 19
6.93 10

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 4.48 21
92.82 8

Offensive Passer Rating

87.75 14
85.06 16

Defensive Passer Rating

94.23 25
7.76 10

Passer Rating Differential

- 6.48 21
8.33 3

Offensive Hog Index

15.00 16
25.33 28

Defensive Hog Index

14.33 16
- 0.77 20

The Relativity Index

1.30 11
5698 2

Total Team Yards

4801 17
5051 23

Total Team Yards Allowed

4685 12
647 4

Total Team Yards Differential

116 12
94.99 9

Offensive Rusher Rating

81.45 25
105.31 30

Defensive Rusher Rating

94.51 21
- 10.31 25

Rusher Rating Differential

- 13.06 26
15 10

Total Turnovers

14 7
30:34 15

Time of Possession

29:34 22

 

Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans

Jacksonville at Houston (-10)

We know the Jaguars are bad, but this line made us do a double-take the first time we saw it.

The Texans have lost eight consecutive games and are coming off a home loss against a lousy Oakland team, a game in which maligned former starting QB Matt Schaub came off the bench and nearly led Houston to a comeback win, only to find out that he’ll be sitting again this week in favor of young Case Keenum, who was pulled for poor play against the Raiders.

So it goes for the Texans in 2013, a team with Super Bowl dreams back in August that now has to be careful not to win too many games over the final six weeks of the season, lest they play themselves out of what should be a top-five pick in the first round of the draft and a chance to quickly reinvigorate the roster with some talented youth.

Clearly, even though the Texans have been terrible this year, they’re still a better team than the bottom-feeding Jaguars.

Jacksonville won its first game two weeks ago and then put up a pretty good fight last week against Arizona.

But the Jaguars, by any measure, are easily the worst team in the NFL, and the Quality Stats table reflects that fact. Including the Relativity Index, Jacksonville ranks dead-last in 12 of our key indicators and averages a league-worst (by far) 12.9 PPG.

In short, Houston should win this game. But the 2-8 Texans should not be trusted to cover such a big number, even against Jacksonville.

Pick: Houston 24, Jacksonville 16

Jaguars Pre-Game Analysis Texans
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
29.05 32

Quality Stats Power Rankings

20.73 24
21.92 32

Scoreability

20.09 31
12.76 27

Bendability

11.05 32
5.40 28

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.78 21
7.03 27

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.64 9
60.55 31

Real Quarterback Rating

72.02 23
93.94 30

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

84.92 24
- 33.39 32

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 12.89 25
65.98 31

Offensive Passer Rating

80.31 23
100.60 29

Defensive Passer Rating

92.38 21
- 34.62 32

Passer Rating Differential

- 12.07 26
31.00 32

Offensive Hog Index

17.00 18
28.00 31

Defensive Hog Index

17.00 20
- 14.92 32

The Relativity Index

- 7.72 30
4153 32

Total Team Yards

5206 8
5114 24

Total Team Yards Allowed

4565 8
-961 32

Total Team Yards Differential

641 5
87.34 20

Offensive Rusher Rating

71.26 30
103.65 29

Defensive Rusher Rating

92.47 19
- 16.31 27

Rusher Rating Differential

- 21.21 29
19 20

Total Turnovers

20 23
27:41 29

Time of Possession

32:26 4

 

Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers

Minnesota at Green Bay (-5)

Green Bay, predictably, has fallen on hard times with Aaron Rodgers sidelined by a broken collarbone. Backup Scott Tolzien has a 68 passer rating and has thrown five interceptions in the last two games, both losses, while leading one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL to just 26 total points.

As bad as Green Bay’s QB situation is without Rodgers in the lineup, the QB situation in Minnesota probably is worse. Third-year QB and former first round pick Christian Ponder (74 passer rating) has been ineffective and is nursing a bad shoulder that drove him out of the Vikings’ game in Seattle last week. Veteran Matt Cassel (86 passer rating) may get the start this week, but coach Leslie Frazier has yet to decide.

Whichever QB starts this game for Minnesota will be facing a Green Bay pass defense that ranks No. 27 in Defensive Passer Rating and No. 25 in Defensive Real QB Rating, so the Vikings may be able to move the ball through the air.

Minnesota is No. 1 in Offensive Rusher Rating, but star RB Adrian Peterson is nursing a groin problem, so he may not be at 100 percent for this game.

For sure, the Packers have the edges in the key categories such as Passer Rating Differential, Real QB Rating Differential, and on the Relativity Index. But analyzing their games without Rodgers as part of the mix is a difficult task because Green Bay’s strong offensive Quality Stats rankings were amassed with the former league MVP behind center.

Still, Tolzien will also be facing one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL this week (Minnesota is No. 29 in Defensive Passer Rating and No. 31 in Passer Rating Differential), and the Packers, desperate for a win, are at home.

Pick: Green Bay 26, Minnesota 24

Vikings Pre-Game Analysis Packers
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
23.50 30

Quality Stats Power Rankings

14.32 11
13.62 9

Scoreability

16.44 23
12.75 28

Bendability

14.93 16
5.68 23

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

7.35 6
6.64 22

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.63 21
70.63 25

Real Quarterback Rating

89.39 6
91.19 28

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

87.41 25
- 20.56 30

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

1.99 15
75.02 28

Offensive Passer Rating

94.06 7
97.65 26

Defensive Passer Rating

99.20 27
- 22.63 29

Passer Rating Differential

- 5.13 20
12.67 12

Offensive Hog Index

7.67 1
26.33 30

Defensive Hog Index

14.67 17
- 7.52 29

The Relativity Index

0.31 14
5173 10

Total Team Yards

5473 3
5660 31

Total Team Yards Allowed

5301 27
-487 27

Total Team Yards Differential

172 11
107.95 1

Offensive Rusher Rating

101.88 4
102.13 27

Defensive Rusher Rating

93.46 20
5.82 14

Rusher Rating Differential

8.41 12
23 29

Total Turnovers

15 10
27:39 30

Time of Possession

31:17 11

 

New York Jets at Baltimore Ravens

N.Y. Jets at Baltimore (-3.5)

Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco currently has a 75 passer rating and has thrown an equal number of interceptions and TD passes this year (13 each).

Hard to believe he’s the same guy who played so brilliantly in the Ravens’ unexpected run to a Super Bowl title last winter.

Of course, Flacco’s postseason performance last year was pretty much an anomaly, as over the full course of his career he’s been a solid, but hardly spectacular QB and has been prone to the kinds of performance lapses that have characterized his 2013 season.

In fact, with the exception of last season’s perfectly timed postseason run, much of his entire career has been a performance lapse. And the 75.3 rating this season on pace to be the worst of his career.

With Baltimore’s playoff hopes hanging by a thread, it’s probably a good thing that the Jets are coming to town.

New York has been a bad road team (1-4) and is coming off a humiliating thrashing at Buffalo last week. Its last road game before that resulted in the biggest blowout of the year, a 49-9 loss at Cincinnati.

Rookie QB Geno Smith (65 passer rating) was yanked during the Bills’ game, but Rex Ryan has indicated that he plans to stick with Smith as his starter, for now anyway.

This game features two sluggish passing offenses and two great defensive lines. Baltimore has our No. 1-ranked Defensive Hogs and the Jets have our No. 8-ranked Defensive Hogs.

The Ravens are also No. 1 in Defensive Rusher Rating and that likely will be the key factor in this game, since the Jets struggle mightily to throw the ball and they have to run it effectively in order to protect Smith and keep him comfortable.

The Jets, at 5-5, have the Quality Stats profile of a 2-8 team; and, as noted previously, they have played poorly on the road this year. That’s a bad combination against a Baltimore team that badly needs a win.

Pick: Baltimore 21, N.Y. Jets 14

Jets Pre-Game Analysis Ravens
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
23.18 29

Quality Stats Power Rankings

16.59 16
18.65 30

Scoreability

14.96 16
12.38 31

Bendability

16.83 9
5.57 26

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.66 24
6.33 18

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.04 14
56.89 32

Real Quarterback Rating

68.06 27
84.78 23

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

75.60 12
- 27.89 31

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 7.54 22
63.74 32

Offensive Passer Rating

76.57 25
93.05 24

Defensive Passer Rating

85.73 18
- 29.31 31

Passer Rating Differential

- 9.16 25
23.00 26

Offensive Hog Index

26.00 30
10.33 4

Defensive Hog Index

4.33 1
- 9.39 31

The Relativity Index

- 0.25 15
4516 23

Total Team Yards

4579 22
4888 17

Total Team Yards Allowed

4560 7
-372 24

Total Team Yards Differential

19 15
83.28 23

Offensive Rusher Rating

78.14 26
83.83 12

Defensive Rusher Rating

65.04 1
- 0.55 16

Rusher Rating Differential

13.10 9
24 31

Total Turnovers

19 20
30:59 13

Time of Possession

31:04 12

 

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns

Pittsburgh at Cleveland (-2)

The Browns laid a colossal egg last week with a 41-20 loss at Cincinnati in what was the franchise’s most important regular season game since Romeo Crennel’s Cleveland team went 10-6 and made a run at a playoff berth in 2007.

Turnovers played a huge role in Cleveland’s big loss against the Bengals, as QB Jason Campbell, who had played well leading up to the Cincinnati game, tossed three picks and the Browns also gave up both a fumble return and a blocked field goal return for Cincinnati TDs.

The Steelers have won four of six since their 0-4 start and notched their best win of the year last week against Detroit.  

The loser of this game is pretty much out of the AFC playoff picture, and so this shapes up as the most important meeting between these old division rivals in a very long time.

Pittsburgh’s pass defense, after a rough first eight games of the season, has rallied the past two weeks against Buffalo and Detroit and now ranks a decent No. 16 in Defensive Passer Rating, slightly worse than the Browns, who rank No. 13.

Overall, Cleveland’s defense is better, as the Browns have the higher-ranked Defensive Hogs and rank No. 3 in Defensive Real Passing YPA and No. 12 in Defensive Real QB Rating.

Offensively, however, Pittsburgh has a big edge. Ben Roethlisberger (100 passer rating in November) has been hot lately and the Steelers have scored 91 points over their last three games. Because of that advantage in the passing game, the Steelers have a huge edge in Passer Rating Differential.

Expect a very tight game here, but the Browns, after last week’s debacle, appear to be a team that’s not quite ready for prime time. Pittsburgh-Cleveland is also one of the most lopsided “rivalries” in sports. The Steelers are 23-3 against the Browns, dating back to October 2000.

Pick: Pittsburgh 23, Cleveland 20

Steelers Pre-Game Analysis Browns
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
17.86 20

Quality Stats Power Rankings

21.36 26
15.37 18

Scoreability

17.48 29
14.75 19

Bendability

12.71 29
6.34 10

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.14 32
6.17 15

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.16 3
79.02 16

Real Quarterback Rating

66.07 29
77.83 15

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

77.56 13
1.19 16

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 11.49 24
92.32 9

Offensive Passer Rating

74.59 29
82.30 13

Defensive Passer Rating

83.04 14
10.02 8

Passer Rating Differential

- 8.45 23
22.33 25

Offensive Hog Index

25.33 28
21.00 23

Defensive Hog Index

16.67 18
- 3.02 22

The Relativity Index

- 5.06 25
4837 16

Total Team Yards

4758 19
4930 18

Total Team Yards Allowed

4219 4
-93 17

Total Team Yards Differential

539 6
69.46 31

Offensive Rusher Rating

63.13 32
101.78 26

Defensive Rusher Rating

89.23 16
- 32.32 32

Rusher Rating Differential

- 26.10 31
18 17

Total Turnovers

20 23
31:18 9

Time of Possession

28:42 26

 

San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs

San Diego at Kansas City (-4.5)

Denver was the first true test that Andy Reid’s Kansas City team faced in 2013, and the Chiefs received a failing grade. The team technically has a Quality Win under its belt, as Philly has improved to 6-5; but the Eagles were struggling badly when they faced the Chiefs back in Week 3.

Regardless, Kansas City’s previously impregnable defense allowed 427 total yards and 24 first downs against the Broncos, totals that would have been far, far worse had Denver not committed a whopping 13 penalties.

Clearly, Kansas City has at least a little ways to go before it can legitimately claim a seat at the AFC’s Big Boy Table.

Fortunately for KC, the schedule softens up again this week as the 4-6 Chargers come to town.

San Diego has lost three straight and brings one of the worst defenses in the NFL to Arrowhead Stadium, along with one of the league’s most inefficient offenses (No. 29 in Scoreability).

The Chargers outgained Miami by nearly 100 yards last week, but went just 4 for 11 on third down and committed 10 penalties en route to scoring just 16 points.

That kind of offensive inefficiency does not bode well for San Diego against the most efficient defense in the league (KC is No. 1 on our Bendability Index).

The Quality Stats breakdown for this game presents a mirror image: Kansas City dominates the defensive stats and San Diego dominates the offensive stats, at least in the passing game. Because of their defensive superiority, the Chiefs have the edge in Passer Rating Differential, Real QB Rating Differential, and on the Relativity Index.

Because San Diego can move the ball against just about any team, this probably won’t be a blowout. But Kansas City is back at home, where they've surrendered just 63 points this year, and is still a deadly efficient club.

Pick: Kansas City 24, San Diego 17

Chargers Pre-Game Analysis Chiefs
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
17.27 17

Quality Stats Power Rankings

9.32 4
16.67 24

Scoreability

13.31 5
16.48 11

Bendability

21.56 2
7.83 2

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.27 31
7.32 31

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.82 10
100.32 3

Real Quarterback Rating

80.15 15
95.24 31

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

66.51 2
5.08 13

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

13.64 5
106.63 4

Offensive Passer Rating

83.35 20
102.72 31

Defensive Passer Rating

76.18 5
3.91 16

Passer Rating Differential

7.18 12
9.67 6

Offensive Hog Index

13.00 13
25.00 27

Defensive Hog Index

12.00 8
- 0.52 19

The Relativity Index

6.33 6
5198 9

Total Team Yards

5049 14
5800 32

Total Team Yards Allowed

4666 11
-602 28

Total Team Yards Differential

383 9
84.14 22

Offensive Rusher Rating

94.14 12
105.43 31

Defensive Rusher Rating

76.51 7
- 21.28 30

Rusher Rating Differential

17.62 5
13 5

Total Turnovers

11 1
32:40 3

Time of Possession

31:45 6

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Detroit Lions

Tampa Bay at Detroit (-9)

Break up the Bucs!

After going 0 for September and October, Tampa Bay has been killing it in November, nearly upsetting the Seahawks in Seattle before knocking off the Dolphins and Falcons over the past two weeks.

The key to Tampa’s resurgence, of course, has been quality QB play. Rookie Mike Glennon has a 114 passer rating in November while completing 71 percent of his passes and throwing five TD passes against just one INT.

The NFL is all about the QB, folks. And the 2013 Bucs are just the most recent example. They started competing when they put a competitive QB under center, however unknown. It's no more complex than that.

What is curiously complex are the Lions. They continue to be one of the more inconsistent teams in the NFL. Detroit, instead of widening its lead in an NFC North that is beset with injuries at the starting QB position in both Chicago and Green Bay, staged an epic fourth quarter collapse at Pittsburgh last week to fall back towards the division pack.

The Packers are coming to town on Thanksgiving Day, but the Lions cannot afford to look ahead to that key matchup given that Tampa Bay is suddenly showing signs of life.

Not surprisingly, the Lions, as they should when facing a 2-8 team, have the advantages in most of the key Quality Stats comparisons, including a massive edge in Real QB Rating Differential and solid leads in Passer Rating Differential and on The Relativity Index.

Detroit is better on both sides of the ball, but like most NFL observers, we at CHFF are never sure which Lions’ team is going to show up from week to week.

That factor, plus Tampa Bay’s better play of late, makes us hesitant to give this many points. Plus, keep in mind that Detroit enjoys a surprisingly narrow advantage on our Relativity Index, which takes into account quality of competition. The Lions are +0.50 PPG and falling; the Bucs -3.78 PPG and climbing.

Pick: Detroit 27, Tampa Bay 20

Buccaneers Pre-Game Analysis Lions
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
18.41 21

Quality Stats Power Rankings

15.32 14
15.82 20

Scoreability

15.85 21
14.76 18

Bendability

14.49 21
5.40 29

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

7.08 7
6.27 17

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.97 25
73.24 22

Real Quarterback Rating

85.63 10
83.74 22

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

83.01 20
- 10.50 23

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

2.62 14
83.77 18

Offensive Passer Rating

88.96 11
87.19 19

Defensive Passer Rating

90.75 20
- 3.42 18

Passer Rating Differential

- 1.80 17
19.33 22

Offensive Hog Index

9.33 5
19.33 21

Defensive Hog Index

13.67 14
- 3.03 23

The Relativity Index

- 0.51 17
4454 25

Total Team Yards

5297 6
4518 5

Total Team Yards Allowed

5201 26
-64 16

Total Team Yards Differential

96 13
77.70 27

Offensive Rusher Rating

87.62 19
79.07 8

Defensive Rusher Rating

85.32 14
- 1.38 17

Rusher Rating Differential

2.30 15
12 2

Total Turnovers

21 26
31:18 10

Time of Possession

31:27 8

 

Indianapolis Colts at Arizona Cardinals

Indianapolis at Arizona (-2.5)

Wow. Talk about a little respect. Carson Palmer’s Cardinals are favorites over the Chosen One’s Colts deep into the season. Granted, Arizona is at home. But a few weeks ago nobody would have envisioned Indy’s visit a likely win for the Red Birds.

Winning five of seven, as Arizona has, including a 16-point victory over the statistically imposing Panthers, will certainly help a team elevate its status, not to mention its playoff potential at 6-4.

The Colts, meanwhile, have not exactly impressed in recent weeks: a pair of narrow wins over the Texans and Titans sandwiched around gruesome 30-point loss at home to the Rams of all teams.

The challenge in this game is for Indy’s Andy Luck to carve up what’s been one of the NFL’s better pass defenses the past two years. Arizona right now ranks:

  • No. 6 in Defensive Real QB Rating
  • No. 7 in Defensive Real Passing YPA
  • No. 10 in Defensive Passer Rating

The Cardinals are also No. 2 in rush YPA, No. 4 on the Defensive Hog Index, No. 4 in Defensive Rusher Rating and No. 8 in scoring defense. It’s a rather formidable unit.

Luck, for all his praise for last-minute derring do, has operated a fairly average passing attack: No.11 in Real QB Rating, No. 14 in Real Passing YPA, No. 14 in Offensive Passer Rating. He’ll have his hands full against the Cardinals defense.

The key for the Cardinals has been the improved play of Palmer during the team’s recent three-game win streak. He’s averaged a 109.5 passer rating with 6 TD and just 2 INT. But those efforts have come against three of the worst teams in football: the Falcons, Texans and Jaguars.

Indy is still a league-best 3-0 vs. Quality Opponents (Arizona is 2-3). But it’s those hiccup losses that give the team the appearance of an underachiever so far, despite a 7-3 record.

In this case, there are few favorable statistical matches for the road team. Arizona by a field goal seems very reasonable. But if this number moves up again (it started at -1.5), revisit the pick.

Pick: Arizona 24, Indianapolis 21

Colts Pre-Game Analysis Cardinals
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
15.77 15

Quality Stats Power Rankings

14.09 10
14.21 11

Scoreability

14.46 12
15.62 14

Bendability

15.64 13
6.05 18

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.32 12
7.05 28

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.47 5
81.36 13

Real Quarterback Rating

73.83 21
83.25 21

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

68.20 5
- 1.89 19

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

5.63 12
83.49 19

Offensive Passer Rating

82.94 21
92.43 22

Defensive Passer Rating

77.80 9
- 8.94 24

Passer Rating Differential

5.14 14
9.67 6

Offensive Hog Index

26.33 31
19.67 22

Defensive Hog Index

11.33 7
0.93 12

The Relativity Index

3.60 9
4779 18

Total Team Yards

4370 27
5033 22

Total Team Yards Allowed

4725 13
-254 21

Total Team Yards Differential

-355 23
105.25 2

Offensive Rusher Rating

88.40 15
91.17 17

Defensive Rusher Rating

70.79 3
14.08 8

Rusher Rating Differential

17.60 6
12 2

Total Turnovers

21 26
29:13 24

Time of Possession

29:57 17

 

Tennessee Titans at Oakland Raiders

Tennessee at Oakland (pick ‘em)

Tennessee’s early promising 3-1 season has spun out of control, with five losses in six games. This week the Titans travel cross country to face an Oakland team with more than a pulse (but little playoff hope) after a solid 28-23 win at Houston on Sunday.

Tennessee’s problems are easy to pinpoint: they started with injuries to and now the loss for the year of Jake Locker.

The Titans were 4-2 with him; and now 0-4 with Ryan Fitzpatrick taking the bulk of the snaps (Locker started, but did not finish, the loss to the Jaguars).

The Raiders, meanwhile, have experience the opposite phenomenon.

They’ve enjoyed a nice little uptick in the passing game here in the last couple games with the performance of rookie QB Matt McGloin (3 TD, 0 INT, 92.9 rating), Oakland’s third starting QB this year.

He acquitted himself without error in his NFL debut against the Eagles earlier this month, and then played very well last week (105.9 rating) in his first NFL start and Oakland’s win over the Texans.

McGloin's TD-INT ratio is a huge accomplishment, relative to the performances of fellow Oakland QBs Terrelle Pryor (5 TD, 10 INT) and Matt Flynn (1 and 1).

We’re not joining the Matt McGloin Fan Club just yet. And he faces a solid if unspectacular defense this week.

But Oakland enjoys the comforts of home, and one huge statistical advantage: a very strong running game (No. 2 in rush YPA; No. 5 in Offensive Rusher Rating) that ripped the Texans Sunday for 165 yards, going up against an ordinary run defense (No. 13 in rush YPA; league-worst 15 rush TD allowed).

That ground attack should ease the burden on McGloin and allow him to ease into a second straight NFL victory.

Pick: Oakland 24, Tennessee 20

Titans Pre-Game Analysis Raiders
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
14.59 12

Quality Stats Power Rankings

21.95 27
14.69 14

Scoreability

17.23 28
14.92 17

Bendability

14.61 20
6.23 15

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.62 25
6.26 16

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.64 23
85.00 11

Real Quarterback Rating

71.73 24
74.50 11

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

91.00 27
10.50 8

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 19.27 29
88.03 13

Offensive Passer Rating

76.36 26
80.79 12

Defensive Passer Rating

99.25 28
7.23 11

Passer Rating Differential

- 22.89 30
12.00 10

Offensive Hog Index

21.67 24
12.00 8

Defensive Hog Index

16.67 18
- 0.51 18

The Relativity Index

- 7.18 28
4643 21

Total Team Yards

4670 20
4621 10

Total Team Yards Allowed

4880 16
22 14

Total Team Yards Differential

-210 20
94.41 11

Offensive Rusher Rating

98.56 6
102.21 28

Defensive Rusher Rating

79.93 9
- 7.80 21

Rusher Rating Differential

18.63 4
14 7

Total Turnovers

18 17
29:50 19

Time of Possession

27:28 31

 

Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants

Dallas at N.Y. Giants (-2.5)

Cowboys-Giants doesn’t enjoy its usual Glamour Division luster this week. But it does offer the typical drama and a big impact upon the NFC playoff picture that nobody would have envisioned a month ago.

The Giants have reinserted themselves back into the NFC East playoff picture with four straight wins after a dismal 0-6 start. They’re just 1.5 games behind the first-place Eagles with six games to play, a split against Philly in hand, three divisional games to play and five winnable games on the docket. Only a visit from Seattle looks like an obvious loss at this point.

That gives the G-Men plenty to play for win a division that might be won with a 9-7 or even 8-8 record.

Dallas beat the Giants in Week 1, but since then has suffered a violently inconsistent season, low-lighted by a pair of defensively inept losses to the Lions and Eagles sandwiched around a tougher-than-necessary home win over the Vikings.

The Cowboys in those last three games surrendered a total of 1,641 yards, including the two worst efforts in franchise history, and among the worst by any team ever.

We don’t know what you call it. But where we come from, that’s called a very bad and discouraging streak of ineptitude.

New York’s rebound, meanwhile, has been buoyed on strong defensive efforts. The Giants have surrendered just 253.2 YPG and 11.8 PPG in the four-game win streak.

Big Blue’s Biggest Liability is still at QB. The Giants are No. 30 in Real QB Rating and Offensive Passer Rating, while Eli Manning has thrown just 12 TD against 17 INT, the most in the NFL this year. He’s got little help from a group of Offensive Hogs and a ground attack that that are both among the worst in the NFL.

But the reeling Dallas defense, just a bye-week removed from surrendering a franchise-record 625 yards to the Saints, presents an ideal opportunity for Ol’ Eli to gain some momentum heading into a playoff run – a playoff run that requires this win on Sunday.

Dallas has tumbled to:

  • No. 23 in Defensive Passer Rating
  • No. 26 in Defensive Real QB Rating
  • No. 26 in Defensive Real Passing YPA
  • No. 30 on the Defensive Hog Index
  • No. 30 in Total Team Yards Allowed

Of course, Dallas has one advantage: Tony Romo has clearly outperformed Manning and remains, by any measure below, one of the more productive and efficient QBs below. But the defense he’s paired withis frighteningly bad right now.

We don’t like Little D, and we don’t’ like the two different directions these teams are headed. All it takes is a last-second FG for the hometown team to deliver a winner on this one. Those seem like good odds.

Pick: N.Y. Giants 26, Dallas 21

Cowboys Pre-Game Analysis Giants
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
17.27 17

Quality Stats Power Rankings

22.45 28
12.04 2

Scoreability

16.73 25
17.04 8

Bendability

13.11 26
6.25 14

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.06 17
6.83 24

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.89 12
88.68 7

Real Quarterback Rating

63.96 30
88.35 26

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

77.63 14
0.33 17

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 13.68 26
97.01 6

Offensive Passer Rating

71.35 30
92.86 23

Defensive Passer Rating

79.66 10
4.15 15

Passer Rating Differential

- 8.31 22
18.67 19

Offensive Hog Index

25.67 29
26.00 29

Defensive Hog Index

21.00 23
2.76 10

The Relativity Index

- 4.18 24
4999 15

Total Team Yards

4515 24
5610 30

Total Team Yards Allowed

4977 19
-611 29

Total Team Yards Differential

-462 26
87.89 17

Offensive Rusher Rating

74.21 29
95.62 22

Defensive Rusher Rating

83.00 11
- 7.72 20

Rusher Rating Differential

- 8.79 22
12 2

Total Turnovers

30 32
29:09 25

Time of Possession

29:56 18

 

Denver Broncos at New England Patriots

Denver (-2.5) at New England

The Perpetual Victory Machine Patriots are underdogs for the second week in a row for the first time since 2006.

They were 3-point dogs last week at Carolina, failed to win, and failed to cover in a controversial 24-20 loss.

This week, Tom Brady’s Bunch is a home dog to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, in a game that merely marks the rebirth of the Greatest QB Rivalry in the history of football, in what’s being dubbed Manning-Brady XIV – the 14th meeting between these two prolific future Hall of Fame legends.

Brady’s Patriots are 9-4 overall in the previous 13 meetings against Manning’s Colts and Broncos, including an 8-4-1 record ATS, as we noted elsewhere this week.

The Patriots were 6-points favorites last year when the Broncos visited Foxboro and held on for a 31-21 win after giving up two late scores.

Of course, each NFL game is a unique statistical event in the eyes of the Cold, Hard Football Facts. And those outcomes, while interesting and even historic given the personalities involved, have little impact on this big-time Sunday night battle.

What will have a material impact on this game is the health of New England cornerback Aqib Talib, who exited the Carolina game with a hip injury – one he was famously told to “Ice Up” by Panthers WR Steve Smith.

The health of Broncos receiver Wes Welker will also have a material impact on the game. After all, he's merely the most impactful receiver in the history of football.

New England has proven over the last two seasons, and again Monday night, that it is two different defenses with and without Talib on the field.

And Sunday night is not a particularly good time to step on the field with a wounded defense. Manning and the Broncos have cooled down from their ridiculously torrid pace of early in the season. But they are still on pace to become the highest scoring offense in history, averaging 39.8 PPG.

And Manning still leads the NFL in every major measure of passing efficiency, as outlined below.

The Patriots counter with a defense that is, in the best of circumstances, a good but not great unit: No. 7 in scoring (19.9 PPG), No. 8 in Defensive Passer Rating and No. 10 in Defensive Real QB Rating.

Brady and the New England offense have improved quite a bit in the last several weeks. In fact, the 20 points scored Monday was the most surrendered by Carolina’s league-best D during its six-game win streak.

That offense will find plenty of opportunity to strike both through the air and on the ground against Denver’s average defense (No. 23 in scoring).  

The Patriots have the home-field advantage, the mystique and the track record against Manning. But there’s little reason to believe the Patriots have the horses to run with the 2013 Broncos. But they should have enough to make this one hell of a primetime showcase for the Greatest QB Rivalry in history

We may reinvestigate the pick pending the state of the injury report before game time, specifically relating to the New England secondary.

Pick: Denver 28, New England 27

Broncos Pre-Game Analysis Patriots
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
10.32 5

Quality Stats Power Rankings

11.23 8
11.58 1

Scoreability

14.17 10
14.39 22

Bendability

17.22 7
7.85 1

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.85 19
6.44 19

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.50 6
103.68 1

Real Quarterback Rating

77.67 18
78.33 16

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

71.05 10
25.35 3

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

6.62 11
114.17 1

Offensive Passer Rating

86.35 16
85.66 17

Defensive Passer Rating

77.36 6
28.52 3

Passer Rating Differential

8.99 9
8.33 3

Offensive Hog Index

13.67 14
12.33 11

Defensive Hog Index

21.67 25
12.34 1

The Relativity Index

6.07 7
6027 1

Total Team Yards

5133 11
4994 20

Total Team Yards Allowed

4740 14
1033 2

Total Team Yards Differential

393 8
87.92 16

Offensive Rusher Rating

97.08 7
92.20 18

Defensive Rusher Rating

76.30 6
- 4.28 19

Rusher Rating Differential

20.78 3
23 29

Total Turnovers

15 10
30:29 16

Time of Possession

29:45 20

 

San Francisco 49ers at Washington Redskins

San Francisco (-5) at Washington

The 49ers have lost two straight hard-fought games to Quality Opponents (Carolina, New Orleans), the second in controversial fashion. In fact, they’re now 1-4 overall vs. Quality Teams, beating only the Cardinals at home in Week 6.

So San Francisco finds itself 6-4 overall, fighting for its life in the NFC West and one bad performance Monday night away from falling from NFC champs to frauds in the space of 11 games.

San Francisco’s offense has been largely at fault: No. 12 in scoring (compared with No. 4 in scoring D), No. 17 in Real QB Rating and No. 19 in Offensive Passer Rating.

Certainly, coach Jim Harbaugh had higher expectations for Colin Kaepernick when he benched Alex Smith last year in favor of the talented but unproven young QB. To San Francisco’s credit, they are No. 6 in Relative scoring offense at +3.0 PPG. So the schedule has been a bear.

Thankfully for the 49ers, the Redskins do not pose a particularly stiff obstacle.

Washington is No. 26 on that same Relativity Index overall, including underwater both offensively (-0.86 PPG) and defensively (-5.29 PPG). In fact, only the Falcons, Jaguars and Vikings are worse in Relative defense entering Week 12.

The Redskins have also struggled offensively amid RGIII’s sophomore slump, and he’s been criticized all week in wake of the 8-point loss last week at Philadelphia.

The reality, though, is that Washington’s bigger statistical issues are clearly on the defensive side of the ball.

A mediocre offense and a bad defense is a bad match-up against the 49ers, who have feasted on weak opponents this year.

Pick: San Francisco 27, Washington 20

49ers Pre-Game Analysis Redskins
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
10.95 7

Quality Stats Power Rankings

20.82 25
12.39 3

Scoreability

17.11 27
18.63 3

Bendability

12.43 30
6.32 13

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.08 16
5.44 4

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

7.58 32
81.14 14

Real Quarterback Rating

73.87 20
69.60 7

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

91.64 29
11.54 7

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 17.77 28
86.78 15

Offensive Passer Rating

79.48 24
73.57 2

Defensive Passer Rating

101.65 30
13.21 5

Passer Rating Differential

- 22.17 28
18.67 19

Offensive Hog Index

8.00 2
10.00 3

Defensive Hog Index

12.00 8
9.49 4

The Relativity Index

- 7.11 27
4238 31

Total Team Yards

5277 7
4525 6

Total Team Yards Allowed

5374 28
-287 22

Total Team Yards Differential

-97 18
101.55 5

Offensive Rusher Rating

103.25 3
84.90 13

Defensive Rusher Rating

107.40 32
16.65 7

Rusher Rating Differential

- 4.14 18
16 15

Total Turnovers

19 20
29:41 21

Time of Possession

31:40 7





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