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Week 16 of the 2013 Regular Season

Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles

Chicago at Philadelphia (-3)

Bears-Eagles was flexed into the final Sunday night game of the year, and for good reason: it’s a sexy NFC battle between two division leaders that will have a direct impact on the playoff picture.

Each team comes with a surprising, and even shocking, offensive story.

The Bears, traditionally a defensive club that struggles to score points – a tradition that quite literally dates back to the 1950s – enter Week 16 No. 2 in scoring offense (29.0 PPG), behind only the record-setting Broncos.

In fact, Chicago is on pace to score 464 points, which would break the franchise point-total record set by the legendary 1985 Bears (456 points). Yup. Bet you didn’t know the 1985 Bears scored more points than any other team in Chicago history.

(Chicago's PPG record was set back in the 1940s.)

The Bears even survived Jay Cutler’s injury. Josh McCown excelled in his relief efforts, then Cutler came back last week and the scoring machine kept humming along.

The Eagles, meanwhile, had their season saved by the relief work of Nick Foles, who appears to have ensured himself the role of Philly’s QB of the future during his brilliant second year in the NFL.

Foles leads the NFL in TD-INT ratio (23-2), YPA (9.0, a historically good number) and passer rating (117.0).

And his efforts have turned the Eagles into a contender. He even played well in the team’s ugly 48-30 loss to the Vikings last week (428 yards, 8.9 YPA, 3 TD, 1 INT).  

In this game, it’s pretty simple: two very effective offenses face two ineffective defenses.

Philly has one key advantage: the Eagles are  No. 6 in Offensive Rusher Rating against a disappointing Chicago unit that is No. 31 in Defensive Rusher Rating. Advantage Eagles.

But Chicago, in a surprising statistical story this year, boasts the best OL in football: No. 1 on the Offensive Hog Index. The Eagles are No. 23 on the Defensive Hog Index. Advantage Bears.

Elsewhere, these teams are even up and down the aisle, even on the Intelligence Index: The Eagles are No. 16; the Bears No. 17.

At the end of the day, the 3-point line sounds right for two evenly matched teams in favor of the home club. But homefield has proven huge this year, with the host clubs winning about 67 percent of all games, and the Chicago defense simply looks too inviting for a player like Foles, who has been the sharpest and most exciting QB in the NFL this year.

Pick: Philadelphia 33, Chicago 28

Bears Pre-Game Analysis Eagles
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
15.00 12

Quality Stats Power Rankings

11.55 9
40% 14

Quality Standings

40% 12
13.73 7

Scoreability

15.10 16
13.21 28

Bendability

16.51 9
7.03 5

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

7.40 3
6.93 27

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.56 22
89.86 6

Real Quarterback Rating

93.87 4
80.61 21

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

79.05 19
9.25 9

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

14.83 6
96.86 6

Offensive Passer Rating

102.69 4
86.89 21

Defensive Passer Rating

83.97 15
9.97 8

Passer Rating Differential

18.72 4
6.00 1

Offensive Hog Index

10.67 8
24.33 27

Defensive Hog Index

18.00 21
- 3.23 21

The Relativity Index

2.49 12
8455 2

Total Team Yards

7939 4
7705 27

Total Team Yards Allowed

7968 29
750 6

Total Team Yards Differential

-29 14
94.02 12

Offensive Rusher Rating

105.21 2
113.20 32

Defensive Rusher Rating

85.89 11
- 19.18 29

Rusher Rating Differential

19.32 4
23 13

Total Turnovers

19 3

 

Cleveland Browns at New York Jets

Cleveland at N.Y. Jets (-2)

This game carries a lot of weight: the weight of Jets coach Rex Ryan’s once-ample ass, to be exact.

If the Jets win this game, they will finish no worse than 7-9. That would be a pretty good record considering New York’s utter lack of competence at the QB position, and Ryan will have a solid argument to make to ownership that he should be allowed to keep his job.

In fact, this team’s 6-8 record is pretty remarkable considering its weak statistical profile. It’s a well-coached team with poor talent.

But if the Jets lose this one, and lose next week at Miami (a likely occurrence), well, that would make it back-to-back 6-10 seasons for Ryan, and the case for keeping his job loses a lot of steam.

Ryan’s first two years in New York rank among the best coaching jobs in franchise history, as his teams fielded stifling defenses and did just enough offensively to reach two consecutive AFC title games.

The last three years, however, have been fraught with dysfunction off the field and underperformance on it (20-26). With six wins through 14 games, this season could actually be one of Ryan’s better coaching jobs—according to the Quality Stats table below, the Jets do just a couple of things well:  stop the run and get off the field on third down (No. 6 Defensive Hogs).

The Browns’ offense has awakened the last two weeks, putting up 57 points against playoff contenders New England and Chicago. The only problem is that Cleveland’s defense, which had been solid for most of the season, tanked in those games and the Browns lost both of them.

Many of the Quality Stats comparisons for this game are very close. The Jets’ passing offense is the worst in the NFL right now, ranking No. 32 in Offensive Passer Rating and Real QB Rating. However, Cleveland’s offensive numbers, while better, are hardly anything to get excited about.

The Browns have the edge in Passer Rating Differential and on the Relativity Index, but they also are 1-5 on the road, while the Jets, at 5-2, have been very good at home—too good to bet against them. Cleveland has been the better team against a tougher schedule (nine Quality Opponents vs. seven for the Jets). But New York this year has been the proverbial team that punches above its statistical weight class.

Pick: N.Y. Jets 24, Cleveland 19

Browns Pre-Game Analysis Jets
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
21.32 23

Quality Stats Power Rankings

21.64 24
20% 19

Quality Standings

40% 13
17.61 29

Scoreability

17.55 28
13.10 29

Bendability

13.85 23
5.53 27

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.56 26
5.49 4

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.30 18
67.65 27

Real Quarterback Rating

63.31 31
78.85 18

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

80.48 20
- 11.20 23

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 17.17 27
75.70 25

Offensive Passer Rating

66.58 32
84.06 16

Defensive Passer Rating

86.48 20
- 8.36 21

Passer Rating Differential

- 19.90 27
21.33 25

Offensive Hog Index

18.33 20
20.00 23

Defensive Hog Index

11.00 9
- 6.91 28

The Relativity Index

- 6.68 27
7104 16

Total Team Yards

6502 26
6579 5

Total Team Yards Allowed

7255 22
525 8

Total Team Yards Differential

-753 28
72.37 32

Offensive Rusher Rating

91.38 13
91.39 16

Defensive Rusher Rating

87.68 12
- 19.02 28

Rusher Rating Differential

3.70 12
29 22

Total Turnovers

29 22

 

Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins

Dallas (-3) at Washington

The Redskins’ soap opera centering on the benching of RGIII and Mike Shanahan basically daring Dan Snyder to fire him has been great theater and provided a ton of fodder for the TV talking heads over the past couple of weeks.

However, the nightmare that’s unfolded in Dallas the last couple of weeks may be an even more dramatic tome.

The Cowboys suffered perhaps their worst home defeat in club history last week, blowing a huge halftime lead to the Matt Flynn-led Packers to drop a game they couldn’t afford to lose.

That defeat came directly on the heels of a 45-28 prime time thrashing at Chicago, exposing for all to see the fact that Dallas has a horrible defense that simply can’t stop anyone. 

As for this game, the good news for Dallas is that they couldn’t have picked a better opponent to face given that they are coming off two disastrous defeats in a row.

The Redskins are 3-11 for a reason:  they have the No. 32 scoring defense in the league and rank No. 30 in Defensive Passer Rating.

Of course, the Cowboys’ defense is nearly as bad, ranking No. 32 on our Defensive Hog Index, No. 27 in Defensive Passer Rating and No. 29 in Defensive Real QB Rating.

That's a bad match up against what remains a very effective offense. Tony Romo has thrown 29 TDs and 9 INTs this year, yet remains the object of so much ire from idiotic Cowboys fans and media types.

The reality is that not even Tom Brady or Peyton Manning could win much more than half their games weighted down with one of the worst defenses in history, which is what the Cowboys field right now. They are on pace to surrender 6,837 yards this year, which would make it the second most porous defense in history, behind only the 2012 Saints (7,042 yards). Those Saints, even with Hall of Famer Drew Brees, went only 7-9.

The Quality Stats say that the Cowboys should win this one. Dallas has large edges in Passer Rating Differential, on the Intelligence Index, and on the Relativity Index. They also are No. 4 in Offensive Rusher Rating while Washington is No. 32 in Defensive Rusher Rating—a huge discrepancy that Dallas should be able to exploit.

Cowboys over Redskins also shapes up as one of our two Mental Mismatches for Week 16.

Pick: Dallas 30, Washington 24

Cowboys Pre-Game Analysis Redskins
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
17.68 17

Quality Stats Power Rankings

22.91 30
14% 24

Quality Standings

14% 25
12.44 2

Scoreability

17.71 30
15.38 13

Bendability

11.85 32
6.37 13

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.74 23
6.98 29

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

7.08 30
88.14 7

Real Quarterback Rating

70.71 22
90.88 28

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

86.76 26
- 2.74 20

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 16.05 26
95.70 7

Offensive Passer Rating

76.12 23
95.95 26

Defensive Passer Rating

96.07 27
- 0.25 18

Passer Rating Differential

- 19.95 28
13.33 11

Offensive Hog Index

9.67 4
29.67 31

Defensive Hog Index

10.67 7
0.12 14

The Relativity Index

- 9.26 31
7365 12

Total Team Yards

7487 10
7959 28

Total Team Yards Allowed

7639 26
-594 25

Total Team Yards Differential

-152 18
97.36 9

Offensive Rusher Rating

90.30 15
98.53 25

Defensive Rusher Rating

109.48 31
- 1.17 15

Rusher Rating Differential

- 19.18 30
20 7

Total Turnovers

34 29

 

Denver Broncos at Houston Texans

Denver (-10.5) at Houston

The Broncos got two early Christmas gifts in the days following their surprising and potentially devastating home loss to the Chargers last week.

First, the Patriots lost at Miami last Sunday, once again opening up for Denver the “control your own http://a.fn.fncdn.com/images/content/getty/crops/8ZgqJm.jpgdestiny” lane on the road to the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. Second, the schedule maker has Peyton Manning and Co. traveling to Houston this Sunday to face a Texans team that has now lost 12 straight.

The story line on Denver hasn’t changed much all season: record-setting offense with a shot to surpass the all-time NFL scoring mark; below-average defense that  allows 26.5 PPG and has the potential to force Manning and the offense to maintain their high level of regular season performance into the post-season, where points usually are much, much tougher to come by.

That formula rarely worked out well for Manning’s Indianapolis teams in January and it has already failed once during the Denver portion of Manning’s career.

But that’s another topic for another day.

When we focus on this game, we see one of the biggest mismatches of the season. Denver is better than Houston in just about every key category, and the comparisons aren’t even close.

Houston’s talented offense should put up some points, but the Texans field the least efficient defense in the NFL and rank in the lower third of the league in both Defensive Passer Rating and Defensive Real QB Rating.

Also, this game will be played in ideal throwing conditions (dome/good climate), so Manning should thrive.

This is a lot of points to give, especially for a road favorite, but the Texans really tanked last week at Indy under interim coach Wade “Curse of Flutie” Phillips, and they seem ready to cash in their chips for 2013.

Denver over Houston is also one of our two Intelligence Index Mental Mismatches for Week 16.

Pick: Denver 33, Houston 20

Broncos Pre-Game Analysis Texans
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
9.23 6

Quality Stats Power Rankings

22.50 29
57% 4

Quality Standings

11% 28
12.07 1

Scoreability

20.13 32
14.28 19

Bendability

11.87 31
7.83 1

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.65 25
6.22 17

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.97 11
106.05 1

Real Quarterback Rating

67.01 28
77.91 17

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

85.29 23
28.14 2

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 18.28 29
114.38 1

Offensive Passer Rating

73.98 27
84.47 17

Defensive Passer Rating

93.94 23
29.91 2

Passer Rating Differential

- 19.96 29
7.67 2

Offensive Hog Index

17.33 19
14.67 13

Defensive Hog Index

17.67 20
12.66 1

The Relativity Index

- 8.82 30
8849 1

Total Team Yards

7394 11
7083 12

Total Team Yards Allowed

7164 16
1766 1

Total Team Yards Differential

230 11
88.95 17

Offensive Rusher Rating

80.33 26
95.13 23

Defensive Rusher Rating

93.50 19
- 6.18 19

Rusher Rating Differential

- 13.17 26
26 17

Total Turnovers

31 25

 

Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs

Indianapolis at Kansas City (-6.5)

The Chiefs have racked up 101 points over their last two games, and 167 in their last four, while QB Alex Smith is getting hot at just the right time. Smith has a 127.9 passer rating for the month of December and has upped his season rating to 91. Last week in Oakland, he registered a perfect 158.3 rating.

In one of the more surprising stats of the late season, Kansas City now ranks higher in scoring offense (third) than they do in scoring defense (fourth). Only the Broncos and Bears have scored more points.

Of course, we have to tell the same cautionary tale that we’ve been telling all season long when it comes to the Chiefs:  They have one win against a Quality Opponent (Philadelphia) and a total of only three games against teams with winning records, fewest in the NFL.

Their recent two-game surge (after three straight defeats against better competition) has come against bottom-dwellers Washington and Oakland.

This week, KC gets another chance to prove itself, this time against the AFC South champion Colts.

According to our Quality Stats, the Colts are a pedestrian team overall, especially on defense, but they are a pretty efficient team with a good offensive line (No. 9 Offensive Hogs) and a great running game (No. 2 in Offensive Rusher Rating) that also takes care of the football (No. 1 in Total Turnovers, tied with the Chiefs).

There’s a terrific potential trench battle here, with KC’s No. 7 Defensive Hogs going up against Indy’s No. 9 Offensive Hogs, but the rest of the key Quality Stats comparisons fall solidly in KC’s favor, especially Passer Rating Differential and Real QB Rating Differential.

Indy has lost two straight road blowouts against playoff-caliber teams (at Cincinnati, at Arizona), games in which its defense has allowed 82 total points. At this point, however, the Chiefs still have to earn the benefit of the doubt from us when it comes to their record against Quality Opponents. Indianapolis, meanwhile, is a solid 3-3 vs. Quality Opponents.

Pick: Kansas City 24, Indianapolis 20

Colts Pre-Game Analysis Chiefs
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
13.05 10

Quality Stats Power Rankings

8.95 5
57% 5

Quality Standings

17% 21
13.98 10

Scoreability

12.55 3
17.00 7

Bendability

19.30 2
6.07 16

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.69 24
6.42 19

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.17 14
84.07 10

Real Quarterback Rating

83.22 12
77.08 14

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

69.94 4
6.98 10

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

13.27 8
86.50 16

Offensive Passer Rating

88.63 14
84.63 18

Defensive Passer Rating

78.46 7
1.87 15

Passer Rating Differential

10.17 7
10.33 6

Offensive Hog Index

14.00 14
16.33 18

Defensive Hog Index

12.33 10
3.92 10

The Relativity Index

6.79 7
7032 18

Total Team Yards

7961 3
7330 24

Total Team Yards Allowed

7208 20
-298 20

Total Team Yards Differential

753 5
103.64 3

Offensive Rusher Rating

101.57 5
92.86 17

Defensive Rusher Rating

80.26 6
10.77 9

Rusher Rating Differential

21.31 3
18 1

Total Turnovers

18 1

 

Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills

Miami (-3) at Buffalo

The Dolphins have won four of five and have inserted themselves into the AFC playoff picture over the past month. In fact, Miami still has an outside shot at the AFC East crown if they win out against the Bills and Jets.  

One game this year that Miami probably would love to have back is a 23-21 home loss to this same Buffalo team back on October 20.

The Dolphins lost the turnover battle (-2) that day, lost the game, and possibly lost a chance to really put the pressure on New England’s perch atop the division.

The Quality Stats comparisons call for a defensive struggle here, as both teams are in the top 5 in Defensive Passer Rating and Defensive Real QB Rating, and are in the top 10 in Defensive Real Passing YPA (Miami is No. 10, Buffalo is No. 6).

The Defensive Hogs are also closely matched, with the Dolphins at No. 12 and the Bills at No. 14.

The major differences between the teams come at quarterback as well as in Buffalo’s inability to protect the football (No. 25 in Total Turnovers, Miami is No. 15). Miami QB Ryan Tannehill (86.6 passer rating) is coming off his best game of the season last week against the Patriots, and has been trending upward recently.  

Buffalo’s EJ Manuel (77.7 passer rating) also had a great game last week, against Jacksonville, and has had a decent rookie year, but he’s struggled against good defenses and he’ll be facing one this week.

Overall, the Dolphins grade out as the better team, as they have solid edges on the Relativity Index, in Passer Rating Differential, Real QB Rating Differential, Offensive Passer Rating, and Real QB Rating.

This has the makings of a tight game, but Miami is the better team, needs it badly and should prevail.

Pick: Miami 24, Buffalo 20

Dolphins Pre-Game Analysis Bills
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
18.91 21

Quality Stats Power Rankings

19.00 22
57% 6

Quality Standings

17% 22
15.80 22

Scoreability

15.96 25
17.16 6

Bendability

13.75 24
5.47 28

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.44 29
6.03 13

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.29 3
70.39 23

Real Quarterback Rating

68.48 25
71.86 7

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

65.53 2
- 1.47 18

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

2.95 16
80.13 21

Offensive Passer Rating

74.98 26
77.26 5

Defensive Passer Rating

74.91 3
2.87 14

Passer Rating Differential

0.07 17
23.67 28

Offensive Hog Index

23.00 26
15.00 15

Defensive Hog Index

12.67 11
- 0.98 17

The Relativity Index

- 3.38 22
6377 29

Total Team Yards

6499 27
7193 19

Total Team Yards Allowed

7261 23
-816 31

Total Team Yards Differential

-762 29
85.96 23

Offensive Rusher Rating

89.58 16
94.90 22

Defensive Rusher Rating

88.35 13
- 8.94 25

Rusher Rating Differential

1.23 14
26 17

Total Turnovers

27 19

 

Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals

Minnesota at Cincinnati (-7)

Since falling to 1-6 after a blowout home loss to the Packers on October 27, Minnesota has gone 3-3-1 against a pretty tough schedule, with two of the losses coming in the final seconds against playoff contenders Dallas and Baltimore, both on the road.

Even in the one blowout loss, against Super Bowl-favorite Seattle, the Vikings were competitive for a half.

Last week, Minnesota scored 48 points while upsetting another playoff contender, the Eagles—the most points the Vikings have scored in a game since the legendary Randy Moss/Chris Carter/Randall Cunningham ’98 Vikings were hitting the 40-point mark seemingly every week.

This week, Minnesota has a chance to affect the AFC playoff picture by taking on a Bengals team coming off a blowout loss at Pittsburgh. Truth be told, the game against the Steelers last week was Cincinnati’s worst performance since the end of September.

Win or lose, the Bengals have been consistently competitive all season, so last week’s defeat probably should be regarded as an outlier and not as the start of a trend.

Quality Stats-wise, the vast majority of the checkmarks fall in Cincinnati’s column, and by a wide margin.

The Vikings rank No. 1 in Offensive Rusher Rating and are expecting Adrian Peterson to return to action this week. But the Bengals are No. 5 in Defensive Rusher Rating, so Peterson’s impact could be limited.

Minnesota has been playing so well of late—and against good competition—that it’s difficult for us to give this many points. With that said, Cincinnati’s is the best defense (besides Seattle’s) that the Vikings have faced since they began their spoiler streak several weeks ago, and the Quality Stats also call for a  solid Bengals win here.

But the spunky Vikings have the opportunity to make a game of it against a Bengals team that provided a huge let-down last week.

Pick: Cincinnati 27, Minnesota 23

Vikings Pre-Game Analysis Bengals
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
22.05 26

Quality Stats Power Rankings

8.50 3
17% 23

Quality Standings

100% 1
14.09 12

Scoreability

13.71 6
13.26 27

Bendability

16.03 11
5.81 21

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.72 9
6.67 23

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.09 2
70.98 21

Real Quarterback Rating

84.06 11
91.48 30

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

68.83 3
- 20.51 30

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

15.23 5
75.99 24

Offensive Passer Rating

88.97 12
98.61 30

Defensive Passer Rating

74.17 2
- 22.62 30

Passer Rating Differential

14.80 6
15.00 15

Offensive Hog Index

15.67 17
23.67 26

Defensive Hog Index

10.00 6
- 5.61 26

The Relativity Index

7.12 6
7627 8

Total Team Yards

7608 9
8220 32

Total Team Yards Allowed

6786 8
-593 24

Total Team Yards Differential

822 4
112.82 1

Offensive Rusher Rating

85.99 22
93.78 20

Defensive Rusher Rating

79.40 5
19.04 5

Rusher Rating Differential

6.59 11
32 28

Total Turnovers

34 29

 

New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers

New Orleans at Carolina (-3)

The Saints clinch the NFC South if they win this game because they would have swept the season series from Carolina and would win any tiebreaker. The Panthers win the division if they win this game and then finish the job next week at Atlanta.

Two weeks ago in New Orleans, the Saints administered a nationally televised beat down to Carolina, snapping the Panthers’ eight-game winning streak in the process.

This game, however, is in Charlotte, where the Panthers are 6-1 and facing a New Orleans team that is 3-4 away from the cozy confines of the Superdome. It’s also a New Orleans team coming off a blowout road loss last week against a sub-.500 Rams team playing its backup QB.

The Quality Stats comparisons break down about the same way they did two weeks ago when we analyzed the last matchup between these teams. New Orleans and Drew Brees have the superior passing game, and have a very large edge in Real Passing YPA.

But in Real QB Rating and Real QB Rating Differential, the gap is not very large. Carolina’s defense, which is the No. 2 scoring defense in the NFL, is superior to New Orleans’ defense. 

The Saints, however, are no slouches on that side of the ball. Whichever team wins the key battle in the trenches, where New Orleans has our No. 7 Offensive Hogs and Carolina has our No. 2 Defensive Hogs, should come out on top.

The Saints have a solid edge in Passer Rating Differential, and normally we would allow that factor to sway our final opinion about a tight matchup. However, New Orleans has been below-average on the road this year, was held to just 16 points in St. Louis last week, and is walking into a loud hornet’s nest to face an even better defense this week.

Pick: Carolina 23, New Orleans 17

Saints Pre-Game Analysis Panthers
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
9.27 7

Quality Stats Power Rankings

8.18 2
50% 8

Quality Standings

50% 9
15.44 20

Scoreability

13.85 8
16.09 10

Bendability

20.00 1
7.15 4

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.90 19
5.58 7

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.50 5
97.39 2

Real Quarterback Rating

86.39 8
73.81 9

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

70.33 5
23.58 3

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

16.06 4
104.50 3

Offensive Passer Rating

88.76 13
83.62 14

Defensive Passer Rating

81.37 10
20.89 3

Passer Rating Differential

7.39 11
11.33 10

Offensive Hog Index

15.00 15
14.00 12

Defensive Hog Index

8.67 4
8.17 5

The Relativity Index

8.39 4
7303 14

Total Team Yards

6228 30
6042 3

Total Team Yards Allowed

5835 2
1261 3

Total Team Yards Differential

393 10
88.86 18

Offensive Rusher Rating

95.30 11
95.39 24

Defensive Rusher Rating

70.86 2
- 6.52 20

Rusher Rating Differential

24.44 1
21 9

Total Turnovers

19 3

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Los Angeles Rams

Tampa Bay at St. Louis (-5.5)

December has been a reality check month for Tampa Bay’s rookie QB Mike Glennon, who has registered just a 64 passer rating since Dec. 1 while facing Carolina, Buffalo and San Francisco, three teams that rank No. 8, No. 5 and No. 2, respectively, in Defensive Passer Rating.

This week, Glennon faces a St. Louis defense that ranks just No. 24 in Defensive Passer Rating, but has our No. 10 Defensive Hogs (No. 6 in forcing Negative Pass Plays, with 42 sacks). Last week, St. Louis held Drew Brees to an 80.4 passer rating while limiting the high-flying Saints’ offense to just 16 points.

The Rams just finished running a schedule gauntlet featuring five consecutive playoff-caliber teams. St. Louis won three of those five games, all in blowout-type fashion.

Backup QB Kellen Clemens (78 passer rating) threw five TD passes and zero interceptions in the three wins, and threw one TD pass and three interceptions in the Rams’ two losses, proving once again that in the NFL, if you can pass the ball effectively, you’ve always got a shot. And if you can’t, you don’t.

Tampa Bay’s defense has bounced back nicely from some early season struggles, as the Bucs have gone 4-2 over the past six weeks. Tampa Bay now ranks No. 10 in Defensive Passer Rating—much closer to where the Bucs thought their pass defense would be after their offseason spending spree to upgrade the secondary.

The Quality Stats comparisons are tight, for the most part. The Bucs have the better pass defense, and they also have very good Defensive Hogs.

The Rams have a solid edge on the Relativity Index and own a huge mismatch in the trenches, where Tampa Bay has our No. 30-ranked Offensive Hogs, a unit that should be totally overmatched against the Rams’ dynamic Defensive Hogs. 

St. Louis has also been killing it at home lately, while Tampa Bay is just 1-5 on the road.

Pick: St. Louis 27, Tampa Bay 16

Buccaneers Pre-Game Analysis Rams
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
22.36 28

Quality Stats Power Rankings

17.86 19
0% 31

Quality Standings

33% 16
15.39 19

Scoreability

14.01 11
14.31 18

Bendability

15.16 15
5.03 32

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.77 22
6.54 21

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.75 24
67.84 26

Real Quarterback Rating

75.32 19
85.49 24

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

81.74 22
- 17.66 28

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 6.42 21
79.59 22

Offensive Passer Rating

84.76 17
88.93 22

Defensive Passer Rating

94.69 24
- 9.34 22

Passer Rating Differential

- 9.94 23
26.00 30

Offensive Hog Index

19.00 22
16.00 17

Defensive Hog Index

8.67 4
- 4.14 23

The Relativity Index

0.54 13
5888 32

Total Team Yards

6532 25
6590 6

Total Team Yards Allowed

6383 4
-702 27

Total Team Yards Differential

149 12
76.14 31

Offensive Rusher Rating

84.73 24
83.98 7

Defensive Rusher Rating

92.93 18
- 7.84 23

Rusher Rating Differential

- 8.19 24
21 9

Total Turnovers

21 9

 

Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars

Tennessee (-5.5) at Jacksonville

The Jaguars had ripped off four wins in five games before four turnovers last week hijacked their good times in a 27-20 loss to Buffalo.

The Titans, of course, watched a once promising 3-1 season spin out of control with eight losses in their last 10 games, including three straight entering this game at Jacksonville. Among those defeats was a 29-27 home loss to these same Jaguars, who were 0-8 at the time, back in Week 10.

As a result, we have one of the few games this week with absolutely zero bearing on the playoff picture.

Tennessee boasts advantages up and down the stat book and has the statistical profile of a largely mediocre team (No. 18 Quality Stats Power Ranking; No. 19 on the Relativity Index).

Jacksonville boasts weaknesses up and down the stat book and has the statistical profile of a sad-sack loser (No. 32 Quality Stats Power Rankings; No. 32 Relativity Index).

But the reality is that the Jags have been the better team over the second half of the year, with a 4-2 record vs. just 1-5 for the Titans.

Jacksonville should have plenty of gas to keep this game close as the two teams play out the string.

Pick: Tennessee 24, Jacksonville 23

Titans Pre-Game Analysis Jaguars
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
16.45 16

Quality Stats Power Rankings

29.23 32
12% 26

Quality Standings

0% 32
14.89 15

Scoreability

19.03 31
14.19 20

Bendability

13.52 26
6.13 14

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.29 31
6.22 16

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.81 26
80.81 15

Real Quarterback Rating

64.02 30
76.76 13

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

89.16 27
4.06 13

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 25.15 31
83.62 20

Offensive Passer Rating

71.84 30
83.27 13

Defensive Passer Rating

96.51 29
0.35 16

Passer Rating Differential

- 24.67 31
13.67 12

Offensive Hog Index

31.00 32
14.67 13

Defensive Hog Index

26.00 30
- 1.64 18

The Relativity Index

- 12.69 32
6925 20

Total Team Yards

6222 31
6893 9

Total Team Yards Allowed

7465 25
32 13

Total Team Yards Differential

-1243 32
96.36 10

Offensive Rusher Rating

79.74 28
103.34 30

Defensive Rusher Rating

100.79 28
- 6.97 22

Rusher Rating Differential

- 21.06 31
25 15

Total Turnovers

27 19

 

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

Arizona at Seattle (-10.5)

The Cardinals have done something impressive this year: they’ve kept themselves relevant in the playoff picture while battling in the top heavy NFC West, the best division in football.

Hell, at 9-5, Arizona would be in first place this year in the dog-eared and tired NFC East and in the QB-challenged NFC North.

Yet at this point they’re on the outside of the playoffs looking in and need season-ending wins over the Seahawks and 49ers to lock up a playoff spot.

Good luck with that.

Arizona boasts a legit playoff-caliber defense (No. 2 on the Defensive Hog Index, No. 7 in Defensive Passer Rating, No. 8 in scoring).

Yet even then, that unit is no match for the mighty statistical juggernaut Seahawks, let alone in Seattle, where the hosts have been unbeatable for two years.

The Seahawks are the best team in the NFL by every measure of analysis (No. 1 in our Quality Stats Power Rankings, No. 1 on the Relativity Index, No. 1 in nine of 23 Quality Stats). And they’re especially effective at home, of course.

Seattle is 6-0 in front of the 12th Man this year, outscoring its foes better than 2-to-1 (196-84). In their last 10 home games, the Seahawks are 10-0 and have outscored their opponents 344-117.

So this game comes down to one simple factor: can the Cardinals keep it respectable against the best home team in football, and one of the most dominant home teams in modern NFL history.

Last year they couldn’t. Arizona was humiliated in Seattle last year, 58-0, the last of nine straight losses for the Cardinals and one of the biggest beatings in NFL history.

The Seahawks have had a couple close calls at home this year, edging the Titans 20-13 and the Buccaneers in overtime, 27-24. But they’ve since rebounded with dominating wins over the Vikings and NFC contender Saints.

The Cardinals have the potential to keep it close. But Seattle is the best team in football and betting against them has a been a bad move for two years in a row. Plus, Pete Carroll's crew has an incentive to keep their foot on the gas: a win here guarantees homefield advantage in the playoffs, and all but guarantees a trip to the Super Bowl.

Pick: Seattle 31, Arizona 17

Cardinals Pre-Game Analysis Seahawks
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
13.64 11

Quality Stats Power Rankings

4.95 1
38% 15

Quality Standings

57% 3
14.62 14

Scoreability

13.01 5
15.68 12

Bendability

18.95 3
6.51 11

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.97 6
5.55 6

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

4.84 1
74.92 20

Real Quarterback Rating

91.00 5
71.56 6

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

57.64 1
3.36 15

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

33.36 1
83.90 19

Offensive Passer Rating

102.36 5
80.25 8

Defensive Passer Rating

63.39 1
3.65 13

Passer Rating Differential

38.97 1
23.00 26

Offensive Hog Index

19.00 22
7.00 2

Defensive Hog Index

6.67 1
5.42 9

The Relativity Index

12.19 2
6579 23

Total Team Yards

7106 15
7109 13

Total Team Yards Allowed

5628 1
-530 23

Total Team Yards Differential

1478 2
87.57 21

Offensive Rusher Rating

91.12 14
71.76 3

Defensive Rusher Rating

69.79 1
15.81 7

Rusher Rating Differential

21.33 2
31 25

Total Turnovers

19 3

 

New York Giants at Detroit Lions

N.Y. Giants at Detroit (-9)

The Lions are a textbook example of a sexy but over-valued team. The public is still enamored by the big names and the fantasy value of guys like QB Matt Stafford (4,211 yards, 28 TDs), WR Calvin Johnson (81 catches, 1,449 yards, 12 TD) and RB Reggie Bush (940 yards, 4 TD).

But the reality is that the total in Detroit is certainly less than the sum of the parts.

The Lions are in a 1-4 tailspin, they have pissed away a virtual lock-stock road to the playoffs in the wounded NFC North. 

They have otherwise proven why they’re one of the worst franchises in the history of football: 20 years without a division title and counting.

Yet Detroit is still a huge favorite against a team that is, at the end of the day, only two games behind it in the win-loss column.

We chronicled the dramatic downfall of the Giants, and their offense in particular, in great detail this week.

A bit of trivia: Eli Manning is now the first QB to throw 25+ picks in two different seasons (2010, 2013) since Vinny Testaverde (1988, 2000).

The Giants have also been shut out twice this year, 38-0 by the Panthers in Week 3 and 23-0 by the Seahawks last week.

But the Lions are far from the defensive forces of Carolina or Seattle. They are, instead, an extraordinarily, dumb, inefficient and frustrating team.

Not as dumb, innefficent and frustrating as the Giants, but not much better.

And 9 points is a lot for any team to give, especially a world-class under-achiever like the Lions. Detroit will make enough bone-headed plays to keep this one close in the fourth quarter.

Take the points. Leave the cannoli.

Pick: Detroit 28, N.Y. Giants 21

Giants Pre-Game Analysis Lions
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
21.91 25

Quality Stats Power Rankings

15.59 13
25% 17

Quality Standings

20% 18
16.73 27

Scoreability

15.88 23
13.88 22

Bendability

14.75 16
5.89 20

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.82 8
5.63 8

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.53 20
60.95 32

Real Quarterback Rating

79.48 17
74.68 10

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

77.24 15
- 13.73 24

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

2.24 17
67.60 31

Offensive Passer Rating

84.17 18
78.25 6

Defensive Passer Rating

84.97 19
- 10.66 25

Passer Rating Differential

- 0.80 19
29.00 31

Offensive Hog Index

10.00 5
17.33 19

Defensive Hog Index

15.33 16
- 4.67 25

The Relativity Index

- 0.60 15
6392 28

Total Team Yards

7697 6
7173 17

Total Team Yards Allowed

7176 18
-781 30

Total Team Yards Differential

521 9
78.49 29

Offensive Rusher Rating

88.36 19
84.42 8

Defensive Rusher Rating

90.42 15
- 5.92 18

Rusher Rating Differential

- 2.06 17
44 32

Total Turnovers

34 29

 

Oakland Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers

Oakland at San Diego (-10)                                                                                    

The Chargers kept alive their slim playoff hopes with an impressive win over the Broncos last Thursday in Denver – a game San Diego physically took to the AFC heavyweight.

This week they enjoy a huge statistical mismatch against Oakland and its porous pass defense.

The Chargers rank No. 2 in Real Passing YPA, Real QB Rating and Offensive Passer Rating

The Raiders rank No. 27 in Defensive Real Passing YPA and No. 32 in Defensive Real QB Rating and Defensive Passer Rating.

In other words, Philip Rivers, in the midst of a hugely productive season, should have his way against Oakland.

In fact, he passed for 411 yards in San Diego’s first meeting with the Raiders, a 27-17 loss. His three picks kept the game closer than it should have been, while Oakland’s Terrelle Pryor produced his best passing day as a pro (135.7 rating).

Of course, Matt McGloin is the  quarterback now. And the promise he showed in Oakland’s win over Houston has fizzled down the stretch, with 5 TDs and 7 INTs in the last four games, all losses, including his four-pick effort against the Chiefs last week.

Interesting statistical quirk: McGloin in his five starts has competed 18, 19, 18, 18 and 18 passes.

The Chargers, of course, have a huge handicap that the Chiefs do not: they are nearly as bad on pass defense as the Raiders: No. 29 in Defensive Passer Rating, No. 30 in Defensive Real QB Rating, No. 32 in Defensive Real Passing YPA.

Much like the case in the Giants-Lions game, the number is just too big for comfort.

Pick: San Diego 30, Oakland 23

Raiders Pre-Game Analysis Chargers
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
24.18 31

Quality Stats Power Rankings

15.86 14
12% 27

Quality Standings

71% 2
16.58 26

Scoreability

15.89 24
12.85 30

Bendability

16.85 8
5.91 18

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

7.54 2
6.95 28

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

7.10 31
69.77 24

Real Quarterback Rating

97.31 3
95.83 32

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

90.89 29
- 26.06 32

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

6.42 11
73.93 28

Offensive Passer Rating

105.47 2
105.09 32

Defensive Passer Rating

96.42 28
- 31.16 32

Passer Rating Differential

9.05 10
20.33 24

Offensive Hog Index

9.33 3
20.33 24

Defensive Hog Index

24.67 28
- 8.29 29

The Relativity Index

3.35 11
6966 19

Total Team Yards

7336 13
7243 21

Total Team Yards Allowed

7995 30
-277 19

Total Team Yards Differential

-659 26
98.16 8

Offensive Rusher Rating

84.59 25
90.09 14

Defensive Rusher Rating

99.04 26
8.07 10

Rusher Rating Differential

- 14.45 27
31 25

Total Turnovers

21 9

 

Pittsburgh Steelers at Green Bay Packers

Pittsburgh at Green Bay (-2.5)

Note: This game opened with no line, but was moved to Green Bay -2.5 after it was announced Friday that Packers QB Aaron Rodgers will miss yet another game.

Rodgers has been practicing this week, but as one NFL.com report put it Thursday: “All signs point to Aaron Rodgers spending another Sunday on the Green Bay Packers sideline."

The official word came out Friday.

Green Bay, of course, was in a death spiral without Rodgers, going 0-4-1 since his Week 9 injury, before salvaging 1-point wins over both the Falcons and Cowboys, behind Matt Flynn at QB.

The Steelers, of course, kept alive their scant playoff hopes with their 30-20 win over the Bengals Sunday night.

Pittsburgh holds a surprising number of advantages in this game, surpassing Green Bay in most measures of passing efficiency as the Packers have regressed without Rodgers.

The Packers were No. 4 in Offensive Passer Rating in Week 10 (104.1).

The Packers are No. 9 in Offensive Passer Rating today (94.0).

Green Bay’s best weapon in this game, however, will probably be its rushing attack. The Packers are No. 6 on the Offensive Hog Index, average a very vibrant 4.62 YPA (fifth) and are No. 8 in Offensive Rusher Rating.

Pittsburgh counters with a unit that ranks a very un-Steelers-like No. 27 on the Defensive Hog Index, allow 4.24 YPA (21st) and is No. 28 in Defensive Rusher Rating.

Look for the Packers to control the trenches, no matter who starts at quarterback.

Pick: Green Bay 23, Pittsburgh 21

Steelers Pre-Game Analysis Packers
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
16.36 15

Quality Stats Power Rankings

17.82 18
50% 11

Quality Standings

0% 29
14.25 13

Scoreability

15.36 17
14.58 17

Bendability

13.92 21
6.39 12

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.94 7
5.88 10

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.79 25
81.45 14

Real Quarterback Rating

82.94 13
77.26 16

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

85.62 25
4.19 12

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 2.67 19
92.29 8

Offensive Passer Rating

91.69 10
82.71 12

Defensive Passer Rating

95.88 25
9.57 9

Passer Rating Differential

- 4.20 20
18.67 21

Offensive Hog Index

10.33 6
24.67 28

Defensive Hog Index

20.33 24
- 0.69 16

The Relativity Index

- 2.14 19
7061 17

Total Team Yards

7641 7
7160 15

Total Team Yards Allowed

8085 31
-99 17

Total Team Yards Differential

-444 21
79.96 27

Offensive Rusher Rating

101.55 6
101.66 29

Defensive Rusher Rating

99.44 27
- 21.70 32

Rusher Rating Differential

2.12 13
24 14

Total Turnovers

25 15

 

New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens

New England at Baltimore (-2.5)

A heated AFC grudge match lights up the late afternoon slate with plenty on the line for two teams trying to clinch playoff spots. Patriots-Ravens pits the last two AFC champs and the two teams that have competed in each of the past two AFC title games.

The Patriots were sitting pretty in control of the AFC playoff race, at least for three days, before falling just short against the Dolphins last week in a game that had a score (24-20) and a finish quite similar to their Week 11 loss in Carolina.

The Ravens have reinserted themselves into the AFC playoff race with four straight wins, including last week’s primetime thriller over the Lions.

Baltimore is just one overtime loss at Chicago away from a six-game win streak and first place (by virtue of head-to-head tiebreaker) in the AFC North.

The Patriots defense had looked vastly improved this year, but has regressed badly since its command performance over the Broncos in Week 12, during which Peyton Manning produced one of the worst statistical efforts of his career. Since then that unit has made Jason Campbell and Ryan Tannehill look like Pro Bowlers (combined 6 TDs, 0 INT).

That’s good news for Joe Flacco, who has been anything but his Super Bowl MVP self in 2013. In fact, he’s been one of the least effective passers in the NFL, as the Ravens are among the worst in the NFL in Real Passing YPA, Real QB Rating and Offensive Passer Rating.

So this game comes down to one very simple factor: can Flacco step it up against New England’s suddenly porous defense, or will that unit keep him in check?

Most of the statistical signs point to the fact that New England is just a bit better than Baltimore and that Tom Brady clearly holds the cards over Flacco against what is a good, but not elite, Ravens defense.

Pick: New England 24, Baltimore 23

Patriots Pre-Game Analysis Ravens
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
10.77 8

Quality Stats Power Rankings

18.59 20
50% 10

Quality Standings

20% 20
13.86 9

Scoreability

15.37 18
17.66 5

Bendability

15.25 14
6.12 15

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.38 30
6.00 12

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.21 15
79.14 18

Real Quarterback Rating

66.45 29
75.67 11

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

75.94 12
3.47 14

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 9.49 22
87.29 15

Offensive Passer Rating

72.05 29
81.01 9

Defensive Passer Rating

82.23 11
6.28 12

Passer Rating Differential

- 10.18 24
11.00 9

Offensive Hog Index

25.00 29
19.00 22

Defensive Hog Index

7.00 2
6.21 8

The Relativity Index

- 2.38 20
7743 5

Total Team Yards

6857 21
7076 11

Total Team Yards Allowed

6899 10
667 7

Total Team Yards Differential

-42 15
103.22 4

Offensive Rusher Rating

77.75 30
85.40 10

Defensive Rusher Rating

79.15 4
17.82 6

Rusher Rating Differential

- 1.40 16
20 7

Total Turnovers

29 22

 

Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers

Atlanta at San Francisco (-13)

Atlanta’s lost 2013 season has been marked by a number of hideously disfiguring statistical defects. But none worse than this: the Falcons are an NFL-worst (tied with Houston) 0-8 against Quality Opponents this year, getting outscored by an average of 26.6 to 16.3 PPG.

The scheduling Gods play a cruel joke on them, too: Atlanta closes out the season against two of the highest Quality Teams in football: San Francisco this week and Carolina in the season finale.

Say “hello” to 4-12, Falcons fans.

Atlanta has been largely dreadful on the road, and faces a huge challenge against a San Francisco defense that is No. 3 in scoring (16.3 PPG) and that has given up just 13.3 PPG in its last seven.

The question here centers around the ability of San Francisco’s good-but-not-great offense (No. 13 in scoring, No. 12 in Offensive Passer Rating, No. 21 on the Offensive Hog Index, No. 31 in Total Team Yards) to rack up big points against one of the worst defenses in football.

The Falcons are No. 27 in scoring, No. 31 in Defensive Passer Rating and No. 31 on the Defensive Hog Index.

That unit has really played only one strong game all year, holding the Saints to 17 points in Week 12. Mostly, opponents are scoring in the mid to high 20s on them, even with their statistical holes, which is where we see this game for San Francisco.The 49ers have struggled to find big plays on offense, as evdenced by that No. 31 spot in Total Team Yards, ahead of only the Buccaneers.

It's not enough to inspire confidence in a two-touchdown victory.

Pick: San Francisco 27, Atlanta 17

Falcons Pre-Game Analysis 49ers
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
22.27 27

Quality Stats Power Rankings

8.68 4
0% 30

Quality Standings

50% 7
15.55 21

Scoreability

12.76 4
13.70 25

Bendability

18.64 4
6.04 17

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.53 10
7.11 32

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.68 9
80.35 16

Real Quarterback Rating

85.85 9
94.96 31

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

71.96 8
- 14.61 25

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

13.89 7
89.47 11

Offensive Passer Rating

91.71 9
102.44 31

Defensive Passer Rating

76.44 4
- 12.97 26

Passer Rating Differential

15.28 5
13.67 12

Offensive Hog Index

16.67 18
30.67 32

Defensive Hog Index

10.67 7
- 4.41 24

The Relativity Index

9.14 3
6639 22

Total Team Yards

6540 24
7121 14

Total Team Yards Allowed

6631 7
-482 22

Total Team Yards Differential

-91 16
87.80 20

Offensive Rusher Rating

99.31 7
94.44 21

Defensive Rusher Rating

85.26 9
- 6.64 21

Rusher Rating Differential

14.05 8
28 21

Total Turnovers

19 3





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