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Week 2 of the 2013 Regular Season

New York Jets at New England Patriots

N.Y. Jets at New England (-12)

The New England Patriots were 10-point favorites last week, but squeaked out only a razor-thin 23-21 win against what will likely be a bad Buffalo Bills team.

The Pigskin Public does not seem to care.

It is still mesmerized by the New England mystique and its 12-year run of dominance on the field and against the spread. The Patriots opened as 10-point favorites again this week. It’s been pumped up to 12 as of Wednesday.

(Note: we use as our guide the "consensus" line of multiple books as published at VegasInsider.com.)

It’s further evidence that the Patriots are what the wise guys in Vegas call a “public” team – that is, a popular team that generates dollars on its side no matter what the line.

There have been concerns in New England all year about the fate of an offense that was largely neutered since its spectacular 2012 season. Those concerns appeared well founded in Week 1 – and only getting worse.   

Tom Brady and that offense sputtered for large periods Sunday against what was a very porous Buffalo defense last season, before the Patriots pulled out the win over their traditional whipping boys (Patriots 19-1 in last 20 meetings).

Then we learned Tuesday that the two prime weapons in the New England victory, slot man Danny Amendola and running back Shane Vereen, will not be available for the Patriots’ Thursday night clash vs. the Jets.

Fortunately for Patriots fans, the scheduling Gods were kind: they open the season with their second straight game against a rookie quarterback, in this case Jets quarterback Geno Smith.

He should have trouble putting up big points against the Patriots, as he did last week against Tampa Bay.

But New England’s handicapped offense might find points hard to come by, too. Fans remember the Patriots’ 49-19 blowout of the Jets last Thanksgiving in the famous Mark Sanchez “Butt Fumble” game.

But New England needed overtime to win the Week 7 meeting in Foxboro, 29-26.

One other thing: last week against Buffalo, the Patriots needed something close to a statistical miracle to win the game. In fact, they won a game that statistically speaking NFL teams lose nearly 100 percent of the time.

Bills rookie QB E.J. Manuel did not put up big numbers, but he was very efficient. In fact, the Bills were an amazing +40.4 over Brady and the Patriots in Real Quarterback Rating, the stat with the highest “Correlation to Victory” in all of football.

Last season 81 teams were +40 or better tha their opponent in Real Quarterback Rating. Those teams went 80-1.

It's a huge statistical red flag; and one of many reasons, statistically and physically, to approach the Patriots with caution this week.

Pick: New England 23, N.Y. Jets 17

Jets Pre-Game Analysis Patriots
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
21.64 24

Quality Stats Power Rankings

10.77 8
40% 13

Quality Standings

50% 10
17.55 28

Scoreability

13.86 9
13.85 23

Bendability

17.66 5
5.56 26

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.12 15
6.30 18

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.00 12
63.31 31

Real Quarterback Rating

79.14 18
80.48 20

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

75.67 11
- 17.17 27

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

3.47 14
66.58 32

Offensive Passer Rating

87.29 15
86.48 20

Defensive Passer Rating

81.01 9
- 19.90 27

Passer Rating Differential

6.28 12
18.33 20

Offensive Hog Index

11.00 9
11.00 9

Defensive Hog Index

19.00 22
- 6.68 27

The Relativity Index

6.21 8
6502 26

Total Team Yards

7743 5
7255 22

Total Team Yards Allowed

7076 11
-753 28

Total Team Yards Differential

667 7
91.38 13

Offensive Rusher Rating

103.22 4
87.68 12

Defensive Rusher Rating

85.40 10
3.70 12

Rusher Rating Differential

17.82 6
29 22

Total Turnovers

20 7

 

Carolina Panthers at Buffalo Bills

Carolina (-3) at Buffalo

The Panthers went 7-9 last year, despite being a statistically solid team, because they were one of the more inefficient teams in football, ranking No. 21 in Scoreability and No. 22 in Bendability.

Last week against the Seahawks, the Panthers’ defense (No. 3 in Bendability) was very efficient, allowing just 12 points despite giving up 370 total net yards of offense. However, Carolina’s inefficiency on offense cost them a chance to pull a big upset, as Cam Newton’s troops registered just 7 points and ended Week 1 ranked near the bottom in Scoreability (No. 31).

The Bills also nearly pulled off a big upset last week, as they led the Patriots by four midway through the fourth quarter. But Buffalo, despite benefiting from an uncharacteristically sloppy New England effort (three turnovers), failed to close the deal and ended up losing on a last-second field goal.

Buffalo’s Defensive Hogs—the worst in the league last year—were the main culprit in the team’s opening day loss and finished Week 1 once again ranked at the bottom of the category.

However, rookie QB E.J. Manuel had a nice game in his pro debut last week, and has the Bills ranked No. 8 in Offensive Passer Rating after one game. It should be noted that Buffalo’s coaching staff was keeping things simple and taking few risks with Manuel last week, as he averaged a measly 5.56 yards per attempt. Newton, however, averaged even less than that against the tough Seattle defense (4.96 YPA).

Keep in mind, however, that Manuel really had the Bills in a strong position to win. In fact, as noted in the Jets-Patriots pick above, they lost a game that was almost statistically impossible to lose.  Those games will usually equal a W.

Both the Bills and Panthers battled what should be playoff contenders in Week 1. The Bills emerged with a big advantage in Passer Rating Differential (PRD). The Panthers rank No. 24 in that very important indicator, while the Bills, who were very good on both sides of the ball in the passing game last week, come in at No. 7.

The Bills may emerge from Week 2 a better team than folks anticipated they may be before Week 1. The feeling here is that the Panthers right now are favored by virtue of their "big name" at quarterback. But the production there does not often equal the name value.

Pick: Buffalo 20, Carolina 17

Panthers Pre-Game Analysis Bills
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
8.18 2

Quality Stats Power Rankings

19.00 22
50% 9

Quality Standings

17% 22
13.85 8

Scoreability

15.96 25
20.00 1

Bendability

13.75 24
5.90 19

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.44 29
5.50 5

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.29 3
86.39 8

Real Quarterback Rating

68.48 25
70.33 5

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

65.53 2
16.06 4

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

2.95 16
88.76 13

Offensive Passer Rating

74.98 26
81.37 10

Defensive Passer Rating

74.91 3
7.39 11

Passer Rating Differential

0.07 17
15.00 15

Offensive Hog Index

23.00 26
8.67 4

Defensive Hog Index

12.67 11
8.39 4

The Relativity Index

- 3.38 22
6228 30

Total Team Yards

6499 27
5835 2

Total Team Yards Allowed

7261 23
393 10

Total Team Yards Differential

-762 29
95.30 11

Offensive Rusher Rating

89.58 16
70.86 2

Defensive Rusher Rating

88.35 13
24.44 1

Rusher Rating Differential

1.23 14
19 3

Total Turnovers

27 19

 

Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens

Cleveland at Baltimore (-6.5)

The Browns have made the playoffs just once since being report in 1999 because they have never had a quality quarterback.

It’s clear here early in 2013 that nothing has changed in that department. Last year’s first-round draft pick, Brandon Weeden, threw three interceptions against the Dolphins last week and turned a close game into a near-runaway for Miami.

Weeden has now thrown 20 career picks against just 15 TD passes, and his career passer rating sits at well below the passer rating Mendoza line, at 70.3. Folks, you can have a great defense and a great running game, but if you can’t throw the ball effectively in the NFL, you’ve got zero chance.

The Browns can’t throw the ball effectively.

Of course, if you can’t stop the pass in the NFL, you’ve also got zero chance, and the Super Bowl Champion Ravens found that out, emphatically, during last week’s nightmarish performance against Peyton Manning and the Broncos.

Baltimore’s re-tooled defense – usually one of the best in the NFL year in, year out – sits at No. 30 or worse in a shocking seven key Quality Stats categories after Week 1, including dead-last rankings in Defensive Real Passing YPA, Defensive Real QB Rating, Real QB Rating Differential, and Passer Rating Differential.

Peyton Manning's seven TD passes will do that to a team.

So this visit to Crab Cake Land by the hapless Cleveland offense would seem to be just what the doctor ordered for what should be a pack of angry birds.

Offensively, the Ravens also struggled last week as Joe Flacco (69.4 passer rating) tries to adjust to life without TE Dennis Pitta (out for the season) and departed WR Anquan Boldin.

Cleveland’s pass defense, on the other hand, isn’t all that bad, as it clocks in at No. 11 in Defensive Real QB Rating and No. 12 in Defensive Passer Rating after slowing down the new-look Miami passing attack last week.

Still, it’s hard to envision any scenario that has Cleveland winning this game. The Browns’ offense is just putrid and constantly puts the defense in bad situations. Given the fact that Baltimore’s delayed banner-raising ceremony will be taking place on this day, the Ravens should have a little extra incentive to kick things up a notch.

More importantly, the Browns exited Week 1 No. 31 in the Intelligence Index (Baltimore is not much better at No. 25, but faced a statistical firestorm from a strong team and Hall of Fame QB). And as we've seen through our new measure of situational football, dumb teams are bad bets.

Pick: Baltimore 24, Cleveland 13

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

Quality Stats Power Rankings

18.59 20
20% 19

Quality Standings

20% 20
17.61 29

Scoreability

15.37 18
13.10 29

Bendability

15.25 14
5.53 27

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.38 30
5.49 4

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.21 15
67.65 27

Real Quarterback Rating

66.45 29
78.85 18

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

75.94 12
- 11.20 23

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 9.49 22
75.70 25

Offensive Passer Rating

72.05 29
84.06 16

Defensive Passer Rating

82.23 11
- 8.36 21

Passer Rating Differential

- 10.18 24
21.33 25

Offensive Hog Index

25.00 29
20.00 23

Defensive Hog Index

7.00 2
- 6.91 28

The Relativity Index

- 2.38 20
7104 16

Total Team Yards

6857 21
6579 5

Total Team Yards Allowed

6899 10
525 8

Total Team Yards Differential

-42 15
72.37 32

Offensive Rusher Rating

77.75 30
91.39 16

Defensive Rusher Rating

79.15 4
- 19.02 28

Rusher Rating Differential

- 1.40 16
29 22

Total Turnovers

29 22

 

Dallas Cowboys at Kansas City Chiefs

Dallas at Kansas City (-2.5)

When we sat down to analyze this game we thought we were still in our usual drunken stupor from the previous evening.

After all, he Quality Stats comparisons table showed that the Chiefs – the same Chiefs that ranked No. 31 or No. 32 in almost every category last year – were ranked in the top six in more than a dozen categories after Week 1 of the 2013 season. 

Of course, Kansas City’s rankings come with one enormous caveat: KC’s Week 1 opponent was a pitiful Jacksonville team that seems unlikely to surpass even last year’s paltry two-win total.

Still, the Chiefs’ performance last week with new coach Andy Reid and new QB Alex Smith making their KC debuts was a smashing success no matter how you slice it.

The Cowboys gobbled up more turnovers last week against the Giants than the typical CHFF Stat Troll at a free dessert buffet.

Dallas was plus-five in turnover differential against New York, and that stat made all the difference in a game that saw the Cowboys’ defense surrender a whopping 450 passing yards to Eli Manning.

To its credit, however, Dallas did hold the Giants’ normally stout rushing attack to just 50 yards, and currently ranks No. 1 in Defensive Rusher Rating.

Given all those factors, Dallas should have had plenty of ammunition to embarrass the Giants. Instead, they held on for a 36-31 victory.

The Quality Stats breakdown after a week of evidence suggests that Kansas City should win this one. Of course, Dallas is amuch more talented team than the Jaguars, whose mere presence on the field makes any team they’re lined up against look better by comparison.

Still, Arrowhead Stadium is one of the league’s loudest road environments and that Kansas City crowd will be energized from the excitement of an off-season filled with build up and a confidence-inspiring Week 1 victory. The Cowboys are dealing with some injuries that likely will slow down QB Tony Romo and WR Dez Bryant.

It’s a manageable line for a Kansas City team that suddenly has solidity on the sidelines and at quarterback right now.

Pick: Kansas City 24, Dallas 20

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

Quality Stats Power Rankings

8.95 5
14% 24

Quality Standings

17% 21
12.44 2

Scoreability

12.55 3
15.38 13

Bendability

19.30 2
6.37 13

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.69 24
6.98 29

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.17 14
88.14 7

Real Quarterback Rating

83.22 12
90.88 28

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

69.94 4
- 2.74 20

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

13.27 8
95.70 7

Offensive Passer Rating

88.63 14
95.95 26

Defensive Passer Rating

78.46 7
- 0.25 18

Passer Rating Differential

10.17 7
13.33 11

Offensive Hog Index

14.00 14
29.67 31

Defensive Hog Index

12.33 10
0.12 14

The Relativity Index

6.79 7
7365 12

Total Team Yards

7961 3
7959 28

Total Team Yards Allowed

7208 20
-594 25

Total Team Yards Differential

753 5
97.36 9

Offensive Rusher Rating

101.57 5
98.53 25

Defensive Rusher Rating

80.26 6
- 1.17 15

Rusher Rating Differential

21.31 3
20 7

Total Turnovers

18 1

 

Los Angeles Chargers at Philadelphia Eagles

San Diego at Philadelphia (-7.5)

The Chargers have been trending downhill since reaching the AFC title game in 2007, and last Monday night’s gag job against the Texans, in which San Diego blew a 28-7 lead late in the third quarter, was just the latest gut punch for the franchise.

The good news is that Philip Rivers, long one of the more underrated QBs in the NFL, tossed 4 TD passes and put up a 95.6 passer rating against a good Houston defense; the bad news is that he also threw a damaging pick-six that allowed the Texans to tie the game in the fourth quarter.

Defensively, the Chargers folded up like a cheap card table late in the game and ended up ranked No. 31 in Total Team Yards Allowed (604 total yards allowed, including well over 100 in the return game) after Week 1. That’s not a good sign against a team that can threaten you many different ways.

The inability of the San Diego defense to get much of anything done against Houston’s offense last week does not bode well heading into this game—following the dreaded cross country flight to Philadelphia, no less.

Philly’s new-look offense under rookie head coach Chip Kelly blitzed the Redskins last Monday night and pretty much put the game out of reach by halftime.

The strong performance of Michael Vick (112.6 passer rating, 98.3 Real QB Rating) helped to land Philadelphia in the top 10 in several key offensive Quality Stats, including Real QB Rating, Offensive Passer Rating and the Offensive Hog Index.

Defensively, Philly picked off Robert Griffin III twice and currently resides in the top 10 in Defensive Passer Rating, Defensive Real QB Rating and on the Defensive Hog Index, though they still ended up allowing 533 Total Team Yards against a Washington team that was in full comeback mode for the entire second half.

While Philly has advantages in many of the key Quality Stats comparisons, the one edge that really stands out is Passer Rating Differential, where the Eagles rank No. 4 against a San Diego ranking of No. 22.

Philly had its problems, too, even in victory. Vick handed the Redskins an ugly defensive score early in the game that looked eerily reminiscent of how the team played in 2012. And the defense couldn’t make a stop late, allowing the Redskins to storm back.

Pick: Philadelphia 27, San Diego 23

Chargers Pre-Game Analysis Eagles
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
15.86 14

Quality Stats Power Rankings

11.55 9
71% 2

Quality Standings

40% 12
15.89 24

Scoreability

15.10 16
16.85 8

Bendability

16.51 9
7.54 2

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

7.40 3
7.10 31

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.56 22
97.31 3

Real Quarterback Rating

93.87 4
90.89 29

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

79.05 19
6.42 11

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

14.83 6
105.47 2

Offensive Passer Rating

102.69 4
96.42 28

Defensive Passer Rating

83.97 15
9.05 10

Passer Rating Differential

18.72 4
9.33 3

Offensive Hog Index

10.67 8
24.67 28

Defensive Hog Index

18.00 21
3.35 11

The Relativity Index

2.49 12
7336 13

Total Team Yards

7939 4
7995 30

Total Team Yards Allowed

7968 29
-659 26

Total Team Yards Differential

-29 14
84.59 25

Offensive Rusher Rating

105.21 2
99.04 26

Defensive Rusher Rating

85.89 11
- 14.45 27

Rusher Rating Differential

19.32 4
21 9

Total Turnovers

19 3

 

Los Angeles Rams at Atlanta Falcons

St. Louis at Atlanta (-7)

The Falcons were a Quality Stats juggernaut last season and so it’s a bit surprising to see them ranked No. 21 or worse in 12 categories following their tough loss at New Orleans last Sunday.

Atlanta’s Achilles heel last season was allowing too many big plays in the passing game, and the new season didn’t start off any better in that respect: Drew Brees connected for an average of 9.2 Real Passing YPA last Sunday, sinking Atlanta to No. 29 defensively in that indicator.

 Atlanta’s offense, one of the best in the league last year, also disappointed last Sunday against a Saints’ defense that in 2012 surrendered more territory than the French army in 1940. Despite all of those problems, however, the Falcons still came within a few yards of pulling out a win last week.

The Rams have to be feeling good about themselves after a rousing comeback win over the Cardinals in Week 1.

There might be hope yet for former No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford (100.7 passer rating), who carved up a good Arizona secondary in the second half last week, making good use out of TE Jared Cook, who was acquired from the Titans last offseason. 

Truth be told, if the Rams can finally get something going offensively in the passing game this season, they can  contend for a post-season berth, because they are a solid team, for the most part, on defense.

As for this game, it’s hard to pick St. Louis to go into Atlanta and win outright. But after those Week 1 performances, it’s easy to see the Rams keeping it close.

Keep in mind that St. Louis was No. 1 last year forcing Negative Pass Plays (11.52%); they nearly matched the same exact effort in Week 1 (11.36% Negative Pass Plays). The Falcons did not protect Ryan well enough against what had been a very bad Saints defense: he was sacked three times and threw a pick.

Pick: Atlanta 27, St. Louis 23

Rams Pre-Game Analysis Falcons
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
17.86 19

Quality Stats Power Rankings

22.27 27
33% 16

Quality Standings

0% 30
14.01 11

Scoreability

15.55 21
15.16 15

Bendability

13.70 25
5.77 22

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.04 17
6.75 24

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

7.11 32
75.32 19

Real Quarterback Rating

80.35 16
81.74 22

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

94.96 31
- 6.42 21

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 14.61 25
84.76 17

Offensive Passer Rating

89.47 11
94.69 24

Defensive Passer Rating

102.44 31
- 9.94 23

Passer Rating Differential

- 12.97 26
19.00 22

Offensive Hog Index

13.67 12
8.67 4

Defensive Hog Index

30.67 32
0.54 13

The Relativity Index

- 4.41 24
6532 25

Total Team Yards

6639 22
6383 4

Total Team Yards Allowed

7121 14
149 12

Total Team Yards Differential

-482 22
84.73 24

Offensive Rusher Rating

87.80 20
92.93 18

Defensive Rusher Rating

94.44 21
- 8.19 24

Rusher Rating Differential

- 6.64 21
21 9

Total Turnovers

28 21

 

Miami Dolphins at Indianapolis Colts

Miami at Indianapolis (-3)

The Colts continue to find ways to win early on in the Andrew Luck era. Last week featured another last-gasp victory for Indy against the Raiders, as Luck ran for the go-ahead TD late in the fourth quarter and then the Colts’ defense held off Oakland’s final red zone foray in the closing seconds.

The Dolphins, greatly aided by the largesse of the Cleveland offense (3 INTs), had an easier time of it last week.

While both teams allowed a fairly high number of offensive yards last week. But in the end, the final score is all that matters, and each team managed to hold their opponents’ point totals down. They rank No. 4 (Miami) and No. 5 (Indy) in Bendability heading into this game.

On paper, this game appears to be an even matchup until you get to the QB comparisons, where the Colts have a decided edge.

Ryan Tannehill, selected just seven slots after Luck was taken first overall in the 2012 draft, had just a so-so game last week (82 passer rating; 74.6 Real QB Rating), while Luck sparkled with a 128 passer rating and a Real QB rating of 116.4 in the win over the Raiders.

Passer Rating Differential is fairly even, largely due to Miami’s strong Defensive Passer Rating performance last week (48.4 DPR), but the Colts’ pass defense (70.6 DPR) also got the job done against the Raiders.

In the end, we think this will be a pretty tight game—the Colts don’t seem to play anything but tight games—but the advantage at QB for Indy, plus the home field, should be enough. Plus, Indy since the start of 2012 has been a team that punches above its statistical weight class.

Pick: Indianapolis 23, Miami 17

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

Quality Stats Power Rankings

13.05 10
57% 6

Quality Standings

57% 5
15.80 22

Scoreability

13.98 10
17.16 6

Bendability

17.00 7
5.47 28

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.07 16
6.03 13

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.42 19
70.39 23

Real Quarterback Rating

84.07 10
71.86 7

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

77.08 14
- 1.47 18

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

6.98 10
80.13 21

Offensive Passer Rating

86.50 16
77.26 5

Defensive Passer Rating

84.63 18
2.87 14

Passer Rating Differential

1.87 15
23.67 28

Offensive Hog Index

10.33 6
15.00 15

Defensive Hog Index

16.33 18
- 0.98 17

The Relativity Index

3.92 10
6377 29

Total Team Yards

7032 18
7193 19

Total Team Yards Allowed

7330 24
-816 31

Total Team Yards Differential

-298 20
85.96 23

Offensive Rusher Rating

103.64 3
94.90 22

Defensive Rusher Rating

92.86 17
- 8.94 25

Rusher Rating Differential

10.77 9
26 17

Total Turnovers

18 1

 

Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears

Minnesota at Chicago (-6)

The  Vikings turned in arguably the worst performance in the league this side of Jacksonville last week against the Lions.

Minnesota’s defense surrendered nearly 500 yards of total offense, its offense turned the ball over four times and QB Christian Ponder registered substandard passer (63.1) and Real QB ratings (52.6).

This week, the Vikings must travel to Chicago to take on a Bears team that had a nice comeback win against Cincinnati last week, riding three turnovers forced by the defense as well as a fairly solid offensive performance.

It was a classic Bears victory. They lost the battle of offensive yardage (340-323). But they won the battle of Total Team Yards, topping the Total Teams Yards Differential battle 396-365.  

One Quality Stat that should encourage Bears fans after Week 1 is the team’s No. 11 ranking on the Offensive Hog Index.

 Chicago’s offensive line has been reliably horrid during Jay Cutler’s entire tenure in the Windy City, but last week, Cutler was not sacked by a Bengals defense that usually gets after the QB pretty well, and he finished the game with a 93.2 passer rating.

If that level of O-Line play continues, the Bears could be a sneaky Super Bowl contender in the stacked NFC.

Other than the turnovers forced, however, Chicago’s usually very strong defense turned in a below-average performance last week, as the Bears rank just No. 25 on the Defensive Hog Index (No. 5 in 2012), No. 26 in Defensive Real Passing YPA (No. 4 in 2012), and No. 21 in Defensive Passer Rating (No. 2 in 2012) after Week 1.

Despite those struggles, the Bears’ defense still played better against a playoff-caliber Cincinnati team than Minnesota’s did against a Detroit team that went 4-12 last season. Heading into this game, Chicago also enjoys sizable advantages in key Quality Stats such as Passer Rating Differential, Real QB Rating Differential, Real QB Rating and Offensive Passer Rating.

Adrian Peterson (93 yards last week, 78 on one play) will get his yards, as he always does. Hell, the Vikings are No. 1 in Offensive Rusher Rating after Week 1. But as CHFF Insiders have long known, success in the run game is so distantly related to victory they can legally marry in all 50 states.  Minnesota last week turned that league-best rushing effort into a 10-point loss.

The Bears’ defense will feast on the shaky Ponder and the Chicago offense should produce another solid performance against a Minnesota defense that barely put up a fight last week.

Pick: Chicago 24, Minnesota 17

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

Quality Stats Power Rankings

15.00 12
17% 23

Quality Standings

40% 14
14.09 12

Scoreability

13.73 7
13.26 27

Bendability

13.21 28
5.81 21

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

7.03 5
6.67 23

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.93 27
70.98 21

Real Quarterback Rating

89.86 6
91.48 30

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

80.61 21
- 20.51 30

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

9.25 9
75.99 24

Offensive Passer Rating

96.86 6
98.61 30

Defensive Passer Rating

86.89 21
- 22.62 30

Passer Rating Differential

9.97 8
15.00 15

Offensive Hog Index

6.00 1
23.67 26

Defensive Hog Index

24.33 27
- 5.61 26

The Relativity Index

- 3.23 21
7627 8

Total Team Yards

8455 2
8220 32

Total Team Yards Allowed

7705 27
-593 24

Total Team Yards Differential

750 6
112.82 1

Offensive Rusher Rating

94.02 12
93.78 20

Defensive Rusher Rating

113.20 32
19.04 5

Rusher Rating Differential

- 19.18 29
32 28

Total Turnovers

23 13

 

Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans

Tennessee at Houston (-9)

After smothering the Steelers in Pittsburgh last week, the Titans hold down top 10 spots in eight key defensive Quality Stats, including the No. 1 ranking on the Defensive Hog Index.

That sets up a very interesting matchup in Houston against the Texans’ No. 4-ranked Offensive Hogs, which helped to spearhead the team’s fantastic comeback win on Monday night in San Diego.

We’re not sure if Tennessee’s virtuoso defensive performance last week signals a significant improvement over 2012, or if it was merely a symptom of the offensive plague that’s  hit Pittsburgh since the end of last season.

This is, after all, largely the same Titans’ defense that ranked No. 26 in Defensive Passer Rating and No. 20 in Defensive Real Passing YPA last year, while finishing in the middle of the pack on the Defensive Hog Index (No. 14).

Only time will tell about the Titans’ defense. But it’s clear that Tennessee’s offense still has some issues. Third-year QB Jake Locker (career passer rating of 74 in 12 NFL starts), perhaps one of the longest reaches in the history of the first round of the NFL draft (No. 8 overall pick in 2011, despite completing just 54% of his passes in college), passed for just 125 yards last week and still seems to run the ball better than he throws it.

In addition, overpaid diva RB Chris Johnson, who has found the end zone just 10 times in his last 33 games – or ever since holding the franchise hostage for a huge new contract prior to the 2011 season −  averaged just 2.8 YPA last week.

The Texans have fielded one of the best defenses in the league the past two seasons. But that unit got roughed up a little bit on Monday in Houston’s win at San Diego (4 TD passes allowed).

The defense still made a game-turning play, however, when Brian Cushing returned a Philip Rivers interception for the tying TD in the fourth quarter.  Offensively, after a slow start, the Texans pretty much picked off right where they left off last season and finished the week ranked No. 7 in Offensive Passer Rating and No. 6 in Real QB Rating, in addition to having the No. 4-ranked Offensive Hogs.

Houston won both meetings last year by at least 14 points, including a 38-14 win at home. Tennessee produced something close to a defensive masterpiece in Pittsburgh last week. But the reality is that the offense was still uninspiring and it’s hard to see it gaining inspiration against the Texans who are playing at home.

Pick: Houston 26, Tennessee 13

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

Quality Stats Power Rankings

22.50 29
12% 26

Quality Standings

11% 28
14.89 15

Scoreability

20.13 32
14.19 20

Bendability

11.87 31
6.13 14

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.65 25
6.22 16

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.97 11
80.81 15

Real Quarterback Rating

67.01 28
76.76 13

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

85.29 23
4.06 13

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 18.28 29
83.62 20

Offensive Passer Rating

73.98 27
83.27 13

Defensive Passer Rating

93.94 23
0.35 16

Passer Rating Differential

- 19.96 29
13.67 12

Offensive Hog Index

17.33 19
14.67 13

Defensive Hog Index

17.67 20
- 1.64 18

The Relativity Index

- 8.82 30
6925 20

Total Team Yards

7394 11
6893 9

Total Team Yards Allowed

7164 16
32 13

Total Team Yards Differential

230 11
96.36 10

Offensive Rusher Rating

80.33 26
103.34 30

Defensive Rusher Rating

93.50 19
- 6.97 22

Rusher Rating Differential

- 13.17 26
25 15

Total Turnovers

31 25

 

Washington Redskins at Green Bay Packers

Washington at Green Bay (-7.5)

Two teams with high hopes enter Week 2 each with 0-1 records. The Redskins looked lost for more than a half against the Eagles Monday night, before finally storming back to make it a one-score game; the Packers tried to beat the 49ers in a foot race Sunday, but always appeared one step behind.

The Redskins enter Week 1 one of the worst teams in football, at least statistically speaking. They rank in the bottom half of the league in almost every single Quality Stat. The defense was porous last season and was again Monday night against the Eagles.

 But it was the early inefficient play by RGIII and the offense that is clearly the biggest concern.  Robert Griffin III and the Redskins were No. 1 in Real QB Rating last year, a remarkable achievement for a team led by a rookie quarterback. They’re No. 23 in Real QB Rating entering Week 2.

The Packers defense, meanwhile, was gashed worse than a Jack the Ripper victim by Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers. They enter Week 2:

  • No. 29 in Total Team Yards Allowed
  • No. 31 in Defensive Passing Yards Per Attempt
  • No. 31 in Defensive Real QB Rating
  • No. 31 in Defensive Passer Rating

That porous defense presents plenty of opportunity for Griffin and the Redskins to get back on track.

But they won’t have the horses to keep pace with Aaron Rodgers  and the Packers offense. Rodgers played a fairly strong game against San Francisco. It just wasn’t good enough to win a shootout against a strong 49ers team in San Francisco.

It will be good enough to win a shootout against a weaker Redskins team back in Green Bay.

Pick: Green Bay 30, Washington 27

Redskins Pre-Game Analysis Packers
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
22.91 30

Quality Stats Power Rankings

17.82 18
14% 25

Quality Standings

0% 29
17.71 30

Scoreability

15.36 17
11.85 32

Bendability

13.92 21
5.74 23

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.94 7
7.08 30

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.79 25
70.71 22

Real Quarterback Rating

82.94 13
86.76 26

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

85.62 25
- 16.05 26

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 2.67 19
76.12 23

Offensive Passer Rating

91.69 10
96.07 27

Defensive Passer Rating

95.88 25
- 19.95 28

Passer Rating Differential

- 4.20 20
9.67 4

Offensive Hog Index

10.33 6
10.67 7

Defensive Hog Index

20.33 24
- 9.26 31

The Relativity Index

- 2.14 19
7487 10

Total Team Yards

7641 7
7639 26

Total Team Yards Allowed

8085 31
-152 18

Total Team Yards Differential

-444 21
90.30 15

Offensive Rusher Rating

101.55 6
109.48 31

Defensive Rusher Rating

99.44 27
- 19.18 30

Rusher Rating Differential

2.12 13
34 29

Total Turnovers

25 15

 

Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals

Detroit (-1.5) at Arizona

The Lions got off to a roaring start, whipping the Vikings 34-24. But it was far from a perfect victory.

Minnesota gashed them in the run game (105 yards, but league-best 137.05 Rusher Rating). And the Lions were not particularly efficient for all their production: No. 13 in Scoreability, No. 21 in Bendability.

In fact, the “intelligence” issues that made the Lions a bad team and a terrible bet in 2012 lingered in Week 1. The Lions enter the Arizona game a meager No. 17 on our Intelligence Index. Not so hot for a team that put up 34 points.

Arizona suffered a brutal 27-24 loss at St. Louis in Week 1, after blowing a 24-13 fourth-quarter lead. The defense that was supposed to be the Cards’ strong suit let it down against what had been a perfectly mediocre or worse Sam Bradford offense.

But all was not lost for Arizona: new quarterback Carson Palmer played fairly well in his Cardinals debut: 2 TDs, 327 yards, 6.91 Real Passing YPA and a 96.6 Offensive Passer Rating.

In other words, he delivered the Cardinals in Week 1 what they so desperately need: a passing game that promises to be at least serviceable, and maybe something quite better if all goes well.

At the end of the day, though, we were disturbed by what we saw out of the Arizona defense in Week 1:  Bradford, who has ranged from brutally ineffective to merely ordinary in his career, had his way with the Cardinals D. He posted an even 100.0 Real QB Rating and a 100.7 Passer Rating, one of just eight games in his statistically limp career in which he topped the century mark in efficiency.

That performance does not bode well when facing the largely inefficient but certainly prolific Detroit passing attack.

We’re hardly sold on the Lions after their Week 1 win. In fact, we would never put hard-earned money on a Detroit team such habitually ineffective in situational football. A team so dumb, in other words. But Arizona's performance against Bradford has gives us huge concerns about their defensive capabilities, especially against the likes of Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson, until evidence tells us to think otherwise.

The Lions may still suck yet. But they'll probably suck more later in the year than they do here in the halcyon days of September. Lions Time!

Pick: Detroit 27, Arizona 24

Lions Pre-Game Analysis Cardinals
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
15.59 13

Quality Stats Power Rankings

13.64 11
20% 18

Quality Standings

38% 15
15.88 23

Scoreability

14.62 14
14.75 16

Bendability

15.68 12
6.82 8

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.51 11
6.53 20

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.55 6
79.48 17

Real Quarterback Rating

74.92 20
77.24 15

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

71.56 6
2.24 17

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

3.36 15
84.17 18

Offensive Passer Rating

83.90 19
84.97 19

Defensive Passer Rating

80.25 8
- 0.80 19

Passer Rating Differential

3.65 13
10.00 5

Offensive Hog Index

23.00 26
15.33 16

Defensive Hog Index

7.00 2
- 0.60 15

The Relativity Index

5.42 9
7697 6

Total Team Yards

6579 23
7176 18

Total Team Yards Allowed

7109 13
521 9

Total Team Yards Differential

-530 23
88.36 19

Offensive Rusher Rating

87.57 21
90.42 15

Defensive Rusher Rating

71.76 3
- 2.06 17

Rusher Rating Differential

15.81 7
34 29

Total Turnovers

31 25

 

New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

New Orleans (-3) at Tampa Bay

Sean Payton and the Saints delivered perhaps the biggest statement victory of Week 1 in the coach’s first game back after being forced into exile by the Gridiron Godfather.

New Orleans held on for a huge 23-17 win over the division rival Falcons, the same Falcons who went 13-3 and earned the NFC’s No. 1 seed in 2012.

The most encouraging news was clearly the play of the defense. Fresh from a year in which it was one of the worst in NFL history, the Saints exit Week 1:

  • No. 7 in Bendability
  • No. 10 in Defensive Rusher Rating
  • No. 14 on the Defensive Hog Index
  • No. 19 in Defensive Passer Rating

They’re all very respectable numbers considering how porous the Saints were at all levels of defense in 2012 and considering the quality of the quarterback and offense they faced.

When you pair a serviceable defense with the typically deadly Drew Brees (No. 4 Real Passing YPA; No. 5 Real QB Rating) and you suddenly have the foundation of a contender. Indeed, after one game, the Saints are the only 1-0 team in the NFC South.

In Tampa’s case, let’s just point out that they lost to Geno Smith and the Jets in Week 1. ‘Nuff Ced.

Josh Freeman was hugely ineffective in that game and the Bucs enter Week 2 No. 29 in Real Quarterback Rating.

We really think this showdown is no more complex than that: Brees will easily outgun Freeman. And that superior QB play almost always leads to victory in the NFL.

Keep in mind, too, that the Bucs and Saints each went 7-9 last year, but Tampa lost twice to a defenseless New Orleans team by a combined score of 76-28. In fact, the Saints defense, the first unit in NFL history to surrender more than 7,000 yards in a season, pitched a shutout in the team's 41-0 Week 15 victory.

Not a good sign for the Bucs.

Pick: New Orleans 28, Tampa Bay 21

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

Quality Stats Power Rankings

22.36 28
50% 8

Quality Standings

0% 31
15.44 20

Scoreability

15.39 19
16.09 10

Bendability

14.31 18
7.15 4

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.03 32
5.58 7

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.54 21
97.39 2

Real Quarterback Rating

67.84 26
73.81 9

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

85.49 24
23.58 3

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 17.66 28
104.50 3

Offensive Passer Rating

79.59 22
83.62 14

Defensive Passer Rating

88.93 22
20.89 3

Passer Rating Differential

- 9.34 22
11.33 10

Offensive Hog Index

26.00 30
14.00 12

Defensive Hog Index

16.00 17
8.17 5

The Relativity Index

- 4.14 23
7303 14

Total Team Yards

5888 32
6042 3

Total Team Yards Allowed

6590 6
1261 3

Total Team Yards Differential

-702 27
88.86 18

Offensive Rusher Rating

76.14 31
95.39 24

Defensive Rusher Rating

83.98 7
- 6.52 20

Rusher Rating Differential

- 7.84 23
21 9

Total Turnovers

21 9

 

Denver Broncos at New York Giants

Denver (-4.5) at New York Giants

You know about the Manning Bowl. Eli and Peyton are brothers. Think we got that angle covered, no matter how long the networks want to talk about it.

OK, we're done: On to the real nitty gritty.

The Giants lost to NFC East rival Dallas 36-31 Sunday night. But they actually did something quite remarkable. They nearly survived a game in which they committed six turnovers and were -5 in turnover differential.

That’s something close to a statistical miracle. Teams that are -5 in turnover differential are just 7-218 since 1978. That's a .031 winning percentage, for those of you keeping score at home.

Big Blue should have been Big Blown out. Instead, they physically controlled much of the game, outgaining Dallas on offense 478-331 and even dominating the battle of Total Team Yards 615-439.

All of which bodes well as the Giants long term: this looked like a pretty good team physically that just played the worst game possible. We don’t believe they’re quite a “dumb” team yet. But further games like the one against Dallas might change our stand on that issue.

For now a team led by a two-time Super Bowl champion coach gets the benefit of the doubt.

The football world marveled at Denver’s Week 1 story: The Broncos trailed Baltimore 17-14 at intermission last Thursday before exploding for 35-second half points. Peyton Manning threw seven TD passes, including five in the second half.

The Broncos own the clear advantage in our Quality Stats. But we all know that a week of data does not a complete picture of a team make. (Yes, we apparently just channeled Yoda.)

We believe these two teams are much closer in skill and talent than the Week 1 Quality Stats would lead us to believe. Barring another turnover meltdown, the Giants will keep the Manning Bowl close at home.

Pick: Denver 28, N.Y. Giants 27

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

Quality Stats Power Rankings

21.91 25
57% 4

Quality Standings

25% 17
12.07 1

Scoreability

16.73 27
14.28 19

Bendability

13.88 22
7.83 1

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.89 20
6.22 17

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.63 8
106.05 1

Real Quarterback Rating

60.95 32
77.91 17

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

74.68 10
28.14 2

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 13.73 24
114.38 1

Offensive Passer Rating

67.60 31
84.47 17

Defensive Passer Rating

78.25 6
29.91 2

Passer Rating Differential

- 10.66 25
7.67 2

Offensive Hog Index

29.00 31
14.67 13

Defensive Hog Index

17.33 19
12.66 1

The Relativity Index

- 4.67 25
8849 1

Total Team Yards

6392 28
7083 12

Total Team Yards Allowed

7173 17
1766 1

Total Team Yards Differential

-781 30
88.95 17

Offensive Rusher Rating

78.49 29
95.13 23

Defensive Rusher Rating

84.42 8
- 6.18 19

Rusher Rating Differential

- 5.92 18
26 17

Total Turnovers

44 32

 

Jacksonville Jaguars at Oakland Raiders

Jacksonville at Oakland (-5.5)

The NFL each Sunday delivers nine hours of thrilling action-packed excitement filled with big plays and hard hits and electrifying athleticism.

And it also delivers Jaguars-Raiders.

The Jaguars battled the Chiefs in 2012 for the indignity of worst team in football. The Chiefs clearly made improvements in the off-season and dominated the Jaguars in Week 1. Jacksonville is right back at the bottom of the NFL heap by most any measure.

The Jags exit Week 1 ranked No. 30 or worse in 10 different Quality Stats. But it’s a long season. We’re confident they can make it 15 or 20 by December.

The Raiders lost in Week 1, too, but were at least competitive in a 21-17 defeat at Indianapolis.

Oakland outgained the Colts offensively 372-274 and won the Total Team yards battle 424-325. Former Ohio State star Terrelle Pryor was even fairly effective, boosting his Real Quarterback Rating to a respectable 82.8 with 112 rushing yards. If not for his two picks, the Raiders might have outgunned Andrew Luck and the Colts.

Among other colossal failings, Raiders-Jaguars pits two teams that were among the worst in situational football in 2012, according to our new Intelligence Index.

They begin the 2013 season in the same intellectually challenged fashion: Oakland No. 30 on the Intelligence Index; Jacksonville, naturally, No. 32.

Dumb teams are bad bets. But this contest pits two of the dumbest teams in football. Consider “intelligence” (or lack there of it) a wash.

On the bright side for Jacksonville, starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert is injured and will not play. Chad Henne, who relieved him Sunday, gets the nod.

This game would take a notable turn toward entertainment if Henne were to relieve himself on the field Sunday.

At the end of the day, the Raiders we know have some actual NFL-quality physical skills, as they displayed Sunday at Indy. The Jaguars have no such thing, though Henne may in fact be an upgrade at QB.

Coupled with a 3,000-mile cross country flight, it adds up to a long Sunday of arena-league quality football for Jacksonville.

Pick: Oakland 24, Jacksonville 17

Jaguars Pre-Game Analysis Raiders
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
29.23 32

Quality Stats Power Rankings

24.18 31
0% 32

Quality Standings

12% 27
19.03 31

Scoreability

16.58 26
13.52 26

Bendability

12.85 30
5.29 31

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.91 18
6.81 26

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.95 28
64.02 30

Real Quarterback Rating

69.77 24
89.16 27

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

95.83 32
- 25.15 31

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 26.06 32
71.84 30

Offensive Passer Rating

73.93 28
96.51 29

Defensive Passer Rating

105.09 32
- 24.67 31

Passer Rating Differential

- 31.16 32
31.00 32

Offensive Hog Index

20.33 24
26.00 30

Defensive Hog Index

20.33 24
- 12.69 32

The Relativity Index

- 8.29 29
6222 31

Total Team Yards

6966 19
7465 25

Total Team Yards Allowed

7243 21
-1243 32

Total Team Yards Differential

-277 19
79.74 28

Offensive Rusher Rating

98.16 8
100.79 28

Defensive Rusher Rating

90.09 14
- 21.06 31

Rusher Rating Differential

8.07 10
27 19

Total Turnovers

31 25

 

San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks

San Francisco at Seattle (-3)

The beauty of the NFL is that for every inaction, such as that we’re destined to get from Jags-Raiders, there is an equal and opposite action: like the fireworks we’re likely to get out of 49ers-Seahawks in Seattle

We believe the Super Bowl will likely be won by the NFC champion. We believe the NFC title could very well come down to the team that wins the NFC West. And we believe the team that dominates the 49ers-Seahawks series will win that rough and tumble division.

That’s the long way of saying that San Francisco-Seattle is the first of very two big games for the NFC West powers.

The teams split their 2012 season: San Francisco won a tough 13-6 game at home; the Seahawks blew out the 49ers, 42-13, in front of the 12th Man during their brilliant late-season surge. It’s the biggest defeat the 49ers suffered in the Jim Harbaugh Era.

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson was deadly effective passing the ball in Week 1 (115.7 passer rating). But the Seahawks struggled badly to put away the Panthers, 12-7.

San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick returned to his deadly effective dual-threat form in Week 1 (118.9 Real QB Rating). He guided the 49ers to a 13-point fourth-quarter surge to break open a 21-21 deadlock in a 34-28 victory.

So this game has plenty of young star power at quarterback and both Wilson and Kaepernick are off to brilliant starts. We expect these two clubs overall to be largely evenly matched throughout the year

No team habitually displays a greater disparity between performance on the road and back at home than the Seahawks. So we don't put too much stock in Seattle's struggle last week. They contained a talented quarterback in Cam Newton and held an NFL team to just 7 points on the road 3,000 miles from home. No shame in that. Especially considering the club's historic struggles when playing so far away from Seattle.

The 49ers are a great team. But the Seahawks are an especially great team at home. We expect the Seattle defense to have enough juice to contain Kaepernick, much like it largely did in Seattle’s big late-season win last year.

The 3-point line is exactly where we’d put this game. So we don’t like it as a wager. But we are doomed by the football fates to pick every game, every week. And in this instance Seattle is just too consistently a great play at home.

Pick: Seattle 24, San Francisco 20

49ers Pre-Game Analysis Seahawks
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
8.68 4

Quality Stats Power Rankings

4.95 1
50% 7

Quality Standings

57% 3
12.76 4

Scoreability

13.01 5
18.64 4

Bendability

18.95 3
6.53 10

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.97 6
5.68 9

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

4.84 1
85.85 9

Real Quarterback Rating

91.00 5
71.96 8

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

57.64 1
13.89 7

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

33.36 1
91.71 9

Offensive Passer Rating

102.36 5
76.44 4

Defensive Passer Rating

63.39 1
15.28 5

Passer Rating Differential

38.97 1
16.67 18

Offensive Hog Index

19.00 22
10.67 7

Defensive Hog Index

6.67 1
9.14 3

The Relativity Index

12.19 2
6540 24

Total Team Yards

7106 15
6631 7

Total Team Yards Allowed

5628 1
-91 16

Total Team Yards Differential

1478 2
99.31 7

Offensive Rusher Rating

91.12 14
85.26 9

Defensive Rusher Rating

69.79 1
14.05 8

Rusher Rating Differential

21.33 2
19 3

Total Turnovers

19 3

 

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati (-7)

The Cold, Hard Football Facts had high hopes for a Pittsburgh rebound in 2013. This is still the best organization of the Super Bowl Era, a consistent winner that rarely suffers consecutive subpar seasons like the one we witnessed last year.

In fact, the Steelers, who went 8-8 in 2012, have suffered consecutive seasons of .500 or worse just twice since 1972.

The team’s dismal Week 1 effort against Tennessee tempered those hopes, but certainly has not killed them.

We had low hopes for Cincinnati to emerge as the true contender some had predicted they would become in 2013. Andy Dalton has not shown us the statistical signatures of an emerging elite quarterback.

Despite Dalton’s rep as a rising “young gun,” he and the Bengals finished 2012 a mere No. 15 in Cold, Hard Football Facts Real Quarterback Rating, a critical indicator that correlates to victory in nearly 90 percent of all NFL games.

For a little perspective, the Steelers finished 2012 No. 13 in Real Quarterback Rating after a year in which Ben Roethlisberger was widely perceived to have struggled and yielded three starts to Charlie Batch or Byron Leftwich.

Put another way: Dalton is not ready for prime time. Which means the Bengals are not ready for the big time.

Cincy’s mistake-filled Week 1 loss at Chicago supported our low hopes for the Bengals, but certainly has not confirmed them.

All of which sets up something close to an early-season must-win game for two AFC North rivals who harbor legit dreams of capturing the crown in a divison without a real leader right now.

The bigger concerns are clearly with the Steelers. They went 8-8 in 2012 not because they lacked talent, but because they lacked smarts: No. 23 in the Intelligence Index.

They exit Week 1 at No. 29 on the indicator. So not a good sign. Even worse is the fact that a team we thought still had talent looked against Tennessee like a team that no longer has the physical tools to simply overwhelm opponents.

But the Bengals, for their part, were not a whole lot better. They were largely inefficient against Chicago in Week 1, and enter Week 2 No. 22 on the Intelligence Index. Put another way, the Bengals let a victory slip from their hands against the Bears.

There’s one thing the Steelers always do well, and probably will do as long as Dick LeBeau runs the defense. And that is defend the pass. They were fairly effective limiting Tennessee’s Jake Locker in Week 1. No big achievement there considering the quality of the quarterback.

But that ability to stifle opposing quarterbacks gives the Steelers a fighting chance in any game. And if they can finally get their mind right, they can compete and even beat the Bengals.

Hard to believe we’re even speaking about the once-mighty Steelers in terms like that relative to the Bengals. But such is life in the Not For Long League.

Pick: Cincinnati 21, Pittsburgh 16

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

Quality Stats Power Rankings

8.50 3
50% 11

Quality Standings

100% 1
14.25 13

Scoreability

13.71 6
14.58 17

Bendability

16.03 11
6.39 12

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.72 9
5.88 10

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.09 2
81.45 14

Real Quarterback Rating

84.06 11
77.26 16

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

68.83 3
4.19 12

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

15.23 5
92.29 8

Offensive Passer Rating

88.97 12
82.71 12

Defensive Passer Rating

74.17 2
9.57 9

Passer Rating Differential

14.80 6
18.67 21

Offensive Hog Index

15.67 17
24.67 28

Defensive Hog Index

10.00 6
- 0.69 16

The Relativity Index

7.12 6
7061 17

Total Team Yards

7608 9
7160 15

Total Team Yards Allowed

6786 8
-99 17

Total Team Yards Differential

822 4
79.96 27

Offensive Rusher Rating

85.99 22
101.66 29

Defensive Rusher Rating

79.40 5
- 21.70 32

Rusher Rating Differential

6.59 11
24 14

Total Turnovers

34 29





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