NFL Stat Oddity: Week 5

Now that the Atlanta Falcons have fired head coach Dan Quinn, we’ll see if we continue to get improbable losses out of that team, but there were plenty of other stat oddities to go around from Sunday’s action.

Previous weeks:

Raiders Came at the King, Didn’t Miss

When you’re in your seventh season like Derek Carr and you still haven’t started a playoff game, you have to treat a win like this as something extra special. The Raiders (3-2) are now fully alive in the AFC West race after ending Kansas City’s 13-game winning streak, a signature win for Carr.

Carr is now 3-10 against the Chiefs, but all three of the wins are really among his most notable. There’s the first win of his career in 2014, a comeback against the Chiefs on Thursday Night Football. There’s the untimed down game in 2017 on another Thursday night, the time he threw a game-winning touchdown to Michael Crabtree on the final snap.

Now we’re talking about out-gunning Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in Arrowhead, albeit with 2020 attendance. This is a bit different, and it was certainly a different experience for the Chiefs after an outrageous shootout in the first half where both teams scored 24 points and had over 300 yards of offense. The Chiefs twice led by 11, but Carr kept the Raiders on pace with uncharacteristic deep shots that led to touchdown passes of 59 and 72 yards.

The Chiefs hurt themselves in the first half with offensive penalties that negated two touchdowns, but in the second half the offense was ice cold on four straight drives. That’s when the Raiders took control and scored the game’s next 16 points, building a 40-24 lead with 5:26 left.

This is the first time Mahomes has ever trailed by 16 points past the midway point of the second quarter in his NFL career. Oakland Las Vegas almost hung the first multi-score loss on the Chiefs since 2017, but Mahomes had another answer. He frankly had to after throwing a terrible pick that was returned to the 2-yard line to set up another Josh Jacobs touchdown run. Mahomes cut the lead in half to 40-32 after a touchdown and two-point conversion pass, but only 3:57 remained. At the two-minute warning, the Raiders had a no-brainer decision on fourth-and-1 to put the game away. While Carr has been a shockingly ineffective rusher, it’s not asking much to convert a quarterback sneak. He had one to end the third quarter and he had another here to end the Chiefs’ winning streak at 13 games.

It also ends Kansas City’s NFL record streak of 49 games without losing by more than seven points, though it does extend their record to 50 games without losing by more than eight points. That’s still a one-possession game in the NFL, but fortunately the Raiders didn’t have to give the Chiefs the ball back for one more possession.

Carr’s game-winning drive gives him 21, which is the new franchise record. Here is the franchise leader in fourth-quarter comeback wins and game-winning drives for all 32 teams:

Someday Mahomes should be able to hold these records for the Chiefs, but on Sunday, it just wasn’t his best stuff. So throw away the undefeated season talk or taking down New England’s 21-game winning streak. The Chiefs still have work to do.

Washington, Are You a Football Team?

Clearly, it’s not just a Dwayne Haskins issue in Washington. The Redskins Football Team started Kyle Allen at quarterback against the Rams, but suffered a 30-10 defeat with one of the most inept offensive performances of the last decade.

Washington gained just 108 yards, the fewest in a game by an offense since Luke Falk led the Jets to 105 yards against the Patriots last season. Worse, Washington gained 108 yards on 52 plays, or 2.08 yards per play. That’s the fifth-lowest average in a game since 2010, and somehow not even the worst Washington game in recent years. In 2018, Washington averaged 2.02 yards per play in a Week 17 loss (24-0) to the Eagles.

How sad was this showing? Washington’s longest gain of the day was an 18-yard completion from Allen. The second-longest “play” was actually a 2-yard loss on a run that netted 13 yards because of a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness on the Rams.

Alex Smith replaced an injured Allen in the second quarter for his first action in nearly two years since a gruesome leg injury in 2018. He led the team on a field goal drive before halftime, but frankly would have been better off rehabbing on the sideline after that. In the second half, Smith’s success rate was 0-for-17 with a net loss of 24 yards. That’s hard to believe, but he took 5 sacks, had 4 failed completions, one failed scramble, and threw 7 incompletions. The rain intensified, but that didn’t stop the Rams from gaining positive yardage in the second half.

The Rams are now 4-0 against the NFC East and 0-1 against the refs this season.

Pennsylvania’s Historic Third Down Day

The Steelers have never blown a 17-point lead at home in franchise history, but this came awfully close.

What paced both offenses was an incredible display on third down. The Eagles finished 10 of 14 (71%) and the Steelers finished 11 of 15 (73%). According to Stathead, this is the only NFL game since 1991 where both offenses converted at least 10 third downs with a conversion rate over 70%.

It’s only the third game since 1991 where both offenses converted at least 10 third downs period (2015 Giants-Falcons and 2014 Ravens-Panthers the other two). Given what we know about pre-1991 offenses, this is a favorite for the best offensive display on third down in any game in NFL history. The Eagles’ four longest plays from scrimmage came on third down, including the game’s longest play, a 74-yard run by Miles Sanders on third-and-9.

But in the fourth quarter, the Steelers were just a little better. After Travis Fulgham, apparently the new No. 1 in Philadelphia, killed the secondary all day with 10 catches for 152 yards, the defense finally tightened. Joe Haden had the coverage on a third down that led to the Eagles making a questionable decision to try a 57-yard field goal with 3:23 left on a fourth-and-5. The longest field goal in Heinz Field history is 53 yards and everyone knows the stadium is historically difficult to connect from long distance. Jake Elliott gave it a shot, but was wide right.

The Steelers needed one more conversion to ice this one, and Ben Roethlisberger delivered it on a third-and-8 with a 35-yard touchdown pass to rookie Chase Claypool, who somehow caught the defense napping again for his fourth touchdown of the game.

This battle of Pennsylvania ended 38-29, which surprisingly is not the first such score in NFL history. The Raiders beat the Jets 38-29 in 1967 in the AFL thanks to a two-point conversion that didn’t make much sense for New York. Similarly, we got on the path to this score after the Eagles went against conventional wisdom and converted a two-pointer in the third quarter to cut Pittsburgh’s lead, once 31-14, to 31-22.

FOX may have had the biggest statistical oddity of the day with a graphic that showed that Pittsburgh had the longest active drought (40 years) of seasons without a 4-0 start until getting there this year. That’s hard to believe given the general success the Steelers have had since the merger, but it’s true. The Steelers have not started 4-0 since 1979 until now. That means even teams like Detroit (1980, 2011) and Cleveland (1979) have done it more recently, though that Cleveland one is a bit misleading. The 1979 Browns improved to 4-0 one day after the Steelers did due to a Monday night game.

So Cleveland has the longest drought now, and next week is one of the biggest Pittsburgh-Cleveland games in many years.

Andy Dalton: The Ginger Cowboy Rides Again

Dallas makes everything look hard this year, and now things will get really difficult after Dak Prescott suffered a compound ankle fracture during the game on Sunday. Andy Dalton, the butt of many jokes the last decade, is still one of the best backup quarterbacks in the league all things considered, but he’ll have his work cut out for him without a defense to speak of. Even the lowest-scoring team in football, the Giants, scored 34 in this game.

The 2020 Cowboys are the first team in NFL history to score and allow at least 31 points in four straight games. At least this one led to a much-needed comeback win in the division after Dalton was able to lead a one-minute drill to set up Greg Zuerlein for a 40-yard field goal that he was just able to squeeze inside the uprights in a 37-34 victory.

It’s a shame for Prescott, who has never missed a game due to injury, on so many levels given he didn’t have his long-term deal he deserved locked up with the team, and he was having a historic start to this season in leading this talented, but mistake-prone offense. I don’t see how Dalton will magically have a defense around him in the coming weeks, so the Cowboys may have to win some more shootouts. The good news is this is still the worst division by far in the NFL, and Dalton is capable of putting up some points with these receivers.

Russell Wilson’s Best Game-Winning Drive Yet?

The Vikings (1-4) lost a tough one, 27-26, on Sunday night in Seattle. They outgained Seattle by 135 yards, held the ball for 39:28, and forced the Seahawks to finish 0-for-7 on third down. But in the end, it was fourth down that doomed Minnesota. The Vikings, leading 26-21 at the two-minute warning, bypassed a 24-yard field goal to keep the offense on the field for a fourth-and-1 at the Seattle 6. They didn’t run a quarterback sneak like the Raiders did to put away the Chiefs earlier in the day. Instead, they called backup running back Alexander Mattison to carry off right guard for no gain.

Twitter is killing Mattison, the new Trent Richardson, for this play. It looks bad from still images, but you have to respect an unblocked Bobby Wagner’s speed to come across the line and tackle Mattison if he did try to bounce this outside the edge instead of hammering into the pile of bodies.

Having said that, I think the Vikings should have kicked the field goal. I think NFL Twitter tends to overrate the greatness of an 8-point lead, though many sure did seem to forget all about that on this night as they cheered for Mike Zimmer to go for it. But I know I hate nothing more than watching my helpless defense cling to a 5-point lead while a team is in hurry-up mode with four-down, pass-happy football coming.

It’s also a big deal when the quarterback has some experience at this. Wilson now has the most game-winning drives (34) through a player’s first nine seasons in NFL history. He also tied Matthew Stafford with his 26th fourth-quarter comeback win, the most through nine seasons in history.

The thought process for Minnesota was clear. Get a first down and the game is over. But if you fail, you are leaving yourself vulnerable to getting beat by a 94-yard touchdown drive, and Wilson still had 1:57 and one timeout left. That’s why I kick the field goal, but Minnesota still had two fourth-down opportunities on defense to put this one away. D.K. Metcalf, quickly on his way to becoming the best wideout in the game, was not to be stopped. He tracked down a 39-yard desperation heave on fourth-and-10. He actually dropped a game-winner on second down in the end zone with 24 seconds left. But two plays later on fourth and goal, Metcalf caught a bullet from Wilson and held on for the game-winning touchdown with 15 seconds left.

This is the third time in his career Wilson took over in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter and led a game-winning touchdown drive. The first was the Fail Mary game against Green Bay in 2012, and the last time was 2017 against Houston when he went 80 yards with 1:39 left. This was 94 yards with 1:57 left and in prime time.

That’s going to be a memorable one to get to 5-0, but any NFC fans groaning about how lucky the Seahawks got in 2019 have to be frustrated with this one. Had the Vikings just kicked a short field goal, something that isn’t always a given for them against Seattle of course, then Wilson’s drive may have only forced overtime at best. It could have still ended in defeat given the Seahawks failed on the two-point conversion after the Metcalf score.

I know there’s pressure on coaches to do more with fourth downs and two-point conversions, but it sure doesn’t feel like they’re properly weighing the pros and cons of these situations on the fly. If Zimmer didn’t chase a two-point conversion in the third quarter, this situation may have been avoided all together. Worse than that, why would he kick an extra point with 7:08 left to take a 26-21 lead when he should have gone for two there? Leading by 4 or 5 doesn’t make a difference. That way if it was 27-21, then the field goal to make it 30-21 would have been a no-brainer later.

Still, it felt like a no-brainer to me, but losing coaches are letting it all hang out this pandemic season.

NFL Week 16 Predictions

I have to be brief today for personal reasons, but I’ll have an epic-sized game preview for Broncos-Bengals on Football Outsiders on Sunday.

Ravens at Texans

While I’m picking the Ravens to win, this is a game I’d stay far away from in betting on or investing in for fantasy football. Everyone expects the Baltimore defense to dominate because it’s likely Case Keenum at quarterback, and he just signed with the team this week. But that’s exactly why this game is dangerous. Keenum, albeit under different coaches (one fittingly the OC of the Ravens now, Gary Kubiak), was a mad bomber at times last season and the Texans have talent on offense. Sure, I bet he’ll turn it over and take some bad sacks, but I think he can hit some big plays too and keep this one interesting. You also can’t fully trust Joe Flacco and the offense on the road against J.J. Watt and company. Ravens barely squeaked by the Jaguars at home last week, so this one could be far more interesting than it looks on paper.

Patriots at Jets

This is Rex Ryan’s “Last Stand” as coach of the Jets. This game has only two possible outcomes: 3-point upset or the Patriots blow them out by 35. I’m going with the latter. Thursday games are bad predictors and Chris Ivory’s 100-yard game certainly looks like an outlier for the season. I think the Patriots shut down the run and cruise in this one.

Chiefs at Steelers

I’ve been saying all week Alex Smith will finally throw a touchdown pass to a wide receiver. That’s just how the Steelers have been playing in the secondary. I’m a little worried with some of the Dwayne Bowe reports, but he’s still the best candidate. This could be a high-scoring game. Chiefs have allowed 21 passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns (both to Latavius Murray), so I think this is a game where Ben Roethlisberger will have to throw a few scores, perhaps long passes to avoid the red-zone struggles. From 1999-2013, Andy Reid was 3-23 against AFC playoff teams, including 0-6 last year with the Chiefs. He’s at least 1-2 this year with a win over NE and two losses to Denver. I like the Steelers to get the win and clinch a playoff spot at home.

Bills at Raiders

Buffalo wins but I’m predicting Charles Woodson registers his 60th career interception. Enjoy it, because it could be a long time before we see another player hit that mark.

Seahawks at Cardinals

Seattle’s led in 51 consecutive games, which I think is the all-time NFL record. That’s the entire Russell Wilson era. He might be able to go up 3-0 and win this game on Sunday night. Sure, we’re bashing the Cardinals so hard because they have Ryan Lindley at quarterback, so maybe they shock us and actually score 13 points. I just can’t see how they’re going to get things done against this defense, which is also good against the run.

How bad is Lindley? Well, let’s put his 2012 rookie season in context. I did a study this past summer on FO on how pressure impacts a quarterback. When a quarterback’s not pressured, he usually plays efficiently. Only the absolute worst quarterbacks have a poor DVOA when they’re not pressured. Lindley? Well he had the absolute worst DVOA without pressure of any quarterback from 2010-13.

Worst DVOA Without Pressure, 2010-13

NOPRES

When you’re behind Caleb f’n Hanie, you know you suck. Maybe Lindley won’t be as poor under Arians as he was in Arizona two years ago, but the Seahawks are not the defense to get better against.

NFL Week 16 Predictions

I had the Jaguars on TNF and the game wasn’t as bad as expected. Let’s see how the first Saturday NFL double-header since New Year’s Eve 2005 works out. Four pretty disappointing teams going at it.

Winners in bold:

  • Eagles at Redskins
  • Chargers at 49ers
  • Lions at Bears
  • Browns at Panthers
  • Falcons at Saints
  • Packers at Buccaneers
  • Ravens at Texans
  • Vikings at Dolphins
  • Patriots at Jets
  • Chiefs at Steelers
  • Giants at Rams
  • Colts at Cowboys
  • Bills at Raiders
  • Seahawks at Cardinals
  • Broncos at Bengals

Season Results

  • Week 1: 8-8
  • Week 2: 9-7
  • Week 3: 11-5
  • Week 4: 8-5
  • Week 5: 11-4
  • Week 6: 9-5-1
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 10-5
  • Week 9: 11-2
  • Week 10: 10-3
  • Week 11: 8-6
  • Week 12: 12-3
  • Week 13: 9-7
  • Week 14: 11-5
  • Week 15: 14-2
  • Total: 151-72-1

NFL Week 11 Predictions & Chiefs-Broncos Preview

We have three key games to focus on this week (49ers at Saints, Chiefs at Broncos and Patriots at Panthers), but one stands above the rest.

Chiefs at Broncos

I’ve already had a lot to say and tweet about this game, so I’m not going to repeat much of that here.

Simply put, I don’t believe in the Chiefs’ 9-0 record or that their defense is one of the all-time best. I think it’s a reflection of who they have played, which shouldn’t impress anyone. The Denver offense is historically impressive and has dominated to a higher level than the Chiefs’ defense. There’s also stronger correlation and consistency in maintaining offensive performance than there is defense. You can throw a touchdown to Wes Welker many times in the red zone, but once in a blue moon will you get Jeff Tuel’s gracious peace offering for a 100-yard pick-six.

The only reason I don’t think the Broncos easily win by 17+ points is because Kansas City’s catching them at the best possible time. The Chiefs had a bye week to rest and prepare. Jack Del Rio is in at interim head coach following John Fox’s surgery. Peyton Manning aggravated his high ankle sprain at the end of last week’s game and we don’t know how he’ll handle the outside pressure since his tackles are struggling. It’s also going to be pretty cold and while the “Manning in bad weather” thing is BS, no old quarterback with neck and ankle issues is going to benefit from that.

What I do know is you have to score a lot of points to beat a Peyton Manning team and I don’t think Alex Smith is capable of doing it on Sunday night. This so-called “winner” is 2-23 when his team allows more than 24 points. He’s 11-24 against teams with a winning record and has 35 TD to 40 INT in those games (just one 300-yard passing game). He’s 5-16 on the road against good teams and averages 164 passing yards in those contests.

Maybe Smith can get it done in Arrowhead in a 23-20 game (against Brock Osweiler given his luck lately), but the Denver defense plays better at home and Von Miller is going to have his say too.

To beat Manning you have to put up a lot of points or shrink the game and limit his possessions, forcing him to be basically perfect (maximum efficiency). The Chiefs have done neither this season. The offense has never scored more than 24 points and their games almost always include double-digit possessions.

Excluding those pesky playoff rest games, here’s every Manning loss since 2007 and what his defense did (kneel-down drives excluded):

PMDEF

For context, anything above 3.0 Pts/Dr is incredibly elite while 2.48 Pts/Dr means you have to be a top-2 offense. 1.80 would be just above average in recent seasons.

You have to go back to the 6-INT night in San Diego to find a game where Manning lost despite the opposing offense being below average in scoring. Darren Sproles had two return touchdowns and even then Manning was a missed 29-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri in erasing a 23-0 deficit for a win. Even if the Chiefs get a lead of 17-24 points, we know from every Denver loss since 2012 that those aren’t safe.

Meanwhile here’s the Chiefs’ 2013 offense and their per-drive production:

KCOFF

So let’s see… The Chiefs average 1.58 Pts/Dr this year and this is despite having the best average starting field position in football. I noticed a lot of their scoring drives started deep in opponent territory, so their scoring is even less impressive than it already sounds. They feast on mistakes, which the Broncos are certainly guilty of since 2012, so ball security is a must this week.

In Manning’s last 19 losses, no one had less than 1.89 Pts/Dr. That would be the 3rd-best game of the season for the Chiefs.

Given you seemingly need to hit at least 2.0 Pts/Dr to beat Manning, who’s expecting the Chiefs’ offense to deliver on their end? There’s Jamaal Charles, but there’s not much else to worry about.

Simply put, Manning hasn’t lost to an offense this bad since David Carr and the 2006 Houston Texans (ranked 23rd with 1.50 Pts/Dr). How did that one work out? Houston rushed for 191 yards, limited Manning to six possessions, got one fumble from Dominic Rhodes and still needed a 48-yard game-winning field goal with no time left in a 27-24 game.

The KC defense should not give up 40+, but nothing short of their offense having their best game of the season will win this one. I also don’t think the Chiefs can win without being at least +2 in turnover differential.

According to Football Outsiders, the Chiefs have the No. 2 pass defense (DVOA). Here’s a table of Manning’s last 29 games against a top 5 pass defense (DVOA) since 2003. Playoff rest games are colored as are the five games I would consider “bad performances” from Manning. That’s an unscientific way of saying games where he was more of the problem than the solution for his team.

PMT5DEF

We’ll revisit this matchup in two weeks and perhaps again in January, but I just see the Broncos as a superior team even if they are vulnerable right now.

Final prediction: Chiefs 16, Broncos 27.

2013 NFL Week 11 Predictions

The Colts rarely make it look easy, but I had them on TNF.

Winners in bold:

  • Redskins at Eagles
  • Raiders at Texans
  • Falcons at Buccaneers
  • Browns at Bengals
  • Ravens at Bears
  • Lions at Steelers
  • Jets at Bills
  • Cardinals at Jaguars
  • Chargers at Dolphins
  • 49ers at Saints
  • Packers at Giants
  • Vikings at Seahawks
  • Chiefs at Broncos
  • Patriots at Panthers

Season results:

  • Week 1: 11-5
  • Week 2: 12-4
  • Week 3: 8-8
  • Week 4: 9-6
  • Week 5: 9-5
  • Week 6: 11-4
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 10-3
  • Week 9: 8-5
  • Week 10: 8-6
  • Season: 96-51