The Almost-New, Ongoing AFC North Stats Watch, Week 3 Results
The Bottom Line:
I don’t know that you’re supposed to start with the bottom line, but let’s get it right out there.
As Mike Tomlin says, “you are who your record says you are,” and in the end fancy stats don’t matter if you aren’t winning more games than the other guys in your division.
Besides, this week the lineup is perfectly symmetrical, which as we all know from Greek philosophy is the height of beauty. The only thing which would make it more beautiful is if the Ohio teams were the both in the middle:
First, the quarterbacks. Naturally this becomes more problematic for the Steelers. Since Michael Vick played so few snaps last week I’m going to leave him out until after tonight’s game. As far as Cleveland goes, I’m going to just put in whoever they play in any given week and average it out until they settle on somebody…
The points on the chart are ESPN’s QBR ratings.
How does this compare to the NFL Passer Ratings? Roethlisberger is at 113.1, down from 122.6 last week. He’ll be staying there a while.
Joe Flacco has a season rating of 82.2, up from last week’s rating of 75.7. Andy Dalton goes from strength to strength, with a rating of 121.0, up a tad from last week’s 120.3. Johnny Football had a rating last week of 99.7. Josh McCown has a rating of 83.2.
Pro Football Focus views it differently still, to an extent. Ben Roethlisberger still has their highest cumulative rating in the NFL for the first three games, (16.0, up from 12.5 last week). Andy Dalton moved up to sixth in the league. Joe Flacco dropped from a -1.6 last week to -3.9 this week, for the No. 25 slot, right behind Josh McCown (No. 24, -3.8.)
I’m too depressed to discuss the quarterbacks any further. We’ll leave that for a few weeks from now, when we have some clarity on when Ben might be back, how Michael Vick is doing, and whether Cleveland has settled on a quarterback or just decided to go with a sort of musical chairs, where the guy who can’t find a spot to sit on the bench gets handed a helmet and goes out on the field.
I collected lots of numbers for the rest of the offense, but for the nonce I’ll just go with PFF’s Overall offensive rating. The fourth data point is the cumulative number for the season. Pro Football Focus calculates this as a simple sum.
So for instance the Steelers’ offense was assigned a number of 6.0 for Game 1. This number is itself an accumulation of the scores of all the offensive players on the field, positive and negative. They received a rating of 6.0 for Game 1, 18.1 for Game 2, a rating of -3.2 for Game 3, and so the season number is consequently 20.9.
The full league ranking for the Overall offensive ratings are: Steelers, No. 3, down from No. 1 last week; Bengals, No. 4, down from No. 2 last week; Browns, No. 16, up from No. 21 last week; Ravens No. 30, down from No. 26.
The difference in points scored to points given up is starting to coalesce—the Bengals are +29, the Steelers +24. The Browns and the Ravens are both -14.
It’s always interesting to compare individual players, so the best receiver on each team with a reasonable percentage of the snaps in the AFC North are, in order of PFF ranking, Antonio Brown (No. 2), Steve Smith, (No. 3), A.J. Green (No. 14), and Travis Benjamin (tied for No. 15 with Emmanuel Sanders). I’m guessing Antonio Brown’s numbers are going to drop without Ben to throw to him, alas. A.J. Green rocketed up from the basement to No. 14 with his first good game of the season.
Tight ends: Tyler Eifert (No. 6, down from last week’s No. 3), Matt Spaeth (No. 6, tied with Eifert and Rhett Ellison of MIN), Crockett Gillmore (No. 10, up from 13 last week), and Gary Barnidge (No. 46, also a drop from 36 last week.)
Running backs: Gio Bernard (tied for No. 4), Le’Veon Bell (No. 8), Isaiah Crowell (No. 50), and Justin Forsett (No. 61 out of 61, dead last.)
For the moment I’m just going to throw out some data about two of my favorite defensive stats—sacks and passes defensed. As the numbers accumulate I’ll probably chart them as well. The numbers are season totals:
Baltimore: 7 sacks, 21 passes defensed
Cincinnati: 6 sacks, 12 passes defensed
Cleveland: 7 sacks, 12 passes defensed
Pittsburgh: 9 sacks, 7 passes defensed
And in fairness I should compare some defensive players of note. It’s a lot trickier with the defensive linemen and linebackers, because you aren’t comparing apples to apples with 3-4 and 4-3 guys, but I’ll give it a go:
I picked the top player from each team in each category.
Cornerbacks: Adam Jones (No. 2, up from No. 3), Tramon Williams (No. 15), Ross Cockrell (tied for No. 20 with Marcus Peters) and Lardarius Webb (tied for No. 34). This is out of 100 ranked CBs.
Safeties: Will Hill (No. 3, down from No. 1 last week), Mike Mitchell (No. 10, down from No. 5), Shawn Williams (No. 33, up from last week’s No. 40), Taushon Gipson (No. 74, down a lot from last week). This is out of 80 ranked safeties.
ILBs: C.J. Mosely (No. 3, up from No. 9), Craig Robertson (No. 4, down from No. 1), Ryan Shazier (No. 10, up from No. 13. Funny how he improved by not playing…), and Rey Maualuga (No. 21, up 1).
OLBs: 3-4: Elvis Dumervil (No. 7, way up from No. 21), Armonty Bryant (No. 11, up from 13), Jarvis Jones (No. 24, down from 14). 4-3: A.J. Hawk (No. 14) who has replaced Vincent Rey (No. 16, down from 13 last week.)
DE: 3-4: Stephon Tuitt (No. 6, up from 12 last week,) Jamie Meder (No. 10), Chris Canty (No. 24, replacing Carl Davis). 4-3: Carlos Dunlap (No. 4, up from 9).
DT: Geno Atkins: (No. 2), Brandon Williams (No. 4, up from 16), Daniel McCullers (No. 23, down from 21) and Danny Shelton (No. 57, up from 62). Note that McCullers got worse when he didn’t play…
A few thoughts:
OLBs: Last week the only Ravens OLB with a positive score was Terrell Suggs. Elvis Dumervil must have had a monster game. Courtney Upshaw is now ranked as the worst OLB in the league who is getting any reasonable number of snaps—47 out of 47. The PIT OLBs did not have a very good week according to PFF. Both former Raven, now Brown Paul Kruger and 2013 first round pick Barkevious Mingo are playing well below the line. The only Cincinnati OLB with a score above 0.00 has only played 5 snaps.
ILBs: Baltimore’s ILBs, other than Mosley, aren’t very good. Lawrence Timmons still isn’t much admired by PFF. He is No. 49 out of 51 ranked ILBs.
DEs: Jamie Meder and Randy Starks of Cleveland are both “above the line.”. In a limited number of snaps Cam Thomas is playing better than Cam Heyward. According to PFF. Okay then. Thomas has rocketed up the charts, from No. 35 last week, out of 46, to No. 29 of 49. Cam Heyward dropped all the way from No. 19 to No. 36.
Cincinnati’s worst DE is Michael Johnson, who is still at replacement level (0.0.) Karlos Dansby is playing well for Cleveland, just not nearly as well as Robertson.
CBs: William Gay lost ground— he is tied for No. 52 out of 100. Dre Kirkpatrick and Joe Haden are Nos. 97 and 98. The Williams brothers (Tramon and K’Waun, although I assume they aren’t related) are playing well in Cleveland.
Safeties: Cleveland’s safeties are dreadful. Baltimore’s safeties still do not impress, with the exception of Will Hill, who is terrific. Shaun Williams is still the only safety for either the Bengals or Browns with a positive score. Will Allen is crawling toward respectability with a score of -0.7, putting him squarely in the middle of the pack.
Here is PFF’s Special Teams ratings for the first three weeks (last point is cumulative score as usual:
These include kicking and punting, which explains the wretched score for the first week for the Steelers.
Return yards gained/allowed:
The Ravens and Browns still have more return yards gained than allowed (132/82 and 250/133 respectively) and the Steelers and Bengals have less (88/167 and 110/226 respectively.)
Here is the Takeaway to Turnover ratio, in order of awesomeness or lack thereof:
Cincinnati Bengals: +2 (down 1)
Pittsburgh Steelers: 0
Baltimore Ravens: -1 (up 1)
Cleveland Browns: -2 (down 1)
And I’ll finish with an overview of the week’s power rankings. Yes, they are probably silly, but they have their own sort of interest, and I’ll throw in most of the commentary. There are a lot of possibilities, but these seem as good a selection as any. As to the chart, lower is better, naturally.
From Elliot Harrison of NFL.com:
Ravens: Before we get to the Ravens’ awful start, how about Steve Smith Sr.? He is the most competitive player I’ve ever seen. He always shows up, and he tried to singlehandedly will Baltimore to a win Sunday with 186 yards and two scores. Bravo.
As for the 0-3 start, fans will have to accept that Joe Flacco needs pieces around him for Baltimore to succeed — starting with a secondary that can cover the other QB’s wideouts.
Bengals: Big win for Andy Dalton and company. The much-maligned Cincy quarterback hasn’t endured as much, well, maligning this season. People are starting to show the Red Rifle some love. Other than a forced red-zone throw to A.J. Green (and who could blame him for doing that?), Dalton was clutch.
As for Green … 227 yards and two scores, including the game-winner. I couldn’t quite read Green’s lips after that last touchdown catch, but I think he might have said “Have fun watching ‘Martin’ reruns on your couch in January, Ravens.”
Browns: (-3) Josh McCown did his very best to make it fun late, but then he got played by one of the few guys who’s been playing professional football longer than him. No, I’m not talking about Sebastian Janikowski. Charles Woodson, two years McCown’s senior at 38, baited the quarterback into a regrettable throw, finishing off the Brownies with a majestic interception…
Steelers: (-1) The biggest story of Week 3, hands down, was Ben Roethlisberger’s knee injury, which is expected to keep him out for several weeks. Without overstating the impact of that development, I have to say it changes everything in the AFC, not unlike Le’Veon Bell’s Week 17 knee injury last season, which many analysts attributed to ruining the AFC tournament. (Perhaps the Patriots would not have been able to slow down the Steelers that postseason.) Here’s hoping Michael Vick gives it all he has in Pittsburgh, as his effort came into question in New York. Thinking he will.
ESPN: Comments from ESPN Stats and Information:
Ravens: (-5) Justin Forsett led NFL running backs with 5.4 yards per rush last season. This season his average is down more than 2.0 yards per rush (3.2).
Bengals: (+1) Tyler Eifert exploded in Week 1. Gio Bernard led the way in Week 2. And someone named A.J. Green made his presence felt with a career-high 227 receiving yards in Week 3. Lots of options for Cincy.
Browns: (-5) Why not go with Johnny Manziel? Josh McCown has lost his past eight starts, the second-longest active streak in the NFL (Brandon Weeden, nine).
Steelers: (-4) Michael Vick takes over the starting job with Ben Roethlisberger out. Of the 42 quarterbacks with 100 pass attempts last season, Vick’s completion percentage (52.9) and Total QBR (21.4) ranked as the worst.
Uncredited commentary from USA Today Sports:
Ravens: (-7) Mired in their 0-3 hole, and they haven’t even stepped into the ring with the NFC West’s heavyweights yet.
Bengals: Just a friendly reminder that the Bengals were also 3-0 last September, and we only care about them being oh-for-January since 1990.
Browns: QB Josh McCown really deserved a W on Sunday given the way he played.
Steelers: (-6) Michael Vick has lost 12 of his past 15 starts. He also hasn’t been working with Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown.