The AFC North Stats Watch, Week 4
The Bottom Line:
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.
The list is no longer symmetrical, and the pesky Bengals are increasing their lead. But despair would be premature at this point. And if you don’t believe that, read Tuesday’s post.
First, the quarterbacks. Obviously putting Michael Vick in instead of Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t done any favors to the QBR graph. (Ben is still the top quarterback in cumulative QBR on ESPN’s website, for what that’s worth.) But it’s hardly fair to expect a backup who had played very few snaps with the offense to post great numbers. Since there wasn’t any other way to do it, the “Season” data point is the average of the first four games.
The Browns stuck with Josh McCown, and he played well for them, mostly. Since it looks like they are going play him for the foreseeable future, I switched to the actual cumulative score for McCown instead of an average of his and Johnny Maziel’s scores.
How do these scores compare to the NFL Passer Ratings? Joe Flacco’s total went backwards from last week—had got a 73.9 for the game and now has a cumulative rating of 80.5, down from 82.2 last week. Michael Vick is next, as he garnered a not-embarrassing 95.7 rating, and that’s also his cumulative, since he played so few other snaps. Josh McCown received a 119.1 rating for the game against the Chargers, and has a season rating of 98.4, well up from last week’s 83.2. And finally Andy Dalton has the second best cumulative ranking in the league (123.0) after last week’s 127.1 rating, an improvement from 121.0 last week.
I would love to tell you how Pro Football Focus feels, but I can’t. (No link for them, the jags…) No, Pro Football Focus has sold out to The Man. I don’t actually know who The Man is, but they are as of this week no longer making their Premium Stats available to the commoners (including those such as myself who are more than willing to pay for them.) It turns out the new Ratings feature I was beta-testing is now all we get. Although it has some information, it is substantially less detailed. But according to Ratings, the quarterbacks in the AFC North, with their category and ratings, are as follows, (Week 3 and Week 4):
Andy Dalton: Average Player (77.1), (77.4)
Joe Flacco: Average Player (71.6), (71.6)
Josh McCown: Backup (65.7) (66.2)
Michael Vick: No rating due to insufficient information
Since we’re at the quarter pole, I’ll give a brief assessment of each category. I think there is no question the Bengals are at the top of the heap right now, pretty much across the board. Although PFF Ratings aren’t as thrilled with Dalton as I would have suspected, nonetheless he is playing well, partly due to what must be absolutely unbelievable play from his offensive line—he’s been sacked twice so far this SEASON. And he played the Ravens in Baltimore for one of those games.
From what we’ve seen so far this season from Joe Flacco, it’s hard to say he is much of an upgrade over Josh McCown. Imagine anyone saying that back when the Ravens gave him that enormous contract. As to Pittsburgh, we’re hanging on by the skin of our teeth until Ben can come back. That said, I have a feeling Vick can play pretty well if an appropriate game plan is crafted for him and he gets more time with the receivers, and they with him. One of the things I think many of us feared last Thursday was a fumble-fest and pick parade, and the Steelers gave up neither. Amazing, really.
As far as the overall offensive rating, which thus far was taken from the PFF Premium Stats, I’m out of luck, as PFF Ratings doesn’t offer anything equivalent. In theory one could add up the scores of the individual players, but I’m just going to switch to the Football Outsiders DVOA.
Unfortunately you can’t go back and look at them week by week, so the chart begins with Game 3. Luckily they gave the ranking for the previous week as well, so I actually have that for three weeks, as I managed to view it before they updated for Game 4. The rankings for the offense are as follows, from current best to worst. The first number is after Game 2, the second after Game 3, and the final one after Game 4:
- Cincinnati: No. 6, No. 5, No. 2
- Pittsburgh: No. 3, No. 4, No. 6
- Baltimore: No. 20, No. 17, No. 19
- Cleveland: No. 31, No. 30, No. 25
If you aren’t familiar with DVOA, the idea is, they adjust the offensive numbers for the quality of the defense for each game. This is presumably why the Ravens look so much better than the Browns, despite their record and minor issues like that.
The difference in points scored to points given up:
- Bengals: +44
- Steelers +21
- Ravens: -11
- Browns: -17
I still want to compare individual players, so we’ll go with Football Outsiders again. They use a stat called DYAR, which is Defensive Yards Above Replacement. It measures the total value of the receiver. Again I’ve managed to grab the Week 3 stats before they updated, so I can give both weeks, so they are rating and ranking for Week 3 and then for Week 4:
- Antonio Brown: 166, (No. 2), 129 (No. 4)
- A.J. Green: 105 (No. 5), 112 (No. 6)
- Travis Benjamin: 98, (No. 7), 118 (No. 5)
- Steve Smith: 47 (No. 23), 45 (No. 27)
- Crockett Gillmore: 58 (No. 3), 66 (No. 4)
- Tyler Eifert: 39 (No. 9), 70 (No. 3)
- Gary Barnidge: 12 (No. 19), 50 (No. 7)
- Heath Miller: 5 (No. 24), 0 (No. 25)
- DeAngelo Williams: 77 (No. 2), Le’Veon Bell 45 (No. 9)
- Gio Bernard: 57 (No. 6), 58 (No. 4)
- Justin Forsett: -7 (No. 27), 46 (No. 8)
- Isaiah Crowell: -17 (No. 33), -26 (No. 37)
Here is the Football Outsiders rating for the defense. In their system, the lower the number the better the defense, so as you can see Cleveland and Cincinnati got worse and the Steelers and Ravens got better.
Here are two of my favorite defensive stats—sacks and passes defensed.
Unfortunately Football Outsiders doesn’t divide up the defense. But as I did with the quarterbacks I can give the latest rating for the best defensive player in each category, indicating any change (once that becomes available:)
I picked the top player from each team in each category.
- Adam Jones (81.3)
- K’Waun Williams (81.3)
- Jimmy Smith (80.9)
- William Gay (77.3)
- Will Hill (92.0)
- Donte Whitner (79.3)
- George Iloka (77.8)
- Mike Mitchell (71.3)
- C.J. Mosely (79.2)
- Paul Kruger (79.2)
- Rey Maualuga (72.7)
- Lawrence Timmons (62.7)
- Carlos Dansby (87.6)
- Elvis Dumervil (84.7)
- Arthur Moats (73.8)
- Vincent Rey (71.0)
- Cameron Heyward (83.2)
- Carlos Dunlap (81.7)
- Chris Canty (68.4)
- Randy Starks (76.4)
- Brandon Williams (86.7)
- Geno Atkins: (85.7)
- Steve McLendon (74.6)
- Danny Shelton (63.3)
Return yards gained/allowed:
Only the Browns still have more return yards gained than allowed (401/250.) The Ravens are even, with 170/170. The Steelers and Bengals still have less gained than allowed (176/205 and 170/335 respectively.) The Steelers are getting better, the Bengals worse.
Here is the Takeaway to Turnover ratio, in order of awesomeness or lack thereof.
- Cincinnati Bengals: +3 (up 1)
- Pittsburgh Steelers: +2 (up 2)
- Cleveland Browns: -3 (down 1)
- Baltimore Ravens: -3 (down 2)
From Elliot Harrison of NFL.com:
Ravens: (+1) As Cousin Eddie would say, the AFC North has been on John Harbaugh’s club like flies on a rib roast. The Ravens escaped Pittsburgh with a win of tremendous import to their season. At 1-3, we’re saying there’s a chance. Major props to Justin Forsett, who hasn’t panicked — and looked the part of a feature back Thursday night. Up until then, he had been plowing into walls, not holes.
Bengals: (+1) How difficult it must be to gameplan for these Cincinnati Bengals right now. You never know who’s going to get the football or be the focal point of the offense. On Sunday, Giovani Bernard got more touches out of the backfield than Jeremy Hill, but the latter scored three touchdowns. A week after A.J. Green posted 227 yards, he was outgained by Mohamed Sanu (84 yards on four catches), who had posted all of 77 yards combined through the three prior weeks of play. Meanwhile, the run-pass ratio was fantastic, with coordinator Hue Jackson overseeing 26 run plays versus 24 passes. You couldn’t draw it up any better.
Browns: (+2) Whole lotta folks have been howling for Johnny Manziel. Well, Josh McCown just shot them all a one-finger salute with his stellar performance Sunday in San Diego. For all those people who are still howling for John Football — side note: McCown might be old enough to actually have seen “The Howling” in the theater — the Browns staff clearly feels that the veteran gives the team the best chance to win. Hard to argue with 32-of-41 passing for 356 yards, two touchdowns and no picks.
Steelers: (-4) Mixed reviews regarding Mike Vick on Thursday night. Some felt the vet fared well, while others thought he was terrible (mostly due to the throw on fourth down). The answer probably lies somewhere in between, although it was clear offensive coordinator Todd Haley was hamstrung in his play-calling ability. Feel for Josh Scobee, who for years had been one of the top kickers in pro football. Kicking 49 yards on grass into the wind is no gimme.
ESPN: Comments from ESPN Stats and Information:
Ravens: (+3) Justin Forsett had more rushing yards (150) in the Ravens’ Week 4 win against the Steelers than he had in Baltimore’s first three games combined (124).
Bengals: Andy Dalton is 4-0 and averaging more than 10 yards per pass attempt. The most recent quarterback to do that? Kurt Warner in 2000.
Browns: (+1) The Browns have scored a touchdown on three of their 11 red zone drives this season (27.3 percent). That makes those two losses by a touchdown or less even tougher to bear.
Steelers: (-2) Since 2004, the Steelers are 1-7 against the Ravens when Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t start (9-2 vs. all other teams).
Uncredited commentary from USA Today Sports:
Ravens: (+3) I’ll take Baltimore wide receivers not named Steve Smith for $200, Alex. Who is ……. ?
Bengals: (+2) Bend-but-don’t-break defense kept Chiefs out of end zone … and also allowed seven field goals. Less bend, please.
Browns: (+1) So apparently THAT is why Mike Pettine keeps starting Josh McCown. Can Johnny Manziel play defensive back maybe?
Steelers: Some casualties last week, including Josh Scobee and Antonio Brown’s 35-game streak of 50-yard games. Overall, they’re fine.