The AFC North Stats Watch, Week 5

USA Today Sports/Charles LeClaire (I know, Beach, you’re lookin’ right at me…)

You may be wondering why this isn’t the 5 Smoldering Questions. Don’t despair, they will be up tomorrow. Hombre de Acero is suffering from the same Monday Night Football schedule screw-up problems plaguing us all. Fortunately the stats sites have been quicker off the mark than usual, so this post is ready to go…

There’s nothing like being dissed by Kelvin Beachum. He didn’t diss me directly, of course, and I’m quite sure he would be too kind to do so anyhow.

But in last Thursday’s Tribune-Review Ralph Paulk reported

The San Diego Chargers are 29th against the run. 

It is an [in]escapable fact that’s hard to ignore for running back Le’Veon Bell, who rushed for 129 yards in a 23-20 overtime loss to Baltimore.  

Of course, the Steelers noticed during their film session how the Cleveland Browns gashed the Chargers front seven in the second half Sunday.  

But the Steelers aren’t taking the Chargers’ run defense lightly…Admittedly, the Steelers will be tempted to pound the ball against the Chargers’ 3-4 defense, which is anchored by nose tackle Sean Lissemore. Tackle Kelvin Beachum said the focus has been on film; not the numbers.   “I don’t look at the numbers. The film is the only thing that matters,” Beachum said. “I can care less about where they’re ranked. I care about what we need to do against them.”

Record Week 6Beachum may not look at the numbers, but the rest of us can, including the one that counts the most—wins and losses.


QBR Week 6The Steelers’ season is now a combination of Michael Vick and Ben Roethlisberger, and you can see from the two data points for Games 4 and 5 what that means. That said, Vick took a huge step up on Monday night, although he waited until quite a large portion of the game was over before doing so.

The Browns stuck with Josh McCown, and his play has quieted down the cries for Johnny Maziel. In fact, he’s playing like his head is on fire. Crazy times. I hear the lion may lie down with the lamb soon. (In fact, as far as anyone can tell the Lions have already lain down. So who are the Lambs?)

Andy Dalton goes from strength to strength, pulling a win out of his helmet after ending the third quarter down 24-7 to the Seahawks. However, his QBR took a hit from his play during the first three quarters.

What I want to know is, why is it when the Bengals’ old-guy kicker’s FG attempt goes off the upright during overtime it goes in anyhow? We couldn’t buy a good kick in those circumstances this season. You start to wonder if this is going to be one of those magical seasons for the Bengals.

Joe Flacco continues to be very sub-par for him. This suggests his successes in the past have been much more dependent upon his receiving corps and running backs than was formerly evident. It really makes one question a couple of moves by the front office—Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin have played well (although not otherworldly well) for the 49ers, but one would assume Flacco is a better quarterback than Colin Kaepernick.

PFF QB Week 5How do these scores compare to the NFL Passer Ratings?

  • Joe Flacco: 81.8, up from 80.5 last week.
  • Andy Dalton: 95.9, down from last week’s 127.1
  • Josh McCown: 111.3, up from last week’s 98.4
  • Michael Vick: 73.1, down from last week 95.7 (Curiously, the NFL rating implies he was worse, the QBR much better.)

Here is the chart for the new PFF Ratings. Note that each week is a cumulative of that week plus the previous weeks. The colors represent the following: Blue: All-Pro; Dark Green: Pro Bowl; Light Green: Above-Average Starter; Yellow: Average Starter; Orange: Back-up level; Red: Below Replacement level

Offense DVOA Wk 6Overall Offensive Rating:  Football Outsiders

Unfortunately you can’t go back and look at them week by week, so the chart begins with Game 3. Here are the rankings:

  • Cincinnati: No. 2, last week No. 2
  • Pittsburgh: No. 4, last week No. 6
  • Baltimore: No. 13, last week No. 19
  • Cleveland: No. 19, last week 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 looks better than the Browns, despite their record and the Browns just beating them and minor issues like that.

The difference in points scored to points given up:

  • Bengals: +47
  • Steelers +25
  • Ravens: -14
  • Browns: -14

For individual players it’s back to Pro Football Focus, now that the individual rankings are available. I don’t have it color-coded as I do with the quarterbacks, but a score of above 90 is All-Pro; 85-89.9 is Pro Bowl; 78 – 84.9 is Above-Average Starter; 70-77.9 is an Average Starter; 60 to 69.9 is Back-up level, and below 60 is Below Replacement level. I am only listing the top-ranked player for each team. In some cases (running backs, for instance) there may be additional players on one team who are ahead of the best ranked player on another team. UPDATE: I just switched some of the running back scores, as PFF changed them. This actually takes Duke Johnson off the list and substitutes Isaiah Crowell as the Browns’ best back.

Wide Receivers:

  • Antonio Brown: 93.7, (No. 2)
  • A.J. Green: 87.6 (No. 4)
  • Steve Smith: 87.6 (No. 4)
  • Travis Benjamin: 80.7 (No. 19)

Tight ends:

  • Tyler Eifert: 89.5 (No. 2)
  • Crockett Gillmore: 78.7 (No. 7)
  • Gary Barnidge: 74.7 (No. 14)
  • Heath Miller: 70.8 (No. 24)

Running backs:

  • Le’Veon Bell: 95.1 (No. 1)
  • Gio Bernard: 78.8 (No. 9)
  • Lorenzo Talliaferro: 73.8 (No. 22)
  • Isaiah Crowell: 70.3 (No. 29),

I hope you all don’t mind a side-trip. As I was looking up numbers for the running backs it occurred to me to compare the backs from the remarkably rich class of 2013, from which both Le’Veon Bell and Gio Bernard were taken. 22 running backs were drafted that year. (I eliminated fullbacks, but Baltimore’s Kyle Juszczyk was also drafted that year.) 

Of those backs, 17 of them are playing for somebody right now. A couple more retired after major injuries. One of them, Spencer Ware, just got called up from the Kansas City practice squad in the wake of the Jamaal Charles injury.

Of the picks higher than the fourth round, only Montee Ball is now a free agent. Many of the backs, including those from lower rounds, are some of the highest-ranked backs according to PFF. Given how much grief the Steelers front office was given for taking Bell instead of the multitude of other backs left, I thought it would be interesting to compare the scoring this year.

Le’Veon Bell is their highest rated back. He is the only back they put in their Pro Bowl category. I’m not talking about just from this draft class. This is for all backs in the NFL. The closest back to Bell is, really, quite a ways off—that is Doug Martin of Tampa Bay, who has a score of 89.5. Bell’s is an other-worldly 94.4. Gio Bernard is next in the Class of 2013, with a score of 78.8. Latavius Murray, a sixth-rounder, is next, at 78.5. Eddie Lacy finally makes an appearance at 77.4, and Christine Michael is rated at 61.6. Other than Dallas’s Joseph Randle at 75.6, only the Jets’ Zach Stacey (68.1) and Arizona’s Andre Ellington, (63.6), who we will see on Sunday, rank as better than Below Replacement level. But still, I think it is remarkable that so many backs have made an impact from this class. And naturally I’m quite pleased that the class of the class is Le’Veon Bell.

UPDATE: The Ravens just put Lorenzo Talliaferro on season-ending IR.

Defense:Total Defense DVOA Weel 6

 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 all the teams except the Browns got at least slightly worse. Of course, the Browns weren’t very good to begin with. The rankings are:

  • Cincinnati: No. 14, down from No. 10 last week
  • Pittsburgh: No. 15, down from No. 13 last week
  • Baltimore: No. 19, down from No. 12 last week
  • Cleveland: No. 27

Passes defensed, Week 6 Sacks, Week 6

On the left are two of my favorite defensive stats—sacks and passes defensed.

Defensive Players:

Here are the PFF ratings for the top player from each team in each category.


  • Adam Jones 87.7 (No. 5)
  • Tramon Williams 78.8 (No. 23)
  • Ross Cockrell 76.7 (No. 30)
  • Lardarius Webb 76.2 (No. 34)


  • Mike Mitchell 86.3 (No. 7)
  • Will Hill 84.0 (No. 11)
  • George Iloka 71.8 (No. 37)
  • Donte Whitner 57.4 (No. 93)


  • Rey Maualuga  74.9 (No. 16)
  • Karlos Dansby 63.3 (No. 51)
  • Ryan Shazier 61.7 (No. 60)
  • Daryl Smith 60.8 (No. 69)

Craig Robertson actually graded considerably higher than Dansby, but he’s been out the past two weeks with an ankle injury.

Edge Defenders:

  • Elvis Dumervil 82.4 (No. 9)
  • James Harrison 81.8 (No. 12)
  • Carlos Dunlap 80.4 (No. 14)
  • Armonty Bryant 63.7 (No. 88)

Defensive Interior:

  • Geno Atkins: 89.7 (No. 2)
  • Cameron Heyward 86.8 (No. 7)
  • Brandon Williams 83.3 (No. 19)
  • Jamie Meder 78.2 (No. 27)

Special Teams:

Return yards gained/allowed:

Last week only the Browns still had more return yards gained than allowed. What a difference a week makes. The totals this week are (gained/allowed):

  • Ravens: 343/187
  • Steelers: 265/240
  • Bengals: 350/364
  • Browns: 418/423

Here is the Takeaway to Turnover ratio, in order of awesomeness or lack thereof.

  • Pittsburgh Steelers: +3 (up 1)
  • Cincinnati Bengals: +2 (down 1)
  • Cleveland Browns: -3
  • Baltimore Ravens: -3

And I’ll finish with an overview of the week’s power rankings. As to the chart, lower is better, naturally.

Week 6 Power Rankings From Elliot Harrison of

Ravens:  Is the season over for Baltimore? With Cincinnati a spotless 5-0, and a series of wild-card contenders at least two games ahead, it’s going to be hard for the Ravens to climb back in the mix. Issue No. 1: Joe Flacco has no weapons to target — at least none that are healthy. Issue No. 2: The secondary is in a competition with the Giants’ unit for most-heavily-toasted group in the league. You are allowed to give up 457 yards to a Browns quarterback when his name is Otto Graham. Not when it’s Josh McCown. (And by the way, no, Graham never threw for 457. Just sayin’.)

Bengals: Wow. What a response in the second half from the Bengals, down 24-7, to climb back into that football game. Andy Dalton is deserving of the rose petals suddenly being thrown at his feet, much like King Joffer, but don’t forget the defense, which got after Russell Wilson in the fourth quarter and overtime. Stopping the run — Seattle finished with 200 yards on the ground — is another matter, but let’s not spoil a 5-0 start.

Browns: (+6) Gary Barnidge — you can’t even hope to stop him. Speaking of suddenly-dominant 30-somethings … Josh McCown! After Sunday’s 457-yard outing — which, yes, was a franchise record — McCown’s season stats look like this: 102.8 passer rating, 67.8 completion percentage, 6:1 TD-to-INT ratio. Yup, this is the guy Browns fans wanted firmly parked on the bench. It’s been a long time since an entire fan base owed the head coach such a mea culpa. What a win. [Perhaps a mea culpa is also due from Harrison himself, who said this after Week 2: 

Can you really give the keys back to Josh McCown at this point? Answer: Yes, you could. John Football did indeed have two very nice throws that got plenty of burn on all the highlight shows. What said shows didn’t show: The fact that he completed just six other passes (for 62 yards) the rest of the game. Still, the upside is with No. 2…

There was more, too, which I trimmed in the interests of brevity. (I’m a big fan of brevity for writers other than myself.) In it he said words to the effect that he didn’t know Pettine and Pettine wouldn’t ask his opinion, but if he did, Pettine should start Manziel… So how about it, Elliot?

Steelers: Was it the right call or the wrong one? ( @HarrisonNFL) Either way, it worked out. Give Mike Vick a ton of credit for that scramble late, as well as the throw to Heath Miller at the 1-yard line. Most importantly, Lawrence Timmons saved the game with that third-down pass deflection on the Chargers’ preceding drive. Keenan Allen would still be running if Timmons hadn’t batted that ball.

ESPN: Comments from ESPN Stats and Information:

Ravens: (-4) The Ravens are off to their worst start in franchise history (1-4). The winning score has come in the final three minutes of regulation or later in all five of their games.

Bengals: The Bengals are 5-0 for the third time in franchise history. The previous occasion they started 5-0 (1988), they made the Super Bowl.

Browns:  (+5) Josh McCown has thrown for 300 yards in three straight games. According to Elias, he’s the first quarterback in Browns history to throw for 300 yards in three straight games.

Steelers:  (+1) Since his return to the lineup, Le’Veon Bell has the second-most touches (80) and the third-most yards from scrimmage (409), plus a game-winning score with no time left.

Uncredited commentary from USA Today Sports:

Ravens: (-4)  Back in the day, it was the defense that got tired of carrying an abysmal Baltimore offense. #ScriptFlipped

Bengals: We give them a lot of flak year-round for their January failures. But overcoming Seattle was a statement win. #Legit.

Browns: (+9) Josh McCown’s passer rating since Mike Pettine re-installed him as the starting QB is 104.2. #GoodCallCoach

Steelers: (+3) Wild win out of the Wildcat may ultimately keep Pittsburgh’s wild-card hopes alive. #GoWildPittsburgh.


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