The AFC North Stats Watch, Week 7

AP photo That’s how we felt too Ben…

Here’s the AFC North record, which doesn’t look nearly as nice this week, alas. The Steelers lost ground on the Bengals, although the Browns and Ravens have thoughtfully continued to lose. How long before we start to worry about the Ravens getting the No. 1 pick?

Record Week 7

I’m going to leave the Point Differential up here, since it makes sense to put it with the record:

  • Bengals +60
  • Steelers +27
  • Ravens -27
  • Browns -35

What you can’t see is the total number of points gained. Obviously the Bengals are in front, with 182 points gained. (This is even more dominant than it looks, because the Bengals have still only played six games, whereas the other three teams have played seven.)

The Ravens actually overtook the Steelers this week, with a total of 161 points gained. The Steelers have 158, a number which I trust will go up sharply soon, and finally the Browns are bringing up the rear with 147.


QBR Week 7

Hopefully the backup quarterback days are over for the Steelers beginning Sunday. Michael Vick and Landry Jones did their darnedest, but unfortunately their darnedest doesn’t compare to a franchise quarterback. The Steelers QB numbers have really taken a hit, but I trust the Steelers will be back near the top of the chart very soon.

Josh McCown bounced back from an abysmal performance against Denver to put up somewhat more respectable numbers against the Rams. However, you have to ask if his earlier successes weren’t at least partially the product of not a lot of film on him. But Denver’s defense has made a lot of quarterbacks look bad this season. The Rams are nothing to sneeze at, either, and Aaron Donald is the top-rated interior defender in the league at the moment. Still, you would like to see the Browns’ offense put up more than six points. Or you would if you were a Browns fan. The rest of the AFC North is perfectly content with this outcome, naturally.

Luckily the Bengals are on a bye week so I don’t have to mention Andy Dalton. I’m going to have to mention him a good deal too much in the opponent preview, though.

Joe Flacco played the best he has since Week 2 on Monday night. So I guess he isn’t hurt. I’m still really puzzled. He has a decent running back, two very proficient tight ends (Maxx Williams is coming along very nicely indeed), and Steve Smith Sr., the Ageless Wonder. What more do you need?

Here are the NFL Passer Ratings for Week 6, for purposes of comparison:

  • Joe Flacco: 80.4, WAY up from 38.2 last week
  • Josh McCown: 101.8, also way up from 63.3 last week
  • Landry Jones: Umm, 60.8. Quite a comedown from 149.3.PFF QB Week 8

Here are the Pro Football Focus QB ratings. Like QBR, they are on a scale of 1-100. Unlike QBR, they are cumulative, so you don’t see the individual scores for each week. Compare the Game 7 number to the Season number for QBR.

The colors represent the following: Blue: All-Pro; Dark Green: Pro Bowl; Light Green: Above-Average Starter; Yellow: Average Starter; Orange: Below Average Starter; Lighter Red: Back-up; Dark Red: Below Replacement.

Offense DVOA Week 7Joe Flacco has made a large move this week out of Back-up territory and into Below Average starter.

Overall Offensive Rating:  Football Outsiders

Here are the rankings:

  • Cincinnati: No. 1, last week No. 2
  • Pittsburgh: No. 5, last week No. 5
  • Baltimore: No. 18, last week No. 16
  • Cleveland: No. 24, last week No. 23

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 beating them and minor issues like that. It also presumably explains how the Bengals’ score could actually improve in a week in which they didn’t play.

It’s absolutely amazing to me that the Steelers are still ranking so high offensively. I am naturally hoping that a few weeks with Ben Roethlisberger at the helm will rocket them to the top…

For individual players it’s back to Pro Football Focus. 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; 79 – 84.9 is Above-Average Starter; 73-78.9 is an Average Starter; 67 to 72.9 is Below Average Starter; 60 to 66.9 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.

And I haven’t bothered with the fullbacks, but I just thought I would note that this week the No. 4 and No. 6 fullbacks in the league are Steelers (Nix and Johnson, in that order.) The next closest is Baltimore’s Kyle Juszczyk, at No. 28.

Wide Receivers:

  • Antonio Brown: 94.2, (No. 2)
  • Steve Smith: 92.1 (No. 3)
  • A.J. Green: 86.8 (No. 8)
  • Travis Benjamin: 79.1 (No. 30)

Tight ends:

  • Tyler Eifert: 91.3 (No. 2)
  • Maxx Williams: 78.5 (No. 8)
  • Gary Barnidge: 76.7 (No. 12)
  • Heath Miller: 69.7 (No. 30)

Running backs:

  • Le’Veon Bell: 95.3 (No. 1)
  • Gio Bernard: 79.8 (No. 9)
  • Justin Forsett: 72.6 (No. 30)
  • Robert Turbin: 70.5 (No. 39)Defensive DVOA Wk. 7


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 everyone got worse except the Bengals, who improved defensively as well despite not playing. Nice work if you can get it.

The rankings are:

  • Cincinnati: No. 13, up from No. 16 last week
  • Pittsburgh: No. 16, down from No. 14 last week
  • Baltimore: No. 23, down from No. 18 last week
  • Cleveland: No. 27, up from No. 28 last week

Defensive Players:

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


  • Adam Jones 87.3 (No. 6)
  • Tramon Williams 77.4 (No. 30)
  • Will Davis 76.1 (No. 37)
  • Ross Cockrell 72.9 (No. 55)


  • Will Hill 87.4 (No. 8)
  • Mike Mitchell 83.2 (No. 11)
  • George Iloka 68.2 (No. 49)
  • Donte Whitner 67.9 (No. 51)


  • Rey Maualuga  73.9 (No. 19)
  • Karlos Dansby 69.3 (No. 38)
  • Zachary Orr 67.9 (No. 42)
  • Vince Williams 65.1 (No. 52)

Edge Defenders:

  • James Harrison 84.4 (No. 8)
  • Elvis Dumervil 83.7 (No. 9)
  • Carlos Dunlap 81.2 (No. 15)
  • Barkevious Mingo 65.3 (No. 85)

Defensive Interior:

  • Geno Atkins: 88.5 (No. 5)
  • Brandon Williams 87.9 (No. 8)
  • Cameron Heyward 87.4 (No. 11)
  • Jamie Meder 78.1 (No. 32)

Special Teams:

Return yards gained/allowed:

  • Ravens: 429/210
  • Bengals: 471/436
  • Browns: 562/622
  • Steelers: 480/500

I couldn’t decide whether the Steelers ought to move above the Browns because the differential is less, or stay in fourth place, since the number of yards gained is also considerably less. But what I really want to know is, how are the Ravens giving up so few return yards?

Here is the Takeaway to Turnover ratio, in order of awesomeness or lack thereof. Last week the Steelers were tied for the league lead. This week, not so much…

  • Pittsburgh Steelers: +3 (down 3)
  • Cincinnati Bengals: +2
  • Cleveland Browns: -6 (down 3)
  • Baltimore Ravens: -7 (down 2)

And I’ll finish with an overview of the week’s power rankings. I thought it would be nice to look at trends, so here is everything since Week 2.Power Rankings Week 7

From Elliot Harrison of

Ravens: No. 29 (-1) Another close loss for the Ravens, who continue to look for guys like Crockett Gillmore to make plays in the most critical of moments. The player who set up Baltimore in Cardinals territory late was none other than the very recently acquired Chris Givens. Despite the makeshift offensive line and secondary, Baltimore hangs in every game. One dude doing more than merely staying viable is Elvis Dumervil, who continues to beat single blocking at the point of attack. More Dumervil, less rookies — that’s the ticket, John Harbaugh.*

Bengals: No. 3  It was a bye week for the Bengals, who, like the Packers above them here, are rolling. In fact, in the last couple of weeks, Cincy has been more impressive than the Cheeseheads, who barely dodged overtime in beating the Chargers in Week 6. Remember, though, that San Diego played the Bengals every bit as tough at Paul Brown Stadium in Week 2. So we’re not ready to swap our Nos. 2 and 3 teams just yet.

Browns: No. 23 (-3) After down-to-the-wire contests against the Raiders, Chargers, Ravens and Broncos, Cleveland laid a brown … egg? … on the turf in St. Louis. Penalties, stalled drives and Todd Gurley destroyed theBrowns in the 24-6 loss. The four fumbles weren’t too helpful, either. This game pretty much sucked for the Brownies.

Steelers: No. 8 No dip for Pittsburgh after a double-digit loss to the Chiefs? Not when Ben Roethlisberger’s likely to return to the huddle. On Sunday, the Steelers truly looked like a team with a backup QB under center (finally) in Arrowhead against a desperate Chiefs team. That’s a tough assignment for a veteran quarterback, much less a guy making his first NFL start. Landry Jones’ day: 16 of 29 with a TD and two picks. More important: Pittsburgh’s ineptitude on third down (2 for 10). Most important: The Steelers stayed afloat sans Big Ben by going 2-2, giving them a 4-3 mark overall. What if they beat the Bengals at Heinz this week?

ESPN: Comments from ESPN Stats and Information:

Ravens: No. 26 (+2) The Ravens have allowed 188 points through seven games. The only time they allowed more points through seven games was 1996 (201 points), their first year in Baltimore.

Bengals: No. 3 (+2)  Will the perfect season come to an end soon for Cincinnati? Andy Dalton is 7-9 with a 32.9 Total QBR against the Bengals’ next two opponents, the Steelers and Browns.

Browns: No. 24 (+3) Seven touchdowns on 20 red zone trips for the Browns this season. Only the Seahawks have produced a lower touchdown percentage in the red zone.

Steelers: No. 10  The Steelers have gone 2-2 since Ben Roethlisberger’s injury, but they’ve ranked 24th in Total QBR in that time. The Steelers were sixth in QBR the first three weeks of the season.

Uncredited commentary from USA Today Sports:

Ravens: No. 27 (-3)  Another week, another soul-crushing loss. Baltimore’s eight-point defeat Monday was its worst of the season.

Bengals: No. 3 We’re still looking for a weakness. They have yet to score fewer than 24 points or allow more than 24 points.

Browns: No. 25 (-3) Did you know Dwayne Bowe plays for them? Well, he really doesn’t. He’s been a healthy scratch five times this season.

Steelers: No. 10 (-4) Appears they’ll end up splitting four games without Ben Roethlisberger. Imagine joy in Dallas if Cowboys were .500 Romo-less.

*It is interesting that Harrison would say this, because I was speculating a few weeks ago that perhaps the Ravens’ philosophy of letting veterans walk and letting the young guys learn on the job was coming back to haunt them. Perhaps what is actually coming back to haunt them is finally having to pay Joe Flacco the big bucks.


  • The inefficiency in the Ravens Salary cap comparison with the Steelers starts with how Flacco has played this season, he is 85% of Ben’s cap hit, and has been far worse than 85% of Ben, even with Ben’s injury.

    The big gap is the offensive line. Ravens pay $745,000 less for Yanda and Monroe than we do for the current starting 5 plus Beechum and Pouncey on IR. We get 7 guys for the price of 2 of theirs. Whose line is better?

    A few years ago it would be the Ravens, but suddenly Munchak is here and with Baltimore missing Monroe and the Steelers missing Pouncey after week 5 PFF had the ravens ranked 29th and the Steelers 13th.

    Having the 29th most expensive Offensive Line be the 13th best is a great way to get ahead in Salary cap football, and it isn’t from drafting super well, it’s because of the coach. Mike Tomlin is attracting big time assistants and it is paying off.

    Our drafting advantage is clearly at WR (although Richard Mann needs some credit here as well) where rookie deal Martevis Bryant, under-paid Antonio Brown and the resurgence of DHB has one of the best WR groups in the last decade ranking 21st in cap hit.

    Funny thing is neither of those positions are our “punt” position. Our Secondary ranks 27th in cap hit and we rank 22nd in pass defense (Football Outsiders). Every team has to have a neglected position, the Steelers have chosen doubling down on Ben with O-Line and WR investment, and pass rush over the secondary. (Baltimore currently ranks 25th in pass defense and 11th in DB cap hit)
    In fact our only positions we rank in the top half of the league in active player spending is QB (6th) and LB (9th). Note the word active, this team has a ton of money tied up in inactive players and dead money with $39 million dollars of cap space on IR or Dead money.

    What this team is doing with less than 75% of cap space on the roster, and that is with Ben’s hit as active, is nothing short of impressive. It speaks to the management, coaching, everything.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well said. And once the dead money disappears (and it doesn’t look like a bunch more is going to be added to it, unless something catastrophic happens to Ben) then things should look even better. And that’s a really interesting point about Yanda. PFF considers him the best guard in the NFL, and I’m willing to believe it, but he isn’t able, all on his own, to overcome the problems of a couple of other guys (Wagner in particular at RG) who are struggling.


  • I don’t know that the Ravens’ decline this season is due to Flacco’s cap hit. It could still just be a one-season blip. I do think that they’ve simply gambled on some players who haven’t produced, or maintained their production after good first seasons. Their Dline issues mirror what the Steelers went through after Big Snack retired. Their corners aren’t stepping up and their linebackers aren’t consistent. On offense, they gambled on younger WRs that showed flashes…but aren’t consistent and they’ve had injuries on the OL.
    No team can invest in every area, but those areas in which the Ravens DID invest in aren’t panning out this season.

    Re: Ravens return yardage… I think that’s just due to their good kickers. I don’t think they ever have a kickoff that an opponent can return and in the two Ravens games I’ve seen, I think every punt was a fair catch.


  • Great stuff here. Of course, the price of the OL is going to go up and AB will be getting a big pay day, but such is the ebb and flow of cap management. The Steelers are very proficient at it and we are the prime beneficiaries.


  • Sorry – I just realized that I had forgotten to put in the PFF QB chart, so it’s there now. Enjoy the PFF numbers because this is it. Explanation is in tomorrow’s post, which would have been a lot easier to write with them : (


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