AFC North Stats ‘N At, Week 12 Edition
After taking its own bye week, Stats ‘N At is back! It will be even longer than usual, since there is a lot of ground to cover, so get yourself another cup of coffee and something nice to go with it and let’s look at the AFC North picture.
First, a quick review of the two AFC North games for Week 11. The AFC North was .500 that week. If you had to guess which team would win and which would lose I’m assuming you would go with a Bengals win and a Ravens loss, but of course that’s not how it came out, in terms of the record at least. You can argue the Ravens actually lost big time, as they lost their No. 1 running back, Justin Forsett, and their apparently indestructible QB, Joe Flacco, during the course of a game in which they scratched out a 16-13 win.
I wrote an article for Steelers Wire expressing my belief that this was fortuitous. Apparently the Ravens’ brain trust didn’t read it, because the Ravens beat the Browns this week. Well, I’m not going to weep for them losing out on a top-five draft pick, that’s for sure!
The Bengals, on the other hand, lost to the Cardinals, making the Steelers the only AFC North team to beat Bruce Arians’ squad this season. Admittedly the Bengals played them in Arizona, the Steelers at home, but the Steelers were playing Landry Jones at quarterback and the Steelers defense held the Cardinals to 13 points. The closest any other team has come are the Rams, Destroyer of Quarterbacks, (or at least some important bits of them,) who held them to 22 points. That’s something with which to comfort ourselves on a dreary December day after the Seahawks touched the Steelers D up for 39 points. But I digress.
- Bengals +104
- Steelers +36
- Ravens -17
- Browns -97
Johnny Manziel was out on Sunday, a victim of harmartia, and Josh McCown was back. Not for long, however, since Timmy Jernigan broke McCown’s collarbone, and Courtney Upshaw assisted by giving an extra shove. No flag.
I’m actually pretty tired of the double or triple officiating standard for quarterbacks. McCown had already released the ball when he was hit, although not by much, so it’s hard to fault Jernigan. But Upshaw’s shove came as Jernigen was going to the ground, firmly on top of McCown. It was entirely unnecessary and may have made matters worse.
Interestingly it was third-stringer Austin Davis who finished the game as Manziel remained on the bench. Since McCown is out for the season it will be interesting to see what Pettine does. For what it’s worth, Davis was 7/10, one touchdown, no interceptions, 125.8 passer rating. Although as we’ve noted it seems to be easier to do this coming off the bench than when a team has had a week to look at the tape.
If I were Pettine I would play Davis, but only time will tell. The Browns really can’t catch a break, I must say. They were set up to win the game at the end with a 51-yard field goal. Although their young kicker might miss, he’s been very good, although admittedly he hasn’t attempted anything over 45 yards. But the kick was blocked and returned for a touchdown, and there you have it.
In the last edition of this I said:
As for the quarterback ratings, only once before the Bengals’ bye week (Week 7) did Dalton have an NFL QB rating under 100 (95.9 in Week 5.) Only once since the bye has he had an NFL QB rating above 65.0—against the Browns last week. It will be very interesting to see how he plays against a very good, and very opportunistic, Cardinals defense. (They have 14 interceptions, tied for most in the league, and three touchdowns, also tied for first.)
So how did he do? He didn’t win, but his NFL passer rating was 99.8, with no interceptions. Last Sunday he was back to early-season form against the Rams, throwing three touchdowns, albeit throwing a pick as well.
Joe Flacco had his worst game of the season according to QBR, and threw two interceptions in the slugfest versus the Rams. I won’t speak ill of the disabled, if you will, but it sure looks like Flacco needed a mulligan on this season. He’s got many months to get ready to prove this was an aberration. Matt Schaub didn’t play particularly well on Monday, throwing two touchdowns and two interceptions, with a 58.8% completion rate. But he’s been on the bench a long time at this point…
Ben Roethlisberger played really well last Sunday, except for the interceptions, which we’ve already analyzed to death. So I’ll just say I hope he isn’t very concussed, and that he gets Heath back, and that we don’t play another cornerback as good as Richard Sherman. It certainly is annoying when someone lives up to his seriously irritating hype. Sherman was all that.
Here are the NFL Passer Ratings for Week 12, for purposes of comparison to the QBR:
- Andy Dalton: 121.4
- Ben Roethlisberger: 82.1
- Josh McCown: 80.2
- Matt Schaub: 74.6
Here are the Football Outsiders rankings:
- Cincinnati: № 1
- Pittsburgh: № 3, last week № 4
- Baltimore: № 19
- Cleveland: № 27, last week № 29
If you aren’t familiar with DVOA, the idea is, they adjust the offensive numbers for the quality of the defense for each game.
- Cincinnati: № 2
- Pittsburgh: № 4
- Baltimore: № 14, last week № 13
- Cleveland: № 32
- Ravens: № 3, last week № 6
- Bengals: № 8, last week № 7
- Steelers: № 17, last week № 20
- Browns: № 26
Football Outsiders Individual rankings for the best player from each team:
- Antonio Brown: 307, (№ 1)
- A.J. Green: 256, (№ 5)
- Travis Benjamin: 103 (№ 31)
- Kamar Aiken: 48 (№ 45)
- Tyler Eifert: 193 (№ 2)
- Gary Barnidge: 158 (№ 3)
- Crockett Gilmore: 79 (№ 11)
- Heath Miller: 31 (№ 16)
- Gio Bernard: 120 (№ 6)
- DeAngelo Williams: 94 (№ 11)
- Buck Allen: 33 (Would be around № 22 if he had enough rushes to qualify.)
- Isaiah Crowell: –76 (No. 38)
Justin Forsett was right after Bernard at No. 7, but we have to bid him adieu. For what it’s worth, Le’Veon Bell is still at the head of the AFC North pack at № 3.
The chart at left gives the Football Outsiders scoring for the defense. In their system, the lower the number the better the defense.
The rankings are:
- Cincinnati: № 8, up from № 9 last week
- Pittsburgh: № 16, down from № 14 last week
- Baltimore: № 26
- Cleveland: № 29
- Cincinnati: № 9
- Pittsburgh: № 19, down from 16
- Baltimore: № 26, down from 25
- Cleveland: № 29
- Pittsburgh: № 9, down from 3
- Cincinnati: № 10
- Baltimore: № 13, up from 15
- Cleveland: № 28, up from 30
Return yards gained/allowed:
- Ravens: 803/316
- Bengals: 757/759
- Browns: 859/914
- Steelers: 735/913
The Ravens are now the only team who has gained more Special Teams return yards than allowed, by a huge margin. I guess there is something to be said for a kicker who always kicks touchbacks.
Here are the Football Outsiders Special Teams rankings:
- Baltimore № 2, up from № 4
- Cincinnati: № 7, up from № 10
- Cleveland: № 10, down from № 5
- Pittsburgh: № 21, down from № 20
Takeaway to Turnover ratio, in order of awesomeness or lack thereof.
- Cincinnati Bengals: +2
- Pittsburgh Steelers: +1 (down 4)
- Cleveland Browns: -3 (down 2)
- Baltimore Ravens: -10
You’re getting a double whammy this week, because the Power Rankings carry on, bye week or not. In fact the Browns improved during their bye week, something which also happened with the Ravens. And we see where that got them. I think it is worth giving both weeks, for the commentary if nothing else.
From Elliot Harrison of NFL.com:
Ravens: № 29 As disappointing as this season has been, Baltimore has been nothing but competitive. Seriously, look at the schedule: nothing but one-score results. Unfortunately, seven of those results have been losses. Fortunately, the latest result was a win, with the Ravens successfully traversing the end-game scenario that has cursed the team time and again this season. Unfortunately, Joe Flacco’s now done for the season. Oof. If the injury situation gets any worse for this roster, Ozzie Newsome will be getting on the horn with Vinny Testaverde, Duane Starks and Jim Leonhard to fill the depth chart.
Bengals: № 4 Don’t let this loss consume you, Bengals fans. Arizona has become a much more difficult place to play than it was even in the Kurt Warner era. Given that the game was decided by about five or six plays, don’t go squeezing your wubby like Kenny in “Mr. Mom” over Cincinnati’s two-game losing streak. Here are some more reasons to stay calm:
- Going UN-defeated is OVER-rated.
- The loss to the Cardinals was by three points, with the Bengals’ secondary decimated. Various reports indicate that a senior drive-thru manager at Dairy Queen got a phone call about whether he could play free safety.
- This football team is not going anywhere. The Bengals will finish with at least a 12-4 record, win the AFC North and probably nab a playoff bye, too.
Browns: № 31 (+1) Cleveland flies up the rankings (… which, of course, means they were on a bye). The big news of the off week in Cleveland was the ascension of Johnny Manziel into the starter’s seat at quarterback. Well, perhaps “ascension” is a bit strong, given Mike Pettine’s lackluster desire to go with Johnny Football in the first place.
(UPDATE: Pettine said Tuesday that Josh McCown will start against the Ravens on Monday, with Manziel serving as the third quarterback. Pettine had said earlier that he was considering benching Manziel after images surfaced that appeared to show Manziel holding a champagne bottle at a club in Austin, Texas.)
While all that goes on, many fans have failed to notice the brilliant play of Gary Barnidge — his seven touchdowns trail only Rob Gronkowski and Tyler Eifert among tight ends
Steelers: № 7 Week 11 brought a much-needed bye, at least for Ben Roethlisberger. A note about these late bye weeks: They provide teams like the Steelers — in the heart of the playoff race — with 13 days to put 10 games of bumps, bruises and playing through pain behind them. Last year, Pittsburgh’s bye came in Week 12. Just so you know, Mike Tomlin’s group went 4-1 down the stretch to win the AFC North.
ESPN: Comments from ESPN Stats and Information:
Ravens: № 30 (-1) Joe Flacco is out for the season with a torn ACL. His backup? Matt Schaub, who was intercepted twice on his 10 pass attempts with the Raiders last season.
Bengals: No. 5 (-1) After an 8-0 start, the Bengals have lost two in a row in very different fashions. In Week 10, they allowed 10 points and lost. In Week 11, they lost despite scoring 31 points.
Browns: № 32 Johnny Manziel was named the starting QB the rest of the season during the Browns’ bye week. Manziel will make his Monday night debut in Week 12 against the Ravens. [Incorrect, as we now know.]
Steelers: № 9 The Steelers go on the road for four of their final six games. Ben Roethlisberger has one touchdown and two interceptions on the road this season.
Uncredited commentary from USA Today Sports:
Ravens: № 32 (-5) Tears in Baltimore are flowing as tears (Achilles, ACLs, MCLs) continue to mount. You’ll be back in 2016, fellas.
Bengals: № 4 (-1) Maybe they should wear alternate helmets with yellow stripes in games when the prime time lights are shining.
Browns: № 30 (+1) Johnny, Johnny, Johnny. Only you could get saddled with a loss during a bye week with more ill-advised partying.
Steelers: № 7 (-1) Scheduling quirks over the years have delayed Ben Roethlisberger’s first-ever visit to Seattle until this weekend.
From Elliot Harrison of NFL.com:
Ravens: № 25 (+4) Not sure any team in league history has ever had its wins and losses decided at the end of football games like the Ravens have. But a walk-off field-goal block TD in regulation? That really never has happened before. Give credit where credit is due: Matt Schaub, Buck Allen and Kamar Aiken — three guys who Topps probably wasn’t looking to make any football cards of — made plays Monday night. Look out.
Bengals: № 4 Not too many guys come back from one Achilles injury, much less a twofer. Nice to see the long-time Bengal putting away the Rams with a second-half pick-six on Sunday. With the Steelers’ loss putting them three games behind Cincy in the AFC North, the division race is all but over with five games to play. #WhoDey
Browns: № 32 (-1) Only in Cleveland would a team name a quarterback the starter and then demote him to third-string before he took the field. Only in Cleveland would a team lose a game it was lining up to win. Only in Cleveland would a team literally become the first NFL franchise to lose on a walk-off field-goal block TD in regulation. Yuck. #OIC #OnlyInCleveland
Steelers: № 9 (-2) The better team might have lost on Sunday. So many plays to circle in the setback in Seattle: Antonio Brown falling down on a deep ball picked by Richard Sherman … Markus Wheaton’s catch on the sideline getting overturned (MIT professors will solve global warming and why it doesn’t rain in California before ascertaining what comprises an NFL catch) … Ben Roethlisberger failing to pull the ball back before it shot-putted out of his hands into Ahtyba Rubin’s paws. Ugh — disappointing loss for the Terrible Towels, who consequently lost their wild-card spot.
ESPN: Comments from ESPN Stats and Information:
Ravens: № 25 (+5) The Ravens have won three of their past four, and they’ve been waiting until the last second to do it. Baltimore’s past four games have been decided with no time left on the clock.
Bengals: No. 5 Andy Dalton owns the middle of the field: 72.8 completion percentage, 11-1 TD-INT ratio and an NFL-best 95.4 Total QBR passing between the painted field numbers this season.
Browns: № 32 Monday’s heartbreaking loss clinched another losing season for the Browns. Since returning to Cleveland in 1999, the Browns will have finished below .500 in 15 of 17 seasons, including each of the past eight
Steelers: № 9 The Steelers are 2-3 in their past five games with 14 giveaways and a minus-5 turnover differential. They started the season 4-2 with three total giveaways and a plus-6 differential.
Uncredited commentary from USA Today Sports:
Ravens: № 31 (+1) All 11 of their games, including Monday night’s fantastic finish for a rare win, have been decided by eight points or less.
Bengals: № 5 They continue to be money at 1 p.m. on Sundays. Unfortunately a bye might be at stake in Denver on Monday night in Week 16.
Browns: № 32 (-2) Another heartbreaking defeat in Cleveland … but maybe they found a quarterback solution beyond McCown and Manziel.
Steelers: № 9 (-2) Mike Tomlin has guts to spare. Unfortunately, his gambles Sunday may end up gutting his team’s playoff chances.