AFC North Stats ‘N At, Week 14 Edition
The best game of Week 14, bar none, had to have been the Steelers/Bengals clash in Cincinnati. It began well before the opening kickoff with a breach of the DMZ by notable peacemaker Vontaze Burfict and friends, who doubtless just wanted to make sure the Steelers felt welcome to Paul Brown Stadium. Apparently this friendly gesture was misinterpreted, as were further neighborly overtures during the course of the game. It was no wonder head coach Marvin Lewis was described as “glum” in his press conference. It’s very difficult to feel you’ve been misunderstood, and perhaps lost the game as a result.
Or possibly the glumness could be attributed to the loss of his franchise quarterback, through what could either be described as a “football play” or wildly inadvisable, depending on who is doing the describing. Stephon Tuitt is obviously a highly conditioned athlete, with muscles of steel, and Dalton’s thumb was no match for whatever portion of Tuitt’s anatomy it connected with.
But Dalton was not a victim of the peace process gone amok. A great many other Bengals were. In fact, the Bengals are seemingly getting a season’s worth of injuries in the span of a few short weeks after being remarkably healthy. All I can say is, we Steelers fans know all about how frustrating this is.
The end result was satisfactory from the Steelers point of view—a convincing win, with not a lot of collateral damage. The win was absolutely necessary, as the two teams positioned in front of the Steelers in the wild-card race both won on Sunday as well. However, for the first time since the loss to the Seahawks (or really, the earlier loss to the Bengals at Heinz Field) the faint possibility of the division title tantalizingly presents itself. It would still require essentially everything to fall the Steelers’ way, but it is a lot more possible than it was a week ago. All I ask is that it doesn’t come down to a Ryan Succop field goal and correct officiating…
While the Bengals’ remaining schedule is not particularly difficult, it will be interesting to see whether the “starter vs. off-the-bench QB” effect holds for young A.J. McCarron. By this I mean that a young QB can be relatively successful coming off the bench and playing a defense who has absolutely no idea what he is like. But a game’s worth of tape gives the next defense something to work with, and a week to prepare.
As for the Ravens and Browns, they were .500. The Ravens are now down to their third quarterback, Jimmy Clausen, and he was ineffective against the Seahawks, or so the final score of 35-6 would indicate. On the other hand, the Johnny Manziel-led Browns slapped 24 points on the 49ers. They are scarcely alone, though. The 49ers have given up an average of close to 23 points per game, while scoring an average of just over 14 themselves.
For what it’s worth, if the season ended today the Browns would have a top-3 pick (depending on the esoteric formulas used to divide them from the Titans and Chargers, the other 3-10 teams) and the Ravens would pick somewhere between № 4 and № 7, again depending on the way the NFL weights the relative claims of the 4-9 Lions, 49ers, Cowboys and Ravens. The Bengals would pick at № 28 or 29, the Steelers somewhere between № 22 and № 26. Naturally, I’m hoping the Steelers pick at № 32, but there’s a lot of football left.
- Bengals +128
- Steelers +84
- Ravens -19
- Browns -117
As noted above, Johnny Football apparently has been punished enough. Or perhaps the coaching staff thought the long-suffering Browns fan base had been punished enough. Manziel played well enough to have the team looking considerably better against the 49ers than they looked with Austin Davis at quarterback the previous week. Of course, Davis had to play the Bengals, a rather different proposition.
The Joe Flacco-less, and for the moment Matt Schaub-less Ravens started Jimmy Clausen against the Seahawks. One presumes they didn’t have a lot of hope for the game, as Clausen had started earlier this season against the Seahawks, this time as the rent-a-quarterback for the Chicago Bears. He’s improved a great deal, apparently, as the offense managed six points on Sunday, a huge improvement over the late September game in which the Bears offense didn’t manage a single point. Clausen is 1 and 12 as an NFL starter, but baby steps, baby steps…
Ben Roethlisberger, who is ironically the only AFC North quarterback who began the season as the starter, did not throw a single touchdown pass last Sunday against the Bengals, but I expect he’s okay with the outcome anyhow.
Here are the NFL Passer Ratings for Week 13, for purposes of comparison to the QBR. As you can see, the QBR calculation is considerably different than the NFL rating. Ben Roethlisberger has the highest QBR by far—85.7, but according to the NFL rating did not play as well as either McCarron or Manziel. This seems unlikely.
Manziel’s QBR is 57.6, the best of the lot other than Ben. And McCarron is the worst, with a QBR of 36.4. Clausen’s 52.1 looks a bit more respectable.
As far as Pro Football Focus goes, Ben Roethlisberger is no longer tied with Carson Palmer for best QB in the league. Palmer’s score dropped a bit. Ben has an almost perfect rating. As far as the other AFC N quarterbacks, it is such a fluid situation, there’s little point in trying to make the comparison other than week-to-week.
- Johnny Manziel: 92.1
- A.J. McCarron: 90.6
- Ben Roethlisberger: 85.6
- Jimmy Clausen: 68.1
Here are the Football Outsiders rankings:
- Cincinnati: № 1
- Pittsburgh: № 3
- Baltimore: № 22, last week № 19
- Cleveland: № 29, last week № 27
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: № 5, last week № 4
- Baltimore: № 13, last week № 10
- Cleveland: № 31, last week № 32
- Ravens: № 3, last week № 4
- Bengals: № 7
- Steelers: № 10, last week № 16
- Browns: № 27, last week № 26
Football Outsiders Individual rankings for the best player from each team:
- Antonio Brown: 368 (№ 2)
- A.J. Green: 356 (№ 3)
- Travis Benjamin: 80 (№ 39)
- Kamar Aiken: 57 (№ 50)
Both Wheaton and Bryant now have enough targets to make the main list, and rank № 34 and № 40 respectively. As far as Pro Football Focus goes, they rank Benjamin and Aiken rather differently—Antonio Brown is № 1, A.J. Green is № 7, Kamar Aiken is № 20, and Travis Benjamin is № 55. (Wheaton and Bryant are №s 43 and 50 respectively.)
- Tyler Eifert: 208 (№ 2)
- Gary Barnidge: 198 (№ 3)
- Crockett Gilmore: 86 (№ 9)
- Heath Miller: 45 (№ 17)
PFF has them as Eifert (3), Gillmore (9), Barnidge (14), Miller (20).
- Gio Bernard: 157 (№ 3)
- DeAngelo Williams: 113 (№ 9)
- Buck Allen: 0 (№ 29)
- Isaiah Crowell: -20 (No. 34)
PFF has them as Williams (6), Bernard (19), Duke Johnson (CLV) (25), Crowell (31). Strangely they only have rankings for the two Baltimore backs who are on IR.
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
- Pittsburgh: № 12, up from № 13 last week
- Baltimore: № 23, down from № 21 last week
- Cleveland: № 29, up from № 30 last week
- Cincinnati: № 7, down from № 4
- Pittsburgh: № 9
- Cleveland: № 15, up from № 26
- Baltimore: № 25, up from № 18
- Cincinnati: № 14, down from № 11
- Pittsburgh: № 16
- Baltimore: № 20, down from № 19
- Cleveland: № 30
The picture which heads the article may be puzzling to you. The background colors aren’t quite right, and what is Pouncey doing standing there dressed? The key is, that was exactly a year ago, when Gay had a pick-six against the Falcons. As I recall he didn’t get an excessive celebration penalty that time…
Big Play Willie Gay now has an NFL-record five consecutive pick-sixes. They are separated by a fairly large number of snaps, of course, but we’ll take them. And as Tunch Ilkin pointed out when he diagrammed the play for his weekly feature “Chalk Talk,” if Gay had been drafted by a team who typically played a scheme like Cover Two where the corners are facing the quarterback he might well have even more of them. As it is he is now tied with Rod Woodson for the franchise record.
Return yards gained/allowed:
- Ravens: 919/363
- Bengals: 951/893
- Browns: 982/1044
- Steelers: 816/1083
Here are the Football Outsiders Special Teams rankings:
- Baltimore № 1, last week № 2
- Cincinnati: № 3, up from № 4
- Pittsburgh: № 15, up from № 18
- Cleveland: № 16, down from № 14
Something pretty exciting has happened here—PIT is no longer last in the AFC in special teams.
Takeaway to Turnover ratio, in order of awesomeness or lack thereof.
- Cincinnati Bengals: +6 (down 2)
- Pittsburgh Steelers: +4 (up 5)
- Cleveland Browns: -7 (down 2)
- Baltimore Ravens: -12
From Elliot Harrison of NFL.com:
Ravens: № 30 (-3) Not sure what to glean from the Ravens’ loss to the Seahawks. Kamar Aiken made a gaggle of plays against Seattle (five receptions for 90 yards). The running game averaged … well, let’s skip the run game. Jimmy Clausen wasn’t awful. Hey, we promised Baltimore Ravens fans in our Week 14 Game Picks that they wouldn’t have to endure another agonizing one-score loss. So enjoy the peaceful Sunday.
Bengals: № 9 (-6) The worst possible scenario for the Bengals went down this past weekend: They lost their game against the Steelers and they lost their MVP candidate of a quarterback. Now, not only is a first-round bye in jeopardy, but so is the AFC North. Luckily for Cincy, Dalton won’t need surgery and could be back for the playoffs, potentially keeping the team’s postseason hopes from being doused by injuries for a second straight year. Still, Sunday’s game will mark the first Bengals contest not started by Dalton since 2010, who has stayed upright his entire career (77 games) till now. Character-check time in Cincinnati.
Browns: № 26 (+6) Why did Cleveland move so high (well, at least for the Browns)?
a) They stomped the 49ers, who beat both the Falcons and Ravens, on Sunday.
b) Far more importantly, the Browns found a viable quarterback, unlike the Cowboys’ and Ravens’ backups.
c) They’re not the Falcons, who have functioned more like Mylanta than Atlanta lately.
d) The defense posted nine sacks Sunday.
Steelers: № 5 (+2) Boy oh boy, the win in Cincinnati — coupled with Andy Dalton’s injury — has the Steelers in prime position. We didn’t get the Ben Roethlisberger aerial show we anticipated, but Pittsburgh’s offense did enough — and stuck with the ground game enough — to pull off a very large W. DeAngelo Williams’ 25 touches played a major role. Let’s just hope he doesn’t remember he’s a 10th-year pro anytime soon. Let’s also hope Stephon Tuitt doesn’t remember he’s a 303-pound defensive lineman anytime soon. He looked Lev Bell-nimble making that pick in the red zone. #gamechanger
ESPN: Comments from ESPN Stats and Information:
Ravens: № 29 (+1) The Ravens were outscored by 29 points against the Seahawks. They were outscored by only 19 points during their 4-8 start to the season.
Bengals: No. 4 (-1) Andy Dalton is down. Former Alabama QB AJ McCarron takes over for Cincinnati, but an Alabama quarterback hasn’t won an NFL start since Jeff Rutledge in 1987.
Browns: № 32 Johnny Manziel is 2-2 as a starter this season, and in his past two games, he has completed 71.1 percent of his passes with an average of 321 yards.
Steelers: № 6 (+2) The Steelers have scored at least 30 points in five straight games for the first time in franchise history. They are averaging 494 yards of offense and 383 passing yards in that stretch.
Uncredited commentary from USA Today Sports:
Ravens: № 32 (-2) The bottom of this severely depleted team finally fell out as it suffered first loss of 2015 by more than one possession.
Bengals: № 9 (-5) We’ll see if AJ McCarron is next Tom Brady. With $90-plus million deal and no rings, injured Andy Dalton already compares to Drew Bledsoe.
Browns: № 30 (+2) Whether Johnny Manziel is getting [an] audition or being showcased, next three weeks will be telling: Seattle, K.C., Pittsburgh.
Steelers: № 5 (+2) The defense is making opponents pay regularly, taking ball away from opponents 13 times in Pittsburgh’s last four wins.