AFC North Stats ‘N At, Week 15 Edition
The Tale of Two Teams has been thoroughly dissected on this august site, not to mention every other site/publication who reports on the Steelers at all, and I won’t belabor the point.
As for the Bengals, last week I noted:
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.
The answer, as you will see below, is “pretty well.”
The Ravens and Browns are now in a race to the bottom. Or so the Steelers hope, since they need to beat both of them in the coming two weeks. The Steelers would, of course, be very happy if the Ravens would rise up one more time and beat the Bengals on January 3rd, but since the division is pretty much entirely out of the question at the moment, I believe they will settle for the Ravens losing out without murmuring.
And for that matter the Steelers would be quite happy for the Browns to rise up and beat the Chiefs this week, but again as long as they capitulate to the Steelers it really doesn’t matter that much.
- Bengals +138
- Steelers +91
- Ravens -39
- Browns -134
The Seattle defense isn’t particularly kind to quarterbacks as a rule, and they didn’t make any exceptions for Johnny Manziel. He was 19 of 32, one TD and one pick, and curiously his NFL Passer Rating and his QBR were almost the same, which indicates that ESPN’s proprietary formula found his play more impressive than the NFL formula.
Jimmy Clausen had another start for the Ravens. He threw for two touchdowns, one in the first quarter and one in the second. His trajectory is definitely upwards—his first game in the season (for the Bears) resulted in no points at all, and his second game of the season, the Ravens/Seahawks game, resulted in six points. By the end of the season, assuming the progression holds, he should have a 85-point game. Unfortunately he also threw two picks, one of which was returned for a touchdown, and the Ravens didn’t score a single point after halftime.
The Ravens have now lost five home games for the first time in franchise history. This is also Head Coach John Harbaugh’s first losing season, and I guess if you’re going to do it you might as well do it in style. The Ravens have 19 players on IR, several more than the Steelers, and are playing for precisely nothing except a good draft position. Unfortunately I have a feeling that will be out the window when it comes to Sunday’s game.
It wasn’t terribly surprising that the Bengals beat a depleted 49ers team in California. In fact, the home crowd booed their team off the field as they were down 21-0 at halftime. AJ McCarron managed the game well, and although the Bengals ran for less than 70 yards the majority of the scoring was by RB Jeremy Hill. McCarron did throw a touchdown pass, with no picks.
Here are the NFL Passer Ratings for Week 15, for purposes of comparison to the QBR. As usual the QBR calculation is often considerably different than the NFL rating. As was the case last week, Ben Roethlisberger has the highest QBR, 77.8, Clausen the worse (42.1). McCarron’s careful game garnered the best NFL passer rating—115.6. Ben was next with 94.5, Clausen earned a 72.5, and Manziel brought up the rear with a passer rating of 69.9.
As far as Pro Football Focus goes, Ben Roethlisberger is tied with Carson Palmer for best QB in the league with a score of 99.4 out of 100. Manziel is ranked No. 32 (out of 37.) McCarron isn’t ranked yet, and neither is Clausen, but their cumulative scores are 68.0 and 50.4 respectively.
As you can see the Steelers have overtaken the Bengals for the first time since Week One.
Here are the Football Outsiders rankings, with changes in parenthesis:
- Pittsburgh: № 1 (3)
- Cincinnati: № 5 (1)
- Baltimore: № 21 (23)
- Cleveland: № 26
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: № 4 (2)
- Pittsburgh: № 7 (5)
- Baltimore: № 10 (13)
- Cleveland: № 30 (31)
- Ravens: № 2 (3)
- Steelers: № 7 (10)
- Bengals: № 8 (7)
- Browns: № 26 (27)
Football Outsiders Individual rankings for the best player from each team:
- Antonio Brown: 475 (№ 1)
- A.J. Green: 354 (№ 3)
- Kamar Aiken: 77 (№ 46)
- Travis Benjamin: 63 (№ 50)
Wheaton and Bryant rank № 36 and № 41 respectively.
As far as Pro Football Focus goes, they rank the receivers thusly: Antonio Brown is № 1, A.J. Green is № 6, Kamar Aiken is № 16, and Travis Benjamin is № 59. (Wheaton and Bryant are №s 48 and 45 respectively.)
- Gary Barnidge: 220 (№ 2)
- Tyler Eifert: 215 (№ 3)
- Crockett Gilmore: 91 (№ 13)
- Heath Miller: 38 (№ 21)
Gilmore was just put on IR. PFF has them as Eifert (3), Gillmore (8), Barnidge (14), Miller (23).
- Gio Bernard: 129 (№ 7)
- DeAngelo Williams: 124 (№ 10)
- Buck Allen: -4 (№ 31)
- Isaiah Crowell: -7 (No. 32)
PFF has them as Williams (6), Bernard (21), Duke Johnson (CLV) (23), Crowell (29), Buck Allen (61).
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: № 7 (8)
- Pittsburgh: № 12
- Baltimore: № 22 (23)
- Cleveland: № 30 (29)
- Cincinnati: № 9 (7)
- Pittsburgh: № 10 (9)
- Cleveland: № 21 (15)
- Baltimore: № 22 (25)
- Cincinnati: № 13 (14)
- Pittsburgh: № 18
- Baltimore: № 19 (20)
- Cleveland: № 31 (30)
Return yards gained/allowed:
- Ravens: 1099/393
- Browns: 1141/1140
- Bengals: 996/1020
- Steelers: 888/1161
Here are the Football Outsiders Special Teams rankings:
- Baltimore № 1
- Cincinnati: № 8 (3)
- Pittsburgh: № 15
- Cleveland: № 16
Takeaway to Turnover ratio, in order of awesomeness or lack thereof.
- Cincinnati Bengals: +12
- Pittsburgh Steelers: +4
- Cleveland Browns: -8
- Baltimore Ravens: -15
From Elliot Harrison of NFL.com:
Ravens: № 31 (-1) Maybe the one-score losses were a bit more fun. Those unis, though … if Dijon mustard and baby puke had a kid, it would be the Ravens’ pants. But tell you what: That Kamar Aiken has made plays for this team. The 2015 Ravens obviously are going nowhere, but Aiken is certainly a piece that Ozzie Newsome and company can build upon. That’s all we got.
Bengals: № 8 (+1) So much for the concern about AJ McCarron … at least, when Cincy causes four turnovers. We’ll see if the Bengals deserve to be higher when they face the Broncos on Monday night. Part of the issue with moving Cincy back up (after dropping them from the top five following Andy Dalton‘s thumb injury in Week 14) is that three of the teams sitting just above — the Seahawks, Steelers and Chiefs — are playing as well as anyone in the league. Still, the Bengals‘ defensive performance in San Francisco was impressive, as almost half of the 49ers‘ yardage came in garbage time.
Browns: № 27 (-1) The Browns kept it interesting for a while … before sleeping in Seattle during the second half. The absolute dearth of offense from midway through the first quarter until early in the fourth — during which Cleveland gained all of 65 yards — certainly didn’t help. The Seahawks’ penchant for keeping the ball only left Johnny Manziel with seven offensive possessions to get anything going. If you didn’t see the highlights, he didn’t get anything going. #spoileralert
Steelers: № 5 Somebody woke up the Steelers in the second half Sunday. The offense got going, putting up three touchdowns while continually beating the Broncos’ single coverage. Antonio Brown was a one-man wrecking crew, posting a ridiculous 16 catches for 189 yards and two touchdowns. With all the attention paid to Odell Beckham Jr. as of late — an inordinate amount of attention — the need to dispense a hot sports opinion fresh out of the oven was overwhelming. Will post again, just because:
Antonio Brown>Odell Beckham. Sorry.
— Elliot Harrison (@HarrisonNFL) December 21, 2015
ESPN: Comments from ESPN Stats and Information:
Ravens: № 28 (+1) Since losing Joe Flacco for the season, the Ravens have scored five offensive touchdowns in four games. Opposing defenses have scored four touchdowns in those games.
Bengals: No. 5 (-1) The Bengals won with AJ McCarron at quarterback Sunday, but the defense is mostly to thank. The Bengals had a season-high four takeaways, scoring 14 of their 24 points off turnovers.
Browns: № 32 At 3-11, the Browns are currently on pace to earn a top-two draft pick. The Browns haven’t picked in the top two of the draft since 2000, when they took DE Courtney Brown first overall.
Steelers: № 4 (+2) The Steelers have scored 30 points in a franchise-record six straight games, and have scored in a franchise-record 21 consecutive quarters. Needless to say, the offense is rolling.
Uncredited commentary from USA Today Sports:
Ravens: № 32 Of all the low moments they’ve had this season, why commit the self-inflicted wound of wearing mustard-colored pants?
Bengals: № 10 Sure would be nice to beat the Broncos on Monday and give QB Andy Dalton’s busted thumb one more week to heal.
Browns: № 30 We hope you were taking copious notes in Seattle, Johnny. Russell Wilson’s the QB you should emulate … on many levels.
Steelers: № 5 They probably won’t see Heinz Field again this season but should cruise into playoffs with Ravens, Browns left on road.