The final week of the NFL season is here, and the final, true “NFL Sunday” of the season is always a bittersweet moment. This week, there are plenty of playoff spots left to decide, including two division champions and the hotly-contested sixth seed in the AFC. I’m sure the NFL is elated to see that Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers are games that will decide division champions, and that’s exactly what the league had in mind when getting division rivals to square off against each other. Plus, it offers up an additional bit of motivation for games like Denver Broncos vs. Oakland Raiders, because Raiders fans will still be watching intently even though their team isn’t competing for anything more than pride. In division games, pride means a whole lot.
Below are some assorted stats and facts as we head into tomorrow’s full slate of games.
Alterraun Verner, Leodis McKelvin, Lardarius Webb, and Joe Haden are the four players with at least 20 passes defended this season. Three of those guys are already regarded as All-Pro-caliber players, but it is interesting to see that McKelvin is finally making good on his first-round pedigree. He’s quietly put together an excellent 2013 season, and he’s also steadily improved in each year of his career, culminating in a breakout campaign this season. McKelvin’s play hasn’t been lost on Buffalo Bills fans, but it’s disappointing that he’s yet to earn more respect on a national scale. He’s a great returner, and it looks like the Bills have themselves a great CB duo with Stephon Gilmore and McKelvin. Another former bust doing some great work in Buffalo? Jerry Hughes.
Although Robert Quinn is no longer the league leader in fumbles forced (Robert Mathis‘s eight now eclipses the other pass-rushing Robert’s seven), the St. Louis Rams still have the players with the second and third most fumbles forced. Georgia rookie Alec Ogeltree quietly has six fumbles forced, and he also has 109 tackles and nine passes defended. He’s quietly become a solid player for the Rams with plenty of potential once he develops, but it’s clear that his accomplishments have been overshadowed by the likes of Kiko Alonso and even non-rookie teammate Robert Quinn.
Geno Smith is known for his interceptions, but he did finally play a clean game last week and helped lead the Jets to a victory over the Cleveland Browns. We rated Smith as one of our top five quarterbacks of Week 16, and Jets fans are hoping that he can build off of his best game as a pro. The most important thing for Smith is taking care of the football, so it’s interesting to note that he leads the league in passes thrown away with 26, per the Pro Football Focus. And yet, he’s still thrown plenty of picks.
Robert Quinn, Robert Mathis, Cameron Jordan, and John Abraham are the four players with at least 100 yards accounted for on sacks. It’s interesting to see Jordan on the list as a 3-4 DE, and his breakout season under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has been fun to watch. Quick note, don’t overlook cornerback Keenan Lewis‘s emergence in Ryan’s scheme as well, and Lewis has quietly turned into one of the league’s press corners.
Anyway, Quinn and Mathis are unsurprising names as the two clear league leaders in sacks, but I find it noteworthy that Quinn is leading the league in sack yards lost, and it isn’t even close. Mathis is second with 2014 yards lost, but Quinn has accounted for a whopping 142 yards lost (!). That’s ridiculous stuff right there.
Per PFF, Peyton Manning‘s 37 attempts of 20 or more yards are the most in the NFL. But according to Advanced NFL Stats, Nick Foles leads the league by taking a deep shot 28.2% of the time (their deep passes are defined as being 15 yards or more). Foles’s total is reflective of the Philadelphia Eagles aggressive downfield passing scheme, as Michael Vick was the clear league leader in that statistic before going down with an injury.
If you base reliability on first downs, then Calvin Johnson is the most reliable receiver in the NFL with 69 first downs.
With 174 passes thrown at him, Washington Redskins star wideout Pierre Garcon leads the NFL in targets, and that’s not a surprising total. He’s their only legit WR in the passing attack, so the Redskins rely on him an awful lot. Most of the time, he gets the job done.
Kendall Wright is so good at getting open and communicating with quarterbacks that the Tennessee Titans allow him to do what he did at Baylor- free-run his routes. One of the best and most underrated slot receivers in the game, PFF has Wright with the most receptions of any receiver in the slot with 61.
19 wide receivers have at least 1,000 receiving yards this season, and plenty more will be added to the list. I mean, Julian Edelman is going to get more than nine yards of receiving tomorrow against the Buffalo Bills, right? Victor Cruz would have been on the list, but he will end the season with just 998 yards after his year was cut short by two games.
Before Aaron Rodgers went down with a broken collarbone, he led the league in yards per attempt with 8.8 of them. Now it’s Nick Foles leading the league with 9.0 yards per attempt, and that’s a total Rodgers just won’t be able to eclipse in one day.
Anquan Boldin earns the most expected points per play of any receiver with 0.66 (stat courtesy of Advanced NFL Stats).
Kyle Williams has 20 QB hits this season, and he is finally widely recognized as an elite player, having made it to the Pro Bowl.
Topics: Aaron Rodgers, Alec Ogeltree, Alfred Morris, Alterraun Verner, Anquan Boldin, Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, Behind The Numbers, Buffalo Bills, Calvin Johnson, Cameron Jordan, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Frank Gore, Geno Smith, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, Jerry Hughes, Joe Flacco, Joe Haden, John Abraham, Julian Edelman, Keenan Lewis, Kendall Wright, Kiko Alonso, Lardarius Webb, Leodis McKelvin, Marcus Sherels, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, New York Jets, Nick Foles, Notes And Analysis, Peyton Manning, Philadelphia Eagles, Pierre Garcon, Rob Ryan, Robert Mathis, Robert Quinn, San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams, Tandon Doss, Tennessee Titans, Victor Cruz, Washington Redskins