By Aaron Oberlin
Cold, Hard Football Facts Week 1 Statistical Leader (@Aaron_Oberlin)
We don't care that wide receiver A.J. Green opened the season with 162 yards and 2 touchdowns. In fact, we're turning a cold shoulder to last year's most valuable player, running back Adrian Peterson, who found the end zone twice on his way to 93 rushing yards.
None of these superstars earned a spot on our top-10 performances for Week 1.
For football players to aggrandize themselves on our list, they must not only light up the stat sheet, but, more importantly, do so in a victorious performance. We ignore losers the way the Jacksonville Jaguars do to the end zone.
So without further ado, here are 10 need-to-know Cold, Hard Football Facts for people who like to win.
1. Nostradamus Is Jealous Of Real Quarterback Rating Differential
What you're about to read should be more than a rule of thumb. In fact, this should be etched in stone: Never predict the winner of an NFL game without relying on the all-telling stat, Real Quarterback Rating Differential, which reveals more than just how well a quarterback threw the ball.
Nine of the top-10 teams in this statistical category made the playoffs last season. Only Pittsburgh missed out, but it should be noted that conference foes Baltimore and Cincinnati had earned berths in the postseason. Of those 10 teams, Denver took top honors with the No. 1 spot.
The Broncos are at it again. Quarterback Peyton Manning tied an NFL record with seven touchdowns in the 49-27 win over the reigning Super Bowl champs, the Baltimore Ravens. Even more so, he didn't turn over the ball on his way to 462 passing yards.
If you still don't believe us, then chew on this: The top 100 team-game performers iin Real Quarterback Rating Differential in 2012 posted an incredible 99-1 record (in fact, the top 102 teams went 101-1).
Here were the Top 10 performers in Real QB Rating Differential in Week 1:
10. New Orleans +15.99 (23-17 win vs. Atlanta)
9. San Francisco +21.82 (34-28 win vs. Green Bay)
8. Philadelphia +23.66 (33-27 win at Washington)
7. St. Louis +23.67 (27-24 win vs. Arizona)
6. Indianapolis +33.55 (21-17 win vs. Oakland)
5. Miami +34.10 (23-10 win at Cleveland)
4. Buffalo +40.39 (21-23 loss vs. New England)
3. Detroit +40.79 (34-24 win vs. Minnesota)
2. Kansas City +57.11 (28-2 win at Jacksonville)
1. Denver +68.72 (49-27 win vs. Baltimore)
The 102 performances in Real QB Rating Differential went 101-1 in 2012, as noted above. The Patriots already pulled out that one statistically impossible win in 2013, winning a game in which they were -40.4 in this critical indicator. Credit a bit of last-minute Tom Brady magic: he was 6 of 6 on the game-winning drive.
You can track Real Quarterback Rating each week as part of our Quality Stats. But you can also size up every single team game performance all year long (512 games total), from No. 1 to No. 512, with our statistical Big Boards at Cold, Hard Football Facts Insider.
2. Anquan Boldin Has a New Best Friend
Anyone who had foreboded a possible slump from youthful 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick need not fret. The 25-year-old didn't turn over the ball in a rematch of last season's NFC Division Playoff game against the Packers. More impressive were his 412 passing yards and 3 touchdowns, which lifted San Francisco to 34-28 win.
Catching half of those yards was the newly acquired Anquan Boldin. The receiver snagged 13 balls for 208 yards and a touchdown. It's safe to say he has no reservations about departing the reigning champs, who got crushed 49-27 in the season-opening game. Interesting note: San Francisco ranked fourth in Real Quarterback Rating Differential last year.
3. Vernon Davis Has Arrived
While Anquan Boldin is thanking the Big Guy upstairs for finding him a gig with Jim Harbaugh and the Kaepernick Band, the rest of 49ers nation is breathing a sigh of relief.
The athletic superiority that is Vernon Davis did not disappoint on Sunday as he has in previous years. He followed suit behind Boldin, catching 2 touchdowns and barely missing the century mark with 98 yards. With Davis on his A game, and both him and Boldin averaging more than 16 yards a catch, it looks like San Francisco will vie for top spots on our Real Quarterback Rating Differential this season, as well as our Real Passing Yards per Attempt stat.
4. Reggie Bush Called Adrian Peterson a "Bitch"
OK, Mr. Bush didn't really say that. That would be unlike a gentleman. After he forfeited his Heisman Trophy for alleged impropriety, followed by dating a girl who made her fame from making sex videos with rappers, there's one thing we know for sure: Reggie Bush is as classy as they come.
All facetiousness aside, though, he and his quarterback Matthew Stafford helped lead Detroit to a 34-24 victory over Minnesota. The running back pulled in four balls for 101 yards and tacked on 90 rushing yards, too.
Bush adds another explosive option for Stafford and his pass-heavy offense. He is a much-needed acquisition after Detroit placed 16th in Rushing Rating Differential in 2012.
5. Chicago's D Has a Lot of Pork
One thing that won't be discussed this week is how well the Bengals rushing game played this week. That's because the fatties up front for the Bears limited Cincy to 63 total rushing yards in a 24-21 victory.
The Bengals are coming off a playoff berth. They're primed for another run at it this year, however, they ran into last season's fifth best team on our Defensive Hog Index, which measures the effectiveness of a team's defensive front. Keep this in mind: Cincinnati running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis was held to 25 yards on 14 carries, a dismal 1.8 yards per carry. The 28-year-old is in the prime of his career, coming off a 1,000-yard rushing season.
6. New England Still Has Plenty of Firepower
The exodus fell upon New England this past offseason. Headlining it was prolific receiver Wes Welker joining forces with Peyton Manning in Denver, and tight end Aaron Hernandez allegedly hiding the whereabouts of human remains.
Last season’s fourth most productive offense squeaked by Buffalo 23-21 on Sunday, but remember that it’s all about winning. Although it was a lot closer than Pats fans would like, Brady’s Bunch still racked up 431 yards of offense. Receiver Julian Edelman scored 2 touchdowns with 79 yards receiving, and his counterpart, Danny Amendola, caught 10 passes for 104 yards.
The Patriots also racked up 501 Total Team Yards, according to our new Quality Stat measure of all yardage production, good enough for seventh best in Week 1.
While it wasn’t Brady’s best performance, remember that the Pats ranked No. 3 in Total Team Yards Differential last season. They look geared to put up similar numbers in 2013. They were +109 in Week 1 (ninth).
The Patriots will need all the help they can get. We learned Tuesday that both Danny Amendola and Shane Vereen are unlikely to play Thursday night against the Jets.
7. Seahawks Are Really Flexible Creatures
It was the fourth quarter, and Carolina had infiltrated the red zone, threatening to punch in six points with a chance for an extra point. Such points could've been fatal since the Seahawks had only led 12-7, but they recovered a fumble on their 8-yard line and thwarted the attack.
We wouldn't be surprised to discover that Seattle stresses yoga practice during conditioning. After all, the home of Starbucks has boys who can bend like a yogi contorted into a human pretzel. Last season, they boasted the No. 1 spot for our quality stat measuring Bendability, which encapsulates the notion of "bend but don't break" defense.
Bendability gages a team's ability to keep opponents off the scoreboard, taking into account the proficiency of offense and special teams, field position, red zone defense and turnover differential, and then calculating it into a single number.
8. Dallas Is Loaded With Ball Hawks
Dallas and the New York Giants squared off Sunday night in a game in a game that riveted fans with more than 650 yards of offense. While it seems the Cowboys can’t stop the pass, they sure can force turnovers. This will help them win games as the season progresses.
Although Giants quarterback Eli Manning assaulted the Cowboys secondary with 450 passing yards and four touchdowns, the boys in Big D picked off Manning three times and recovered three fumbles. They flocked to the rock like crackheads in the streets of Philadelphia.
9. Andy Reid Has Turned the Chiefs Around
Kansas City fielded a lackluster defense last season, ranking in the bottom half of the league in just about every statistical category. What’s worse was the absence of a pass rush.
That was not the case against Jacksonville, as new Chiefs coach Andy Reid kickstarted his era in Kansas City with a 28-2 victory. Although it’s nothing to get too excited about since the Jaguars are one of the worst teams in the league, it shows signs of promise. The Chiefs intercepted two passes and returned one for a touchdown. They also held Jacksonville’s best player, running back Maurice Jones-Drew, to 45 rushing yards.
The most important thing, though, is they sacked quarterback Blaine Gabbert six times. Linebacker Justin Houston got three on his own. This is not the same defense from last season.
10. Reggie Wayne Is an Ageless Wonder
At 34 years of age, Reggie Wayne is making a strong argument that the best thing for developing a stud quarterback is a reliable, experienced wide receiver. The same guy who spent a decade developing a rapport with Peyton Manning is on a similar page with Luck, who threw for 4,374 yards in his rookie campaign. Wayne accounted for 1,355 of those.
Wayne and Luck look to repeat that success this season after their 21-17 victory in the season opener. The two connected eight times for 96 yards and a touchdown.
Indianapolis should vie to crack the top-10 in Real QB Rating Differential in 2013.