By Aaron Oberlin
Cold, Hard Football Facts Florida Bureau Chief (@aaron_oberlin)
With roughly a quarter of the NFL season finished, we’re seeing trends form on our Quality Stats Big Board. With that in mind, here are 10 Cold, Hard Football Facts you need to know about why certain teams have lost.
Warning: If you're a fervent fan, and your team lost this week, this might be too much to bear.
It's amazing how much a 13-3 team can change after a year. Last season, quarterback Matt Ryan led his Falcons to a high-scoring 8-0 start, empowering television broadcasters who thought they were cool to repeat the hip-hop cliche, "Hot-lanta."
Now, they're 1-3 after losing 30-23 to New England last Sunday.
Remember when the '98 Dirty Birds went 14-2, lost to Denver in Super Bowl XXXIII and then followed with a depressing 5-11 season?
The problem with the Falcons is they are not a top-10 team. They're good in some areas, ranking seventh in team offense, but the unit as a whole is struggling right now. Their three losses have come against better teams that are a combined 11-1, and that one defeat came Monday night when Miami lost to New Orleans, who is 4-0.
The Falcons' three losses shouldn't be surprising. They've come against the Patriots, Saints and Dolphins, who are all in the top-10 in our proprietary stat, Real Quarterback Rating Differential, which is nearly 100 percent accurate in determining which team will win. Atlanta ranks 15th.
The Falcons still have to play two undefeated squads, the Seahawks and Saints. Two tough road games in Green Bay and San Francisco also loom on their schedule. More daunting for Not-lanta fans is that they have five games remaining against teams doing better in Real QB Rating Differential.
This season might be on its way to being dubbed the '99 Remix.
2. Suggs, Ravens need to look at Man in the Mirror
Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs told ESPN's Lisa Salters that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell "had a hand" in the blackout of the Super Bowl last season. He said it during the Oct. 1 airing of ESPN's E:60, claiming the commish did it to keep the game closer.
We're not sure about the statement's validity, but we do know the Ravens' offense and defensive line struggled in their 23-20 loss to the Bills on Sunday. Here's where:
- a 46.42 in Offensive Passer Rating (8th worst in the NFL this season),
- a 39.20 in Real Quarterback Rating (7th worst),
- an 8.00 in Defensive Hog Index (t-15th worst, their second effort in the latter 15 of the season).
Suggs, you won the Super Bowl. You should be more worried about stopping teams such as Buffalo from netting 203 rushing yards.
To quote the late mega-artist Michael Jackson, time to take a long, hard look at the man in the mirror.
3. The Answer Is Blowin' In The Wind
The Dolphins dove into the bayou for a Monday-night showdown between two undefeated teams. The Saints spanked Miami 38-17.
The difference between being undefeated and one loss?
Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill tossed three interceptions on his way to 249 yards. Compare that to Brees and his 30-for-39 completion ratio (76.9%), 413 yards, 4 touchdowns and no interceptions. South Beach and its 25-year-old signal caller still have some growing pains ahead.
If you had wanted to pick the winner of the game, then you should've ignored their records coming into Monday night. Here's what you need to know moving forward: Miami is 10th in the league in Real Quarterback Rating Differential, and New Orleans is 7th.
If don't believe in RQRD and its Correlation to Victory, then we're willing to bet you think the South won the Civil War.
4. Jimmy Graham Taunts Miami, One Ups Brutus
Brutus the Buckeye has to do pushups any time the Ohio State football team scores. Saints tight end Jimmy Graham says he can do better.
After torching the Miami secondary on Monday for 100 yards and two touchdowns, the 26-year-old not only dunked on the uprights and the hopes of Miami fans, but also proceeded to do chin-ups.
Anyone can do a pushup. But a chin-up?
The Ohio State mascot hasn't been this disrespected since Ohio University's Rufus the Bobcat assaulted him in 2010.
Our advice? Hang on, Sloopy.
5. London Crawling
Ben Roethlisberger ate the dirt five times for a loss of 26 yards in the Steelers' 34-27 loss to Minnesota. The Pittsburgh quarterback has been sacked 15 times this season, the second most in the NFL.
The Steelers are 30th this season in our Offensive Hog Index, with an average rank of 24.33. OHI measures which team has the best offensive line in football by leveraging Yards Per Rush Attempt, Negative Pass Plays and success rate on third down.
Even worse, the Steel City ranks last in our Quality Stat, Rusher Rating Differential. The offensive can't keep Big Ben upright, and the team can't run with its opposition, literally.
Find out which team has the best offensive line so far by clicking here. Spoiler alert: It's not Jacksonville.
6. The Yucs Are Back in Town
Pop quiz, hot shot: Who do you think is the best player on defense and on offense for the Arizona Cardinals?
Besides the franchise being buried in obscurity, the answers shouldn't be hard for pigskin pundits.
Defense: arguably the best cornerback in the league, Patrick Peterson. Offense: wide receiver and future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald.
Someone should've told Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano. Then again, the man at the helm should already know.
In the waning moments, Peterson snagged his second interception of the game off rookie quarterback Mike Glennon, who was making his NFL debut. Fitzgerald found a hole in the secondary on the next play for a touchdown.
Just about everyone in Raymond James Stadium knew who to avoid on defense, and who the ball more than likely would be going to on offense. Everyone except for the Tampa Bay coaching staff.
Bucs fans had enjoyed a 10-0 lead with a little more than two minutes left in the game. On the drive home, Tampa tailgaters drank away their misery while punching the upholstery off of their steering wheels.
7. The Yin And the Yang
There's up and down. Good and bad. Eli and Peyton.
After Giants quarterback Eli Manning had the worst Real Quarterback Rating of the season in week 3 with a 26.49, he followed up with a 39.98 in the 31-7 loss to Kansas City. That's eight spots shy of the previous week's superlative.
In Denver, older brother Peyton threw for a 134.79 RPR, good enough for the best of the season and his third top-10.
8. Chicago Pulls a Hammy
Chicago had the fifth-least bendable defense heading into week 3, when they spanked the Steeler, 40-23. They had jumped an astounding nine slots to get into the league's top-20 in Bendability.
Keep in mind that this was against Pittsburgh. Or should we say The Pitts?
The Bears followed up with the ninth-least bendable defense in their 40-32 loss in Detroit on Sunday. They're heading back into the cellar of the league in our proprietary statistic.
9. Cincy Loses to Cleveland
Cincinnati, a team expected to make the playoffs by many NFL analysts, lost to Cleveland 17-6. That's not a misprint.
The Bengals, with their athletic phenomenon that is wide receiver A.J. Green, threw for a dismal 50.35 Real Passer Rating, which measures all aspects of quarterback play, including rushing attempts, rushing yards, rushing TDs, fumbles and sacks. Cleveland quarterback Brian Hoyer threw two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 94.12 in RPR.
Fact: Winning in the NFL is almost always about more efficient play at the quarterback position. Teams better in Real Quarterback Rating in 2011 and 2012 went an incredible 441-70 (.863).
10. Real QB Rating Differential Weeds Out the Losers
Almost every team that lost the Real Quarterback Rating Differential battle this week lost the game. Go figure.
More interestingly, seven teams had passing performances that landed in the 15 worst rankings of the season in Real Quarterback Rating Differential.
- Philadelphia (42.93)
- Cincinnati (-43.77)
- Pittsburgh (-43.82)
- St. Louis (-45.28)
- N.Y. Giants (-45.68)
- Jacksonville (-58.18)
- N.Y. Jets (-73.07)
As we always say: football may be a complex game schematically. It's an easy game statistically. You win when your QB outplays the other.