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Nuggetpalooza’s NFL Preview!

09.09.11 at 9:00 am ET
By

It’s finally football season and I hope you enjoy these weekly previews as much as I look forward to bringing them to you. Since the Patriots don’t play until Monday, here are a couple of nuggets on each of the Sunday games to whet your appetite.

Obviously, there are serious drawbacks to using 2010 stats at this point considering the massive personnel turnover experienced by every team in the league. But until the teams generate some stats for 2011, as someone once said, “it is what it is”.

For those of you that are new to these previews, when I refer to passing rating, I’m not talking about the NFL’s official (and convoluted) system. My rating takes average net yards per pass attempt (net yards equals passing yards minus sack yards lost) minus the league average net yards per attempt (for that particular situation). Then it adds 30 times the touchdown percentage and subtracts 50 times the interception percentage. If you think about it, throwing 20 touchdowns and 12 picks (1.67 TD/INT ratio) will cancel out that adjustment.

Enough with the mumbo jumbo. Enjoy the stats, and enjoy the games, and be sure to check back Monday morning for my preview of the Patriots and the Dolphins:

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Steelers at Ravens

* – Ravens opponents started 22 drives on the Baltimore side of the 50-yard-line last year but they managed only two touchdowns on those drives (9.1%), the lowest/best percentage in the league. Pittsburgh opponents started 19 such drives and scored four touchdowns (21.1%), the second lowest percentage in the league.

* – When the Steelers blitzed last season, they recorded 29 sacks for 224 yards lost, both league highs.

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Bengals at Browns

* – Bengals’ opponents tried wide receiver screens (caught behind the line of scrimmage) 22 times last season and completed 21 (95%), the highest such completion percentage allowed in the NFL.The rest of the league allowed 67% completions on those throws.

* – Browns’opponents completed nine touchdown passes over the middle of the field last season, the most in the NFL.

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Colts at Texans

* – The two defenses in this game ranked last (Houston) and next-to-last (Indianapolis) in first down efficiency last season, allowing first down gains of four or more yards 54.2% and 54.0% of the time, respectively.

* – Colts’ opponents targeted the tight end 92 times last season and completed 80.4% of those tries, the highest such completion percentage allowed in the league:

80.4% – Colts
73.8% – Lions
71.0% – Falcons

Big day for Houston tight end Owen Daniels on Sunday?

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Lions at Bucs

* – The Suh Factor: The Lions recorded 29 sacks (2nd most) for a loss of 199 yards (league high) when they DID NOT blitz last season.

* – When opponents did not blitz last season, the Bucs threw only one interception in 318 attempts (0.3%), the lowest interception percentage in the league in those situations.

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Eagles at Rams

* – The Eagles were penalized 25 times on special teams last season, the most in the NFL.

* – St. Louis recorded only one touchdown pass on a ball thrown 20+ yards in the air in 2010, tied for the fewest in the league (with Miami, the Patriots’ Monday night opponent).

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Falcons at Bears

* – The Bears managed only 15 drives of 10+ plays last season, the fewest in the league. Atlanta, however, ranked third with 35 such drives, and they scored points on 34 of them, an NFL-high score rate of 97%.

* – The Falcons have never completed more than one pass thrown 20+ yards in any of their last 28 games. They (mostly Matt Ryan) have completed 16-of-77 (21%) of those throws in that span.

* – Chicago was the only team in the NFL that did not get a first down resulting from a fourth down pass last season. In fact, it’s been 22 games since they’ve completed such a pass.

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Bills at Chiefs

* – Kansas City rushed for 5.51 yards per carry on first down last season, the highest such average in the league.

* – Buffalo got four touchdown passes on balls caught behind the line of scrimmage last season, tops in the NFL.

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Titans at Jaguars

* – Over the last half of last season, the Jaguars led the NFL in first down efficiency, gaining four or more yards over 53% of the time. They were successful just 44% of the time during the first half of the year. It makes sense that the Jags had the fewest three-and-out possessions of any team in the second half of the season as well (12.2%).

* – Tennessee converted only 35.4% of their third down rushing plays into first downs last season, the fourth worst rate in the league. Somewhat surprising for a team featuring Chris Johnson.

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Giants at Redskins

* – In their last 41 games, the Redskins have attempted 216 passes during the 4th quarter of close games (plus/minus seven points). They have ONE touchdown pass to show for those 216 attempts. I know what you’re thinking, and they’ve had at least one such attempt (i.e. the game was close) in 28 of those 41 games.

* – The Giants allowed only 4.99 net yards per pass play (net of sack yards) when they blitzed last season, the lowest/best average allowed in the NFL.

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Vikings at Chargers

* – Not only were the Vikings stingy in allowing long drives (only 20 drives of 10+ plays allowed, tied for fourth fewest), but they allowed points on just 11 of those drives (55%), the lowest/best mark in the league.

* – San Diego’s offense converted 40% of their opportunities on 3rd-and-6+ yards last season, the second best rate in the NFL since 2000, trailing only the 2006 Colts, who converted an almost obscene 45.3% of those tries. Minnesota’s defense allowed conversions on just 25.2% of those chances, fifth best in the league. However, they allowed 70.2% conversions on 3rd-and-3 or less, the worst mark in the league.

* – Minnesota started 45 drives inside their own 20-yard-line last season and never scored a touchdown on any of them.

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Panthers at Cardinals

* – Carolina’s offense went three-and-out an NFL-high (and club record) 61 times last season. Thing is, Arizona’s defense has ranked 26th or worse at forcing three-and-outs in each of the last three seasons.

* – The Panthers were the only offense in the league that did not get flagged for delay of game last season.

* – Arizona was the only NFL team that did not throw an interception in the last two minutes of a half last season (78 attempts).

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Seahawks at 49ers

* – San Francisco attempted only 40 passes over the middle last season, the fewest in the NFL.

* – Seahawks’ opponents completed 60% of their pass attempts to the right side and a league low 54% of their attempts to the left.

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Cowboys at Jets

* – No Jets running back has had a pass reception for a gain of 25 or more yards in 24 games, the longest current streak in the NFL. Redskins backs have had a league high 10 such receptions in that same span.

* – Dallas was the league’s best passing team on 3rd-and-11+ last season (rating: +4.01, thanks to seven first downs on 28 attempts) while the Jets were the league’s worst (rating: -8.65, 25 attempts but only three first downs and three interceptions).

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Raiders at Broncos

* – Oakland was penalized 1,276 yards last season, more than 200 more yards than any other team.

* – Can you guess what team completed the most passes thrown 20+ yards downfield last season? That’s right, the Denver Broncos, with 30.

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