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Nuggetpalooza: Previewing Patriots-Jets ‘backyard brawl’

10.20.12 at 9:47 am ET
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The Patriots try to snap back from their disappointing loss last week by squaring off with the Jets in Foxboro in what is now a critical AFC East game. Here are the numbers that I found interesting:

* – The Patriots allowed three plays of 45 or more yards to the Seahawks last Sunday, just the third time since 2000 that they’ve allowed three or more such plays in a game. The others were in 2008 against the Chargers and 2005 against the Broncos. It was the first such game by Seattle’s offense since at least 2000 (that’s as far back as Pro-Football-Reference‘s awesome play finder goes).

Note this: Seattle now has more plays of 40 or more yards this season (four) than the Patriots do (three).

Note this too: New England has allowed seven plays of 40 or more yards this season. Only the Chiefs and Redskins (nine each) have allowed more.

* – New England’s defense has recovered a league high 10 opponent fumbles already this season (no other team has fallen on more than seven). They had only 11 such recoveries during all of last season. This is one reason why their 3-3 record is so disappointing at this stage. What happens if or when the fumbles stop coming?

* – I’ve remarked here before about the subtle drop off in accuracy by Tom Brady this season as he currently ranks 7th in the league (72.0% catchable) after finishing 4th last year and 1st in 2010. Well, only 56.9% of passes thrown by Jets’ quarterbacks this season have been considered catchable, the worst mark in the NFL.

* – Neither team’s passing offense has relied much this season on passes caught behind the line of scrimmage. New England has only 30 such completions so far (15th) and averages 4.7 net yards (also 15th). But thanks to an interception, their rating (my rating, based on average net yards compared to the league average on such passes, adjusted up for touchdowns and down for interceptions) is -1.31 (25th). But the Jets have been just awful on these passes, completing just 46% (last) with two interceptions and a -4.59 rating (also last).

* – Mercy, how times have changed. The Jets have allowed opponents to convert 18-of-41 tries (42%) on 3rd-and-6 or more this season, the highest/worst percentage in the league. Compare this year’s percentage to their last three seasons:

2011 – 20% (4th)
2010 – 30% (20th)
2009 – 21% (1st)

* – Passes thrown from one to ten yards downfield is where the Patriots’ bread is buttered. They’ve completed 99-of-136 for 932 yards (all are league highs) for a +1.72 rating (3rd). However, the Jets still play a little defense on those short throws, allowing a league low 59.6% completions:

59.6% – Jets
60.4% – Cardinals
60.9% – Eagles

Combine that with their four picks on such passes and they’ve built a defensive rating of -1.59, ranked 4th in the league on those passes:

-2.80 – Falcons
-2.73 – Cardinals
-1.62 – Bears
-1.59 – Jets

This is no fluke as the Jets ranked 6th last season against these throws. The matchup between Brady’s short passing game versus the Jets’ short passing defense may well tell the story of this one.

* – The Jets are still an opportunistic bunch, as 39% of their points this year have either come on a defensive touchdown (two interception returns) or on a possession immediately following a takeaway. That’s the highest percentage in the league so far:

39.1% – Jets
37.2% – Chargers
36.9% – Bears

Note this: Only 7.3% of points allowed by the Patriots have come via defensive touchdown (none) or on possessions following a turnover, the lowest percentage in the league:

7.3% – Patriots
7.5% – Redskins
11.5% – Raiders

* – The Patriots have run left 96 times this year, the most in the league. Left side rushes make up 44% of all Pats’ run plays this season (6th highest percentage), compared to 24% up the middle (24th) and 32% to the right side (19th). On those lefty rushes, New England has averaged 4.9 yards per carry (11th in the league), compared to 3.4 up the middle (18th) and 3.9 to the right (21st).

Note this: The Jets run defense has been gashed pretty good this season, especially to the offense’s left, where they’ve given up a 5.4 yard average, 4th highest/worst in the league. The Jets have allowed 4.0 yards up the middle (8th highest) and 4.2 yards to the right side (18th highest).

* – According to the play finder at Pro-Football-Reference, Tom Brady is 2-for-6 for 27 yards and a 48.5 rating (this is the NFL quarterback rating) this season in “crunch time” (trailing, but by a touchdown or less, with two minutes or less remaining in the fourth quarter). Prior to this season, he was 43-for-77 (56%) for 520 yards and eight touchdowns in those situations, good for a rating of 95.2. For his entire career, his 91.8 rating in crunch time is the highest in the NFL (min. 50 passes in crunch time, 2000-2012):

91.8 – Tom Brady (45-for-83, 547 yards, 8 TD, 3 interceptions)
88.2 – Jake Delhomme (35-for-61, 441 yards, 4 TD, 2 interceptions)
87.4 – Eli Manning (41-for-71, 533 yards, 5 TD, 3 interceptions)
86.2 – Matthew Stafford (38-for-65, 432 yards, 4 TD, 2 interceptions)

* – More from the play finder: The top three running backs for the Patriots have gained yardage on 83.1% of their rushes this season (Stevan Ridley 83.9%, Brandon Bolden 81.4%, Danny Woodhead 82.5%). Last season, Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis (80.1%), Ridley (81.6%), and Woodhead (92.2%) combined for an 83.2% gain percentage. Woodhead’s 2011 gain percentage of 92.2% was second highest in the NFL (min. 60 carries), trailing only New Orleans’ Pierre Thomas (93.6%).

Note this: Of the 33 backs with 50 or more rushes so far this season, the Jets’ Shonn Greene ranks 4th in gain percentage:

91.8% – Ray Rice, BAL
88.4% – Marshawn Lynch, SEA
86.4% – CJ Spiller, BUF
86.1% – Shonn Greene, NYJ

Which back has the lowest gain percentage this season (min. 50 rushes)? Arizona’s Ryan Williams (69.0%).

* – Last season, opponents blitzed Brady and the Patriots on 200 passing plays (31% of their total passing plays) and got burned to the tune of 62% completions (3rd) and a +3.64 rating (2nd). Only the Packers (+6.93) were more effective picking apart opposing blitzes. This season, the Patriots have been blitzed on 63-of-257 passing plays (25%) and Brady has completed 69% (2nd) for a +2.01 rating (4th). Only four teams have been blitzed on a lower percentage of pass plays this season: Detroit (12%), Washington (15%), Kansas City (22%), and Buffalo (24%).

Note this: In 2010, the Jets blitzed on 57% of opposing pass plays, the highest percentage in the league. Last season, they blitzed 47% of the time (4th), but still put up the league’s 3rd best defensive rating when blitzing (-1.70). So far in 2012, they’re down to 42% of the time (8th) and are just 16th when they do (-0.19). When they HAVEN’T blitzed this season, they’ve ranked 6th (-1.72).

Note this too: The last three times that Brady has faced the Jets in the regular season (all wins), he’s gone 38-of-48 (79%) for 482 yards and four touchdowns when the Jets DID NOT blitz. Compare that to 33-for-53 (62%) with six sacks when they’ve sent extra rushers.

* – In 2011, Jets’ opponents attempted 21 passes that traveled 30 or more yards downfield and completed ONE. So far in 2011, they’ve already allowed three such completions (in 11 attempts). If you narrow that down to just true “bombs”, passes that travel more than 40 yards in the air, Jets opponents are 0-for-32 over the last 49 games.

Note this: The Patriots offense wasn’t much better last season on passes of 30+ yards (2-for-16), but they are 2-for-7 already this season. They have not completed a true “bomb” in their last 21 games (0-for-9), their longest streak without such a completion since they went 30 games in a row during 2001-2002.

I stumbled across this and thought you might find it interesting: During the stretch from 1992 through 1996, the Patriots went  34-46, they completed exactly one “bomb” thrown more than 40 yards downfield during that five-year span… in 39 tries.

* – Every week, I see Patriots’ punter Zoltan Mesko at the bottom of the punting rankings, now averaging just 38.2 yards per punt. But he’s also put 13 punts inside the 20, which led me to wonder if his high number of “coffin corner” kicks has affected his average and, therefore, hurt his ranking. So I checked all NFL punters averages only on punts where the line of scrimmage is at least 55 yards from the end zone. In other words, how have punters done when there is no concern over touchbacks? Mesko is still last (min. 10 such punts):

40.5 – Zoltan Mesko, NE
40.7 – Drew Butler, PIT
43.3 – Saverio Rocca, WAS
43.5 – Adam Podlesh, CHI

Last season, Mesko finished in the middle of the pack with a 48.5-yard average. The top punter in this competition so far this season is the Chargers’ Mike Scifres (53.3).

Enjoy your football weekend, everyone!

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