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Nuggetpalooza: Statistical preview of Patriots vs. Texans Monday night blockbuster!

12.10.12 at 9:13 am ET

Terrific matchup tonight in Foxboro against the top-seed-at-the-moment Houston Texans, so lets get right to the numbers:

* – Houston is the first team to play the Patriots in Foxboro already sporting 10 or more wins since Christmas Eve, 2000, when the 10-5 Dolphins eked out a 27-24 victory.

* – That Dolphins victory in 2000 is significant in another way: New England led that game at halftime, 21-17, and lost. They have led at the break 68 times in Foxboro since that day (including playoffs) and won all 68 of those games. Here are the top  such records in that span:

68-0 – Patriots
57-5 – Packers
41-4 – Saints
61-6 – Steelers
62-7 – Ravens

* – The Patriots have not had more turnovers (they’ve either had fewer or tied) than their opponent in 20 consecutive regular season games, the longest such streak in the NFL since at least 1990:

20 – Patriots, 2011-2012
18 – Packers, 2010-2011
15 – Bengals, 2005
15 – Broncos, 2004-2005

Note this: The second longest current such streak in the NFL? Six games by the Carolina Panthers.

* – Monday culminates Houston’s first three-game road trip since they opened the 2008 season with three road games, losing all three enroute to an 0-4 start and 8-8 season. Overall though, the Texans’ have won 10 of their last 11 road games.

Note this: Since the Texans’ were created in 2003, this will be the 10th time that they’ve faced a team after with a .750 or better winning percentage late in the season (on or after week 10). They are 3-6 in those games. Their only road win in such a game came November 11, a 13-6 win over the 7-1 (at the time) Bears in Chicago.

* – Over the past four games, the Patriots have converted 61% of their third-down tries, while no other team has converted even 50% in that stretch. Included in that number is a 22-for-28 (79%) performance on third and five yards or fewer. For the season, New England has converted 68% on third down and five or fewer, which leads the league by a mile:

68% – Patriots
60% – Packers
58% – Broncos
58% – Cowboys
57% – Texans

Note this: Opponents have converted a league low 29% of their third downs against Houston’s defense so far and the Texans have allowed just 39% conversions on third and five or fewer, the third lowest/best percentage in the league:

37% – Cardinals
39% – 49ers
39% – Texans

Note this: Only five defenses have held opponents to less than 30% conversions over a full season since 1995. The last to do it? The 2006 Baltimore Ravens.

New England’s third down defense? Well, they’ve allowed 43% conversions (29th) and 48% when needing five yards or fewer (22nd).

* – Only two NFL teams have not allowed a rushing play of 30 or more yards this season: The New England Patriots and the Houston Texans. The last runs of 30+ yards against New England came last December 18 when the Broncos has two such runs, including one by Tim Tebow. Houston last got gashed for 30+ yards last December 11 against Cincinnati. Each team has three such runs on offense this season.

* – The Patriots lead the league in long drives (10+ plays) with 31, while the Texans have allowed a league-low 12 such drives. This you probably already knew. But the Pats have cased their 31 such drives into 119 points, an average of 3.8, which is ranked just 16th. On defense, New England has allowed 5.0 points on 21 long drives by their opponents, the highest average allowed. Overall, the Patriots’ net points on long drives is just +15, while Houston’s net points on such drives is +23 despite TWELVE fewer long drives on offense than New England.

* – One apparent weakness of the Texans’ defense is that they tend to allow a lot of big gainers on pass plays. They’ve allowed 44 pass plays of 20 yards or more this season. Only six teams have allowed more, including the Patriots, who have allowed a league-high 59 such completions. 48% of all passing yardage against Houston has come on gains of 20 or more yards, the third highest perentage in the league:

48.5% – Patriots
47.9% – Chiefs
47.6% – Texans

Note this: Neither offense has relied on big gainers in the passing game this season. Only 33% of the Patriots passing yards have come on gains of 20 or more yards (29th) and 36% of the Texans’ yardage has come that way (19th). A whopping 52% of Tampa Bay’s passing yardage has come on big plays, the highest percentage in the league, while the Vikings, at 28%, rank at the bottom.

* – Since the start of the 2010 season, Arian Foster’s initial carry of the game has lost yardage only once in 41 attempts and has averaged 6.1 yards.

* – Foster has 283 rushing attempts this season, an average of 23.6 attempts per game. That’s on pace for 377 for the season, which would be the most since the Chiefs’ Larry Johnson rushed 416 times in 2006.

* – Foster’s rushing average is 5.0 in the first half this season (125 carries) and just 3.0 in the second half (158 carries). That’s a 40% drop in the second half, which is the largest by any running back since they began tracking rushing by half in 1991 (minimum 100 carries each half):

40% – Arian Foster, 2012 Texans
35% – Karim Abdul-Jabbar, 1998 Dolphins (4.3/2.8)
34% – Maurice Smith, 2001 Falcons (3.8/2.5)
34% – Karim Abdul-Jabbar, 1997 Dolphins (3.8/2.5)
33% – Steven Jackson, 2007 Rams (4.9/3.3)

Note this: In his career, Foster’s first half average is 4.7 yards per carry while his second half average is 4.2. The league average per carry since 1991 is 4.13 in the first half and 4.16 in the second half.

* – The Patriots have allowed at least one first down to their opponent via penalty in their last eight games (and 15 of their last 16). The eight-game streak is their longest since 2005. But that’s not the longest current streak in the league, currently held by Detroit and Jacksonville, with 11 each. And the Patriots are TWO YEARS from the longest such streak since 1991, when the Dolphins allowed at least one first down via flag in FORTY-ONE consecutive games from 2000-2002. The second longest streak since ’91 is “just” 28 games.

* – Houston has “won” time of possession in 11 of their 12 games this season. The Patriots had the ball more than the Dolphins last week, snapping a five-game streak where the Patriots had “lost” the time of possession battle. They became just the sixth team since 1990 to “lose” the T.O.P. battle in at least five straight games but win all five, joining the 2009 Colts (7), 2007 Colts, 2005 Seahawks. 2003 Chiefs, and 1990 Raiders.

* – NFL Note: Here’s where Nuggetpalooza throws a little cold water on the Andrew Luck hype: According to the awesome Football-Reference Play Finder, Luck has had FOUR interceptions wiped out by penalties this season. Their records go back to 2000 and the only other quarterbacks to have four picks nullified in a season were Patrick Ramsay of the 2002 Redskins and Ben Roethlisberger of the 2009 Steelers. The Patriots have only had six interceptions brought back in the last 13 and 3/4 seasons combined.

Enjoy the game!



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