Friday, October 31, 2014

Steelers Game 9 Preview - vs. Baltimore Ravens

After a significant win against a really good Colts team it is Ravens week. Throw out all the stats and all the stuff that has happened before this point because in rivalry games that stuff doesn't matter.

Yea right, that stuff matters.

The Ravens are a pretty up and down team, kinda like the Steelers. Overall I think the Ravens are a better football team but if the Steelers come out and play like they did against the Colts then I think the Steelers win this game. If the Steelers play like they did against the Ravens earlier in the season than the Ravens will have their way,

Joe Flacco didn't get touched in the first outing and that killed the Steelers. Literally no defensive player touched Flacco unless you could the post-game handshakes. To say the Steelers got after Andrew Luck would be a vast understatement and if the Steelers can do that to Flacco he will get rattled and throw picks. That would be fun.

Since stats do still matter, lets take a look at the Ravens.

Here are the numbers for the Baltimore offense:

The Baltimore offense ranks seventh in the league with an overall DVOA of 11.3% that includes a passing game that is ranked fifth in the league (35.9% DVOA) while the rushing game ranks 16th (-5.6% DVOA)

Passing

Joe Flacco
Completions: 173
Attempts: 279
Completion %: 62%
Yards: 2,049
YPA: 7.3
TD: 14
INT: 7
DVOA: 14.5% (8th)
DYAR: 480 (8th)
QBR: 67.6 (11)
First matchup (9/11): 21-29, 166 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT

Rushing

Justin Forsett
Attempts: 104
Yards: 571
Average: 5.5
Touchdowns: 4
DVOA: 7.7% (12th)
DYAR: 72 (10th)
Success Rate: 47% (20th)
First matchup (9/11): 8 carries, 56 yards, 4 receptions, 16 yards

Lorenzo Taliaferro
Attempts: 51
Yards: 226
Average: 4.4
Touchdowns: 4
DVOA: 1.6%
DYAR: 24

Receiving

Steve Smith
Receptions: 41
Targets: 68
Yards: 675
Average: 16.5
Touchdowns: 4
DVOA: 11.5% (21st)
DYAR: 135 (15th)
Catch Rate: 59%
First matchup (9/11): 6 receptions, 71 yards

Torrey Smith
Receptions: 18
Targets: 42
Yards: 308
Average: 17.1
Touchdowns: 4
DVOA: 27.4% (8th)
DYAR: 146 (12th)
Catch Rate: 44% (woof)
Note: Has seven defensive pass interference calls on passes to him

Owen Daniels
Receptions: 27
Targets: 37
Yards: 275
Average: 10.2
Touchdowns: 3
DVOA: 15.2% (11th among TE)
DYAR: 54 (13th among TE)
Catch Rate: 75%
First matchup (9/11): 5 receptions, 28 yards, 2 TD

Offensive Line
Adjusted Line Yards: 4.45 (5th)
Power Success: 54% (27th)
Stuffed %: 20% (23rd)

Rushing Frequency:
Left End: 6% (4.64 ALY, 8th)
Left Tackle: 16% (4.43 ALY, 4th)
Middle/Guard: 50% (3.94 ALY, 24th)
Right Tackle: 23% (5.49 ALY, 2nd)
Right End: 5% (4.57 ALY, 7th)

Here is a look at the Ravens Defense. They rank 6th overall in terms of DVOA at -10.7% while they rank 7th in pass defense (-6.5%) and 10th in rushing defense (-16.4%).

Here are some of the statistical leaders for the defense:

C.J. Mosley
Total Tackles: 76
Solo Tackles: 49
Sacks: 0.0
Passes Defended: 6
Interceptions: 2

Daryl Smith
Total Tackles: 70
Solo Tackles: 38
Sacks: 1.0
Passes Defended: 3
Interceptions: 0

Terrell Suggs
Total Tackles: 23
Solo Tackles: 12
Sacks: 3.5
Passes Defended: 0
Interceptions: 0

Elvis Dumervil
Total Tackles: 15
Solo Tackles: 10
Sacks: 7.0
Passes Defended: 0
Interceptions: 0

Pernell McPhee
Total Tackles: 10
Solo Tackles: 5
Sacks: 4.0
Passes Defended: 2
Interceptions: 0

Here is a look at the Ravens special teams

Kicking

Justin Tucker
Field Goals Attempted: 18
Field Goals Made: 21
Long: 53
1-19: 0-0
20-29: 5-5
30-39: 7-7
40-49: 3-3
50+: 3-6
Extra Points: 21-21

Punting

Sam Koch
Punts: 22
Yards: 1,038
Average: 47.2
Long: 69
Inside 20: 10
Touchback: 2
Fair Catch: 5
Average Return Against: 8.4

Returns

Jacoby Jones
Kick Return Attempts: 15
Kick Return Yards: 419
Kick Return Average: 27.9
Kick Return Long: 58
Kick Return TD: 0
Punt Return Attempts: 13
Punt Return Yards: 107
Punt Return Average: 8.2
Punt Return Long: 33
Punt Return TD: 0

Prediction: Steelers 23, Ravens 20

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Penguins Game 8 Preview - vs. New Jersey Devils

New Jersey Devils

7:00 p.m., CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The Last Penguins Game
October 25, 2014 - Pittsburgh 3, Nashville 0


Probables

Pittsburgh (4-2-1) [via Dailyfaceoff]

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist
Pascal Dupuis - Brandon Sutter - Evgeni Malkin
Blake Comeau - Nick Spaling - Steve Downie
Zach Sill - Marcel Goc - Craig Adams

Defense
Kris Letang - Olli Maatta
Paul Martin - Christian Ehrhoff
Simon Despres - Rob Scuderi

Goaltender
Marc-Andre Fleury

New Jersey (4-2-2) [via Dailyfaceoff]

Forwards
Dainius Zubrus - Travis Zajac - Jaromir Jagr
Ryane Clowe - Patrik Elias - Damien Brunner
Reid Boucher - Adam Henrique - Michael Ryder
Tuomo Ruutu - Jacob Josefson - Stephen Gionta

Defense
Andy Greene - Damon Severson
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Eric Gelinas - Jon Merrill

Goaltender
Cory Schneider


Stats

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Steelers Game 8 Recap - Steelers 51, Colts 34

This was an offensive assault form both teams. The Colts and Steelers combined for nearly 1,100 of offense and Ben Roethlisberger nearly set an NFL record for passing and that is just the start of what we all can talk about around the water cooler tomorrow. Do people still talk around water coolers? Whatever.

This starts and ends with Roethlisberger. He's played some really great football games throughout his career, but this is the best of them all. He threw for 522 yards and six touchdowns (!!!) and was in complete control. He threw the football 40 times in only 49 attempts and averaged over 10 yards per attempt. He really did nothing wrong the entire game and while he only threw nine incompletions a few of those were drops that could have easily went for catches. Ben doesn't throw a great deep ball but he was on point with it today along with pretty much every other pass.

Oh yea, and this:



Dude just makes plays and with Indianapolis putting up 34 points the Steelers needed their foot on the gas the entire night. Ben had his foot on the gas the entire night and carved up the second-ranked pass defense (according to Football Outsiders) like it was not big deal.

The Steelers offense as a whole gained 639 yards as a team. They had a pair of receivers go over 100 yards and they had 117 yards on the ground. 34 first downs, went 8-of-13 on third downs, and had the ball for nearly 40 minutes of action. There are a lot of good offenses that put up big numbers but this is one of the best offensive performances I have seen, maybe in my lifetime.

It would take me maybe 12 hours to do this recap if I went though and talked about every single player that had a great game today. Instead I will just talk about groups. First I will talk about the receivers. Man, were they good today. I mean I could talk about how good Antonio Brown is, but I think all of you guys know what he brings to the table. I think I can just post this here and it will about sum up how good he was today:



Martavis Bryant had been outstanding the last two weeks. I think when people talk about needing a "tall receiver" it is somewhat foolish because just being tall doesn't mean you are going to be good or just because you are small means you can't be successful in the red zone (look at Brown). That being said, Bryant has made a big impact and today he caught five passes for 83 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He got behind the defense for a 52 yard bomb and even though he dropped a very catchable ball in the third quarter (I think) he has been nothing but impressive through two games. Two games is a pretty small sample size but with some of the struggles of Markus Wheaton and Lance Moore it is good to see a guy come in and make an immediate impact.

Heath Miller is winding down his career. He is still a really solid player but he is not nearly the player he used to be but as he showed tonight he can still put up great numbers when given the chance. He caught seven passes (in eight targets) for 112 yards and a touchdown. He found the soft spots in the defense and when Ben wasn't seeing anything down the field Miller was as reliable as he always is with catching the football and making something happen.

The offensive line. Man. The Colts got after Andy Dalton last week and shut out the Bengals so coming in I knew it wasn't gong to be easy for the Steelers to make things happen in the passing game. All the offensive line did was keep ben clean the entire game and give him as much time as he needed to throw. Mike Adams has been a liability for much of his tenure as a Steeler but tonight he was pretty outstanding. Actually everyone was outstanding on the line and they were as good in the run game as they were in pass protection. The offensive line has been pretty poor in the recent past filled with injuries and inconsistent play so to see a game like this is really refreshing.

Le'Veon Bell is the man. He might be the second most important player on the offense behind Roethlisberger and that is because he can do so much with the football. He ran for 92 yards on 24 carries and then added six catches for 56 yards. Getting the ball into his hands is always a good game plan and when he can also catch passes as well has find the holes then you are going to have a very dangerous player. He didn't break the big one today but on numerous occasions he was so close to and you could just feel the big play coming. That is exciting stuff.

The Colts have a pretty outstanding offense and Andrew Luck is as good as it gets throwing the football. Indianapolis had 448 total yards of offense and scored 34 points but the defense played a pretty good game. I don't really know how to describe it because when you give up so many yards and so many points you probably aren't going to win a lot of games but they were getting after Luck. The Steelers haven't really been able to pressure the quarterback but they were hitting Luck on pretty much every drop back. Lawrence Timmons essentially was living in the Colts backfield as he hammered Luck all game. I don't know how he got up from some of those hits and I give him a ton of credit because he stood in the pocket and made some big time throws knowing he was going to get smoked.

The Steelers forced a pair of turnovers and turned one of those into a defensive touchdown thanks to William Gay jumping a route in the first half:



That cop was PUMPED.

The Steelers haven't created a lot of turnovers but they used the momentum and Gay was able to jump the route and give the Steelers some non-offensive points. It was a good feeling and something I wasn't ready for.

Things were pretty tense in the second half. The Colts are a team that never give up and usually come back for their wins. The Colts got it as close to eight points in the fourth quarter but the Steelers never broke. I am not really sure I ever felt like they were going to lose after halftime even though there was that sense of doubt.

Anyways, the Steelers got the win and it doesn't matter how. They scored 51 points and their quarterback just manhandled a pretty good pass defense. Fun stuff.

It's Ravens week.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Penguins Game 7 Preview - @ Nashville Predators

Nashville Predators

8:00 p.m., Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, TN

The Last Penguins Game
October 23, 2014 - Detroit 4, Pittsburgh 3 (OT)


Probables

Pittsburgh (3-2-1) [via Dailyfaceoff]

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist
Pascal Dupuis - Brandon Sutter - Evgeni Malkin
Blake Comeau - Nick Spaling - Steve Downie
Zach Sill - Marcel Goc - Craig Adams

Defense
Kris Letang - Olli Maatta
Paul Martin - Christian Ehrhoff
Simon Despres - Rob Scuderi

Goaltender
Marc-Andre Fleury

Nashville (5-0-2) [via Dailyfaceoff]

Forwards
Filip Forsberg - Mike Ribeiro - James Neal
Colin Wilson - Derek Roy - Craig Smith
Olli Jokinen - Calle Jarnkrok - Taylor Beck
Eric Nystrom - Paul Gaustad - Viktor Stalberg

Defense
Roman Josi - Shea Weber
Anton Volchenkov - Seth Jones
Mattias Ekholm - Ryan Ellis

Goaltender
Pekka Rinne


Stats

Friday, October 24, 2014

Steelers Game 8 Preview - vs. Indianapolis Colts

Another long week and another abbreviated preview this week. I will be giving you the nuts and bolts on the Colts, who are a pretty good team. The Colts currently lead the AFC South division and have scored 216 points which is second in the AFC, only eight points behind the Broncos.

The Colts defense struggles against the run on defense but their offensive and defensive passing games are top-notch and rank among the best in the league. With the Steelers struggles and overall inconsistency they are going to need to play some pretty outstanding football to pull out a win.

Lets take a look at the Colts.

Here are the numbers for the Indianapolis offense:

The Indianapolis offense ranks eighth in the league with an overall DVOA of 8.7% that includes a passing game that is renamed fifth in the league (35.3% DVOA) while the rushing game ranks 25th (-18.0% DVOA)

Passing

Andrew Luck
Completions: 199
Attempts: 302
Completion %: 65.9%
Yards: 2331 (leads NFL)
YPA: 7.7
TD: 19
INT: 7
DVOA: 25.2% (4th)
DYAR: 774 (1st)
QBR: 76.7 (6th)

Rushing

Trent Richardson
Attempts: 101
Yards: 358
Average: 3.5
Touchdowns: 2
DVOA: -15.4% (31st)
DYAR: -29 (31st)
Success Rate:

Ahmad Bradshaw
Attempts: 70
Yards: 336
Average: 4.8
Touchdowns: 1
DVOA: -2.3% (21st)
DYAR: 19 (22nd)

Receiving

T.Y. Hilton
Receptions: 47
Targets: 68
Yards: 711
Average: 15.1
Touchdowns: 1
DVOA: 26.6% (8th)
DYAR: 211 (3rd)
Catch Rate: 69%

Reggie Wayne
Receptions: 38
Targets: 62
Yards: 434
Average: 11.4
Touchdowns: 1
DVOA: 0.8% (33rd)
DYAR: 65 (26th)
Catch Rate: 63%

Dwayne Allen
Receptions: 21
Targets: 33
Yards: 305
Average: 14.5
Touchdowns: 5
DVOA: 33.2% (5th among tight ends)
DYAR: 91 (3rd)
Catch Rate: 64%

Offensive Line
Adjusted Line Yards: 4.22 (9th)
Power Success: 50% (31st)
Stuffed %: 19% (18th)

Rushing Frequency:
Left End: 15% (4.86 ALY, 6th)
Left Tackle: 10% (4.45 ALY, 5th)
Middle/Guard: 57% (3.79 ALY, 25th)
Right Tackle: 4% (5.77 ALY, 2nd)
Right End: 15% (4.71 ALY, 6th)

Here is a look at the Colts Defense. They rank 9th overall in terms of DVOA at -5.6% while they rank 2nd in pass defense (-12.7%) and 30th in rushing defense (5.3%).

Here are some of the statistical leaders for the defense:

D'Qwell Jackson
Total Tackles: 52
Solo Tackles: 34
Sacks: 3.0
Passes Defended: 0
Interceptions: 0

Jerrell Freeman
Total Tackles: 27
Solo Tackles: 17
Sacks: 0.0
Passes Defended: 2
Interceptions: 0

Mike Adams
Total Tackles: 24
Solo Tackles: 21
Sacks: 0.0
Passes Defended: 6
Interceptions: 2

Vontae Davis
Total Tackles: 20
Solo Tackles: 17
Sacks: 0.0
Passes Defended: 12
Interceptions: 2

Bjoern Werner
Total Tackles: 19
Solo Tackles: 14
Sacks: 4.0
Passes Defended: 1
Interceptions: 0

Here is a look at the Colts special teams

Kicking

Adam Vinatieri
Field Goals Attempted: 14
Field Goals Made: 14
Long: 50
1-19: 0-0
20-29: 5-5
30-39: 5-5
40-49: 3-3
50+: 1-1
Extra Points: 24-24

Punting

Pat McAfee
Punts: 27
Yards: 1,285
Average: 47.6
Long: 61
Inside 20: 13
Touchback: 1
Fair Catch: 10
Average Return Against: 4.3

Returns

Griff Whalen
Kick Return Attempts: 8
Kick Return Yards: 221
Kick Return Average: 27.6
Kick Return Long: 32
Kick Return TD: 0
Punt Return Attempts: 20
Punt Return Yards: 133
Punt Return Average: 6.7
Punt Return Long: 22
Punt Return TD: 0

Prediction: Colts 29, Steelers 20

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Penguins Game 5 Preview - vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers

8:00 p.m., CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The Penguins Last Game
October 18, 2014 - Pittsburgh 3, New York 1


Probables

Pittsburgh (3-1-0) [via Dailyfaceoff]

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist
Pascal Dupuis - Brandon Sutter - Evgeni Malkin
Blake Comeau - Nick Spaling - Steve Downie
Zach Sill - Marcel Goc - Craig Adams

Defense
Kris Letang - Olli Maatta
Paul Martin - Christian Ehrhoff
Simon Despres - Rob Scuderi

Goaltender
Marc-Andre Fleury

Philadelphia (1-3-2) [via Dailyfaceoff]

Forwards
Michael Raffl - Claude Giroux - Jake Voracek
Brayden Schenn - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Wayne Simmonds
R.J. Umberger - Sean Couturier - Matt Read
Zac Rinaldo - Chris VandeVelde - Blair Jones

Defense
Nick Grossmann - Andrew MacDonald
Nick Schultz - Mark Streit
Michael Del Zotto - Luke Schenn

Goaltender
Ray Emery


Stats

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Steelers Game 7 Recap - Steelers 30, Texans 23

First almost the entire first half the Steelers like one of the worst football teams in the league. They weren't doing anything right on offense or defense and they were getting booed off the field on nearly every offensive possession. It was really bad times. After they failed to put up points on the first drive and subsequently pin the Texans on their own six yard line they allowed Houston to go 94 yards on 10 plays for a touchdown. Not only was that bad but allowing Houston to gain huge chunks of yards was a concern:



Woof.

Luckily for the Steelers fans the something clicked late in the second quarter and it led to a landslide of points that I don't think I have ever see from a Steelers team in my lifetime. Shaun Suisham closed out an eight play, 60 yard drive with a field goal with 3:08 remaining in the half and it was the first of 24 points the Steelers would score in the last 3:08to turn a 13-0 deficit into an 11 point halftime lead.

The Steelers forced a pair of turnovers inside the Texans' 20 yard line and in five plays and in 1:10 scored three touchdowns. Houston had no idea what to do. They looked like they didn't have an answer and just kept coughing the ball up and the Steelers kept their foot on the gas.

For much of the season the offense has been wildly inconsistent but for a brief stretch last night they completely dominated the opposing team and damn near put the game away.

Thanks to some shoddy receiver play recently Martavis Bryant, the Steelers fourth round pick out of Clemson, caught his first touchdown pass in his first game played from Ben Roethlisberger which was followed by a Lance Moore and Le'Veon Bell touchdown receptions.

The Moore touchdown was something to behold as it was Antonio Brown throwing the pass a play after the Steelers forced an Arian Foster fumble. Brown was going from left to right and stopped right after the handoff and rolled back to his left and threw a strike to Moore who was decently covered. What can't Antonio Brown do?

Speaking of, I think I sound like a broken record but Brown continues to be one of the very best receivers in the league. He caught nine passes for 90 yards and it would have been even more if the officials would have gave him a touchdown late in the game. It looked like it was a good catch on the TV and it didn't come back to hurt the Steelers but it's hard to get a touchdown taken off the board. Currently Brown leads the league with 719 receiving yards on 50 catches, the most among receivers (Matt Forte leads the league with 52). You know that there is going to be a game where he gets shut down but right now I just can't see that happening.

Another "broken record" is Bell. Dude is just a monster. Over the past five years the Steelers have done a really poor job of utilizing the backs out of the backfield despite having some good athletes back there, but this year is different. Bell caught eight passes for 88 yards including a huge 43 yard catch and run on third and long in the second quarter that led to the Steelers first points of the game. Bell also had 12 carries for 57 yards for almost five yards per carry. When the ball is in his hands a lot of things go right.

Bell also had a stake in this little tidbit:



Overall I don't think the Steelers have a very good team. They struggle on offense, struggle on defense, and struggle on special teams. They had an outstanding stretch of football in the second quarter but most of the first half was just horrible. The inconsistencies were still there but I guess it might be a good sign that they were at least able to overcome the lackluster play and win the game. They still were not able to finish drives but they were able to get points. In back-to-back drives in the fourth quarter they got field goals but putting the game away would have been really nice.

Defensively it was the same as the offense. I don't think they are a good defense and they are relying on some really past-their-prime players but the fact is that they stepped up last night. The Steelers have had a really tough time creating turnovers but they got three last night and they all came at really crucial times. They really struggled in the first half giving up scoring drives in each of Houston's first three drives but after that they buckled down and allowed Houston to gain only seven yards on the next five drives (one was to end the half). That is some good defense to pick up the offense.

After giving up massive amount of yards on penalties the Steelers committed only six penalties for 38 yards on Sunday.

All Lawrence Timmons does is make tackles. Actually he throws up on the field too, which might have been the sole reason for the turnaround late in the second half, but that is neither here nor there. Timmons made 12 tackles with 11 of them solo, and had a sack and two tackles for loss. He has been a bit up and down this season but overall has been pretty steady all season. That is how you bounce back from throwing up on the field.

The Steelers are now 4-3. The season hasn't been good but all things being equal they are only one back in the loss column from both Baltimore and Cincinnati and while I don't think they are a playoff team you never know what can happen.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Penguins Game 4 Preview - vs. New York Islanders

New York Islanders

1:00 p.m., CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The Last Penguins Game
October 16, 2014 - Dallas 3, Pittsburgh 2


The Probables

Pittsburgh (2-1-0) [via Penguins website]

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist
Pascal Dupuis - Brandon Sutter - Evgeni Malkin
Steve Downie - Nick Spaling - - Blake Comeau
Zach Sill - Marcel Goc - Craig Adams

Defense
Christian Ehrhoff - Paul Martin
Olli Maatta - Kris Letang
Rob Scuderi - Simon Despres

Goaltender
Marc-Andre Fleury

New York (4-0-0) [via Dailyfaceoff]

Forwards
Cory Conacher - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo
Josh Bailey - Brock Nelson - Ryan Strome
Nikolai Kulemin - Frans Nielsen - Cal Clutterbuck
Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Colin McDonald

Defense
Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk
Thomas Hickey - Travis Hamonic
Brian Strait - Calvin de Haan

Goaltender
Jaroslav Halak


Stats

Friday, October 17, 2014

Steelers Game 7 Preview - vs. Houston Texans

This is going to be a very abbreviated preview. I am in the process of starting a new job and moving so I have had barely enough time to sleep this week but that doesn't mean the world stops or the Steelers aren't going to be playing football. To say that the Steelers have been underwhelming would be an understatement. Last week they got embarrassed by the Browns and now they are 3-3 to start the season. They seems pretty fitting because they are a largely average team and including last season they are 11-11. Exciting.

The Texans aren't really an overwhelmingly good team, but neither were Tampa Bay and some of the other teams that the Steelers have struggled against. The Texans passing offense is pretty bad but they have a running game led by Arian Foster. The Texans are averaging 22 points per game which is just a touch above the Steelers while the Texans defense has been pretty poor. In terms of DVOA they rank right in the middle of the league against the pass and are getting gashed against the run, ranking 24th.

Here are the numbers for the Houston offense:

Passing

Ryan Fitzpatrick
Completions: 104
Attempts: 160
Completion %: 65%
Yards: 1,268
YPA: 7.9
TD: 6
INT: 6
DVOA: -5.8% (26th)
DYAR: 59 (25th)

Rushing

Arian Foster
Attempts: 106
Yards: 513
Average: 4.8
Touchdowns: 5
DVOA: 7.3% (11th)
DYAR: 66 (7th)
Success Rate: 49% (15th)

Alfred Blue
Attempts: 42
Yards: 165
Average: 3.9
Touchdowns: 0
DVOA: -18.9%
DYAR: -17

Receiving

Andre Johnson
Receptions: 34
Targets: 54
Yards: 419
Average: 12.3
Touchdowns: 1
DVOA: -6.9% (49th)
DYAR: 26 (41st)
Catch Rate: 63%

DeAndre Hopkins
Receptions: 25
Targets: 33
Yards: 366
Average: 14.6
Touchdowns: 3
DVOA: 31.6% (5th)
DYAR: 114 (13th)
Catch Rate: 76%

Damaris Johnson
Receptions: 8
Targets: 14
Yards: 133
Average: 16.6
Touchdowns: 1
DVOA: 9.6%
DYAR: 23
Catch Rate: 57%

Offensive Line
Adjusted Line Yards: 3.75 (23rd)
Power Success: 59% (22nd)
Stuffed %: 19% (19th)

Rushing Frequency:
Left End: 6% (3.34 ALY, 22nd)
Left Tackle: 21% (3.70, 19th)
Middle/Guard: 47% (4.00, 18th)
Right Tackle: 21% (3.25, 26th)
Right End: 6% (4.24, 12th)

Here is a look at the Houston Defense. The Houston defense ranks 15th overall in terms of DVOA at -0.3% while they rank 12th in pass defense (0.8%) and 24th in rushing defense (-1.8%).

Here are some of the statistical leaders for the defense:

Brian Cushing
Total Tackles: 49
Solo Tackles: 30
Sacks: 1.0
Passes Defended: 1
Interceptions: 0

Johnathan Joseph
Total Tackles: 41
Solo Tackles: 38
Sacks: 0
Passes Defended: 3
Interceptions: 0

Kendrick Lewis
Total Tackles: 40
Solo Tackles: 29
Sacks: 0
Passes Defended: 1
Interceptions: 1

Kareem Jackson
Total Tackles: 32
Solo Tackles: 26
Sacks: 0
Passes Defended: 4
Interceptions: 1

J.J. Watt
Total Tackles: 26
Solo Tackles: 17
Sacks: 4.0
Passes Defended: 6
Interceptions: 1

Here is a look at the Texans special teams

Kicking

Randy Bullock
Field Goals Attempted: 11
Field Goals Made: 9
Long: 55
1-19: 0/0
20-29: 2/3
30-39: 2/3
40-49: 3/3
50+: 2/2
Extra Points: 15/15

Punting

Shane Lechler
Punts: 29
Yards: 1,405
Average: 48.4
Long: 71
Inside 20: 8
Touchback: 6
Fair Catch: 5
Average Return Against: 11.8 yards

Returns

Damaris Johnson
Kick Return Attempts: 4
Kick Return Yards: 94
Kick Return Average: 23.5
Kick Return Long: 31
Kick Return TD: 0
Punt Return Attempts: 9
Punt Return Yards: 54
Punt Return Average: 6.0
Punt Return Long: 12
Punt Return TD: 0

Prediction: Steelers 24, Texans 21

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Steelers Game 6 Recap - Browns 31, Steelers 10

This was just a pretty bad football game all the way around. I wouldn't say the Steelers lost to a bad football team because the Browns can play some pretty good football but the manner in which the Steelers lost the game and were just outright dominated by Cleveland leaves you wondering if another 8-8 or worse season is all but inevitable.

Really nothing went right. The Steelers defense played pretty well in the first quarter and it would have been a great time for the Steelers offense to put up some points and maybe make the Browns feel the pressure. All that happened was the Steelers got a field goal in the red zone and they wouldn't score again until late in the fourth quarter. Just a dismal effort by the offense against a bad defense and really is what led to the loss.

While the Steelers were busy not scoring points the Browns were busy scoring points.


The Steelers had no answers for the Cleveland offense and they couldn't do anything offensively. The Browns didn't really do much defensively but the Steelers were dropping passes and missing targets and not hitting the hole and just generally looking awful.

Ben Roethlisberger did not look good throwing the football as he barely completed 50% of his passes and didn't even get over five yards per pass attempt. I don't think he had a lot of help but when the Steelers run game doing a pretty decent job you have to make something happen through the air. It is a passing league and when you can't pass it's going to be next to impossible to win.

Antonio Brown had a nice day with seven catches for 118 yards and Le'Veon Bell carried the ball 18 times for 82 yards so there were some positive plays around. That was about it though. It was a really bad day for the Steelers.

I will just end it with the Steelers drive chart:

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Penguins Game 2 Preview - @ Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs

7:00 p.m., Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario

The Last Penguins Game:
October 9, 2014 - Pittsburgh 6, Anaheim 4 [Recap]

Probables

Pittsburgh (1-0-0) [via Dailyfaceoff]

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist
Pascal Dupuis - Brandon Sutter - Evgeni Malkin
Nick Spaling - Marcel Goc - Blake Comeau
Steve Downie - Zach Sill - Craig Adams

Defense
Christian Ehrhoff - Kris Letang
Olli Maatta - Paul Martin
Rob Scuderi - Simon Despres

Goaltender
Marc-Andre Fleury

Toronto (0-1-0) [via Dailyfaceoff]

Forwards
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Joffrey Lupul - Nazem Kadri - Brandon Kozun
Daniel Winnik - Peter Holland - Richard Panik
Leo Komarov - Mike Santorelli - David Clarkson

Defense
Dion Phaneuf - Stephane Robidas
Jake Gardiner - Morgan Rielly
Stuart Percy - Roman Polak

Goaltender
Jonathan Bernier


Stats

Friday, October 10, 2014

Steelers Game 6 Preview - @ Cleveland Browns

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns – 1:00 p.m.
CBS – Greg Gumbel, Trent Green
All-Time Record: Pittsburgh leads 66-57 (Pittsburgh leads 2-0 in playoffs)
Last Meeting: September 7, 2014 – Pittsburgh 30, Cleveland 27


Before the Steelers play a single game against the Cincinnati Bengals they will play their second game against the Cleveland Browns. Interesting in how that works out but after a week one win over the Browns the Steelers look to in the fifth straight game against the Browns and the 33rd time in the last 38 games.

In week one the Steelers sprinted out to a 27-10 halftime lead before the Browns came storming back to tie the game at 27 in the fourth quarter before Shaun Suisham won the game for the Steelers. The Steelers offense racked up 503 yards of offense but it was the Browns offense that scored in their first four possessions of the second half to go along with 288 yards of offense.


As it was for every game last season here are some of the key terms I am going to use to break down the Jaguars for your reference. All information came from Football Outsiders :

DVOA - DVOA is a method of evaluating teams, units, or players. It takes every single play during the NFL season and compares each one to a league-average baseline based on situation. DVOA measures not just yardage, but yardage towards a first down: Five yards on third-and-4 are worth more than five yards on first-and-10 and much more than five yards on third-and-12. Red zone plays are worth more than other plays. Performance is also adjusted for the quality of the opponent. DVOA is a percentage, so a team with a DVOA of 10.0% is 10 percent better than the average team, and a quarterback with a DVOA of -20.0% is 20 percent worse than the average quarterback. Because DVOA measures scoring, defenses are better when they are negative.

DYAR - Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement. This gives the value of the player’s performance compared to replacement level, adjusted for situation and opponent and then translated into yardage.

ALY - Adjusted Line Yards. Based on regression analysis , the Adjusted Line Yards formula takes all running back carries and assigns responsibility to the offensive line based on the following percentages:

Losses: 120% value
0-4 Yards: 100% value
5-10 Yards: 50% value
11+ Yards: 0% value

These numbers are then adjusted based on down, distance, situation, opponent, and the difference in rushing average between shotgun compared to standard formations. Finally, we normalize the numbers so that the league average for Adjusted Line Yards per carry is the same as the league average for RB yards per carry.

Power Success - Percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown. Also includes runs on first-and-goal or second-and-goal from the two-yard line or closer. This is the only statistic on this page that includes quarterbacks.

Stuffed - Percentage of runs where the running back is tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage. Since being stuffed is bad, teams are ranked from stuffed least often (#1) to most often (#32).

Adjusted Sack Rate -  Gives sacks (plus intentional grounding penalties) per pass attempt adjusted for down, distance, and opponent.

Catch Rate - Catch Rate represents the percentage of passes to this receiver completed. This is a reference to incomplete passes, not dropped passes.

Success Rate - This number represents the player's consistency, measured by successful running plays (the definition of success being different based on down and distance) divided by total running plays. A player with higher DVOA and a low success rate mixes long runs with downs getting stuffed at the line of scrimmage. A player with lower DVOA and a high success rate generally gets the yards needed, but doesn't often get more.

Effective Yards - translate DVOA into a yards per attempt figure. This provides an easy comparison: in general, players with more Effective Yards than standard yards played better than standard stats would otherwise indicate, while players with fewer Effective Yards than standard yards played worse than standard stats would otherwise indicate. Effective Yards are not the best way to measure total value because they are more dependent on usage than DYAR.

QBR - Total QBR (listed as just QBR) is a metric created by the ESPN Stats & Information group. Total QBR is based on the expected points added by the quarterback on each play, then adjusts the numbers to a scale of 0-100. League average is 50. There are five main differences between Total QBR and Football Outsiders' DVOA metric (with further explanation here):

-Total QBR incorporates information from game charting, such as passes dropped or thrown away on purpose.
-Total QBR splits responsibility on plays between the quarterback, his receivers, and his blockers. Drops, for example, are more on the receiver, as are yards after the catch, and some sacks are more on the offensive line than others.
-Total QBR has a clutch factor which adds (or subtracts) value for quarterbacks who perform best (or worst) in high-leverage situations.
-Total QBR combines passing and rushing value into one number and differentiates between scrambles and planned runs.
-Total QBR is not adjusted for strength of opponent.

And now lets take a look at the Browns.

Cleveland Offense

Overall the Browns have been one of the best teams in the league on offense. That feels kind of weird to say after the Browns have been just dreadful in my lifetime but they rank fourth in the NFL with an offensive DVOA of 21.2% that was on display in a 25 points comeback win last week. Their pass offense ranks fourth in the league with a 40.3% DVOA while their rushing attack is fifth with a 7.5% DVOA.

Would it shock you to know that Brian Hoyer ranks ahead of Ben Roethlisberger in every advanced statistic including DYR (249, eighth), DVOA (12.2%, seventh), and QBR (72.2, eighth)? Well that is where we are. The Browns aren’t the most talented team on paper but Hoyer is making the offense click at a very high rate. When Johnny Manziel was drafted it was thought he was going to get first shot to make things work but since Hoyer was named the starter in camp he has never looked back.

Last week in the come-from-behind win he completed 21-of-37 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns. In week one against the Steelers he went 18-of-30 for 22 yards and a touchdown and had his way in the second half completing big passes on crucial third downs. This isn’t to say Hoyer isn’t breakable because he still makes mistakes and has a relatively low completion percentage but this isn’t a Browns quarterback from the past. He can actually play.

In terms of receiving options the Browns don’t really have the flashy, bit names on their roster. Jordan Cameron is the big name in the tight end spot but he has been hampered with a shoulder injury and has only six catches for 103 yards this season. He was targeted seven times last week against Tennessee and made only three catches for 33 yards. Last time out against the Steelers he was knocked out of the game with that shoulder injury after making two catches for 47 yards with one catch accounting for all of those yards.

Miles Austin is the other big name receiver on the team and has made 16 catches but only for 169 yards. He does have two of the teams six touchdown catches and is the highest ranked pass catcher in both DYAR (37, 28th) and DVOA (8.3%, 21st). Austin has a very impressive catch rate of 70% but has been largely kept in check with his top game coming last week where he catch two passes for 54 yards.

Andrew Hawkins leads the team in catches (24), targets (42), yards (271), and catches for 20 yards or more (four). Hawkins has a catch rate of only 54% and while he headlines the team in the statistical categories he is just a fringy top-50 receiver with a DYAR of 10 (48th) and a DVOA of -9.2% (49th). Hawkins had hiw way with the Steelers secondary in week one with eight catches for 87 yards. He might not be the biggest name but when Hoyer needed someone to go to it was Hawkins who he looked at.

In terms of pass blocking the Browns have kept Hoyer relatively clean. They have allowed only six sacks on the season which is almost 33% of what the Steelers have given up (15) and the Browns post an adjusted sack rate of 5.1% ranks 13th in the league.

The Browns have been doing a pretty excellent job of running the football this season as evident by their 143 rushing yards per game divided up by three different running backs. Terrance West has been carrying the workload and is averaging nearly 60 yards per game and a pair of touchdowns on 54 carries. West had his way with the Steelers in week one after coming in for Ben Tate who was knocked out of the game. He carried 16 times for 100 yards and it was by far his best outing. West ranks 11th in DYAR (46),while posting a DVOA of 10.9% that is ninth in the league and having a respectable success rate of 56%.

It will be interesting to see how much West touches the ball since Tate is back in action. After leaving the week one game after six carries for 41 yards he missed nearly the next month of action. Last week against Tennessee he carried the rock 22 times for 124 yards so it seems as if West is going to take a backseat to Tate as long as he is successful. Tate had some good success before going out with the knee injury in week one so I wouldn’t be shocked to see him have some success on Sunday.

In terms of advanced statistics the Browns don’t rank out quite as high as they do with the raw numbers. Cleveland has a 4.29 adjusted line yards that ranks 11th in the league. The ALY is quite a bit below the running back yard average of 4.79 which might indicate that the Browns running backs are doing a pretty good job of getting yards themselves without getting great run blocking. All told the league average is 4.20 so it isn’t as if the Browns line and running backs are below average, it just seems that the running backs themselves are doing a great job.

In terms of short yardage play Cleveland has a power success percentage of 60% that ranks 19th in the league while their stuffed percentage of 16% is 12th in the league. Neither of those are horrible numbers but more middle of the pack. Again, not saying that they are bad but not nearly as close to a top-five rushing team as the raw numbers might indicate.

The Browns have a pretty balanced running attack that is largely predicated on running inside. They are below league average running 44% of their running plays up the middle or off the guards but they also run to each tackle quite a bit above league average. They run to the left tackle 19% of the time (league average 14%) and run to the right tackle 22% of the time (league average 13%) which is to show that they don’t really try to get to the perimeter as much as most teams do.

The Browns run off the tackles a good bit more because they are very good at it. When running to the left tackle the Browns are second in the league with an ALY of 5.67 while they are fifth in the league with an ALY of 4.96 when running to the right tackle. They rank 20th or worse in each of the other three areas and the ALY in each area is below league average so I think the Browns will try to attack those areas.

Cleveland Defense

While the Cleveland offense has been putting up big points and coming back from big time deficits they have been covering up from what has been a pretty bad defense. The Browns are surrendering almost 422 yards per game that includes 153 rushing yards and 269 yards through the air. They have allowed over 26 point per game and have allowed at least 23 points in every game this season.

Football Outsiders ranks Cleveland’s defense 31st in the league with a 17.9% DVOA, while they rank 30th against the pass (34.7%) and 28th against the run (2.3%). It would be one thing to say that they had a bad week that would throw things way out of line but Cleveland leads the league with a variance of 0.8%. What that means is that the Cleveland defense is the most consistent in the league. Most consistent at being bad. Not good.

Looking like Joe Haden might be a game-time decision for the Browns and if he isn’t able to go the Steelers are really going to have an advantage. Against opposing top receivers the Browns have a 99.5% DVOA (!!!) that is dead last in the league and 38% more than the second-worst team in the league. WOOF. Against the number two receivers Cleveland is a little better with an 11.2% DVOA that ranks only 22nd in the league but they are 29th (43.1%) against all other receivers.

The Browns do have some success against tight ands and running backs but in the grand scheme of the passing game that is like the consolation prize. Against tight ends they rank 10th in the league while ranking ninth in the league against running backs. The Steelers like to throw to the backs out of the backfield so that might make a difference but if they can’t cover Antonio Brown or Markus Wheaton or Lance Moore than that is a moot point.

The Browns are about average in terms of getting after the quarterback. They have registered nine sacks on the season and that is just one more than the Steelers have got. The Steelers do not get after the quarterback well. Cleveland ranks 12th with an adjusted sack rate of 6.3%. Ex-Raven Paul Kruger and ex-Pitt Panther Jabaal Sheard each have a pair of sacks this season. In the last meeting the Browns got to Roethlisberger three times. All things considered that is a pretty decent performance by the pass protection.

Cleveland is giving up an average of 4.82 yards to running backs and ranks 23rd in the league with an adjusted line yards of 4.38. The Browns do a pretty nice job against the short yardage runs with a power success rate of 57% that is 10th in the league while they don’t do as well at stuffing the run with a rate of 16% that is 21st in the league.

A big hit to the run defense for the Browns is going to have to play without Phil Taylor who is going to miss the game. Taylor is an underrated defensive player that doesn’t get a lot of pub but make the defense go. Much in the same way Casey Hampton stuffed the run for the Steelers in his prime is what Taylor does for the Browns. This is huge news for the Steelers even after they ran for 127 yards in the first meeting.

Teams are attacking the Browns up the middle on a majority of the carries up the middle or off the guards. Teams are attacking that area 59% of the running back carries while teams are running to the right offensive tackle 19%. In terms of success teams are averaging a 4.14 ALY up the middle while gaining a 5.31 ALY off the offensive right guard. The Steelers will have some opportunities to gain chucks of yardage on the ground.

Karlos Dansby eads the team with 31 total tackles (20 solo) with a sack and an interception while Donte Whitner has 30 teakles and a team-high 23 solo tackles. Tashaun Gipson has a pair of interceptions while Dansby has four of the teams 10 tackles for loss.

Cleveland Special Teams

The great Billy Cundiff will once again handle the kicking duties for the Browns. So far this season he is 6-of-8 with a miss in the 30-39 area and one from 50+ yards. He has also made every extra point this season, but who hasn’t?

Spencer Lanning punts for the Browns and sits in the bottom-half of the league in terms of average with only 44.7 yards per punt. His net average doesn’t even reach 40 yards (39.4) which is also right in the middle of the league. The coverage team does an average job with what they are given as oppositions average 8.6 yards per punt return.

Travis Benjamin and Marlon Moore share the kick returning duties. Moore is the more successful returner averaging 27 yards per return (four attempts) while Benjamin averages 21 yards per return on five attempts. The Browns are pretty brutal in terms of punt returning as Jordan Poyer averages a team-best 3.5 yards per return (four attempts) while Benjamin has three returns for two yards.

The Steelers

A nice tidbit about the Steelers passing attack:

The Steelers are in an interesting predicament. The Browns are doing a pretty awful job at covering the pass and if Haden is out they might want to attack that secondary. With Taylor out and a  strong group of running backs the Steelers can attack on the ground as well. Bell is eighth in the league with a DYAR of 63 and is 12th in DVOA (9.9%) all despite being second in the league in rushing yards. Bell also has a poor success rate (45%, 21st) but he is still making the right moves. He has been wildly successful in the passing game with a catch rate of 83% and a DVOA that ranks sixth among all running backs in the passing game (36.5%).

With Cam Thomas playing some pretty awful football I would look for Stephon Tuitt to get a lot more snaps as the season progresses. He has averaged between 10-12 snaps a game and he has looked better in every game. He seems to have been slow to learn the system but at this point I don't think there is anything wrong with getting him more playing time. Thomas had the third-most snaps (28) of any defensive lineman last week and I wouldn't be surprised if the gap between Tuitt and Thomas to shrink.

PREDICTION – I do not think that this is going to be like the week one matchup. While the Browns have a pretty good offensively this year they have been just as bad defensively. The Steelers have been pretty inconsistent on both sides of the ball so I could see this game going either way. The Steelers could come out for a put together a solid offensive performance and get a few stops and win. On the other hand they can’t be complacent at all. In week one they were up big and allowed the Browns to tie it and last week the Browns came back from a 25 points deficit to win. They are never out of it. I think this goes back and forth but the Steelers come out on top. Steelers 27, Browns 24.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Penguins Game 1 Recap - Penguins 6, Ducks 4

It feels like a really long time since the Penguins took the ice. It was last May when they blew a 3-1 series lead against the Rangers and were out of the playoffs. Ray Shero was the general manager and Dan Bylsma was the head coach. Neither are there and the changes that were made paid big dividends in the first night as the Penguins scored six goals. You score six goals in a game and you should win 100% of the time.

The Penguins got out to a three goal lead in the first period with all the goals coming in less than an eight minute span. Patric Hornqvist opened the scoring with his first goal as a Penguin which was followed by Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis. It was interesting to me to see how the Penguins played with this lead. Last year they would get out to leads like this and then sit on it and usually give it up.

They did that again this year. After storming out to a three goal lead they allowed Anaheim to score three of their own with two of them coming on the power play. Now the interesting part was to see how they would react. Last year it seemed as if they would let the game get to them and try to force things. This year, in the first game at least, they just kept going and ended up scoring the next three goals to really put it away.

It was good to see. I mean this is obviously a small sample size and it could play out different the next time but for one night it seems as if the plan of letting the players go out and run worked for new head coach Mike Johnston. The Penguins were noticeably faster and they controlled the puck for a majority of the game. The Penguins were a pretty good possession team last season but they were exceptional tonight carrying play with a CorsiFor of 60 and a Fenwick% of nearly 56. A good start for Johnston and his run and gun strategy.

Who knew that carrying the puck into the zone could work? You could tell that the Penguins were still a little used to their dump and chase methods they had under Bylsma but the defenseman were able to carry the puck into the zone and join rushes and it helped guys like Olli Maatta help carry the offense with three points (all assists).

Dupuis was playing his first game in a long time after blowing out his knee last season and if tonight is any indication of how he is going to play this year we are in for a treat. He scored a goal and assisted on three other while playing on the second line.

Crosby was as good as he's ever been. A pair of goals and an arguable assist on another. At the end of last year you could tell that something was wrong with him and it was his wrist. He didn't need surgery and it seems like a little rest was all he needed. He looked rested and fast and like a player that can do whatever he wants whenever he wants. So basically like usual.

This is a big year for Marc-Andre Fleury and his results were pretty mixed. I thought he played really well early making some pretty nice saves to let the offense open the lead up but the penalty kill let him down along with his inability to be able to play the puck behind the net. He didn't face a ton of shots (29) but he made some big saves. The Penguins scored six goals and he gave up less than six goals. hooray.

It is way too early to make any declarations about the season. This is just game one of 82 and things could go bad really quickly but for right now the Penguins look like a different hockey team, which I think is a good thing.

Penguins Game 1 Preview - vs. Anaheim Ducks

Anaheim Ducks

7:00 p.m., CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The Last Penguins Game
May 13, 2013 - New York 2, Pittsburgh 1 [Recap]

Probables

Pittsburgh (0-0-0) [via Dailyfaceoff]

Forwards
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist
Pascal Dupuis - Brandon Sutter - Evgeni Malkin
]Nick Spaling - Marcel Goc - Blake Comeau
Steve Downie - Zach Sill - Craig Adams

Defense
Christian Ehrhoff - Kris Letang
Olli Maatta - Paul Martin
Rob Scuderi - Simon Despres

Goaltender
Marc-Andre Fleury

Anaheim (0-0-0) [via Dailyfaceoff]

Forwards
Patrick Maroon - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano - Ryan Kesler - Jakob Silfverberg
Emerson Etem - Rickard Rakell - Devante Smith-Pelly
Matt Beleskey - Nate Thompson - Tim Jackman

Defense
Francois Beauchemin - Hampus Lindholm
Cam Fowler - Ben Lovejoy
Clayton Stoner - Sami Vatanen

Goaltender
John Gibson

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Steelers Game 5 Recap - Steelers 17, Jaguars 9

The Steelers needed to win this game. They didn't play great and they gave Jacksonville many opportunities to get things done but at the end of the day it was the Steelers defense that sealed the game. For a team that wasn't able to create any turnovers they all but ended the game with a pick-six from Brice McCain in the fourth quarter and held Jacksonville to only 243 total yards of offense. If you read the preview you know that Jacksonville was pretty bad offensively and while they were able to get a few drives going they ended in field goals.

The Steelers picked off two passes on the game and forced three fumbles. They didn't recover any of the fumbles but still really good to see the defense finally step up. Last week against Tampa Bay they couldn't get that game changing play and it allowed a below average (at best) offense to go up and down the field and eventually win the game. The defense got off the field on third down with Jacksonville converting only 3-of-12 times on third down so maybe that is the story of the game.

It was really pretty good across the board for the defense. Cortez Allen has been pretty brutal this season and thus he was targeted often in this game. I don't think he played great but this was easily his best game of the season. He had an interception in his second straight game and it was a pretty good play. He did get beat a few times but he had three additional pass breakups and did a much better job tackling the catch with seven tackles to co-lead the team. Hopefully this is a good jumping-off point for Allen.

The Steelers offense was really up and down. It is going to look pretty decent as they gained 372 yards and 111 on the ground while going 8-of-16 on third downs but they were bogged down. They converted only once in four red zone opportunities and they combined for zero points in the second half. The only second half points came on the McCain interception. The defense faced a pretty bad offense and if the Steelers are going to start running off some wins the offense is going to be have to be more consistent and put up more points.

It is going to look like the offense line had another bad game but I am not really sure they were all that bad. Ben Roethlisberger got sacked four times on the day, which is less than ideal, but I would say about three of those were on Ben himself. It is no secret that he holds onto the ball a long time and most of the time that results in some really good plays for the Steelers. Other times it results in sacks and sometimes turnovers like it did yesterday. I am not going to sit here and say that he should try to force more passes into tight windows or that he should throw every pass away when his third or fourth read isn't there initially but in certain spots just chucking the ball into the seventh row wouldn't be awful to save seven or eight yards. It's a fine line to walk because he does so many good things by not throwing the ball away but sometimes less is more. The offensive line is going to take heat for those sacks but I don't really think it was all on them.

In the preview I talked about the Jacksonville run defense and how it was the best part of the team but the Steelers, and the offensive line, did a pretty good job of attacking them. As I said before they ran for 111 yards on 28 carries which included 82 yards on 15 carries for Le'Veon Bell. Bell was once again one of the best offensive players on the day and along with his running stats he added five catches (on six targets) for 36 yards. Along with Bell his partner in crime LeGarrette Blount had 29 yards on eight carries while making three catches for 16 yards. All-in-all it was a really nice job by the run game against a pretty decent run defense. That makes it all the more head scratching as to why the passing game was bad against a pretty bad pass defense.

The really big talking point coming off the game was in terms of a late game pass play to Antonio Brown. The Steelers defense came up big with a three and out with just over four minutes left in the game. The Steelers picked up a first down right before the two minute warning which meant they could almost just kneel the ball and the game would be over. Instead on first down the Steelers lined up Antonio Brown in the backfield and threw him a quick screen pass. Why would they do that? Brown had only four catches and needed one more to extend his NFL streak of five catches for 50 yards. He got the catch and it went for 16 yards. This is a tough one for me. While I think playing for personal records is not ideal I can see why the Steelers would want to make that play. He's been as good as you can imagine this season and extending a record, albeit an amazingly arbitrary one, is pretty cool. This is a different story if he fumbles or the pass is intercepted but it wasn't. I probably wouldn't advise doing it in the future but it doesn't both me all that much.

The Steelers cut down on the penalties a bit. They had only seven of them for 50 yards which is about half of what their season average is. They have been a wildly undisciplined team this year so it is kind of nice to see that they can keep themselves in check. I won't say it was perfect because there were some bad penalties (hi Lance Moore) but it isn't the worst they've been all season, by a long shot.

I wouldn't chalk this up as a "good" win in the sense that Jacksonville was giving up almost 40 points per game and the Steelers were largely kept in check but at this point I will take any win. Actually at any point I will take a win. It is much better than a loss, no matter what someone else might tell you.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Pirates Minor Moves: DFA Tabata, Acquire Guilmet






Not really much to talk about here. Jose Tabata being designated for assignment might be a little shocking on the surface but there is no way any team is going to take on the rest of his contract. If some team did claim him that would actually work out well for the Pirates. Tabata is the first guy off the 40-man roster this offseason and that is probably because there is 100% chance he clears. Pirates management never lets guys go for free so this kinda gives you a hint as to how confident they are of him clearing waivers.

I don't really know anything about Preston Guilmet. He threw a handful of major league innings this year but has some good numbers in the minors so this might be a case of buying low for the Pirates for bullpen arms that could turn into something good. John Dreker over at Pirates Prospects had the numbers on the guy.

Steelers Game 5 Preview - @ Jacksonville Jaguars

Pittsburgh Steelers at Jacksonville Jaguars – 1:00 p.m.
CBS – Spero Dedes, Solomon Wilcots
All-Time Record: Jaguars lead 11-10 (Jaguars lead 1-0 in playoffs)
Last Meeting: October 16, 2011 – Pittsburgh 17, Jacksonville 13


The Steelers are coming off just an awful game against Tampa Bay,. The Buccaneers were one of the worst teams in football before they came to Heinz Field and all they did was beat the Steelers down in the second half and used a Vincent Jackson touchdown with seven seconds left to come away with a three point win. Things will start the same this week as the Jaguars are not a good football team. They come in at 0-4 after a 33-14 loss to San Diego last week. If the Steelers want to bounce back and forget week four they need to take care of business against Jacksonville in week five.


As it was for every game last season here are some of the key terms I am going to use to break down the Jaguars for your reference. All information came from Football Outsiders :

DVOA - DVOA is a method of evaluating teams, units, or players. It takes every single play during the NFL season and compares each one to a league-average baseline based on situation. DVOA measures not just yardage, but yardage towards a first down: Five yards on third-and-4 are worth more than five yards on first-and-10 and much more than five yards on third-and-12. Red zone plays are worth more than other plays. Performance is also adjusted for the quality of the opponent. DVOA is a percentage, so a team with a DVOA of 10.0% is 10 percent better than the average team, and a quarterback with a DVOA of -20.0% is 20 percent worse than the average quarterback. Because DVOA measures scoring, defenses are better when they are negative.

DYAR - Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement. This gives the value of the player’s performance compared to replacement level, adjusted for situation and opponent and then translated into yardage.

ALY - Adjusted Line Yards. Based on regression analysis , the Adjusted Line Yards formula takes all running back carries and assigns responsibility to the offensive line based on the following percentages:

Losses: 120% value
0-4 Yards: 100% value
5-10 Yards: 50% value
11+ Yards: 0% value

These numbers are then adjusted based on down, distance, situation, opponent, and the difference in rushing average between shotgun compared to standard formations. Finally, we normalize the numbers so that the league average for Adjusted Line Yards per carry is the same as the league average for RB yards per carry.

Power Success - Percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown. Also includes runs on first-and-goal or second-and-goal from the two-yard line or closer. This is the only statistic on this page that includes quarterbacks.

Stuffed - Percentage of runs where the running back is tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage. Since being stuffed is bad, teams are ranked from stuffed least often (#1) to most often (#32).

Adjusted Sack Rate -  Gives sacks (plus intentional grounding penalties) per pass attempt adjusted for down, distance, and opponent.

Catch Rate - Catch Rate represents the percentage of passes to this receiver completed. This is a reference to incomplete passes, not dropped passes.

Success Rate - This number represents the player's consistency, measured by successful running plays (the definition of success being different based on down and distance) divided by total running plays. A player with higher DVOA and a low success rate mixes long runs with downs getting stuffed at the line of scrimmage. A player with lower DVOA and a high success rate generally gets the yards needed, but doesn't often get more.

Effective Yards - translate DVOA into a yards per attempt figure. This provides an easy comparison: in general, players with more Effective Yards than standard yards played better than standard stats would otherwise indicate, while players with fewer Effective Yards than standard yards played worse than standard stats would otherwise indicate. Effective Yards are not the best way to measure total value because they are more dependent on usage than DYAR.

QBR - Total QBR (listed as just QBR) is a metric created by the ESPN Stats & Information group. Total QBR is based on the expected points added by the quarterback on each play, then adjusts the numbers to a scale of 0-100. League average is 50. There are five main differences between Total QBR and Football Outsiders' DVOA metric (with further explanation here):

-Total QBR incorporates information from game charting, such as passes dropped or thrown away on purpose.
-Total QBR splits responsibility on plays between the quarterback, his receivers, and his blockers. Drops, for example, are more on the receiver, as are yards after the catch, and some sacks are more on the offensive line than others.
-Total QBR has a clutch factor which adds (or subtracts) value for quarterbacks who perform best (or worst) in high-leverage situations.
-Total QBR combines passing and rushing value into one number and differentiates between scrambles and planned runs.
-Total QBR is not adjusted for strength of opponent.

And now lets take a look at the Jags.

Jacksonville Offense

The Jacksonville offense does not score a lot of points. They scored 17 points twice this season and in the other two games they scored 10 and 14 points. That would be alright if they gave up less thank 35 points per game but the problem is that they give up a ton of points.

Man alive Jacksonville is really bad offensively. They rank 32nd overall in total offensive DVOA at -33.9% which includes the 31st ranked pass offense (-33%) and the 28th-best rush offense (-30.1%). That is all well and good but Tampa Bay ranks dead last in the league in passing offense in terms of DVOA (-37.3%) so maybe Jacksonville will throw the ball all over the field.

In terms of raw numbers the Jags are getting only 279 yards per game (31st) that includes only 70 yards on the ground and 209 yards through the air. They score 14.5 points per game and a -5 turnover differential. Oh my.

Blake Bortles leads (?) the offense from the quarterback position after missing the first two weeks. So far he’s completing 71% of his passes for a yard per attempt average of 7.80 yards and three touchdowns compared to four picks.

Bortles hasn’t been too bad in his first two career starts in his rookie campaign throwing for 253 yards, a touchdown, and two picks last week. Both of his starts have resulted in QBR’s that are nearly 60 so it’s not as if he is totally incompetent in the pocket. Both losses have been blowout losses so it might be a little hard to decipher how good he’s truly been but there are worse stat lines out there.

Bortles is the 31st ranked quarterback in terms of DVOA (-24.3%) that ranks him right around the EJ Manuel, Jake Locker, and Tom Brady (!!!) territory. His QBR of 59.3 puts him 21st overall while his DYAR also portrays him as a little better of a quarterback (-54, 27th)

The passing game isn’t overly successful and a quick scan of the Jacksonville receivers really doesn’t give you a whole lot of inspiration for them to be good. Some guy named Allen Hurns leads the staff with 254 yards and three touchdowns while former Penn State receiver Allen Robinson leads the team in catches (17) in his rookie year. Mercedes Lewis seems like he’s been in the league forever but is still playing tight end for the Jags with eight catches for 106 yards and a touchdown grab. Thirteen different Jacksonville players have caught a pass this year. I have no idea if that is a lot but it seems like a lot.

Hurns tops all the receivers in the advanced stats as he ranks 31st in both DYAR (42) and DVOA (10.4%) but only has a catch rate of 50% which isn’t very good at all. Robinson ranks 52nd in the league with a DVOA of -11.7% but boasts a much better catch rate of 65%.

The Jaguars do not protect the quarterback, at all. They have given up 20 sacks this season that is more than double the league average (eight) and seven more than the next worst team (Kansas City, 13). That works out to an adjusted sack rate of 12.3%, which is fairly awful.

It would be one thing if the Jags had a decent run game to make up for the fact that they can’t throw the football but that isn’t the case at all. As I said above they rush for only 70 yards per game and own the 28th ranked DVOA in terms of the run game. Gone are the days of Maurice Jones-Drew and in are the days of Roby Gerhart and Denard Robinson. Woof.

Gerhart was previously with Minnesota for his first four seasons playing backup to Adrian Petereson but now kind of has the head job in Jacksonville. He leads the team with 114 yards on 44 carries (yikes) and the teams lone rushing touchdown. Gerhart ranks 36th out of 38 qualified running backs with a DVOA of -38% and DYAR of -63. On the plus side he ranks better in both categories than LeSean McCoy. Gerhart has an abysmal success rate of 34% and hasn’t rushed for more than 50 yards in any game this season.

Fun fact, the Jags don’t have a rush of more than 20 yards all season.

Robinson played quarterback at Michigan and since being drafted in the fifth round by Jacksonville two years ago and is the teams second leading rusher. He’s carried the rock 20 times for 66 yards. Bad times.

Jacksonville is doing a little better job at the line of scrimmage for its running backs with a 3.20 adjusted line yards (ALY) compared to a running back yards average of only 2.90. That ALY ranks the Jags 28th in the league which is one spot higher than Tampa Bay, who the Steelers saw last night.

Jacksonville ranks 31st in the league in power success rate (40%) and 27th with a stuffed percentage of 25%. They really don’t do a lot of things right in the run game.

They do have a pretty balance rushing attack as they rush at least 13% of their running back carries in four different areas. They run the most rushing plats to the left end which is tied for the highest percentage in the league and is only one of two teams (Washington) that doesn’t rush the most up the middle or off the guards. They rush up the middle/off the guards 29% of the time while rushing to the right end 23% of the carries.

The Jaguars actually have the most success running to the right tackle (which they do 13% of the time) with an ALY of 4.28 (11th in league) while ranking no better than 18th in any other area. They rank 18th when running to the left end with an ALY of 3.66, which is below the league average (3.84).

Jacksonville Defense

Defensively the Jags really struggle. This actually feels like the preview I wrote last week for Tampa Bay so I am not sure how to feel about the Steelers chances this week. The Jags rank 31st in the league in overall team defensive DVOA (14.3%) while ranking 28th against the pass (31%) and 17th against the run (-7.7%). In terms of raw numbers the Jags give up over 451 yards per game which is dead last in the league and nearly 32 yards worse than the next worst defense. They give up 321 yards through the air and 130 yards on the ground per game. In other words, yikes.

In terms of covering opposing receivers the Jags aren’t really good anywhere. Most of the times a team will be good at covering the tight ends or the number two receiver but not Jacksonville. Against opposing top receivers Jacksonville is giving up a 51.1% DVOA with almost 87 yards per game. That ranks 28th in the league and right around where Tampa Bay ranked so expect the Steelers to target Antonio Brown, a lot.

They are a little better against number two receivers with a 35.8% DVOA but against all other receivers they rank dead last in the league with a 63.2% DVOA. Heath Miller is coming off a monster game where he caught 10 passes and his first touchdown of the year and should get some more opportunities against Jacksonville who ranks 17th in the league against tight ends.

What is interesting about the Jacksonville pass defense is that they do a pretty nice job about getting after the quarterback. They have 12 sacks on the season and have an adjusted sack rate of 7.8%, which is good for fourth in the league. The Jags don’t really have a big pass rush guy but Andre Branch leads the pack with three sacks while Sen’Derrick Marks (what a first name) and Ryan Davis each have a pair of sacks.

The Jaguars give up a boatload of rushing yards per game and a 4.2 yard per carry average. On the surface the numbers are pretty bad but in the advanced world the Jaguars defensive line has actually been doing a pretty decent job for them. While they give up a pretty heavy yard per carry average their adjusted line yards rank eighth in the league at 3.52 while ranking in the top-six in both power success and stuffed percentage. Their power success against was 50% that ranks sixth in the league while their stuffed percentage of 26% is fifth in the league. Maybe not all is awful.

Teams are running pretty much up the middle and off the guards against the Jacksonville team. They are seeing well-below league average in attempts up the middle or off the guards (39%) and it seems as if lack of carries are going to the edges where opposing teams are running to the offensive left end 25% of the time (league average is 11%) while running to the offensive right side 24% of the time (league average 10%).

Jacksonville does a pretty nice job against the run to all areas ranking eighth against runs to the offensive left end (2.98 ALY) but really struggle in runs to the offensive right end (4.69 ALY, 21st in league). They also do a pretty good job against runs up the middle with the ninth ranked ALY against of 3.51.

Former Penn State star Paul Posluszny leads Jacksonville with 41 tackles that ranks third in the league. Josh Evans is second on the team with 26 tackles while Alan Ball has the only interception and has 17 total tackles.

Jacksonville Special Teams

Josh Scobee has been the Jacksonville kicker for what seems like forever. It pretty much has been forever if you count from 2004 on forever. Scobee is a career 81% kicker but so far this year he’s hit only three of his five attempts missing once from 30-39 and once beyond 50 yards with both of those misses coming in week one of the season.

Bryan Anger punts for the Jaguars with a net average of 40.7 yards and a gross average of 47.8 yards. He’s pinned the opponents inside the 20 five times in 23 punts with two touchbacks and five fair catches. Jacksonville hasn’t been overly good at covering punts giving up 10.3 yards per return.

In the return game Jordan Todman handles the kickoff returns and averages just shy of 27 yards per return with a long of 40 yards. Mike Brown returns the punts and so far this season he’s averaging 7.4 yards per return on five returns with a long of 13 yards.

The Steelers

It feels like I am repeating a lot of what I said last week, this week. The Jacksonville secondary is pretty awful and with Roethlisberger at the helm I don’t see why they won’t spread it out and try to get the ball to Anotonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, and Heath Miller as much as possible. As an offensive unit the Steelers rank ninth in the league with a DVOA of 12.5% and they rank 11th in the league in the passing game with a 26.9% DVOA. Brown is one of the top ranked receivers in both DYAR (1st, 166) and DVOA (5th, 42.3%) to go along with a top-10 catch rate (74%).

The Steelers run up the middle or off the guards a staggering 81% of their running back carries which is tops in the league and a full six percentage points more than the team right behind them. They aren’t necessarily great at running up the middle (3.82 ALY, 19th in league) but they are pretty damn good when they run elsewhere. They are first in the league when running to the right end (7.02) and second in the league when running to the left tackle (5.68). It will be the strength vs. strength in the run game of the Steelers against the front line of the Jacksonville defense so that will be a fun matchup to watch.

The Steelers offensive line has to be better protecting Roethlisberger. Last week they gave up five sacks and have given up 12 on the season for an adjusted sack rate of 8% that has them ranked 29th in the league. Jacksonville has been able to get after the quarterback a little bit this year and it might be beneficial to them that they don’t rely largely on one guy to get sacks. The Steelers offensive line will have to be alert to a bunch of different options and if they are out to lunch it can mean a sack.

PREDICTION – Last week I didn’t see Tampa Bay beating the Steelers. This week I am a little more confident that the Steelers are going to win. I mean they could lose, but this Jacksonville team is bad. Consistency is going to be the key for the Steelers. If the offense can be consistent they should be able to run away with this game. I don’t expect a runaway, but I expect a Steelers win. Steelers 24, Jacksonville 17.