A look inside: Breaking down the 2013 NFL season in stats

nfl mapThroughout any sports season, a number of trends and statistical anomalies will pop up for different teams and players. Because I wanted to provide unique stats for my Power Rankings column each week, I had a chance to really notice and examine some of those. Now, with the regular season behind us, I wanted to share some of those with others who might appreciate them.

Some of these are stats that I picked up on and kept up with throughout the year. Others are ones that I tracked from the start of the season.

  • The Chiefs led the NFL in points scored off turnovers with 133. Kansas City scored six defensive touchdowns, and the team’s most points off turnovers in a single week was 35 in Week 15 against Oakland. The 35 was the most for any team in any week.
  • The Steelers didn’t have a single point scored off turnovers in the season’s first six weeks when Pittsburgh went 2-4. They scored 82 in the final 10 games and went 6-4.
  • The Saints the only team in the NFL that didn’t score a single defensive touchdown. Five teams scored just one. New Orleans finished 28th with 55 points scored off turnovers.
  • Saints Quarterback Drew Brees tied his own NFL record with nine straight weeks of 300+ passing yards. The streak was snapped Week 5 at Chicago, a 26-18 win. New Orleans was 9-2 when he hit the 300-yard plateau and 2-3 when he didn’t.
  • New Orleans has won coming off their Bye week the last five years. In those games, Drew Brees has thrown 21 touchdowns and three interceptions in those games.
  • Drew Brees and Marques Colston are the leading active combo for QB-WR receptions. The Saints duo has connected 606 times. The Cowboys pair of Tony Romo and Jason Witten is second with 576.
  • The Giants turned the ball over 23 times in the team’s 0-6 start to the season. They turned it over just 21 times in the 7-3 finish. The 44 turnovers are tied for fifth-most in New York history. The franchise record is 58, set in 1983.
  • Texans Quarterback Matt Schaub had an NFL record four-game streak throwing an interception returned for a touchdown, and Houston had a five-game streak. If you consider last year’s playoff run as well, Schaub threw five interception return touchdowns in a span of seven games.
  • Not too surprising: Houston was the worst team in the league against the spread. The Texans were just 3-12-1 against the spread.
  • Early scoring was the problem for the Cardinals this season. They may have finished 10-6, but they scored just 49 of their 379 points in the first frame (12.9%). In their six losses, Arizona was outscored 44-14 in the 1st Quarter.
  • Weeks 3-7, Carson Palmer set a personal record with five straight games 2+ interceptions. He threw a total of 11 in those games, and the Cardinals went 2-3 in those games and 8-3 the rest of the season.
  • Arizona was the best team in the NFL against the spread this year. The Cardinals were 9-4-3 against the Vegas lines.
  • When Arizona beat the Texans in Week 10, it improved Carson Palmer’s record after the Bye week to just 2-7. His other win came in 2009 against the Ravens.
  • In a span of Weeks 3-5, the Broncos had 31 offensive possessions. 21 of those ended in scores (15 touchdowns), and only three of them were punts. The other seven were three fumbles, and interceptions, and three times ending the game.
  • Peyton Manning’s team has won eight straight season off the Bye week by an average score of 34-17. His teams were 3-4 off the Bye in his first seven seasons.
  • Week 12 was the first time in Manning’s career that he’s played the whole game but had a running have more attempts and yards than him. Peyton was 19-36 for 150 yards in Denver’s loss at New England, and Knowshon Moreno ran the ball 37 times for 224 yards.
  • In his first two seasons, Cam Newton’s Panthers were a combined 5-15 in the first 10 games of the year and 8-4 through the final six. This year, Carolina was 7-3 and 5-1.
  • Through Week 2, Cam Newton was 3-9 in his Panthers career in one possession games in the 4th Quarter. Since then, he’s 6-0, beating playoff teams San Francisco, New England and New Orleans in that stretch.
  • Carolina’s defense was the force of the team for most of the season. In fact, the Panthers didn’t allow a 1st Quarter touchdown until Week 9.
  • It took the Rams until the 2nd Quarter of Week 9 before they scored the season’s first rushing touchdown. St. Louis threw 12 touchdown passes in that period. From that point on, the team had seven rushing touchdowns and five through the air. Not coincidentally, the 0-12 start was with Sam Bradford, and the 7-5 finish was after he was lost to injury.
  • The loss of Sam Bradford wasn’t actually the biggest difference between St. Louis switching from a pass to a run-oriented team. It was the institution of Zac Stacy as the lead back. From the time Stacy took over, the Rams went from running just 28.5% of the time to 52.2%, an increase of 23.7%. When Bradford went out, the running game increased from 37.3% to 53.6%, an increase of 16.3%.
  • The Redskins had a tendency to forget that they’re a run-oriented team. In the team’s 13 losses, they ran just 42.5% of the time when the score was within two possessions. In their three wins, they ran 55.2% of the time in the same situation.
  • Washington Quarterback Robert Griffin III got the brunt of the blame for the team’s bad performance, but take into account that RGIII threw the ball 457 times, and only 41 of them were while the Redskins were leading, 8.9%.
  • The Titans‘ 7-9 record shouldn’t be blamed on offensive inconsistency. In wins, Tennessee scored 23 and allowed 15. In losses, they scored 22 but allowed 30.7.
  • Cincinnati was 7-1 when the team they were playing had a winning record but just 3-3 against teams who had a losing record on the day of the game. In the two previous seasons, the Bengals were 4-10 against winners and 13-2 against losers.
  • The last three years have been a consistent struggle against the NFC North for the Bengals. The team is 8-10 in the division and 18-8 in other games.
  • How much of a difference did Reggie Bush make for the Lions offense this year? It showed more in the pass game than on the ground. Detroit running backs touched the ball (rushes and receptions) 511 times with 445 rushes. That was 47.4% and 41.2% of all offensive plays. In Matthew Stafford’s career, the previous highs were 41.4% and 41.2%.
  • There’s a strange sequence playing out when the Bears play at Green Bay. Chicago won two straight at Lambeau Field from 1999-00, the Packers won three straight from 2001-03, the Bears won four straight from 2004-07, and Green Bay won five straight at home from 2008-12. With Chicago’s win at Lambeau this year, we’ll have to see if that trend continues into the future.
  • Bears Quarterback Jay Cutler is just 1-9 against the Packers in his career. He’s thrown 11 touchdown passes and 18 interceptions in those games.
  • Chicago Running Back Matt Forte is successful against basically anyone, especially this year. Forte set career highs with 1,339 rushing yards, nine rushing touchdowns, 74 receptions, and 594 receiving yards. He also tied his career high of 12 total touchdowns. He scored on 3.3% of his touches, the best total of his career.
  • In 12 wins this season, 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick averaged 216.8 passing yards with 19 touchdown passes and two interceptions. In San Francisco’s four losses, Kaepernick threw for 98.8 yards per game with two touchdowns and six picks.
  • Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady fell to 9-3 off his Bye week with a loss at Carolina this year. New England has now lost off their Bye in two of the last three years. Brady is 5-1 at home in that time and 4-2 on the road.
  • New England was just 3-4 in games decided by three points-or-less in 2011 and 2012. This season, the Patriots were 6-1, losing only to the Jets.
  • From 1991-2012, the Jets were 11-11 following their Bye week. A loss at Buffalo moved that to 11-12. New York lost to the Bills this year, falling to 2-4 against Buffalo during that span.
  • The loss to Buffalo meant the Jets alternated wins and losses for their first ten games. The next week, New York lost to Baltimore, ending that streak.
  • The Jets key downfall was its awful point differential in losses. In eight wins, New York outscored opponents 212-159, a positive difference of 53. In eight losses, the Jets were outscored 228-78, a negative differential of 150. Somehow they were outscored by 97 points and went 8-8.
  • Since the NFL went to eight divisions in 2002, the Chargers are the ninth team to start 5-6 and fifth to start 6-7 or worse to make the postseason. Seven of those nine teams (including San Diego) won a playoff game, proving the importance of taking momentum into the playoffs.
  • In eight games with Aaron Rodgers, the Packers made it to the red zone 34 times, scoring on 31 of those. In eight games without him, Green Bay got inside the opponents’ 20-yard line 29 times, scoring on 25 of those.
  • The Packers did have many more quality drives with their franchise quarterback. They had a three-and-out drive 21 times in 89 possessions under Rodgers and 33 times in 96 drives without him, a difference of 23.6% and 34.4%. In games against the Lions, Browns, Vikings, and Bears, Green Bay went three-and-out three times in 39 drives.
  • Green Bay and Pittsburgh both won in Week 17 this year, making them both 12-2 in the season’s final week since 2000, best in the NFL.
  • The Jets, Jaguars, Giants, Packers, and Falcons all had no players voted to the Pro Bowl. Green Bay is the first playoff team without a Pro Bowl player.
  • Since the start of the 2011 season, four receivers have caught 30-or-more touchdown passes. Those players are Dez Bryant (34), Calvin Johnson (33), Eric Decker (32) and Jordy Nelson (30). 11 more players have caught between 20 and 29 touchdowns in that span.
  • Browns Tight End Jordan Campbell had worse stats across the board with Jason Campbell at quarterback than either Brandon Weeden or Brian Hoyer. With Campbell, he averaged 4.6 catches on 6.4 targets, gaining 52.4 yards per game. With Weeden those numbers rose to 4.9, 7.7 and 59.1, and with Hoyer they went to 8.0, 12.5 and 78.5.
  • The Ravens finished 12th in defensive points per game and 16th in touchdown passes against this year, but if you take out the Week One blow out at Denver, those rankings go up to 7th and 6th.
  • Dallas is the worst team in the league in Week 17 since 2000. The Cowboys have gone 2-12 in that span. Their only wins were against the Eagles in both 2009 and 2010. They’ve lost an NFC East Championship game three straight seasons to all three of their division rivals.
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