Since QB Carson Palmer was traded to the Oakland Raiders, he has averaged 9.8 yards per attempt, which would be good for 2nd in the league if he had the necessary amount of snaps. Oakland likes to establish the run and throw the ball deep and Palmer has given them that ability. He has a low completion percentage of 53.9% and 7 interceptions in three games, but he is averaging 18.2 yards per completion. The yards per completion number will regress more towards the league average, but considering there is no quarterback with even a 14 yard average shows how Palmer and the Raiders plan to attack teams.
The Minnesota Vikings, whom the Raiders play on Sunday, have given up 33 passes of 20 yards or more and 8 passes of 40 yards or more which ranks 23rd and 30th respectively. And starting CB Antoine Winfield was placed on IR this week.
The Seattle Seahawks have allowed only 2 sacks combined against the Dallas Cowboys and the Baltimore Ravens despite giving up 27 in the previous seven games and Dallas and Baltimore ranking 10th and 3rd respectively in sacks registered.
Additionally, Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch has averaged 4.44 yards per carry in those two games which is a huge uptick from his 3.55 ypc average from his first seven games. This offensive line resurgence comes just in time to play the St. Louis Rams defense that has allowed a league worst 150.6 yards per game, is one of only three teams to allow over 5 ypc against, and ranks 15th with 22 sacks.
Since Michael Vick became the Philadelphia Eagles starting last year, he has had less than stellar results against the New York Giants defense. In three games, he has been sacked 7 times, has only 3 touchdowns, and fumbled the ball 5 times although only one was recovered by the Giants.
Also, his yards per attempt average against the Giants of 6.94 is almost a full yard less than his 7.89 average against the rest of the league. If the Eagles choose to start Vick coming off a game in which two of his ribs were broken and he completed only 47% of his passes for 128 yards, 0 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, you would have to assume his struggles against the Giants would continue.
Houston Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is speculated by many to be the most valuable assistant coach in the league this year, but another assistant on his own team deserves more recognition. Since John Benton took over primary responsibility of the offensive line in 2010, the Texans have averaged 139.3 yards per game as opposed to the 103.8 in the two years when zone blocking guru Alex Gibbs was in Houston. Part of that is the emergence of RB Arian Foster, but considering RBs Ben Tate and Derrick Ward have also both averaged over 5 yards per carry in the last two seasons combined, the offensive line has to be given a great deal of credit.
The game between the Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers will possibly be won or lost on third downs. The Lions boast the best defensive third down conversion rate of only 28.5% which is the only rate below 30%.
The Panthers offense ranks 10th converting third downs with 40.4%. Conversely, the Lions offensive is third worst at converting at 28.3%, while the Panthers defensively are better than only four other teams at 43.5%. Whatever team can put themselves in manageable down and distances situations stands a very good chance of winning this game.
Many people assume that the struggles of Tennessee Titans running back are over after he has averaged 4.73 yards per carry in the last two games. That might be deceiving though, given that without a long run of 20 yards Johnson averaged 3.38 ypc against Cincinnati and his 4.8 ypc average is on par with the 4.7 average of what Carolina’s opponents have done to their 28th rush defense.
This week, Johnson and the Titans will face an Atlanta Falcons team that has allowed a third best 90.3 yards per game to opponents along with a 3.9 ypc. Considering veteran QB Matt Hasselbeck has completed 58% of his passes and has a 9/10 touchdown to interception ratio since WR Kenny Britt was lost for the year, it could be a long day for Tennessee if the Falcons neutralize Johnson’s impact yet again.
Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli prefers to pressure the quarterback predominantly with his front four rather than blitz as shown by the fact that defensive linemen have 15 of the Bears 16 sacks. The exception to this is the A gap blitzes that Marinelli likes to utilize with LBs Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs which hasn’t yielded any sacks for those two players but does flush quarterbacks to the edges. This has not only led to linemen picking up sacks but more importantly to an opportunistic secondary picking off opposing quarterbacks 13 times which ranks 4th in the league.
This week, the Bears defense will look to continue that trend against a beat up San Diego Chargers line that has given 25 sacks and an additional 37 hits. That pressure has also led to QB Phillip Rivers throwing a league- high 15 interceptions.