NFL Ones to Watch: Playing for the future

Last week saw the Eagles gain sole possession of first place in the NFC East, Snow havoc, a Seahawks loss and an empty Stadium in Washington.

This week, RGIII will be inactive as was Welker for the Broncos [concussion] and finally before any game kicks off, New England’s Rob Gronkowski is out for the remainder of the season with an ACL injury.

The three games to keep your eyes on this week are:

Buffalo Bills @ Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets @ Carolina Panthers & Baltimore Ravens @ Detroit Lions.

We’ll start with the game between the Bills and the Jags. This isn’t a playoff decider by any means, but it will hopefully give a clear idea of what each team has to work with for the rest of the season, and what they might potentially have for next season. Both teams have had contrasting seasons, despite the similarities in numbers. It’s been of little surprise that the Jags team numbers are all in the bottom third, but of late, that looks to have improved a little, with at one point the longest active winning streak in the AFC , although now they line up ranked 32nd, 29th, 25th & 32nd which translates to their 4-9 record. The Bills oppose, enter with the same overall record and team stats that look like this: 23rd, 15th, 28th & 5th. The individuals which could prove the impetus for a win this week for each team are :

For the Bills , C.J Spiller and Fred Jackson who have combined for 306 carries, which combines for 1,323 yards and 9 TDs with an average of 4.3 yards per carry [combined]. Singularly their stats [left to right , Carries, Total yards, yards per carry and Touchdowns] read for Spiller 149, 678, 4.6 & 2 , whilst Jackson has 157, 645, 4.1 and 7. Catching the ball from the arm of the QB EJ Manuel is Steve Johnson with 51 catches 593 yards, averaging 11.6 yards and 3 touchdowns.
For the Jags, Maurice Jones-Drew wins the battle of the running backs with an impressive 719 yards from 208 carries for 5 TDs while off the ground, Cecil Shorts leads the way for the WRs with 66 grabs, 777 yards averaging 11.8 yards per grab and scoring three times. Mercedes Lewis is a worthy addition here too, although not a Wide Receiver, due to his 185 yards off only 14 catches with a pair of scores and an average of 13.2. useful weapon, could be deployed a little more in this match up.

Jets Vs Panthers:

As it stands, I’ve no idea who the starting quarterback will be for the Jets, I’m not even sure Rex Ryan knows, but whoever starts, will have to go some to hold the Panthers Defensive line in check. The receivers are headed by Jeremy Kerley with 32 catches and 3 TD’s from 388 yards averaging 12.1 yards per reception and Jeff Cumberland who has just 20 catches but took them for 288 yards at an average of 14.4 yards per reception for 3 TDs. Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell handle most of the rushing responsibilities for 639 & 530 yards respectively for a total of 3 TDs averaging 4.4 yards per carry & 1 Touchdown for 3.8 Ivory – Powell. With offense at 30 & 26 respectively, it’s not clear why the Jets are sub .500 at 6-7 and the Panthers are 9-4. The Passing rank is even closer with numbers of 30 & 29 and rushing is close too with rankings of 11th and 9th, it is the Defensive Line where this record might become apparent, as the Jets have an above average 11th and the Panthers are coming into this one with the 2nd best D line. For the Panthers, DeAngelo Williams counters with the rushing responsibilities.

Finally this week, we look at the matchup involving the defending champions Baltimore Ravens as they travel to Detroit.

The difference in offense between these teams is as clear as night and day, yet somehow, both enter with identical 7-6 records. Again, here with defence, Baltimore’s record should be slightly higher, given their top 10 [9th] D line, and the Lions passing line being ranked top 3 [3rd], you would think that the Lions would have a better record too. With both sides rushing lines ranked outside the top 20, [29th & 20th respectively] this shouldn’t have too much of a bearing on their record, but NFL teams need the ability to keep the opposing team guessing, and if your rush isn’t productive, everyone will know the pass is coming, but a good enough QB will keep the location a mystery with fakes and direction changes although the Lions do possess an advantage in rushing as they come in ranked 20th to the Ravens’ 29th. The key personnel of which could win the game for their teams are:
For the Ravens:
The QB Joe Flacco has 18 TDs from 290 completions totalling 3228 yards coming off 488 pass attempts. He is opposed by Matt Stafford and his 306-525, 3976 & 27 lines [completions-attempts-total yards-Touchdowns]. Also for the Ravens are a core of receivers who know where end zone is, and their top point scorer is Marlon Brown with a line that reads 36 completions, totalling 412 yards, at an average of 11.4 & 6 Trips to the End Zone. The receiver with the most catches is Torrey Smith with numbers that read, 55, 963, 17.5 & 4. There is no preferred option it appears for Flacco, and their rushing game is Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce for 4 TDs off 185 rushes totalling 549 yards at an average of 3 yards per carry and 2 TDs off 130 carries with Rice’s numbers first, it is astonishing that they only average 82 yards rushing per game.

To counter the Lions have Reggie Bush and his numbers are impressive with 180 carries, 854 yards, at an average of 4.7 YPC and 3 scoring runs, and his fellow Running back Joique Bell which sees him enter this one with a line of 129-504-3.9 YPC and 7 scoring rushes [he also has 436 catching yards]. I’ve already mentioned Stafford’s numbers, so the final thing to evaluate now is his receiving core and he looks to have a favoured option in Calvin Johnson at an average of 18 yards per reception, totalling 1351 yards off of 75 receptions for a dozen Touchdowns. Impressive. They also have secondary options, because you can’t afford to throw at the same guy all the time, much like if all you do is rush the other team sets up accordingly, but although he doesn’t have as many successful receptions Kris Durham is averaging 13.5 [471 yards] yards per catch [35], and although he only has two touchdowns, he knows how to turn a down, and knows how to do his job, and he does it well.

If you want to look at how this game will be won or lost, then the fact that the Lions have a 100 yards per game advantage heading in, that should tell you everything, except this is the NFL, and as you saw on Thursday Night Football, even the Broncos can lose at home.

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