NFL Week 14 Stats: Gap Between Seahawks, Rams May Not Be Giant

jordan-cohn
December 04, 2019 - 8:57 am

Stats don’t mean everything, but they sure can dictate a lot.

For example, we always knew Lamar Jackson was an elite running talent. But what we may not have known is that the 49ers actually struggled with stopping mobile quarterbacks prior to this matchup, allowing 5.79 yards per carry, which is among the worst in the NFL. So, those wary of Lamar’s prospects against such a steadfast defense could have been more confident in the dynamic athlete, who ended up torching the Niners on the ground for 101 yards.

And the list goes on.

Here are some intriguing stats to watch for as we head into Week 14:

Drew Brees and the Saints will host the 49ers this week.
Drew Brees and the Saints will host the 49ers this week. Photo credit (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

6.4 and 6.3
New Orleans Saints intended air yards per attempt on offense (lowest in NFL) and San Francisco average depth of target when on defense (lowest in NFL)

To explain this one more simply, the Saints are one of the better offensive teams in the league but don’t do it through deep balls. They like short, quick routes, allowing Brees to find targets like Alvin Kamara and allow him to do most of the damage after the catch or hit sure-handed guys like Michael Thomas for short completions that continually chip away at the opposing defense. Their Week 14 opponent, San Francisco, is the best defensive unit in football, and a lot of that is due to their ability to limit their opponents to short passes. So does a team that excels at running its offense through short passes have an advantage over a team that excels because it forces short passes? We’ll find out on Sunday.

Josh Allen and the Bills are 9-3.
Josh Allen and the Bills are 9-3. Photo credit (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

36 and 48.1%
The amount of scrambles, or rushes on designed passing plays, by Josh Allen (most in NFL) and the percentage of Baltimore’s defensive plays that are blitzes (highest in NFL)

Lamar Jackson may be the premiere rushing quarterback of this matchup, and of this year, and of this decade at this rate. But his opponent isn’t having a bad year on the ground himself. Allen has 93 carries on the year for 430 yards and eight rushing touchdowns (Jackson only has seven). 36 of those 93 are due to a mixture of good defensive pressure and Allen’s willingness to improvise and run the ball. With an impending matchup against the Ravens, a team that blitzes nearly half of the time, Allen is going to have to put on his best Lamar Jackson performance and utilize his legs. It will be interesting to see which quarterback has a bigger game on the ground.

The Jaguars have struggled to wrap up tackles.
The Jaguars have struggled to wrap up tackles. Photo credit (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

39.4 and 40.4
The Pro Football Focus tackling grades for the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Los Angeles Chargers, the worst and second-worst grades respectively.

Austin Ekeler is known for being elusive. He leads the league in yards after the catch with 664. Not far behind him is Leonard Fournette at No. 5 with 458. And while it is true that neither of their teams boasts an elite offense, quarterback Phil Rivers knows how to win (or at least get close to winning) football games and opposing signal caller Gardner Minshew seems to inspire a new energy in Jacksonville. Both teams are in the NFL’s top five in missed tackles, and this bodes especially well for Jacksonville, who is dependent on their explosive plays (rushes of 10+ yards; passing plays of 15+ yards) to carry their offense. Fournette and the Jaguars backfield have turned 14% of their rushing attempts into “explosive ones” according to Sharp Football Stats, good for third in the league.A few missed tackles can go a long way, and that could change the script of this one from a low-scoring battle into a mistake-riddled shootout.

Despite some injuries, the Chiefs offense has remained a strong unit in 2019.
Despite some injuries, the Chiefs offense has remained a strong unit in 2019. Photo credit (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

4,616 and 3,096
Kansas City’s total yards gained (top five) and New England’s total yards allowed (top five)

This was one is fairly obvious to see on the surface. A devastating offense versus an impenetrable defense awaits in Week 14 as two AFC powerhouses square off in Foxboro. An interesting pair of statistics regarding Travis Kelce and the Patriots’ defense of tight ends may allow Kansas City to attack one of the few weak points of New England. Kelce has given his QB, be it Patrick Mahomes or Matt Moore, a QB rating of 142 on deep balls this year, catching 11 of 19 balls for 303 yards and three scores. It just so happens that the Patriots are vulnerable, especially relative to other positions, to deep balls thrown to tight ends. Five of the seven tight ends who have had a deep ball thrown to them against the Pats, one of which (Demetrius Harris) went for a touchdown, have found success. None of these throws have been picked off, as opposed to the eight interceptions resulting on deep balls going to wide receivers. With the best tight end in the game at his disposal, Patrick Mahomes may be able to gash this otherwise rock-solid defense.

The gap between the Seahawks and Rams may not be as large as it seems.
The gap between the Seahawks and Rams may not be as large as it seems. Photo credit (Harry How/Getty Images)

36 and 33
The Seahawks’ point differential (points scored - points allowed) and the Rams’ point differential

Their records are very different, at 10-2 and 7-5 respectively. But based on their total performance, these teams are very similar. Pro Football Reference’s simple rating system, which works to objectively grade each team, has the Seahawks (5.6) and the Rams (4.7) right next to each other among the entire league leaderboard. To put those numbers in perspective, the 49ers, who are tied with the Seahawks for first place, have a simple rating system grade of 14.2. So are the Seahawks faking it? Are the Rams poised for a big late season push to even up with their division rivals? Week 14 could dictate if there’s any reality behind those hypotheticals.

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