This week in the NFL
You’ll often hear offensive coaches, particularly those that run no-huddle offenses, talk about wanting to run many more plays than the opposition, figuring the more opportunities they have the more shots they have of getting into the end zone. But is that really true? According to current NFL numbers, six of the 10 worst teams in plays per game differential have winning records and are among the best in the NFL. Miami is last in the league with a minus-8.90 differential in plays run and plays their opponents have run. According to teamrankings.com, Atlanta (6-4) ranks 29th, Seattle (7-2-1) 28th, the New York Giants (7-3) 27th, Kansas City (7-3) 25th and Denver (7-3) 24th. On the other hand, the NFL’s leader in play differential with a plus-9.0 is Arizona (4-5-1). Baltimore (5-5) at 7.8 ranks second, Green Bay (4-6) ranks third at 6.6 and Tampa Bay (5-5) ranks fourth at 6.3. It’s true that teams making lots of big plays tend to have fewer plays, which might account for some of the rankings. But maybe no-huddle offenses are running their course and teams that are slowing it down are having more success.
If teams start going for 2-point conversions all over the place this weekend, you’ll know why. There were an NFL-record 11 missed extra points last week. The NFL’s decision to move the line of scrimmage to the 15 for extra points last year has resulted in the try becoming a 33-yard adventure. Last year, only a half-dozen kickers – including Green Bay’s Mason Crosby – failed to miss a PAT. This year, just eight teams have not missed an extra point heading into the 13 remaining games in Week 12. The Minnesota Vikings lead the league with five missed extra points followed by the Seattle Seahawks with four. Six teams have missed at least three PATs and 15 teams have missed at least two. Last year, teams converted 45 2-point conversions; this year, they have converted 36 of 68 (52.9%) and are on pace for about 55 conversions. Pittsburgh led the league with 11 attempts last year, converting an impressive eight of them. They lead the league this year with seven attempts, converting three.
The Detroit Lions now control their destiny in determining whether they will win their first NFC North/Central title since 1993. After beating the Vikings, 16-13, Thursday at Ford Field, the Lions improved to 7-4, taking a one-game lead over the Vikings (6-5) and a potential three-game lead over the Packers (4-6), if the Packers lose at Philadelphia Monday night. The Lions have won three straight, including twice against Minnesota. The Lions have only two division games left, against Chicago on Dec. 11 and the Packers on Jan. 1, both games at home. The bad news is they still have to play at New Orleans, at the New York Giants and at Dallas. For now, though, they’re king of the hill. The Vikings have lost five of six and have the Cowboys up next in another Thursday game. After that, the schedule gets easier, but neither they nor the Packers can look much past their next game. The Bears have lost two straight and the best they can do is be a spoiler. They play at Detroit, vs. Green Bay on Dec. 18, and at Minnesota on Jan. 1. On Sunday, they host the Tennessee Titans.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Kansas City Chiefs (7-3) at Denver Broncos (7-3)
When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday (NBC).
Key injuries: Chiefs – LB Dee Ford (hamstring), DE Jaye Howard (hip) and WR Jeremy Maclin (groin) are out; LB Derrick Johnson (achilles), CB Steven Nelson (neck), CB Marcus Peters (hip), DT Dontari Poe (back) and DE Kendall Reyes (knee) are questionable. Broncos – LS Casey Kreiter (calf) is out.
Player to watch: Broncos OLB Von Miller has 14.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and an interception in his past 12 games.
Recent history: Denver has won seven of the last eight meetings, but the Chiefs won the last one, a 29-13 decision in Denver last year.
Key statistic: Kansas City is tied for the NFL lead with a plus-13 turnover margin.
Bottom line: The last time the teams met, the Chiefs picked off Peyton Manning four times. This time, they get Trevor Siemian, who has thrown seven interceptions and has been bothered by a shoulder injury. Siemian has completed 60%of his passes and thrown for 12 touchdowns, which has been good enough to keep the Broncos in games given their terrific defense. The Chiefs were playing really good football until taking it on the chin at home against Tampa Bay last week, and now they’ll be without Ford and Maclin, two of their best players. It’s going to be hard enough for quarterback Alex Smith to generate yards against the Broncos, but without Maclin, it will be tougher. Kansas City has to win this game with defense. The Chiefs have 13 interceptions and nine fumble recoveries and need to give Smith good field position because it’s unlikely he can drive the Chiefs 80 yards against that defense.
BY THE NUMBERS
19.09 Percent of three-and-out drives by the offense, eighth-lowest in the NFL.
63.2 Percent of pass attempts that have been caught, 21st among the 32 NFL teams.
105.5 Opposing teams’ cumulative passer rating against the defense, second-highest in the NFL.
40.5 Punter Jacob Schum’s net average, 10th-best among those who play in open-air stadiums.
72.73 Percent of fourth downs converted by opposing teams (8 of 11).
75 Quarterback hits the Minnesota Vikings have suffered, fifth-most in the NFL.
140-61 Margin by which the Chicago Bears have been outscored in the second half of games.
5,273 Yards the Detroit Lions are on pace to gain, their lowest total since 2009.
13 Combined points the Lions have allowed in the fourth quarter of their last four games.
4.6 Yards per carry the Vikings defense is allowing opposing rushers over their last five games.
37 Touchdown passes New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has in his last 12 home games.
3 Successful onside kicks this season.
67 Passes the New York Giants have broken up, most of any team.
46 Points the Cleveland Browns have scored in the first quarter (11 games).
14 Penalties called on Washington cornerback Josh Norman this season.