With Week 13 of the 2016 NFL season upon us, Director of Analytics Nathan Jahnke digs through the Pro Football Focus database to bring you 30 unique pieces off PFF data you need to know for the upcoming matchups.
Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings
1. Since Week 10, Cowboys WR Dez Bryant has averaged 2.73 yards per route run, fourth-best among wide receivers.
Earlier this season, the Cowboys were winning because of a strong run game and Dak Prescott's avoidance of negative plays. In recent weeks, however, Dez Bryant has returned to his post as one of the NFL's best receivers. Over the last three games, he has 17 catches for 268 yards and three touchdowns. The Vikings have the second-best group of cornerbacks in the league, which will make it much more difficult for Bryant to continue his success.
2. Vikings DT Shamar Stephen has six run stops over the last three weeks, tied for fourth-best among NFL defensive tackles.
If the Vikings are going to upset Dallas, one of the first things they’ll need to do is stop the run. To do that, Minnesota will likely need role players like Shamar Stephen to have big games. Over the last three weeks, Stephen has made a few plays against the run; he'll need to continue that success on Thursday.
Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints
3. Lions WR Golden Tate forced 16 missed tackles on his catches this season, the most for a wide receiver.
If Golden Tate maintains this pace, it will be his fourth straight year with the most (or tied for the most) missed tackles forced by a WR. He faces a Saints' defense with CB Delvin Breaux, who has missed three tackles in four game. This matchup could give Tate a chance to expand on his lead.
4. Saints QB Drew Brees has an adjusted completion percentage of 80.4 when there is no pressure on him, second-best among NFL quarterbacks.
While Brees may not be as good as he once was when under duress, he is still among the league’s best as long as his offensive line does its job. The Lions have had the fifth-lowest-graded pass-rush in the league this year; Brees should have a big game against Detroit’s defense.
Los Angeles Rams at New England Patriots
5. Over the last two weeks, the top two NFL defensive tackles in pass-rushing productivity have been Los Angeles' Michael Brockers and Dominique Easley.
Over the last two weeks, Brockers has four QB pressures on 19 pass-rushes, and Easley five pressures on 30 rushes. That doesn’t even include Aaron Donald, who has seven QB pressures over those two games. The Patriots' interior offensive line has played well in the run game, but has been below-average in pass protection, meaning the Rams will likely be able to get pressure on Brady often.
6. Patriots QB Tom Brady has recorded an adjusted completion percentage of 74.1 when under pressure, second-best among quarterbacks.
Tom Brady has been the NFL's best quarterback this season; one of the reasons why is that he doesn’t make mistakes when under pressure. Brady isn't afraid to throw the ball away to avoid problems, with 17 throwaways on the year, leading to just one interception. The Rams have the league’s best pass-rush, but a good pass-rush only brings Brady back to an average level, and doesn’t devastate his play like it does for other quarterbacks.
Denver Broncos at Jacksonville Jaguars
7. The Broncos have four of the top 17 3-4 outside linebackers in pass-rushing productivity this season.
Von Miller, Shaquil Barrett, DeMarcus Ware, and Shane Ray are all among the top 17 of 57 3-4 OLBs with a qualifying number of snaps. Even when the starters are on the field, their backups play better than most starters do. Blake Bortles has eight interceptions when under pressure this season, the most for quarterbacks, so if the Broncos' pass-rush plays as well as usual, they could force some turnovers.
8. Jaguars CB Prince Amukamara has surrendered just 21 yards per game over his last five games.
The Jaguars made several offseason moves; one that is currently working is the addition of Amukamara. The former New York Giant has been the cornerback to avoid in Jacksonville recently; in the last five games, he’s had four or fewer passes thrown his way, leading to very few yards surrendered each game. This week, he will see a lot of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, which will be one of his toughest tests of the season.
San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears
9. 49ers S Antoine Bethea has recorded 24 stops on the season, tied for fifth-most among safeties.
While Bethea still isn’t the same player he was during first year in San Francisco, he has at least been making a lot of plays for the 49ers' defense. If Bears CB Matt Barkley plays anywhere close to as well as he did last week, the 49ers are going to need Bethea to make even more stops.
10. Since Week 7, Bears rookie Cre’Von LeBlanc has surrendered 0.77 yards per coverage snap when in the slot, fifth-best for cornerbacks.
In Week 7, LeBlanc went from a part-time CB to an every-down one. In that time, on 86 coverage snaps, he’s allowed just eight of 12 passes thrown his way to be caught for 66 total yards. This week, LeBlanc will see a lot of Jeremy Kerley, who has been the 49ers' best wide receiver this season.
Houston Texans at Green Bay Packers
11. Since Week 4, Texans TE C.J. Fiedorowicz has averaged 2.39 yards per route run, third-best among tight ends.
While the Texans' offense has disappointed in many ways this season, one way bright spot has been the emergance of Fiedorowicz. The tight end had at least three catches in each of his last eight games, an above-average 72.2 percent catch rate, and an above-average 11.0 yards-per-catch mark on the year. With the Packers' injuries at inside linebacker, Fiedorowicz should have the opportunity for another big game.
12. Packers S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is one of three safeties with 20 or more stops against the run and no missed tackles.
The Packers' secondary has gained a poor reputation this season, but Green Bay's safeties have played well against the run. Not only has Clinton-Dix not missed any tackles in the run game, but Morgan Burnett has graded well versus the run, as well. This week, they face a Houston team that would like to establish the run—the Packers' safeties will play a key role in limiting that effort.
Kansas City Chiefs at Atlanta Falcons
13. Chiefs TE Travis Kelce has 360 yards after the catch this season, the most for any tight end.
While Travis Kelce has been dropping more passes than the Chiefs would prefer, once he gets the ball in his hands, he’s been doing a great job after the catch. Kelce will at times face rookie Keanu Neal on Sunday, who has been among the best coverage safeties in the NFL this season.
14. Falcons LT Jake Matthews has a pass-blocking efficiency of 98.6 since Week 9, the best mark among offensive tackles.
After being drafted as the sixth-overall pick in 2014, Jake Matthews has continuously improved in pass protection. Over the past four games, he’s allowed just two total QB pressures. This week, Matthews will see a lot of Kansas City's Tamba Hali, who played 98.8 percent of the Chiefs' snaps last week after playing less than 40.0 percent of snaps in Weeks 10 and 11. He has 25 pressures from right outside linebacker, sixth-most among players at that position.
Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens
15. Dolphins WR Kenny Stills has five touchdowns on deep passes (throws traveling 20+ yards in the air), tied for second-most among wide receivers.
While Stills hasn’t been the most consistent receiver this season, few WRs have made more big plays. The Ravens' secondary has allowed seven deep touchdowns this season, tied for fifth-most among NFL teams, so Stills should have some opportunities for more big plays.
16. Ravens RG Marshal Yanda owns a pass-blocking efficiency of 98.9, second-best among guards.
On the season, Yanda has yet to surrender a sack or QB hit, and has allowed just five QB hurries. He remains the best guard in the NFL. All game long, he will see a lot of Ndamukong Suh, who has 40 QB pressures on the year, fourth-most among defensive tackles. This will be one of the best interior-line battles of the season.
Philadelphia Eagles at Cincinnati Bengals
17. Eagles DE Vinny Curry has recorded a pass-rushing productivity mark of 12.5 this season, fourth-best among 4-3 defensive ends.
While teammate Brandon Graham has been arguably the best 4-3 defensive end this season, Vinny Curry has also had a very productive year. While he only has two sacks, he has a high 32 QB pressures on just 196 rushes. When he or Connor Barwin line up on the right side on Sunday, however, they will likely have a tough time against Bengals LT Andrew Whitworth. When Curry or Graham line up on the left side, they will face the Bengals' right tackle, where Cincinnati has had a rotation, and their pass-rush is more likely to find success.
18. Bengals TE Tyler Eifert has averaged 1.90 yards per route run, 10th-best among tight ends this season.
Since returning from injury midseason, Tyler Eifert has once again proven to be one of the league's best tight ends. He’s coming off of one of his better games of the season, with five catches for 68 yards and a touchdown. With the injuries to A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard, the Bengals need Eifert to be a big part of the offense. The Eagles' defense has been able to shut down tight ends all season, however, so Sunday's game may present more a challenge than usual for the former Notre Dame standout.
Buffalo Bills at Oakland Raiders
19. Bills RB LeSean McCoy has a breakaway percentage of 50.7, highest among running backs.
Of LeSean McCoy’s 815 rushing yards, 413 have come on plays where he gained chunks of 15 or more yards (16 carries). In a road game against one of the hottest teams in the NFL, the Bills will need some big plays—McCoy has proven to be the kind of back that can get them.
20. Since Week 6, Raiders C Rodney Hudson has surrendered just one pressure on 244 pass blocks.
For most of the season, Rodney Hudson has been close to perfect in pass protection. He and the rest of the line have been a big reason for the Raiders' success this season. This week, he will see a lot of nose tackle Marcell Dareus, who hasn’t recorded much pressure, but has at least one sack in each of his three games. Hudson will need to be at his best on Sunday to end Dareus' streak.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Diego Chargers
21. Buccaneers DT Clinton McDonald has a pass-rushing productivity of 11.9 over the last three weeks, tied for the best mark among defensive tackles.
Most of McDonald’s season to this point was missed due to injury, but he has played a part-time role these last three weeks. In that time, he’s been one of the league's most productive pass-rushers, with one sack, one QB hit, and four QB hurries on 40 pass-rushes over that time span. The Chargers have one of the worst pass-blocking offensive lines in the NFL, so McDonald will have a chance to make his pass-rushing numbers even more impressive.
22. Chargers LB Korey Toomer has recorded a run-stop percentage of 18.8, the best for middle/inside linebackers.
On just 101 run-defense snaps this season, Korey Toomer has made 19 total run stops. The long-time special teams player saw just one defensive snap in his first four seasons in the NFL, but due to injuries to the Chargers' linebackers, he’s finally seeing a chance on defense. In that time, Toomer has played like one of the best linebackers in the NFL. This week, he will be tasked in stopping RB Doug Martin and the Buccaneers, who are on a hot streak.
New York Giants at Pittsburgh Steelers
23. Giants S Landon Collins has recorded 15 stops in the passing game, most among NFL safeties.
The entire Giants' secondary has played well this season, including Collins, who has continued to make play after play. Despite how well New York has been performing, that hasn’t stopped teams from throwing deep against them. There have been 69 deep pass attempts (throws traveling 20+ yards in the air) against the Giants, the most for any team. New York will need more great play from their defensive backs in order to stop Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger.
24. Steelers RT Marcus Gilbert has a pass-blocking efficiency of 97.5, the best mark among right tackles.
Over the eight games Gilbert has played in, he has only surrendered nine QB pressures. While he’s done a great job against the rushes he’s faced, he hasn’t faced a player of Jason Pierre-Paul's caliber yet this season. Pierre-Paul is coming off of back-to-back games with three sacks; he has recorded more QB pressures over the past two weeks than Gilbert has surrendered all season, so something will have to give on Sunday.
Washington at Arizona Cardinals
25. Washington WR Pierre Garçon has 52 catches and no dropped passes this season, giving him the third-most catches among wide receivers without a drop.
Garçon is having one of the best seasons of his career, thanks to his solid hands and ability to make defenders miss after the catch. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson cover him most of the game. Garçon will need to have a strong performance against one of the league’s best cornerbacks.
26. Cardinals OLB Alex Okafor owns a 15.1 pass-rushing productivity, third-best among 3-4 outside linebackers.
While Okafor doesn’t play as many snaps as other elite players, on a per-play basis, he’s been getting pressure at a similar rate to Von Miller, Khalil Mack, and Joey Bosa—three of PFF's four highest-graded edge defenders entering Week 13. He has 20 pressures on the year in a backup role behind Chandler Jones and Markus Golden. Even without LT Trent Williams, Washington’s offensive tackles have played well blocking for QB Kirk Cousins, so it will be difficult for the Cardinals to get more pressure.
Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks
27. Panthers DE Mario Addison has recorded a 14.0 pass-rushing productivity mark, third best among 4-3 defensive ends.
The Panthers' pass-rush has been among the 10 best in the NFL this season, and one of the reasons why is Addison’s play as a pass-rushing specialist. He has seven sacks, four hits, and 22 hurries on just 189 pass-rushes. The Seahawks have one of the worst pass-blocking lines in the league, so Sunday night's matchup should give Addison and his teammates a chance.
28. Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner has 29 run stops this season, tied for fourth-most among inside/middle linebackers.
Few linebackers have played as well as Bobby Wagner this season. His tackle numbers make him look better than he actually is, but the number of big plays he’s made still make him a top-tier player. This week, he faces a run-first Panthers' team; if Wagner is able to stop the Panthers' rushing attack, it will force Carolina to pass.
Indianapolis Colts @ New York Jets
29. Colts LG Jack Mewhort has 22 starts at left guard over the last two seasons, and in that time, has not surrendered a sack.
Mewhorts' streak could be in jeopardy against the Jets' defensive line on Monday, however. He will at times be up against Leonard Williams, who has six sacks on the season, second-most among 3-4 defensive ends.
30. Jets CB Darryl Roberts has averaged 0.70 yards per coverage snap this season, tied for the third-lowest mark among cornerbacks.
The 2015 seventh-round pick (drafted by the Patriots) started seeing playing time with the Jets in Week 5 this season. Since then, he’s allowed just 10 of 24 passes thrown his way to be caught for 109 total yards. This week, Roberts will face a tougher test than most, in the form of T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, and Phillip Dorsett.