With Week 3 of the 2016 NFL season upon us, Director of Analytics Nathan Jahnke digs through the Pro Football Focus database to bring you 32 unique pieces off PFF data you need to know for the upcoming matchups.
Houston Texans @ New England Patriots
1. Texans WR Will Fuller has recorded 3.1 yards per route run, most among the nine rookie receivers seeing significant playing time.
Even though Fuller is only catching half the passes thrown his way thus far, his 23.4 yards per catch is the most for receivers with more than seven receptions. New England will pose his toughest challenge yet, as he will see coverage from either Logan Ryan or Malcolm Butler—both players graded very well last year, although they are off to a rough start in 2016.
2. Last week, Patriots QB Jacoby Brissett recorded an average depth of target of 1.1 yards. The next lowest for a quarterback this season is 6.6.
When Brissett entered the game last week, the Patriots had a large lead, and they never asked the rookie QB to try any difficult throws. Instead, they allowed him to attempt very short passes and let the receivers do the work after the catch. If the Patriots are going to execute their normal game plan on Thursday, Brissett will need to attempt some intermediate and deep passes, giving us a glimpse into what the former NC State standout can do on the pro stage.
Baltimore Ravens @ Jacksonville Jaguars
3. Ravens RG Marshal Yanda has gone 530 straight pass blocks without allowing a sack or hit, the most for all offensive players.
Marshal Yanda has been one of the best guards in football for the last few years, and is again off to a strong start in 2016. His 87.6 overall grade is the best among guards this season. Part of the reason he has graded so well is his pass protection, having not allowed a defender to get to the Ravens' quarterback since Week 7 of 2015. The Jaguars' pass rush hasn’t been especially strong this season, so chances are that Yanda and the rest of the Baltimore O-line should keep Flacco clean.
4. Jaguars DE Dante Fowler has recorded a 15.2 run-stop percentage this season, second-best for 4-3 defensive ends.
In Fowler’s first healthy year with the Jaguars, the DE hasn’t brought as much pressure as Jacksonville might like, but he has been a force against the run, recording five run stops on 33 run snaps. He'll be facing Ricky Wagner often this week, a player who has done well in pass protection, but not as much as a run blocker. The Ravens haven’t been very successful running the ball so far in 2016, and Fowler could be a big reason why that will remain the case for a third straight game.
Washington @ New York Giants
5. LT Trent Williams has gone 88 straight pass blocks without allowing a pressure, the most for an offensive tackle.
Washington’s left tackle has played consistently well in recent years, but is off to a great start in 2016. His pass-blocking efficiency is tied for the best among OTs, with just one hurry allowed early in the Week 1 game. He will face his biggest test of the season so far in Giants DE Olivier Vernon. Vernon hasn’t made an instant impact on the team like some would have hoped, but he’s also gone up against great left tackles through two weeks. While Williams' streak will likely be broken against the Giants, it will be fun to see who gets the better of this matchup.
6. Giants QB Eli Manning has an adjusted completion percentage of 82.4, best among QBs this season.
After being anywhere from the worst in this category to average over the past four years, Manning has had a strong start to the season in terms of accuracy. He’s recored the highest completion percentage through two weeks, and his accuracy percentage is even more impressive due to five receivers dropping passes. While all of the attention will be on Odell Beckham Jr. and Josh Norman on Sunday, Manning will also play a major role in determining the outcome of this NFC East meeting.
Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers
7. Lions QB Matthew Stafford has been under pressure on just 23.0 percent of his dropbacks this season, the third-lowest rate in the NFL.
This is partially due to the young offensive line performing well so far this season. When Stafford hasn’t been under pressure, he’s recorded an NFL passer rating of 108.5; when facing pressure, however, that drops to 69.9. This week, he'll face a Packers team that has PFF's fourth-highest pass-rushing grade so far this year. If the Lions can keep the Green Bay rushers away from Stafford, Detroit should be able to put up a lot of points in the game.
8. When Packers CB Quinten Rollins has lined up in the slot, he has yet to allow a catch.
Quinten Rollins is the only NFL cornerback so far this year to play 20 or more snaps in the slot without allowing a catch. Against the Lions, a team that utilizes three-WR sets on over three-quarters of their plays, Rollins should be in the slot a lot against Anquan Boldin. So far, Boldin hasn’t found much success in Detroit, with just 1.02 yards per route run in the slot. If Rollins continues his strong play, Boldin may be waiting another week to produce a breakout performance with Detroit.
Cleveland Browns @ Miami Dolphins
9. Browns DT Danny Shelton has eight run stops this season, second-most among defensive tackles.
As a rookie, Shelton only had 19 stops against the run; after two games in 2016, he is well on his way to passing that point early in the year. While he has stepped up his game against the run, the Dolphins' run-blocking unit has also improved significantly. It will be interesting to see which of these up-and-coming units can win out on Sunday.
10. Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry has recorded 3.07 yards per route run when lining up in the slot this season, the highest mark among slot receivers.
With Arian Foster hurting, the Dolphins' passing game is especially important, and Jarvis Landry has remained their top weapon. Most of the time against the Browns, he will be facing Tramon Williams, who is playing in the slot this year after spending most of his career as an outside cornerback. When Williams has been targeted in the slot, he’s allowed an NFL passer rating of 135.0, sixth-highest for slot cornerbacks.
Minnesota Vikings @ Carolina Panthers
11. Vikings WR Stefon Diggs is averaging 4.25 yards per route run this season, the best rate among wide receivers.
Stefon Diggs has been the most efficient wide receiver by a wide margin so far this season, but will have an interesting test against the Panthers. One cornerback spot is being filled by James Bradberry, who has allowed just a 40 percent completion rate, while the other is being filled by Bené Benwikere, who has allowed a 37.5 passer rating so far this year. Carolina's secondary was thought to be the team's biggest weakness going into the season, but so far has been a strength.
12. Panthers TE Greg Olsen has recorded 2.79 yards per route run this season, the best mark among tight ends.
Greg Olsen is building on his strong 2015 season so far in 2016. Not only is he leading TEs in yards per route run, but also in yards and receptions. In Week 1, however, the Vikings held Titans tight end Delanie Walker to just 42 yards, and Walker is one of the best receiving TEs in the game. The following week, Packers tight ends didn’t fair any better. Olsen will likely have a tough time continuing his great play this week versus Minnesota.
Denver Broncos @ Cincinnati Bengals
13. Broncos OLB Von Miller owns the second-best pass-rushing productivity mark among 3-4 outside linebackers this season.
Von Miller is off to a great start this year with a league-leading five sacks, as well as an additional five hurries. The man he will be facing for most of this game is Bengals RT Cedric Ogbuehi. This Ogbuehi's his first year as a starter, and so far, he’s played well in pass protection, with just one sack and four hurries allowed over two games.
14. Bengals QB Andy Dalton has recorded 218 passing yards on deep passes (throws traveling 20+ yards in the air), the most in the league.
The Bengals' offense has made a few big plays this season, thanks to A.J. Green and the rest of Cincinnati's receivers getting deep passes from Dalton. Those deep passes will be much more difficult to come by against the Broncos' defense, however; only one of five deep passes against Denver has been completed this season, which has limited both Cam Newton and Andrew Luck to less than 200 passing yards. Like all quarterbacks, Dalton will have to be on his “A” game to find any success against Denver.
Arizona Cardinals @ Buffalo Bills
15. Cardinals S Tony Jefferson owns the top run-stop percentage among safeties this season.
In 47 run snaps so far this year, Jefferson has recorded seven stops in the run game. The Cardinals are known for their play in coverage, but so far, they have allowed 2.7 yards per carry from Charles Sims, 3.3 from Doug Martin, and 3.2 from LeGarrette Blount. This week, they will be facing a Bills team with LeSean McCoy, who has been averaging just 1.5 yards after contact per carry.
16. Bills LB Zach Brown owns the most run stops (10) among all inside/middle linebackers this season.
Brown was a free-agent addition this past offseason from the Titans on a relatively cheap contract, and the deal is certainly paying off. The Bills have been dominant against the run, holding Jets RB Matt Forte to 3.3 yards per carry last week, and Ravens RB Terrance West to 2.7 yards per carry the week before. This week, the Bills are facing David Johnson, the NFL's best running back through two weeks. The Bills will need to be able to at least slow down Johnson in order to emerge victorious on Sunday.
Oakland Raiders @ Tennessee Titans
17. Raiders QB Derek Carr has only been sacked once so far this season, fewest among QBs to start both weeks.
The Raiders have assembled one of the best offensive lines in football, which so far has recorded a pass-blocking efficiency of 84.7, the sixth-best mark in football. They will be facing a Titans' defense that hasn’t had much of a pass-rush so far. Tennessee's top two D-line players this season have been Brian Orakpo, with two sacks and six hurries, and Jurrell Casey, with four hits and four hurries. The Raiders have a line to help limit their production, and Carr should be able to put up more big numbers.
18. Titans RT Jack Conklin owns the best pass-blocking efficiency among rookie OTs this season.
Jack Conklin has surrendered just two pressures so far this season, while Ravens LT Ronnie Stanley and Lions LT Taylor Decker have each allowed six. Conklin has already proven to be a solid addition to the Tennessee offensive line this season, but he will have a “Welcome to the NFL” game facing Raiders OLB Khalil Mack. Mack hasn’t played as well as he did in 2015 so far, but still has managed five pressures over two games. If Conklin can shut down Mack, it will be a big boost to his reputation. If not, it could be the game Mack needs to get back on course.
Los Angeles Rams @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
19. Rams LB Mark Barron has five stops in the passing game, the most for linebackers this season.
While Aaron Donald is the one putting up big numbers in Los Angeles, several of the Rams' defensive players have graded well this season, including Mark Barron in coverage. While Barron has allowed a few catches, he is often in position to make a tackle so the offense doesn’t gain many yards. The Buccaneers will be without Doug Martin in this game, so Charles Sims, who is one of the best receiving backs in football, will see more playing time. The Rams will need to stop Sims in the passing game, and Barron will play a large part in that.
20. Buccaneers CB Alterraun Verner has allowed a 28.6 percent catch rate, third-lowest among cornerbacks.
Verner has seen extended playing time on the outside in the Buccaneers' nickel defense, and in that time, has allowed just two of seven passes thrown his way to be caught; two incompletions were due to passes defended. The Los Angeles passing attack hasn’t been that strong compared to Atlanta or Arizona, so Verner has a chance to build on his already strong season.
San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks
21. In 28 coverage snaps, 49ers rookie CB Rashard Robinson has yet to have a pass thrown into his coverage.
Robinson has played in sub-packages as an outside cornerback, and could see his first test against Seattle. He will mostly face Jermaine Kearse, Tyler Lockett (assuming he’s healthy), and Paul Richardson. Not being thrown at as a mid-round rookie in 28 coverage snaps is impressive, but possibly having your first test come against Russell Wilson could potentially go wrong quickly.
22. Seahawks CB Richard Sherman has surrendered 0.15 yards per coverage snap this season, the lowest rate among cornerbacks.
In two games, Sherman has been thrown at five times, surrendering just two catches for 10 yards. While other star cornerbacks have more interceptions or passes defended so far this season, Sherman just hasn’t been tested much. The 49ers, under Chip Kelly, have kept Torrey Smith at right wide receiver on nearly every play, so he will face Sherman all game long. In two games against the 49ers last year, he only allowed two catches on four targets for 19 yards, so chances are, Sherman won’t be tested much again—and won’t surrender many yards.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Philadelphia Eagles
23. Steelers RB DeAngelo Williams has forced eight missed tackles on his carries this season, tied for second-most among running backs.
In the second straight year where DeAngelo Williams has seen significant snaps in Le’Veon Bell's stead, Week 3 could be the last such outing for the veteran this season. Williams has been one of the best running backs in the NFL so far, leading the league in rushing yards. This week, he is facing a Philadelphia team with the sixth-lowest run-defense grade through two weeks, so chances are, he'll find even more success before giving the starting job back to Bell.
24. Eagles DE Brandon Graham owns the top pass-rushing productivity mark among 4-3 defensive ends.
The Eagles' move back to a 4-3 defensive scheme has allowed Graham to move back to defensive end, giving him more opportunities to rush the passer from the offense's right side, where he plays best. This has led to two sacks, one hit, and six hurries over his first two games. Against the Steelers, he will have the tough test of facing RT Marcus Gilbert. In each of the first two games, Gilbert allowed just one hurry each with no sacks or hits. They will be battling each other all game long.
New York Jets @ Kansas City Chiefs
25. The Jets are one of two teams that have two wide receivers with 80+ yards from the slot.
Those two receivers are Eric Decker and Quincy Enunwa, who have recorded 108 and 82 yards, respectively, when lined up in the slot. They will be facing a Chiefs team who has Steven Nelson as their slot cornerback. This season, Nelson has allowed just four of six passes thrown his way to be caught in the slot for just 28 yards. His yards per coverage snap of 0.47 has been the best for slot cornerbacks with at least 40 coverage snaps. Either Nelson or the Jets' receivers—or both—won’t be able to put up the same numbers they’ve been having.
26. Chiefs RB Spencer Ware is the only running back to record 5 or more yards on over half of his carries.
11 of Ware's 21 runs have gone for 5 or more yards, which has helped him become a top-10 running back in terms of PFF grade. While Jamaal Charles might be ready to return this week, Spencer Ware has played well enough that he should continue to be a large part of the Chiefs' offense. In Week 3 he is facing a Jets team that has held both Jeremy Hill and LeSean McCoy to under 4.0 yards per carry. This will be a matchup of strength against strength.
San Diego Chargers @ Indianapolis Colts
27. Chargers CB Brandon Flowers has five stops in coverage this season, tied for the most among cornerbacks.
Flowers is the third cornerback in San Diego, and as a unit, the team has been playing very well. While Flowers has allowed 10 catches already this season, he's surrendered just 81 total receiving yards. On a number of these plays, he’s been able to make a tackle for just a short gain. The Colts are known for their passing game, but they will be without WR Donte Moncrief, so the Chargers will have the numbers to match up against Indianapolis' receivers. If San Diego can neutralize QB Andrew Luck, they will have a strong chance of winning at Lucas Oil Stadium.
28. Colts RB Frank Gore is the only running back with 25 or more carries this season, and has not had a single rushing attempt produce negative yardage.
Gore has only had one run that went for no yards, and the rest of his 26 carries have gained positive yardage. The problem is that he has yet to break a run for double-digit yards, so he has been a low-risk, low-reward ball carrier. That might change this week as he faces the Chargers. Kansas City allowed Spencer Ware to average 6.4 yards per run, and T.J. Yeldon to average 4.0. Gore probably doesn’t have many more opportunities in his career to have a big game, but this is one of those chances.
Chicago Bears @ Dallas Cowboys
29. Bears DE Akiem Hicks has six run stops this season, tied for the most among 3-4 defensive ends.
The Bears had a good defense on paper heading into the season, but now few of their assets on defense remain healthy. Hicks was a free-agent addition over the offseason, and so far, has proven to be worth the investment. He will be facing a Cowboys team that is his toughest opponent yet. The Bears are running out of healthy players who can stop Ezekiel Elliott, but if he is slowed, part of the reason will be because Hicks produces another big day.
30. Cowboys QB Dak Prescott has completed 81 percent of his attempts on play-action passes, but just 55.6 percent without play action.
That 25.4 percent swing in completion percentage is the largest for any quarterback so far this season. While Prescott may not have lived up to his preseason hype through two weeks, Sunday night's game against the Bears will be a great chance for him to build on his reputation even further. The Bears have been without Kyle Fuller, while cornerbacks Bryce Callahan, Tracy Porter, and safety Adrian Amos have all shown up on the injury report.
Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints
31. Falcons TE Jacob Tamme has recorded 57 straight receptions without dropping a pass, tied for the longest streak among offensive players.
Tamme has been a consistent player over the years, with just three drops over the past six seasons, and he is closing in on a full season's worth of games without a drop. The Atlanta TE is also coming off one of his better games as a Falcon, with five catches for 75 yards and a touchdown against the Raiders last week. Tamme will be facing a Saints team that hasn’t seen a great tight end yet, but has shut down every one they’ve faced so far.
32. When Saints WR Brandin Cooks is targeted, Drew Brees has a perfect passer rating of 158.3.
Cooks is the only wide receiver to record a perfect passer rating when targeted this season. Teammate Willie Snead is in second place, at 158.0. The Saints move their wide receivers around a lot, so both of them will at times see Desmond Trufant, although Cooks will likely face him more. Trufant hasn’t had a strong start to the season, as he’s already surrendered 85 receiving yards and a touchdown. While Drew Brees might not have a perfect passer rating against the Falcons, he should find success against the Atlanta secondary.