There are just four teams left in the playoff race, and this week’s 32 Observations will continue to focus on only these teams as they deserve their time in the sun.
To bring back a theme from earlier in the season, I created an All-Star roster by picking eight players from each team to make this All-Star team. These are not the best eight players on each team, but the ones that could best come together to beat anyone.
In typical 32 Observation fashion, there is also an interesting statistic to go with each.
New England Patriots
• Despite missing over half the season, Shane Vereen had the fourth most receiving yards when lining up in the slot or out wide for all running backs. He caught 14 of 22 passes thrown his way for 150 yards and two touchdowns.
• From Week 12 to Week 17, no player in the NFL had more catches than wide receiver Julian Edelman who had 53. He did this on 70 targets, and had 556 yards for four touchdowns.
• After having one of his worst performances of his career in the Super Bowl against the Giants, left guard Logan Mankins has a PFF overall grade of +13.0 in his last three playoff games combined. By comparison, only 12 guards reached a grade above +13.0 over the course of the entire 2013 regular season.
• Left Edge Rusher Rob Ninkovich ended the 2013 season with a PFF Run Defense grade of +25.1, which is the highest for defensive end in the last five years.
• Safety Devin McCourty led all safeties in passes defended on the year at seven.
• There were eight kickers this year that were perfect on field goals within 40 yards. Of those eight, no kickers had more field goals within 40 yards than Stephen Gostkowski at 22.
• Running back LeGarrette Blount averaged 29.1 yards per kick return which was sixth best in the league for those with more than ten kick returns, and is the best among the kick returns in the playoffs.
• Linebacker Jamie Collins was one of just five players to receive a +3.0 grade or better for his special teams play on both kickoffs and punt plays.
• In 13 of his 17 games this season, quarterback Peyton Manning has completed 50% or more of his passes when under pressure. He has taken one or no sacks in 12 of 17, and he has gone without throwing an interception under pressure in 14 of 17. The only game that was an exception in all three cases was his earlier game against the Patriots.
• Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas was the only wide receiver to see 125 or more targets, catch at least 65% of passes thrown his way and average over 15 yards per catch. He had 138 targets, a 66.7% catch rate, and 15.5 yards per catch.
• Tight end Julius Thomas has a Catch Rate of 86.2% when lining up in the slot, which is the best for all tight ends with at least 20 targets from the slot.
• Center Manuel Ramirez was one of just three centers to have a +2.0 rating or better in pass blocking, run blocking, screen blocking and penalties.
• Right guard Louis Vasquez hasn’t allowed a sack since Week 13 of the 2012 season back when he was with the Chargers. His consecutive games played without allowing a sack is the longest for all guards.
• Right tackle Orlando Franklin only allowed 24 pressures all season which was third lowest among offensive tackles. While two others allowed fewer, each player played over 140 fewer passing snaps than Franklin.
• Defensive linemen Malik Jackson had two or more pressures in all but two games this season. His opponents in those two regular season games were the Chargers and Patriots.
• Right cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie allowed 100 or more yards receiving in two of his first five games. In each of his last 12 he has allowed 33 or fewer yards. In six of those 12 games he allowed 8 or fewer receiving yards.
San Francisco 49ers
• Wide receiver Anquan Boldin had a Yards Per Route Run of 2.88 when lining up as a slot receiver. That was 0.4 more than any other receiver with at least 200 routes run from the slot.
• For seven consecutive games from Week 4 to Week 11, left tackle Joe Staley had a +0.6 grade or better in run blocking. In his last eight games, Joe Staley has had a +0.6 run block grade or worse in each game.
• Inside linebacker Patrick Willis has a Tackling Efficiency of 17.0 in the passing game which is fourth best among all inside/middle linebackers.
• Inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman has a Yards Per Coverage Snap of 0.68 which is third best among all inside/middle linebackers.
• Right edge rusher Aldon Smith has a Pass Rushing Productivity of 15.5 when rushing from the right side, which is the highest for all 3-4 outside linebackers with at least 200 pass rushes from the right.
• Safety Donte Whitner allowed just 2.8 yards after the catch per catch, which is the lowest for all safeties that were targeted at least 40 times.
• For a third straight year, punter Andy Lee was in the Top 5 in terms of net yards per punt at 41.6.
• Backup linebacker Michael Wilhoite contributed to 16 tackles on special teams plays (14 solo and 2 assists). That was tied for the third most for all special teams players, and most among players remaining in the playoffs.
• From 2008-2012, the most missed tackles we saw a running back create in the run game was 64. This year Marshawn Lynch had 75 players miss tackles on him in the run game which was 17 more than any other back.
• While fullback Michael Robinson has only played 21 run blocking snaps over the last two games, he has a Run Block Rating of +5.0. Only seven fullbacks had a run block rating better than that over the entire 2013 regular season.
• Tight end Zach Miller was the only tight end during the 2013 season with a +2.0 rating or better in both receiving and run blocking. He had a +2.6 rating catching and a +2.9 run block rating.
• While defensive end Michael Bennett is mostly used on pass rush and excels there, he recently has been dominant as a run defender as well. Over his first 13 games he had nine run stops on 134 run snaps for a Run Stop Percentage of 6.7%. Over his last four games he’s had 10 run stops on 59 run snaps for an amazing 16.9 Run Stop Percentage.
• Of our top 26 defensive/nose tackles on Pass Rushing Productivity, all of them have a sack except Brandon Mebane. Mebane has six hits and 26 hurries on 240 pass rushes for a Pass Rushing Productivity of 10.0. That is the third highest for all defensive/nose tackles.
• When quarterbacks threw to the man left cornerback Richard Sherman was covering, they had an NFL Passer Rating of 47.3, which is the lowest for any cornerback in the NFL.
• Over slot cornerback Walter Thurmond’s last three games, he has been targeted in coverage 12 times, and he has only allowed 25 passing yards on those 12 targets.
• Wide receiver Golden Tate has a Punt Return grade of +11.9, which is 4.7 points higher than any other punt returner.
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