PFF Week: Up North, Week 5
It’s your last chance to get caught up on the happenings at PFF before the next slate of games is upon us, and our new ‘PFF Week’ posts provide quick access to the week that was. The ‘Up North’ edition covers all things pertaining to the AFC and NFC North divisions for a one-stop Saturday shop built to keep you in the loop and on top of your football-watching game.
The only constant in the NFL is unending change. Through four weeks (and one game) the AFC North and NFC North have an unfamiliar look. The Super Bowl winning Ravens and two-time defending NFC North champs Green Bay are a combined 3-4, the ever-reliable Steelers are winless, and the Browns and Lions lead their respective divisions — neither team has won a division crown since George Bush was President… that’s George Bush Senior!
Let’s take a look back at how Week 4 helped shake-up the divisions, and how Week 5 could bring more uncertainty.
Week 4 Wrap
PFF prides itself on analyzing every player, on every play, of every game. And shortly after that analysis is completed and posted online in our Premium Stats section, our analysts publish a detailed article on three key performances from each team, in every matchup. Our Re-Focused articles are a great way to get a feel for not only what happened on the field, but why. You can find all the Week 4 action below:
The largely unexpected results of those games propelled seven players from the north divisions — paced by the Lions’ four entrants — into PFF’s Team of the Week. Conversely, an alarming nine players made the ‘Had a Bad Day’ Team. They were led by Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco, whose performance earned the following critique from PFF analyst Khaled Elsayed:
“Showing a disregard for defenders, Flacco flung the ball here and there with little care as to where it ended up. His high ceiling took the day off, and his low floor took center stage.”
Moving on from so lowly a display of passing, this week’s 32 Observations focused on the league’s running backs. Did you know Matt Forte has split his carries perfectly between the right and left side of the line (34 rushes a piece)? Or that Giovani Bernard is the only back to have half his carries go for 5 yards or better?
While we’re on Bernard, his strong start to the season has him in third place in PFF’s Race for Rookie of the Year. The Lions’ duo of Larry Warford and Ezekiel Ansah maintained their place in the Top 10 this week, while the Bears’ Kyle Long, and Tyler Eifert of the Bengals slipped out.
The NFL’s youth movement got a little extra PFF attention this week, as Khaled Elsayed took a look at how last year’s crop of rookies are faring in their second go around. The 2012 First-Rounders in Focus article reserved praise for the work of two sophomore O-linemen in Pittsburgh’s David DeCastro and Cincy’s Kevin Zeitler… but the Bears and Packers are probably not as impressed with their top 2012 recruits.
Moving back to a more experience player, Jerricho Cotchery’s strong performance in London earned him top billing in our regular Secret Superstars feature. Gordon McGuinness’ weekly column shines a little light on high performing players who otherwise miss out on media attention due to their position, low snap count, or because they are plain under appreciated.
Among the perennially overlooked are the NFL’s special teamers. PFF founder Neil Hornsby and his team are looking to address that in the weekly feature The Third Phase, which gives some kudos to the players that do the heavy lifting on the kicking units. The improved form of Chicago’s Anthony Walters earned him a spot among Week 4’s top special teamers.
And that kind of strong form can be fleeting in the NFL. Ben Stockwell has been tracking the risers and fallers among NFL performances, and after four weeks presented his Stock Report: NFC, First Quarter and Stock Report: AFC, First Quarter. If you’re looking for a cue as to how your favorites are trending, Terrell Suggs and Jordan Cameron are listed as “Stock Up”, while B.J. Raji and Harrison Smith earned “Stock Down” labels.
All that Week 4 action left the Packers, Bears, and Bengals in the Top 10 of the PFF Power Rankings, while the Lions and Ravens are just outside, although moving in different directions.
Looking Ahead to Week 5
With the Steelers and Vikings no doubt enjoying some sight-seeing in England, and the Packers returning to the field after their bye week, the AFC North and NFC North teams feature in five games this round. You can find out how the PFF team think each game will unfold in our Three To Focus On series, with the ‘northerners’ featured below:
Of course, the fifth encounter was the Browns’ big win over the Bills on Thursday Night Football. You can get a wrap-up of that one in Ben Stockwell’s Re-Focused article, and take an in-depth look at Cleveland’s love for power-wham plays in the running game with Sam Monson’s Analysis Notebook: TNF, Week 5. As a side note, Sam used the first Analysis Notebook of the week to illustrate how Aqib Talib and the Patriots managed to prevail over Atlanta’s high class receivers.
Finally, if you’re looking a little less scientific forecast for the weekend’s action why not take a look at the PFF Pick’em. Our lads have missed one, and only one, unanimous tip each week. If that trend holds then Green Bay, as one of six across-the-board choices, could be in store for a let-down this week.
With the season now well established, and most teams having completed a quarter of their year, our unique Signature Stats take on increased value. Khaled Elsayed got us underway with a look at the best edge rushers and interior defenders as measured by PFF’s Pass Rushing Productivity Signature Stat. He also revealed how often every team uses each of the three main offensive personnel packages in the Offensive Packages feature — Green Bay leads the league in use of ’11-personnel’, trotting it out on 84.4% of plays, while Cincinnati are the heaviest users of ’12-personnel’, at 42.3%.
And we rounded out the week at PFF with Steve Palazzolo’s look at wide receiver/cornerback match-ups, trends in tight end coverage, and more in Palazzolo’s Pitch: Flipping Corners.
So, another week down, another one on the horizon, and the Lions and Browns in first place… what will happen next?.