30 PFF stats to know for NFL Week 9
With Week 9 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.
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1. Falcons QB Matt Ryan owns an NFL passer rating of 128.4 when not faced with pressure, the highest rating in the league.
When throwing from a clean pocket, Falcons QB Matt Ryan has completed 152 of 199 passes for 2,031 yards, 17 touchdowns, and four interceptions. While he has still made big plays under pressure, his accuracy drops down even more than the typical quarterback. On Thursday night, Ryan could build on his MVP résumé, as the Buccaneers have had one of the worst pass-rushes in the league this year. None of Tampa Bay’s defensive players have recorded more than three sacks, nor has anyone recorded more than 21 QB pressures.
2. Buccaneers CB Brent Grimes has seven passes defenses, tied for fourth-most among cornerbacks.
Grimes appeared to be a player on the decline, as he is the third-oldest cornerback currently on an NFL roster, and his play wasn’t nearly as strong in 2014 or 2015 as it was in 2013. After allowing a 67.1 percent catch rate last year, he’s allowed just a 51.2 percent catch rate so far this season, in large part thanks to all of his passes defenses. Against Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, the Buccaneers will need Grimes to be at his best.
Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings
3. Lions DE Kerry Hyder owns a 10.7 pass-rushing productivity, the fifth-best mark among 4-3 defensive ends.
In Hyder’s first two NFL seasons, he played just two defensive snaps. This year, he earned a role as a rotational defensive end for the Lions, and so far the results have been strong; he had at least one sack in each of his first four games. While he hasn’t registered a sack in the last four games, he has continued to get pressure on quarterbacks. This week should be a good opportunity to increase his sack total. Last week, Vikings right tackle T.J. Clemmings surrendered one sack, three hits, and three hurries. If Minnesota sticks with Clemmings—or benches him—Hyder should have the chance to get a lot more pressure.
4. Vikings LB Eric Kendricks has four passes defenses, tied for the most among linebackers.
As a rookie, Kendricks had strong play against the run, but wasn’t as good in coverage. This year it’s the opposite, with Kendricks making several plays in coverage but not playing as well against the run. Against a team like the Lions, Kendricks’ recent play benefits the Vikings; Detroit has one of the best receiving backs in football in Theo Riddick, but hasn’t field much of a run game otherwise.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens
5. Steelers DE Stephon Tuitt owns a run-stop percentage of 10.9, the best for 3-4 defensive ends.
In his third year, Tuitt has remained one of the best defensive players on the Steelers’ roster. Although he doesn’t have a sack, he’s been good at getting pressure, and is constantly making a few plays against the run each game. Last year, Tuitt had one of his best games of the season against the Ravens, as well as one of the worst. Both times he often went up against Marshal Yanda, and that may be the case again this week if Yanda can return from his shoulder injury.
6. Ravens DE Lawrence Guy has a run-stop percentage of 13.2, second-best for 3-4 defensive ends; teammate Timmy Jernigan is in third, at 12.4 percent.
By far the most impressive part of the Ravens’ season has been their ability to stop the run, even though they don’t have the big-name players they once fielded. In their stead, rotational players like Lawrence Guy and Timmy Jernigan have been doing a very good job against the run. This week, they’ll really need them, as the Ravens face the best running back in football: Le’Veon Bell.
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins
7. Jets DE Leonard Williams has recorded 16 run stops, tied for the most among 3-4 defensive ends.
The Jets’ young star had an excellent start to the season, but has since slowed down. He’s still been making plays against the run, but hasn’t been getting nearly as much pressure. Against the Dolphins, however, the key will be stopping the run game (most notably, Jay Ajayi).
8. Dolphins RB Jay Ajayi owns an elusive rating of 88.6, the best for running backs with more than 75 touches.
Ajayi is coming off of back-to-back games of more than 200 rushing yards. Most of his yards have come after contact by making defender after defender miss tackles. This week he faces the Jets, whose run defense might not be as strong as recent seasons, but is still one of the best at slowing the ground game, thanks to players like Leonard Williams and Sheldon Richardson. Ajayi will have a much more difficult time gaining yards this week.
Dallas Cowboys at Cleveland Browns
9. Cowboys DT Terrell McClain owns a run-stop percentage of 17.0, highest among NFL defensive tackles.
McClain is in his sixth NFL season, and is having his best year yet as a rotational defensive tackle. In 88 run snaps, he has 15 run stops. One of the best parts of the Browns’ offense this season is Isaiah Crowell’s running, where he averages 4.9 yards per carry. The Cowboys will expect McClain, among others, to stop Crowell and bring Dallas another victory.
10. Browns DT Danny Shelton has 26 run stops, the most for defensive tackles.
While McClain has been the best at stopping the run on a per-play basis, Shelton has had the biggest cumulative impact in stopping the run. In his sophomore season, Shelton has showed up each week, and has had at least two stops in every game. The Browns will need him at his best as he faces Dallas’ Travis Frederick, the best run-blocking center in football. This meeting will likely be one of the best one-on-one matchups of strength versus strength in the run game this season.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Kansas City Chiefs
11. Jaguars S John Cyprien has six run stops over the last two weeks, tied for the most among safeties.
Ever since being drafted by Jacksonville in the second round of the 2013 draft, Cyprien has been one of the Jaguars’ starting safeties. These last few weeks have been the first time he’s been a real asset to the defense, however. He’s been doing a great job at stopping running backs, and his job should be easier than expected this week. Spencer Ware is not practicing due to a concussion he suffered, and Jamaal Charles is on injured reserve. That leaves Charcandrick West as Kansas City’s running back, who simply isn’t as talented as Ware or Charles.
12. Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill is averaging 3.84 yards per route run, the highest rate for players with 20 or more routes this season.
In recent weeks, the fifth-round rookie receiver has seen his role in Kansas City’s offense increase. Hill has scored touchdowns in back-to-back games, and this past week caught all five passes thrown his way for 98 yards. The Jaguars’ secondary has been below-average this year, so this could be another opportunity for Hill to make a few big plays and become an even bigger part of the offense.
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants
13. Eagles DE Brandon Graham has recorded 41 QB pressures—seven more than any other 4-3 defensive end this season.
Moving back to the defense’s left side has helped Brandon Graham’s play this season. He has four sacks, nine hits, and 28 hurries on the year. Graham will either spend the day facing Marshall Newhouse, if Newhouse is ready to return from his Week 2 injury, or Bobby Hart. Over the past month, Hart has a pass-blocking efficiency of 89.5, fifth-worst among NFL offensive tackles. Either way, Graham should be very disruptive once again in this game.
14. Giants RG John Jerry has not surrendered a pressure in each of his last three games.
This includes games against the Packers, Ravens, and Rams, all of whom have some impressive interior D-linemen. Since becoming a starter again midseason in 2015, he has yet to allow a sack or hit. One of his worst pass-blocking performances in that time was Week 17 versus the Eagles, however. He will have his hands full this week with players like Fletcher Cox and Vinny Curry. Whomever Jerry lines up against on Sunday, it will be a fun matchup to watch.
Carolina Panthers at Los Angeles Rams
15. Panthers LB Luke Kuechly has 12 stops in the passing game, fourth-best for middle/inside linebackers this season.
While Kuechly hasn’t had a historically-great season at linebacker so far, he’s still been one of the best linebackers in football, consistently making plays in coverage even after a catch has been made. Against the Rams, Kuechly’s main job will be stopping RB Todd Gurley. Last year, Gurley averaged less than three targets per game, but a few weeks ago, the Rams started increasing his targets, and now Gurley is coming off of a career-high seven-target game. Kuechly will need to stop Gurley not just in the run, also in the passing game.
16. The Rams are the only team with four DBs with 350 or more snaps each and overall grades of 79.0 or higher.
Going into the season, the Rams’ secondary was an area of concern after the free-agent departures of Janoris Jenkins to the Giants and Rodney McLeod to the Eagles. However, Maurice Alexander and Lamarcus Joyner joined T.J. McDonald and Trumaine Johnson in the starting lineup, and all four have played very well. This is bad news for Cam Newton; the Panthers’ QB has been playing well, but not nearly as well as his NFL MVP season last year.
New Orleans Saints at San Francisco 49ers
17. Saints WR Willie Snead averages 2.13 yards per route run when lined up in the slot, third-best among slot receivers.
These past two weeks, Snead has been playing well, catching 15 of 17 passes thrown his way for 143 yards. Most recently, Jimmie Ward was the 49ers’ slot cornerback, so he will be the one tasked with stopping Snead. So far, Ward has just allowed 5 of 11 passes thrown his way to be caught for 42 yards in the slot. Ward hasn’t faced a test in the slot like Snead yet this season, so this will be his biggest challenge yet.
18. 49ers DE Arik Armstead owns a pass-rushing productivity mark of 11.2, best among 3-4 defensive ends with at least 140 pass-rushes.
There haven’t been many bright spots statistically for the 49ers this year, but one of them has been how well Armstead has been playing. On the year, he has three sacks and 21 hurries, with two of those sacks coming in the last two games. His solid performance has led to an increase in playing time as the season has gone on. This week he will face the weak point in the Saints’ offensive line: Jahri Evans. The 49ers will need Armstead to have a big game to get a strong pass-rush on Drew Brees.
Tennessee Titans at San Diego Chargers
19. There are three NFL offensive tackles with 250+ pass blocks and no sacks allowed yet this season; two of them are Titans LT Taylor Lewan and RT Jack Conklin.
It was notable early in the season just how good the offensive tackles for the Titans had been doing. We are now halfway into the season, and both tackles remain among the best in the league in pass protection. The two of them have only allowed one combined hit over eight games. This week, their challenge is to stop Chargers’ rookie edge rusher Joey Bosa, a player who has had at least two combined sacks and hits in each NFL game he’s played in.
20. Chargers CB Casey Hayward has four interceptions this season, second-most for cornerbacks
One of the best free-agent additions this offseason has been Casey Hayward, who has played at a high level in San Diego. One thing Hayward wasn’t great at in his last three years in Green Bay was getting interceptions, with just three over that three-year span. This year, he’s already topped that mark in just half a season. This week he faces Marcus Mariota, who had a slow start to the season, but has 10 touchdowns to just one interception over their last four games. Hayward might have a tough time getting that fifth interception, given how well Mariota has played recently.
Indianapolis Colts at Green Bay Packers
21. Colts WR T.Y. Hilton had 263 receiving yards on deep passes; fifth-most among wide receivers.
Hilton is one of very few receivers who has caught more than half the deep passes thrown his way this season. He’s caught nine of 16 deep passes, and has two touchdowns. If Hilton keeps up his current pace, he will have the best season of his career. This week he should have the opportunity against a Packers’ team who has Sam Shields on injured reserve, and their other two starting cornerbacks have been injured. This should give Hilton an opportunity for a big game.
22. When Micah Hyde lines up in the slot, he has surrendered an NFL passer rating of 69.1, fifth-lowest for slot cornerbacks.
Typically, when everyone on the Green Bay defensive roster is healthy, Hyde is used as the Packers’ third safety in dime packages. With the number of injuries Green Bay has had, though, Hyde has played more slot cornerback in their nickel package, as well as their dime. In his time in the slot, Hyde has allowed just 12 of 21 passes thrown his way to be caught for 98 yards. This will mean Hyde will see mostly Hilton. While Hilton may not run as many of his deep routes from the slot, Hyde will be asked to stop Hilton on his short and intermediate routes.
Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders
23. There are 13 cornerbacks who have been thrown at 30 or more times this season and have allowed a catch rate lower than 54 percent; three of those cornerbacks play for Denver.
Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr., and Bradley Roby have all been playing well recently. Talib and Harris are two of the three highest-graded cornerbacks so far this season, and Roby is coming off of a game where he allowed just one of seven passes thrown his way to be caught, and has an interception. That will make it a long day for one of the league’s best young quarterbacks.
24. Raiders QB Derek Carr has an adjusted completion percentage of 59.3 when throwing deep this season, fourth-best among NFL QBs.
While there are plenty of quarterbacks who attempt deep passes (20+ air yards) more often than Carr, few have been as effective. Carr has completed 14 of 27 deep passes for 469 yards and five touchdowns. This week it will be much more difficult to make deep completions against the Broncos’ secondary which has the highest coverage grade on PFF’s cumulative scale. If the Raiders can complete a few deep passes against Denver, it would be a major factor in Oakland taking control of the division.
Buffalo Bills at Seattle Seahawks
25. Bills OLB Lorenzo Alexander owns a pass-rushing productivity mark of 12.4, tied for fourth-best among 3-4 outside linebackers.
One of the biggest surprises of the season has been the play of Lorenzo Alexander. In four of the previous five seasons, Alexander played fewer than 100 defensive snaps, and yet is now the league-leader in sacks. Not only has Alexander been good at sacking the quarterback, he’s also been pretty decent at getting pressure, too. This week, he faces Seattle, a team that most recently had undrafted rookie George Fant at left tackle. Fant has allowed two hits and five hurries, but has yet to allow a sack in 56 pass-blocking snaps. If Fant remains the starter this week, it could be his first time surrendering a sack in the NFL.
26. When WR Doug Baldwin has been targeted, the Seahawks have an NFL passer rating of 124.4; third-best for a wide receiver this season.
Last year, Doug Baldwin led the league in this category, but he hasn’t been catching as many touchdowns this season. He has only been targeted 21 times over the Seahawks’ last four games, but no receiver has made as many defenders miss tackles on him over that time span as Baldwin. This week he will go up against Nickell Robey-Coleman. When Robey-Coleman has been targeted, opposing quarterbacks only have a passer rating of 52.9. Something will have to give when Baldwin is targeted in Robey-Coleman’s coverage on Monday.
More stats to know
27. 60.9 percent of kickoffs this season have been touched back, compared to 60.0 percent this time last year.
This past offseason, the NFL moved the starting position for touchbacks from the 20 to the 25-yard line in an effort to increase the number of touchbacks. Some people thought the rule change would have the opposite effect, but so far it seems like the impact has only slightly increased the rate of touchbacks; the impact has been very minimal.
28. Pass-blocking efficiency for NFL offensive lines in general has increased from 77.2 in 2015 to 78.8 in 2016.
In recent seasons, it has seemed like offensive-line play has gotten worse year after year. At least in terms of pass protection, it looks like things have actually gone in the opposite direction. Offensive lines have been allowing fewer pressures on a per-play basis compared to a season ago.
29. The average time to throw for all quarterbacks has decreased from 2.68 seconds in 2014, to 2.65 in 2015, and now 2.61 this season.
At least part of the reason quarterbacks have been under pressure less is that they have been getting their passes out faster. The less time a defender has to get to the quarterback, the harder it is for them to do it. Offenses have been evolving over time, and will continue to do so to help protect their quarterbacks.
30. The record in the PFF era (since the 2006 season) for most QB pressures in a player’s first six games is 26.
That mark was set by Chandler Jones in his first year with the Patriots, and tied by Leonard Williams last year with the Jets. In Joey Bosa’s first four games with the Chargers, he has 26 pressures, which breaks the record for most in four games. Even if Bosa doesn’t get a pressure in each of his next two games, he still ties Jones and Williams for most pressure through six games.