The remaining teams in the NFL are not the league’s sexiest, or the league’s most interesting or dynamic stories. But, the four teams that remain (Baltimore, New England, New York, and San Francisco) will certainly give true football fans an exciting Sunday of grid-iron action.
Two teams, both coach by Harbaugh’s, are defense-first/grind-it-out teams while the other two teams are a little more offensively focused. The Patriots are ranked second in the league in offensive yardage — behind the Packers — and third in points scored. The Giants, on the other hand, are above average in most categories and are still in Super Bowl consideration after just beating the Packers. (Sidenote: Is Eli Manning the most David-like quarterback of all time after beating the Goliaths such as the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII and the defending champion Packers last week? If he wins Sunday, see our blog for more about this in the coming weeks.)
Of the four teams remaining (graphs below that outline this information), the Patriots are by far the biggest offensive threat. They’ve put up 513 points this year and lead the other teams in offensive yards and passing yards. But, they also lead in yards given up on the defensive side of the ball.
None of the remaining teams are too much of a threat to put up a lot of rushing yards as the teams are ranked 8th (49ers) in rushing yardage, 10th (Ravens), 20th (Patriots), and 32nd (Giants). But, just because these teams do not put up great vanity numbers on the ground, they all have scored a number of TDs by running the ball. The Patriots are 5th in the league with 18 TDs, the Giants are 6th with 17, the Ravens are 10th with 15, and the 49ers are 14th. Just because a team had a lot of yardage on the ground does not mean they get in the endzone — see the Broncos who were ranked 1st in yards (2,632) but ranked 19th in TDs scored on the ground (11).
The most telling statistic with this group is turnover margin. The Ravens and the 49ers are the highest ranked defensive teams, on paper, but the 49ers have dominated the league with their ability to take the ball away and not give it back. The 49ers have a +28 turnover margin, good for 1st in the league by 4. San Francisco has only given the ball up 10 times all season, but have taken it away 38 times. The Ravens, on the other hand have the worst turnover margin of the four remaining teams with a +2, good for 11th best in the NFL. The Patriots are also pretty selfish when it comes to turnovers as they are +17, good for 3rd in the league; while the Giants are +7, good for 7th best.
Look for turnover margin to be one of the most telling statistics this Sunday. The team that turns the ball over more will probably lose. That’s what big games are typically decided on. It’s not rocket science here.
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