Let’s talk about the deep pass.
Ryan Fitzpatrick and Chan Gailey are both asked about it a lot these days.
It’s something the Bills offense doesn’t do very often. And when they do, a successful result is about as rare as an NHL game being played this season.
Gailey and Fitz both know defenses are daring them to throw over the top of their coverage, taking away the Bills bread-and-butter short-passing game until they can prove they can do it. They also know they have a speedster in TJ Graham who can get behind the secondary to make it work. But, again, it’s not working. The lack of a deep-pass presence – even a threat – from this offense is still holding it back in games.
But what do the actual numbers say about the Bills passing game? How long is the average pass Fitz throws, in the air, compared to the rest of the league? How about his completions?
According to statistics provided by the NFL, the average length of all Fitz’s passes – traveling from the point of the line of scrimmage to where the ball is either caught, intercepted, or falls to the earth incomplete, is 8.09 yards. That actually ranks right in the middle of the pack of all 33 primary NFL QBs this season,16th (both Jake Locker and Matt Hasselbeck for Tennessee are counted and ranked). However, on just completions, passes have traveled an average distance of 5.2 yards, which ranks 30th out of 33.
Where's the deep ball?
So, Fitzpatrick is just about average with the rest of the league when it comes to his average length of pass through the air, but as most would expect, isn’t completing those passes. And compared to the rest of the QBs, Fitz has the largest (worst) gap between his “average length of all passes” and “average length of completions” gap rankings. Some QBs are actually higher in the completions ranking than overall pass ranking. Like Drew Brees.
Surprisingly, Brees is tied for 27th overall in his average length of all passes at 7.69 yards. But he’s 12th in average length of completions at 7.22, a full 2-yards more than Fitz (a significant gap for these numbers). So, we usually think of Brees going deep very often. But the fact is, this season, he isn’t. He actually dumps off to Darren Sproles quite a bit, which hurts his ranking here. But, the difference is, when he does throw deep, he makes those passes count a lot more, and those are the ones we see on highlight reels Sunday night. Fitz is the opposite. He’s taking some chances, probably more than you’d expect compared to his QB colleagues. But he’s not making them count.
I’m going to have a lot more on this data next week, complete with comparing Fitz’ 2012 pass lengths to those of his, Trent Edwards’, and JP Losman’s averages over the past six seasons, as well as showing where the current NFL QBs rank on these lists. And, of course, more on the Bills/Titans game here, but first…..
3 Other Must-See NFL Games For Week 7:
Ravens at Texans: The Ravens first PR Game. “Post Ray.” It’s pretty amazing that, six weeks into the NFL season, these are the only two teams above .500 in the entire AFC. Both are 5-1 and have at least a two-game lead on every other team in the conference. So, this game could very well determine who has home-field throughout the AFC playoffs when the season ends. Then again, the way the Ravens are playing defense this season (26th overall in the NFL) and all the injuries they now have, coupled with how bad the Texans defense looked in their first game without Brian Cushing last week, this game could also signal which of these teams, if either, will be asking “what could have been?” at the end of the season. The Ravens are 6-0 all-time against the Texans (including the playoffs).
Jets at Patriots: Good news for Bills fans: If the Bills win, they’re guaranteed to have a one game lead in the AFC East on one of these teams. Bad news for Bills fans: Even if the Bills win, they will be behind whoever wins this game in the AFC Eat standings because they lost to both. But that’s the kind of game this is right now – one that will have a huge effect on the division standings and the wild card at just before the midway point of the season. The Jets are rolling with confidence after last week’s big win over Indianapolis. The Patriots are frustrated after blowing the lead and losing in Seattle. The Pats have lost three games this season. By a total – a total – of four points! Interesting stat on this series. The two teams have played 103 times throughout their histories. It’s 51-51-1. And recent history has been no different. They’ve split the last eight games, four wins apiece (including playoffs). Jets QB Mark Sanchez has played well in New England. In his last two games there, Sanchez has thrown for 360 yards with 5 TDs, 0 interceptions, and has a 116.5 rating. But the Pats have won nine straight regular season games at home against the AFC East.
One's lost weight. The other still has a hoodie.
Steelers at Bengals: Another huge game in the muddied AFC playoff race. Both teams performing below expectations so far. Both have three losses already (doesn’t everybody in this conference)? Two of the Steelers losses were to Oakland and Tennessee. Two of the Bengals losses were to Miami and Cleveland. Four games total that both teams were expected to win. So, this one will give us a better idea of which team is really in more trouble. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger loves playing in his home state of Ohio. He’s 14-2 overall; 7-1 in Cincy and 7-1 in Cleveland.
NFL Fact Hopefully Not Only I Find Interesting:
Six of the last eleven “last undefeated teams” went on to play in the Super Bowl.” The Falcons are now the last of the undefeated teams at 6-0.
Staying On Fire:
I had my third 3-0 “3 Dog Saturday” in week six. If you listened to the selections on Sports Talk Saturday, you know I had the Rams (+4), Browns (+3.5), and Bills (+4). All covered. Two won the game on the field. That puts me at 13-5 on the season and hopefully helping you make a little money with your short-term investment planner (probably named Vinny or Vito or Gus). You can hear the picks every Saturday during the 1pm hour of the show.
3 College Games Worth Your Time:
South Carolina at Florida: It’s been a while since he left, and he’s been back several times, but it’s never dull when Steve Spurrier goes back to Gainesville to coach against the Gators. Especially when he has a good Gamecocks team that can win the game. And that’s what happened the past two years, once at each team's home. Coming off last week’s tough loss to LSU, it’s a tough task for Carolina to go right back on the road to play the Gators, a team that beat that same LSU team a couple weeks ago. But Florida has a tough two game stretch starting this week. They play their annual game in Jacksonville against Georgia next weekend. As opposed to those games against LSU, this one is a division game within the SEC. There’s a strong chance it will ultimately decide who represents the SEC East in the conference championship game.
Spurrier. Before and after
Kansas State at West Virginia: A week ago this game was shaping up to be a matchup of two teams in the top-5, both unbeaten, and one that could have a say in how the national title picture looks at the end. But then Texas Tech gave the Mountaineers a beat down and in the process gave everyone a bunch of reasons to question just how good West Virginia and their exciting QB Geno Smith is. A win here would go a long way in restoring the faith and confidence in WVU and its QB (he still has 25 TDs and 0 INTs on the season). And he may have some opportunities to do just that. K-State can run (11th in the nation) and stop the run (17th), but they are only 70th defending the pass. But don’t sleep on the “other” quarterback in this game. Kansas State’s Collin Klein is 6-0, has completed 66.9% of his passes, thrown for over 1000 yards and run for over 500 so far this season.
Michigan State at Michigan: Sparty had high expectations coming into the season. But they’re now a disappointing 4-3. But, as always, a win over the arch-rival Wolverines would take a lot of the bad tastes out of their fans’ mouths. They also currently have a four-game winning streak against their in-state enemy. A win would give them five straight for the first time ever. Michigan State’s defense can stop the run. They’re 8th in the nation, allowing less than 93 yards a game on the ground. So, Michigan QB Denard Robinson may have to rely more on his arm than his legs in this one, something he couldn’t do against Notre Dame a few weeks ago. Robinson threw four picks to the Irish and passed for only 138 yards in the Wolverines 13-6 loss in that one. He was much better the last couple weeks against Illinois and Purdue. Michigan can play some defense, too. They’re allowing only 134.8 yards a game through the air. That’s 3rd best in all of college football.
I’ll be broadcasting this weekend’s Sports Talk Saturday live from Consumer Beverages at 3160 Niagara Falls Boulevard in Amherst. The show runs from 11am-2pm. Come on out to talk sports, be a part of their Guinness Black Lager promotion, and enjoy the great Buffalo October weather.
NFL Fact Hopefully Not Only I Find Interesting Part II:
The Patriots have at least 350 total net yards in 15 consecutive games, the second-longest streak in NFL history. With 350 total yards against the Jets this weekend, the Pats would tie the St. Louis Rams (1999-2000) for the longest such streak ever.
Titans at Bills:
Remember the stats I just wrote about above? The deep ball? Well, it just so happens one of the three QBs Fitz is ahead of in the “average length of completions” is Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck. He ranks 31st in the NFL at 5.14 yards per average pass length through the air on all completions. But as opposed to Fitz at 17, he’s also only 30th in his average pass length through the air on all passes, at 7.85 yards. So, not only does Hasselbeck have trouble completing the deep ball, he rarely even tries.
The Bills need to commit to two things in this game – running the ball and stopping the run. And if they do the first, they should be fairly successful at it and have a chance for a big day running it. The Titans are allowing almost 130 yards a game on the ground, 24th in the NFL.
And although they are dead last in the league running the ball themselves, averaging a miniscule 70.2 yards a game, Tennessee still has Chris Johnson who can break free at any time. He had a huge day at Ralph Wilson Stadium last season, running for 153 yards and two TDs against the Bills. So, Dave Wannstedt needs to dedicate as many resources as possible to stopping Johnson and forcing Hasselbeck to beat his defense.
This is the key to success for the Bills Sunday
Tennessee is also last in the NFL allowing 34 points a game on defense. The Bills aren’t much better, 31st, allowing 32 points a game. But Tennessee is a lot more consistent (as in consistently bad) allowing points. The Bills have allowed 45 points or more three times this season, but also allowed 17 or less three times (guess which three they won and which three they lost)? The Titans have allowed 34, 38, 41, 38, 30, and 23 in their six games.
This could very well be a day when CJ Spiller breaks out for a huge game. Maybe Fred Jackson does, too. And Chan Gailey and the Bills need to try everything they can to make sure that happens. Bills 31-20
Follow me on twitter: @SalSports