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Week 8 Rundown 2012

Each week we rundown every game using our advanced play-by-play statistics to examine exactly how each game was won and what it means going forward. Our expected points added (EPA) analysis assigns a net point value gained or lost to every single play so we can see exactly on which types of plays teams excelled or failed, and ultimately where games were won. The EPA while each team was on offense gives a more representative measure of offensive efficiency than real life score by separating offensive success from advantages gained or lost by defensive stops, takeaways, and scores. View our complete stats for every play type each week on the Games page.

Week 8 saw a number of usually great passing teams struggle mightily in that category. Meanwhile, others like the Falcons, Broncos, and Patriots showed even more dominance than usual. As a result, those 3 teams jumped to the top of our ratings and created a little bit of separation at the top. Other developments included the 49ers and Giants further increasing their odds to win their divisions by knocking off division foes with the rest of their divisions all losing. Similarly, the Broncos gained major ground in the AFC West with a decisive win and ugly Chargers loss. Just about halfway through the season, 6 of 8 divisions now already have a heavy favorite, with both northern divisions showing a tight race.

(3-4) Buccaneers 36 - 17 Vikings (5-3)
Offensive EPA: TB (14.4) - (-4.6) MIN
Teams with big leads late in games can lose a couple points in the run game while running to move the clock, which took the Buccaneers run offense (-0.2) in this game from decent to average. But the more impactful success for Tampa Bay came in net passing (13.3) as they moved the ball and avoided negative plays. It marks the 3rd straight game where the Bucs have been well above average passing after starting the season with 4 straight bad games. Those results should average out down the road, but it is another positive sign for the Bucs. The Vikings were just below league average in net passing (2.0) but ran the ball well (3.9). Two lost fumbles (-8.1) made the game more lopsided than it should have been. The Vikings are still 2 games above .500, but with a tougher schedule remaining, their playoff hopes are fading.

(3-5) Redskins 12 - 27 Steelers (4-3)
Offensive EPA: WAS (-0.6) - (13.4) PIT
The Redskins had their worst game so far for normal pass plays (4.6), but suffering just 1 sack (-1.3) and avoiding interceptions meant they were still about league average in total net passing efficiency. Washington was about average in most other areas as well. The Steelers were about league average on normal pass plays (10.3), but also suffered just 1 sack (-1.1) and threw no interceptions to end up net successful passing. Pittsburgh also ran the ball well (5.2) for the 2nd straight week with Jonathan Dwyer featured.

(1-6) Panthers 22 - 23 Bears (6-1)
Offensive EPA: CAR (-4.3) - (-2.3) CHI
The Panthers were successful on normal pass plays (14.3), but 2 interceptions (-10.3) including a pick-6 helped to reduce their overall net passing to a little below average. The Bears were worse on normal pass plays (7.7) and also suffered large negatives due to 6 sacks (-10.3) including 2 fumbles lost. But the Bears ran the ball (1.3) a bit better, and had success on kickoff returns (1.7) because Carolina chose to squib kick away from Devin Hester all game. In doing so, the Panthers gifted the Bears their best mark on kickoff returns all season, and a mark 2.5 points worse than the Panthers had given up all year. This game is further evidence that Chicago is not as good as their record. Their defense will ultimately regress some toward the mean as they can not expect to score on defense every game, and the offense has only been mediocre.

(4-4) Seahawks 24 - 28 Lions (3-4)
Offensive EPA: SEA (12.9) - (16.9) DET
The Seahawks total net passing (9.3) was good by moving the ball decently and avoiding any sacks. Seattle also ran the ball (3.6) and punted (3.4) well. Despite the loss and breakdown on defense, it is a somewhat promising overall result. The Lions offense finally resembled their 2011 form with by far their best net passing (18.9) this season. It was a big step forward for the Lions, who certainly still have a shot at the playoffs if they can play as well as they did in 2011.

(7-0) Falcons 30 - 17 Eagles (3-4)
Offensive EPA: ATL (14.0) - (1.0) PHI
The Falcons rebounded from a sluggish last week with their best overall passing (21.6) mark of the season. They continue to struggle running (-3.2), but it will not hurt them much as long as their now #1 pass game keeps strong. Atlanta also reclaimed our #1 overall rating. The Eagles were a little subpar on normal pass plays (7.5) but made up for it by avoiding any interceptions. Overall the Philadelphia offense was pretty average, which was not nearly good enough in this game. But Philadelphia is still a good team, and the media is overreacting. Switching quarterbacks would be a mistake.

(1-6) Jaguars 15 - 24 Packers (5-3)
Offensive EPA: JAC (-15.1) - (-6.1) GB
The Jaguars fell to the bottom of our ratings a few weeks back, and look like they will be there for the long run. They were subpar on normal passing plays (5.7) again, but were decent in passing overall by avoiding any interceptions. Jacksonville struggled in the run game (-3.3), had a terrible punting mark (-6.0) due to a blocked punt recovered for a touchdown, and also had a bad mark in our turnover column (-7.4) due to a fumble lost and 2 late failed 4th down conversion attempts. Despite all that, the Packers still did not run away with the game due to their own struggles. Green Bay was pretty average passing, ran poorly (-2.2), missed a short field goal (-2.9), and blew a fake field goal (-1.7). It would have been an acceptable result for an average team, but not for the Packers. It was their worst overall offensive performance since 2010, and dropped them from 1st to 5th in our ratings.

(3-4) Chargers 6 - 7 Browns (2-6)
Offensive EPA: SD (-6.9) - (-6.6) CLE
Philip Rivers and the Chargers pass game actually were very successful apart from the interceptions last season. But this year they are not moving the ball nearly as well even apart from interceptions. This game was the 1st negative mark for normal pass plays (-2.1) for the Chargers in our records back to 2009. San Diego did punt very well (3.0), but also had a bad mark in our turnover column (-7.7) due to a fumble lost and 2 failed 4th down conversion attempts. The Browns were also very bad on normal pass plays (1.1). It was an ugly win for Cleveland, and put an end to their recent relative passing success.

(4-3) Dolphins 30 - 9 Jets (3-5)
Offensive EPA: MIA (2.5) - (-14.6) NYJ
The Dolphins, mostly under QB Matt Moore after Ryan Tannehill left due to injury, were unimpressive on normal pass plays (4.7), but average overall passing by avoiding any interceptions. Miami was bad running the ball (-2.6) and also lost a fumble (-3.3), but was great all around on special teams. They had good kick returns (1.4), 3/3 field goal kicking (2.0), and good punting (3.1). Furthermore, it extended into the Jets offensive punting category (-4.4) by blocking a punt and recovering for a touchdown. The Jets struggles did not end there, as they had subpar normal pass plays (3.4) and gave up 4 sacks (-7.6) including a lost fumble. The one thing the Jets did well was run the ball (3.0) positively for the 4th straight game.

(5-3) Patriots 45 - 7 Rams (3-5)
Offensive EPA: NE (30.9) - (-7.1) STL
The Patriots offense was dominant all around. They achieved their best net passing (24.5) mark of the season, and a great rushing mark (7.7). Their overall offensive mark was the 2nd best so far by any team this season, jumping them way up in our ratings. The Rams were bad in net passing (-5.7), a mark slightly inflated by a garbage time interception by the backup. They did run the ball (2.5) reasonably well for the 3rd straight week. The Rams offense was bad overall, but not nearly as bad as it usually takes to lose by 38 points.

(4-3) Colts 19 - 13 Titans (3-5)
Offensive EPA: IND (9.8) - (4.2) TEN
This game had a misleading scoreline, as both offenses were actually successful. For the 2nd straight week, the Titans were somewhat efficient mostly by avoiding interceptions. After 2 weeks of subpar play, Andrew Luck and the Colts pass offense was more impressive again like in the first 4 games. Indianapolis combined the successful net passing (10.5) with good running (4.7) for the overtime win. It was a promising game for Andrew Luck going forward, and keeps the Colts in the mix to sneak into the playoffs. But the untold story behind these 2 teams is that this was actually a matchup of two bottom-5 defenses in our ratings.

(3-4) Raiders 26 - 16 Chiefs (1-6)
Offensive EPA: OAK (-0.9) - (-9.5) KC
The Raiders offense was slightly subpar on normal pass plays (6.5) but made up for it by avoiding any sacks. Despite a high yardage total, the run game (-2.9) was inefficient due to the high number of attempts. But Oakland was a solid 4/4 on field goals (1.7), and also managed positive results in punting (1.8) due to a fumble recovery despite being bad in the category otherwise. The Chiefs, mostly under QB Matt Cassel despite benching him because of an early injury to Brady Quinn, were a little below average on normal pass plays (6.8), which was not enough to make up for 3 sacks (-3.8) and 2 interceptions (-5.5), one of which Quinn threw. They also ran the ball poorly (-2.5) and lost a fumbled snap (-3.9), but were a solid 3/3 on field goals (2.7).

(6-2) Giants 29 - 24 Cowboys (3-4)
Offensive EPA: NYG (-1.1) - (-5.6) DAL
This was the most ridiculous game of the week, and the high scores were misleading as the offenses were net negative compared to league averages. Like the Chargers, this was the first negative mark for the Giants on normal pass plays (-0.7) in our records back to 2009. The Giants also ran poorly (-2.6) and also lost a fumble (-3.0). Their overall offensive mark would be even lower if not for a solid 5/5 on field goals (3.1) and good punting (6.2) mostly due to a fumble recovery. The poor passing lowered the Giants rating a bit, but the division win and rest of the division losing bumped up the Giants odds to win the division quite a bit. The Cowboys eventually almost made up for 4 costly interceptions (-17.8) including a pick-6 with very good normal pass plays (21.6). An interesting stat was a positive mark running (2.0) despite gaining just 19 yards on 16 real runs. The discrepancy comes because many runs came on short yardage and goal-line situations, and generated 2 touchdowns. But Dallas also lost a Felix Jones fumble (-4.0).

(2-5) Saints 14 - 34 Broncos (4-3)
Offensive EPA: NO (0.6) - (19.4) DEN
Coming off 3 straight dominant passing performances, the Saints were held to their worst normal pass plays mark (3.4) since 2009, but they also managed to reduce negative plays. New Orleans also punted well (3.7). The bad passing is a big setback for the Saints, but they certainly have the ability to go on a winning streak if they can avoid games like this one. The Broncos were great while passing again, and for the 2nd time this season they combined great normal pass plays (17.8) with no interceptions or sacks at all. Denver ran the ball well (4.3) but also lost a fumble (-3.1). The good play keeps the Broncos rating increasing, and the win plus a Chargers loss and bad play makes Denver heavy favorites to win the AFC West.

(6-2) 49ers 24 - 3 Cardinals (4-4)
Offensive EPA: SF (12.0) - (-9.0) ARI
The 49ers were great in net passing (14.3) after struggling there the last 2 weeks. Their run game was actually not very effective (-2.7) in this game, but it was not needed. The passing success bumps the 49ers closer to the top of the league in our ratings, and the division win plus the rest of the division losing makes San Francisco a near lock to win the NFC West. Yet again the Cardinals were poor in net passing (-1.1) and rushing (-4.1). Arizona does not have much of a chance going forward.

Byes: Ravens (5-2), Bills (3-4), Bengals (3-4), Texans (6-1)

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