If most of your sports information is gathered from SportsCenter or a daily round of sports Podcasts, you are bound to latch onto a handful of “talking points” that get regurgitated repeatedly up until kickoff. Typically, analysts have a premeditated opinion on a team or player, then find statistics that support their case, regardless of whether or not those are taken out of context, are out-dated, or even, occasionally, blatantly misleading. For example, you could say that “Russell Wilson is the 8th-highest ranked quarterback by Pro Football Focus.” While yes, that may be true, that talking point does not reveal that Wilson is actually ranked 16th in the league as a passer, but is elevated due to a couple of positive rushing grades through the season. So, in an attempt to put some of these talking points and myths to the test, Ramblin’ Fans’ investigative teams has decided to take a handful of “headliners” from this week, and put them to the test.
1. “… the Panthers’ 3rd-ranked rush defense vs. the Rams 27th-ranked rush offense…”
Yes, the Carolina Panthers have allowed the 3rd-fewest rushing yards this season, and the Rams have gained the 27th-most rushing yards this season; but, that doesn’t tell the whole story.
To start, the Panthers have only played five regular season games, one fewer than a majority of the league. In those five games, they have faced the 29th-, 27th-, 23rd-ranked rushing offenses in the league, and have allowed a 6.0+ yards per carry rusher in three out of five games. Moreover, even when “slowing” the dynamic Marshawn Lynch, the did so at the expense of allowing Russell Wilson to throw for 300+ yards for the first time in his regular season career. According to Pro Football Focus, the Carolina Panthers run defense ranks 20th in the league, 13th in the pass rush, and 7th in coverage, which is good enough for 10th overall in the NFL. In all fairness, that is an extremely respectable ranking. However, the Panthers defense is not as good as the “yards allowed” statistics would lead you to believe.
Switch over to the Rams rushing attack, and you essentially have a “tale of two teams.” First, you have the Week 1-Week 4 rushing attack, which was understandably ranked 31st in the NFL, and was averaging well under 100 yards per games. Change over to Week 5-Week 6, when the St. Louis Rams move towards tight-end heavy sets and inserted Zac Stacy in the starting lineup, and you have a team averaging 121 rushing yards per game. Moreover, Stacy has ranked in the Top 10 rushers both weeks (in terms of total yards), and is currently slotted 5th in yards per carry and 3rd in average yards after contact.
According to PFF, the Rams are dawning the 24th-best rushing attack in the NFL. That gives a more realistic matchup of 20th vs. 24th, which favors neither the Panther, nor the Rams.
2. “Cam Netwon is the better quarterback in this game”
Well, there are a million ways that you could go about attacking this one, from raw statistics to team winning percentage… from coaching consistency to supporting cast… from accuracy vs. power to dual-threat vs. pocket-passer. The bottom line is that the two quarterbacks are vastly different, and thus, are difficult to compare. However, there are a handful of categories that transcend all quarterbacks, regardless of their individual skill set: touchdowns, turnovers, and winning. So, here are those numbers comparing Cam Newton vs. Sam Bradford in their first two full seasons in the NFL, plus their first 5 games from this year:
|Sam Bradford||Cam Newton|
|Record||16 wins, 20 loses, 1 tie||15 wins, 22 loses|
All in all, Sam Bradford and Cam Newton appear pretty even down the board, aside from the obvious discrepancy in rushing touchdowns by the dual-threat, Carolina signal caller. At this point, both quarterback are extremely young, with plenty of chapters still to be written in their NFL storybook. Both are Heisman trophy winners, both were the 1st overall pick in their respective draft class, both won Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Looking at the numbers, without diving into the complex history and background of each player, and you see Bradford has a slightly better record and slightly fewer turnovers, while Newton puts significantly more points on the board. Take your pick…
Myth: Plausible (?)
3. “…these teams are evenly matched, but the Panthers should win on their home turf…”
Not just in football, but in nearly all sports, there is this misconception that all teams hold some “home field advantage.” Obviously, the nearly-deafening stadium in Seattle and the thin-air in Denver make it extremely difficult for opposing teams to win on the road. However, near-empty arenas in Tampa Bay and Miami certainly to not “help” the home team. Carolina is no different, especially for Cam Newton…
|Home Stats||Away Stats|
|60+ Completion %||3 (games)||2 (games)|
|300+ Passing Yards||0||3|
|100+ Passer Rating||2||4|
Looking back at the 2012 season, Cam Newton obviously put up better numbers on the road than at home in Carolina. We have all watched the emotional rollercoaster fully displayed by the 3rd-year quarterback, openly expressing his desire to please the fans and the orgnaization. Logically, one could surmise that Newton actually feels more pressure to perform at home than on the road. However, winning isn’t just about the quarterback play, but rather a culmination of succeeding in several different key aspects of the game. How have the ground game and defense played at home vs. on the road?
|20+ Yard Runs||9||8|
|Tackles for Loss||17||21|
As the numbers show, the Carolina Panthers have had significantly better passing number, a more potent rushing attack, and considerably more defensive pressure on the road, as opposed to when at home… there appears to be a trend. Even if you don’t consider the +1 record advantage on the road to be anything noteworthy, there is certainly nothing to suggest the contrary; meaning there doesn’t appear to be any evidence here of a home field advantage.