Sorry this is a little later than usual today. I had a bit of a busy day. That helped though, as it gave me plenty of time to contemplate what might be the most important, and one of the most evenly-matched, games of the season for the San Diego Chargers. Are you ready to dive in and see what the stats say about this game? Me too.
I'm going to start by dedicating this post to Wonko and maestro876, because for the first time at BFTB.....this week's game preview will include your normal stats and a dash of the super-fancy stats from Football Outsiders as well. Let's get to it.
Don't let the recent history fool you, this is a good offense. When healthy, Eli Manning is a more-than-capable quarterback. The running game, also fighting through nagging injuries, is not too different from the same ground game that won the New York Giants the Super Bowl in 2007. This offense has the potential to get a lot better very quickly, and I wouldn't be surprised if it happened on Sunday. Especially considering the Giants are at home, heading into a bye, on the verge of losing their season and it's a marquee matchup that the rest of the league will be watching.
Looking at the classic stats, the Giants offense has been quite good this season. They're ranked 5th in offensive yardage per game and 9th in points scored per game (both higher than the Chargers). Their rushing offense, which is still very dangerous, is ranked 7th in the league in terms of yards per carry and yards per game. The New York passing offense, which has taken a beating in recent weeks, is still ranked 11th in the NFL in terms of yards per game.
One stat that makes me hopeful is big plays. The Giants offense ranks 1st in the league in passing plays of 20+ yards with 32 of them. This is an offense that forces you to put 8 men in the box, and then beats you deep on the play-action pass. If the Chargers can manage to stop the run, I have no doubt that they can also stop the big play. The Bolts' D ranks 4th in the league in the number of 20+ yard passing plays given up, with 14 (which includes the blown plays with Louis Murphy and Kelley Washington), and has been effective at holding opposing offenses to small gains through the air.
The Chargers' defense has been slowly creeping up the ranks in the last couple of weeks, playing against weaker offensive teams. They're now ranked 12th in yards allowed per game and 21st in points allowed. Their 28th ranked 3rd down percentage is probably the most damning stat against Ron Rivera and his troops. The Chargers' pass defense, unsurprisingly, played well against the Oakland Raiders and is now ranked 6th in terms of passing yards allowed. The 27th ranked run defense remains a problem, giving up 4.2 yards per carry and 132.1 yards per game on the ground. That will need to get better if the Chargers want to get the Giants' offense off the field.
When you look at FO's stats, the Giants offense looks a lot less intimidating. With the 15th best offense, 14th best passing offense and 14th best running offense....they're about as average as average gets. FO's defensive stats tell roughly the same picture as the classic stats for the Chargers' defense. Ranked 23rd overall, 14th against the pass and 29th against the run.
Advantage: Giants It's not difficult to guess NY's gameplan. They are going to try to run Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw down the Chargers' throat, the same way the Raiders' did with their RBs and the Steelers did with Rashard Mendenhall. Chargers fans are fearful that these RBs won't be stopped, but Giants fans are convinced that Big Blue won't be able to take advantage of the weakness along the defensive line. Seeing as how I'm a Chargers fan, I'm crossing my fingers and expecting the worst for this game.
When the Chargers Have the Ball
Let's start with the fancy stats. The rushing offense has been so poor that it's dragged the rest of the offense with it. The Chargers are ranked a pedestrian 15th overall, 26th in rushing and 9th in passing. That's just about right when you look at the classic stats, where the Bolts rank 12th in offensive yardage and 10th in points per game.
Philip Rivers and his "angels" are ranked 4th in passing yardage, but part of that is because they have had to carry the offense. Surprisingly, though, the Chargers are ranked 13th in terms of attempted passes this season. The run-first Giants are ranked 4th.
The Chargers rushing attack seems to be going backwards. They're now ranked 31st in yards per game and are dead last in the league with their 3.1 yards per carry average. Dead last! Worse than the Chiefs, Lions, Browns and any other horribly bad NFL team you want to name. The only team with less runs of 20+ yards than the Chargers' 2 is the Arizona Cardinals, who have zero. The one shining spot in the running game is that no Chargers RB has fumbled the ball on a run yet this season (remember, LT's fumble was on a shovel pass). So that's good.
First, the classic stats of the Giants once-ballyhooed defense. 3rd in the league in yards allowed per game and a surprising 22nd in point allowed per game. Is that not shocking to anybody else? Their offense, statistically, hasn't been that bad. How the heck is the defense giving up so many points per game and so little yardage. I suspect the reason is that the Giants have been unable to stop big returns, but I can't find the stats to back up that theory. Little help?
The Giants' passing defense ranks 3rd in passing yards allowed, but is tied with Kansas City for 20th in terms of 20+ yard passing plays allowed (22). That certain bodes well for Rivers and Vincent Jackson. The Giants' rush defense seems equally as disappointing as the Bolts'. They're ranked 19th in rushing yards allowed per game and an astonishingly low 27th in yards per carry against their defense (4.6), which is significantly worse than the Chargers (14th). That bodes well for LaDanian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles.
Advantage: Chargers These teams are very similar. Both have trouble stopping the run. Both have offenses built around big plays in the passing game. Both are extremely beat up. The Giants get a little edge because they're at home and heading into a bye. However, when the Chargers are on the field I believe they have the advantage because of Philip Rivers. Going against a weak passing defense, he should be able to put up points as long as the offensive line can keep him clean. I believe they will.
So what's my overall prediction? Not a blowout, but a shootout. I think Sproles makes a few big plays and I think Brandon Jacobs will have his best game of the season. I can easily see this game coming down to whoever plays best in the last 5 minutes of the fourth quarter, and those situations are impossible to predict. Let's hope, for the sake of me, Clip Show, and all of the other Chargers fans that are making the trek to Giants Stadium, that Philip Rivers works his magic and our playoff hopes are alive come Monday morning.