5 NFL Facts to Know for Week 9
Are the Lions a team of destiny? No, really, are the Detroit Lions a team of destiny?
After being down by 21 points to the Falcons in London, Detroit stormed back and won with a late-second field goal on Sunday - a field goal that almost didn't even happen.
And now, after eight weeks, the Lions are 6-2 with one of the best offensive weapons in the league set to return, and one of the best defensive units in the NFL.
In what was probably the best American football game the people have London have watched live, let's start this week's "5 Facts to Know" article with a look at London games.
NFL in London
The NFL just had its second of three games in London this season, and fans were treated to a contest that saw the Lions come back to win the game with 22 unanswered points. But with the NFL having one more London game scheduled (Cowboys and Jaguars) and planning more for years to come, let's take a look back at some tidbits of past London games.
The Lions and Falcons tilt was the 10th game in London since 2007. Of those 10 games, zero have gone into overtime. The average margin of victory has been 15 points, with the winning team scoring 31 points per game and the losing team only mustering an average of 16 points a game.
Among the 10 games, we've seen 16 teams, as 4 squads have played in this series twice: Miami, San Francisco, New England, and Tampa Bay. The third London game this season will feature the Cowboys' first visit to Wembley Stadium and the Jaguars' second trip.
Don't be surprised to see more contests in London, especially if they involve the Buccaneers, Rams, and Jaguars. Each of those teams are co-owned by the same group that owns English Premier League teams Arsenal, Manchester United, and Fulham FC, respectively.
Oh, and the average attendance for these London games? 82,763. Only one matchup having below 80,000 attendees. Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys are the only team to draw more than 80,000 patrons to their games so far this season.
Speaking of attendance, I thought it would be interesting to see who was leading the league in average attendance this year. As I mentioned above, Dallas is highest in average attendance this year with over 90,000 fans per game. The Redskins, Giants, Jets, and Packers round out the top five, all hovering between 78,000 and 79,000 fans per game so far this year.
In looking back at the previous five seasons, four of the top five teams this year are still in the top five of attendance in the league, mostly due to stadium size and location. The only team to drop out is the Packers, and they've been replaced by the Broncos over the past five seasons.
However, the trend to more London games is fascinating, and it may be the next money-making step for the NFL, as only two teams in each of the previous five seasons (and just one in 2011) had an average of 80,000 or more fans a year.
If fans won't pay here, get them to pay overseas, right?
Rarity From Kansas City
I have to thank John Middlekauf for bring this to my attention:
#Chiefs scored 34 points Sunday & didnt have one passing TD, something you dont often see in '14— John Middlekauff (@JohnMiddlekauff) October 28, 2014
After I saw that tweet, I couldn't help but check out how many games this year have had a winning team not score on a passing touchdown. Through the first eight weeks of the season, there are exactly eight games where the winning team did not record a touchdown through the air.
Ok, that's kind cool, right? But how does it compare to past seasons? Right now, the NFL is on pace for 17 games of this type for the rest of the season. But in 2013, there were 29. The winning team's offense didn't score through the air 27 different times in 2012, and 31 different times in 2011.
Dialing Back the Clock
With Antonio Gates and Rob Gronkowski combining for five touchdown receptions this past weekend, we remember why more and more teams are looking for that tight end that is more receiver than blocker in recent years.
Gates looked like his 2009 and 2010 Pro Bowl self last week, catching two more touchdowns to bring his season total to nine. Gates leads the team in touchdown catches, is second in targets and receptions, and is third in yards. Gates also happens to be second in both Target Net Expected Points (NEP) and Reception NEP among tight ends this season.
The only guy above Gates in both categories is the other tight end that went bonkers this weekend, Rob Gronkowski. Tom Brady was on target with Gronk all day Sunday, as they connected on all 9 targets for 149 yards and 3 touchdowns. If Gronk keeps this up, the Patriots will be a formidable offense to stop once again as well - and they face off against the Chargers in Week 14.
Big Names, Bigger Performances
With Gronk back to his old self, Tom Brady is right there with him. Despite a rocky 2-2 start for Brady and company, the Patriots are on a four-game winning streak, setting up an explosive contest against Peyton Manning’s Broncos.
Brady got a nice tune-up against the Bears' swiss cheese secondary, completing 30 of his 35 pass for 354 yards and 5 touchdowns. Even better was Brady's Passing NEP, as he more than doubled his season total, going from 34.01 to 69.06 Passing NEP. Brady currently ranks as the sixth-best quarterback in the league.
But Brady wasn’t alone in a big performance this past weekend. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger contributed 33.83 expected points through the air while throwing for 522 yards and 6 touchdowns, setting a record in the process by becoming the first quarterback to have two games of 500 or more yards passing. Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Eli Manning have hit this mark once. Even Dan Marino, Warren Moon, and Y.A. Tittle did it once in their career.
Ben also became just the second quarterback to throw for at least 500 yards and 6 touchdowns in a game - Y.A. Tittle did the same for his only 500 yard game as well.