Data Points: Keep feeding Rice

After Baltimore’s surprising Week 7 loss to Jacksonville, the focus was on the fact that RB Ray Rice had a mere eight rushing attempts in that game. In each of the next two weeks, Rice’s workload was bumped up to 18 carries — and the Ravens came out on top. So it’s somewhat distressing for Ravens fans that Rice then had a season-low five carries in Sunday’s loss to the Seahawks.

Data Points: Witten third on TE receptions list

Jason Witten still has a long way to go to catch Tony Gonzalez, the NFL record-holder for career receptions by a tight end, but the Cowboys TE does deserve congratulations for passing Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome to move into third on the all-time list.

Data Points: Updating the Marino chase

We’re halfway through the season and the usual suspects are still on pace to shatter Dan Marino‘s single-season passing record. Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers all are in position to break the mark of 5,084 yards.

Data Points: Patriots in downward scoring trend

As NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi pointed out in his Monday column, the New England Patriots need to outscore their opponents this season because the defense just isn’t strong enough.

Data Points: Unbalanced leaders

On Wednesday, we looked at how the division leaders stack up in terms of total defense. So today we decided to see how the eight first-place teams stack up when you take into account their overall ranking for both total offense and total defense. One thing to note is that there isn’t a great deal of balance among these teams. and only two of the division leaders — the Steelers and Texans — rank in the top 10 of both categories.

Data Points: Defenses are not dominating

There was an interesting note this week in the NFL Media research packet pointing out that the top eight teams in the NFL in total defense all come from the AFC. Pretty crazy, considering it used to be that the NFC was known for rugged defense and the AFC was known for high-scoring aerial attacks.

Data Points: Brees takes lead in record chase

Last week, we mentioned that Tom Brady would have to have an absolutely abysmal game in Pittsburgh to drop off the pace to break Dan Marino‘s record for most passing yards in a season. Well, he’s still on pace to shatter that mark of 5,084, but Brady’s bad day actually pushed him down to third on the list of candidates to set the new mark.

Data Points: 49ers QB Smith best in the West

The San Francisco 49ers are running away with the NFC West this season. Hard to believe we’d be saying that halfway through the season, but then again it’s not as if the rest of the division is mounting much of a challenge. Perhaps the biggest surprise, though, is the success of 49ers QB Alex Smith, who had been written off by many critics before the season ever began.

Data Points: Where’s the parity?

We’re almost at the midpoint of the 2011 season and more than half the teams in the NFL have a winning record. So much for parity, eh? Usually, there are more teams in the middle of the pack. As of now, though, teams at .500 make up the minority.

Data Points: So much for a relaxing week off

By now, you’ve heard that teams coming off their bye weeks are off to a slow start this season. Just to hammer home that point, here’s a reminder that teams coming off their bye weeks have been at .500 or better in each of the last four seasons.

Data Points: Cowboys’ Murray in great company

Cowboys fans no doubt are still giddy over the 253-yard rushing effort by rookie RB DeMarco Murray in Week 7. Forget the fact that it’s a single-game franchise record, because a bit more context makes the performance even more impressive.

Data Points: Still three for the show

There’s no change in our weekly update of the quarterbacks on pace to break Dan Marino‘s single-season passing yardage record. But here’s a little extra food for thought: If Patriots QB Tom Brady is held to 62 yards passing this week at Pittsburgh, he will still be on pace to break Marino’s mark of 5,084 yards.

Data Points: Harder to reach 300

It’s safe to say that defenses around the NFL are finally starting to catch up. True, there were some prolific passers enjoying their bye weeks in Week 7, but the number of 300-yard passers dropped so significantly that it can’t be ignored. And with “only” six 300-yard performances in each of the previous two weeks, you can call this a trend. After 56 300-yard passing games through six weeks, there were a grand total of three in Week 7.

Data Points: Brees getting picked more often

The torrid pace that Saints QB Drew Brees set in the first three weeks of the season has slowed down just a bit — he had thrown three TD passes in each of his first three games. Still, what was even more impressive for the number of pass attempts is that he had tossed only two interceptions in that span. The last three games have seen a dramatic reversal. It’s understandable that Brees hasn’t kept up the pace with TD passes, but he’s actually thrown more picks than scoring passes.

Data Points: Forte the Bears’ the foundation

In honor of the Bears traveling across the pond this week to play the Buccaneers in London, let’s call this a “shephard’s pie chart.”

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