Each week The 33rd Team analyzes Sunday’s games by looking at more than just wins and losses. We look at specific statistics and game trends that impacted the outcomes of each game. Today, let’s look at the winners:
Philadelphia Eagles 21 – Carolina Panthers 18
Eagles Key Stat: 3 Forced INTs
Philadelphia was absolutely anemic offensively in the first half but a Sam Darnold interception and a long field goal allowed the Eagles to enter halftime only down nine points. Even when the offensive struggles continued through the first three drives of the third quarter, the defense continued to step up until QB Jalen Hurts finally got going. After a late blocked punt and a game-sealing interception, the defense got every big stop they needed to.
Pittsburgh Steelers 27 – Denver Broncos 19
Steelers Key Stat: 9.9 YAC per Completion
Accompanied by a strong run game, the Pittsburgh passing offense didn’t need to carry the load but rather just keep the chains moving. In particular, the receivers did an excellent job after the catch to get past the chains. Chase Claypool led the way with 82 YAC, including a full 65 on throws short of the sticks. With receivers who can turn upfield effectively, it reduces the pressure on Ben Roethlisberger to throw downfield behind a young offensive line and lets the team play winning football.
New England Patriots 25 – Houston Texans 22
Patriots Key Stat: 11 Broken Run Tackles
Despite playing behind for most of the day, New England didn’t get away from the run game and benefitted. No back put up the star numbers that we saw elsewhere around the league, but they picked up hard-fought yards behind an offensive line with four starters out. The RBs only managed about half a yard before contact per attempt, but Damien Harris (6 broken tackles) and Rhamondre Stevenson (3) both consistently made the most of their carries en route to a win.
Chicago Bears 20 – Las Vegas Raiders 9
Bears Key Stat: 0 Turnovers & 2/2 in the Red Zone
On a day that saw each offense put up only 4.2 and 4.3 yards per play, the Bears won because they played mistake-free football. With only three drives of 6+ plays and four three-and-outs, the Bears struggled to move downfield but got better in the red zone, picking up touchdowns on trips to cap off 10- and 16-play drives. In the Khalil Mack revenge game, it was enough.
Buffalo Bills 38 – Kansas City Chiefs 20
Bills Key Stat: 5/6 on Pass Attempts of 20+
Historically, your options when faced with a Mahomes-level offense have been to take the air out of the ball through a ball-control run game or to score as many points as possible and hope the defense gets a stop. Thankfully for viewers, the Bills chose the latter. Josh Allen was masterful on deep passes, stretching the defense until it broke with two long scores and a full 35.5 yards per play when choosing to send it deep. Even with this downfield strategy, the Bills didn’t surrender a sack on the day and truly put the game out of reach.