(A Week 8 preview from ESPN's Stats & Analysis department.)
Brett Favre says he expects to start his 292nd consecutive game Sunday against the New England Patriots. If he starts despite two fractures in his left ankle, it’s possible he’ll try throwing off-balance more often, so as to avoid any further damage to his plant foot.
This season, however, Favre has been extremely unproductive when throwing off-balance. When he’s been set, Favre has completed 63.1 percent of his passes and averaged 7.9 yards per attempt. While he does have five interceptions, all seven of his touchdown passes have come when his feet have been set. When he’s off-balance, Favre has completed less than 50 percent of his attempts (47.4) with five interceptions and a passer rating of 21.7.
As for the New England Patriots, they shifted Pro Bowl defensive lineman Vince Wilfork from nose tackle to defensive end in Week 4, and the switch has had a drastic effect on the team’s rush defense. In the last two weeks against the Baltimore Ravens and San Diego Chargers, the Patriots have allowed the fewest yards per rush in the NFL (2.6).
Packers at Jets
The New York Jets pass defense has been unforgiving to quarterbacks throwing deep in the Rex Ryan era. Opposing quarterbacks have posted a 37.5 passer rating on throws at least 15 yards downfield the past two seasons. The Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers this season has completed 72.2 percent of his passes that went 14 yards or fewer in the air for seven touchdowns and only one interception. On balls that traveled at least 15 yards, Rodgers has completed 36.4 percent with five touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Aaron Rodgers Last Two Seasons
Facing 5 Pass Rushers or More
Rodgers is coming off his best game of the season when facing added pass pressure. Last week against the Minnesota Vikings, he completed six-of-nine passes with a passer rating of 135, reversing a trend that Rodgers has had when facing at least five pass rushers this season. Rodgers likely will see more of the same on Sunday as the Jets send at least five pass rushers on a league-high 51.5 percent of opponent pass plays.
Steelers at Saints
Opponents have been careful to blitz Drew Brees the past two seasons -- opposing teams have rushed four players or fewer on 75.1 percent of his drop backs. Brees found success against the standard pass rush last season with a 3-to-1 TD-to-interception ratio (24 TDs, eight interceptions). However, in seven games this season, Brees already has nine interceptions when facing four pass rushers or fewer.
The Saints have sent five pass rushers or more on 48.2 percent of opposing quarterback drop backs this season, the fourth-highest percentage in the NFL. However, Ben Roethlisberger has yet to show rust in the face of pressure, throwing four touchdowns and zero interceptions against five pass rushers or more. When facing at least five rushers, Roethlisberger is averaging an NFL-best 11.0 yards per attempt with a 140.1 passer rating.
Bills at Chiefs
A more conservative pass rush has been paying off for the Kansas City Chiefs. New defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel has been more conservative with his play calling this season than the man he replaced, Clancy Pendergast. As a result, the Chiefs have blitzed less than any team in the NFL this season. Kansas City has sent extra pressure on only 18.9 percent of pass plays, but when the Chiefs have utilized extra pressure, it’s paid off. Through Week 7 of 2009, the Chiefs had nine sacks in seven games. This season, the Chiefs already have 12 sacks through Week 7, despite playing only six games.