Tuesday trends: The critical, close games

Winning close games is becoming more critical with a record number of games being decided by seven points or fewer, so it should be no surprise that fourth-quarter comebacks are also a staple of the NFL this year.

The ability to win close games is becoming more critical to success in the NFL.

In Week 10, eight games were decided by seven points or fewer and so far this season 76 games have been decided by seven points or fewer, the most through 10 weeks of a season in NFL history. That’s three more “close” games than any other season, with 1999 the next closest with 73 games decided by seven points or fewer.

Comebacks have also been part of the 2015 storyline.

Teams have won 43 games this year after trailing in the fourth quarter, tied for the second-most through Week 10 in NFL history and only one game short of the record set in 1989. In Week 10, six teams – Arizona, Houston, Jacksonville, Miami, New England and Tampa Bay – all won after trailing in the fourth quarter, with New England erasing the largest deficit among them (six points) in a 23-17 win over the New York Giants.

It’s been more than just the games that featured comebacks. So have several franchises. Nine teams have already matched or exceeded their win totals from the 2014 season – Atlanta, Carolina, Jacksonville, Minnesota, the New York Jets, Oakland, Tampa Bay, Tennessee and Washington. Carolina is one of two teams at 9-0, and the Panthers were just 7-8-1 last year. Minnesota is 7-2 after going 7-9 last year.


  •  Adrian Peterson has a sizeable lead in rushing yards with 961 – 227 yards more than second-place Chris Johnson. Todd Gurley didn’t play in the first two games, but his 101.3 yards-per-game average is second to Peterson’s 106.8.
  • Peterson also leads the NFL with 28 rushes longer than 10 yards; Devonta Freeman is second with 22. But Peterson also has a league-leading 29 runs for negative yards, seven more than second-place Justin Forsett.
  • Buffalo’s Karlos Williams is the league leader in yards per carry, averaging 6.21 on 58 rushes. No one else is over 6 yards per carry. Williams is also the leader in fourth-quarter yards per carry, averaging 8.8 yards on 19 fourth-quarter attempts.
  • DeMarco Murray has converted all 10 of his third-and-short (less than 3 yards) attempts.
  • Gurley and Peterson are the best workhorse backs. Gurley is averaging 7.1 yards per carry when it is more than his 20th carry of the game. Peterson is averaging 7.0 yards in those circumstances. No one else is within 1.8 yards of them.
  • When it comes to passing efficiency, Tom Brady is stealing the show. Brady leads the NFL in the following categories: passing yards (3,043), rating (111.1), yards per game (338.1), touchdowns (24), fewest interceptions among qualifiers (3), passing plays greater than 25 yards (tied with three others at 23), passer rating with two receivers in the game (131.5) and with three receivers in the game (126.3), and fourth-quarter passer rating (131.5).
  • Ben Roethlisberger has the highest yards per attempt at 8.94.
  • Carson Palmer has the highest percent of third-and-long (more than 8 yards) conversions, getting a first down while passing in those situations 51.7 percent of the time.
  • Antonio Brown leads the league with 1,141 yards receiving, but Julio Jones could catch him, needing 114 yards this week to do it. Brown and the Steelers are on bye and Jones is averaging 114.3 yards per game, best in the league. Brown leads the league with 12 catches over 25 yards.
  •  Tyler Eifert leads the league with nine touchdown catches.
  • Danny Woodhead leads the NFL with 548 yards after the catch.
  • Nobody has been targeted more in the passing game than DeAndre Hopkins, the target of 123 passes this year. It’s no surprise then that he leads the league with 57 catches for first downs. He also has the most passes not caught – targets that were either dropped or out of his reach – at 52.

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