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3 is a magic number in the NFL

Third quarters, third downs ... some NFL teams have a weird relationship with the number three this season. The SB Nation department of football epidemiology has a full report on the league's ailing franchises.

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Ideally, home field should be a place where a team can feel safe and supported. A place where it can do its finest work and be its best self, no matter how bad the franchise may be overall. Home's even a happier place for the Raiders; when they play at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, the Raider offense averages 5.29 yards per play and has scored 17 touchdowns. Though those numbers aren't great, they're still much better than the road averages -- 3.88 yards per play and six touchdowns, both of which are last in the NFL.

But this can also make home a particularly painful place to struggle, as the Browns did in a 30-0 loss to the Bengals. Since the team returned to Cleveland in 1999, they've been shutout at home 10 times. How does that compare to the rest of the league over that period of time? Not well.

Not well at all.

Home has also been an unpleasant place for the Chicago defense. Last year, the Bears set a team record (the bad kind) by allowing 200 total points in their games at Soldier Field. In 2014, they've already given up 186 with one home game left to play next week. The year before Marc Trestman was hired, Chicago's defense allowed just 123 points to teams they hosted.

Some teams don't need a good home to succeed, however. The Cowboys have scored 150 points in their home games this season, which ranks 21st overall. On the road? They've put up 231 points, first overall and 11 points shy of the team record, set in 1983, with an away game left against Washington.


As in the third quarter, which had been the strength of the Miami defense entering this week. The Dolphins were second in yards per play allowed (4.47) and sacks recorded (12) and tied for fourth in touchdowns allowed (five). Then the Patriots demolished them in the 15 minutes after halftime, scoring three TDs, taking no sacks, and averaging 9.29 yards per play.

As in three-and-out, something Denver's defense forced on three of the first four San Diego drives. The Broncos now lead the NFL with 52 three-and-outs on defense; last year, they finished with 44, tied for 16th.

As in third down, and sacks thereupon. Third-down sacks are particularly disheartening because they almost always destroy your progress; they lead to punts or longer field goals or prevent you from attempting reasonable fourth-down conversions. The Jaguars have been sacked on third down 24 times this year, and Washington's close behind with 23. Five teams have fewer total sacks than that on all of their downs.


In the last two years, teams that hold an opponent under 300 offensive yards have a winning percentage of .698. Houston limited the Colts to 278 yards ... and lost, which is depressingly typical for them. Since 2013, the Texans are 3-6 when their opponent doesn't hit 300 yards, the most losses in that scenario of any team.

In those same two years, teams that don't reach 300 offensive yards have a winning percentage of .290. The Jets only got to 277 but still beat the Titans, because the Jets don't do anything the right way.


  • The Detroit defense has been excellent all season, but it's especially nasty when the Lions are behind in a close game. When they're trailing by one to eight points, the Lions only allow 3.63 yards per opponent play, and 18 percent of opposing drives end with a score of any kind. Both numbers are best in the NFL.
  • If they can get 310 more yards in their last two games, the Steelers will break the franchise record for offensive yards in a single season. But Pittsburgh is still in danger of missing the playoffs altogether because of its defense, which is currently allowing over six yards per play. Since the AFL-NFL merger, the Steelers have had just eight other seasons allowing more than five yards per play, and the 1989 team was the only one of those to make the postseason.


  • They say almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades and, while those may be Tampa's primary exports, it hasn't done much for the Bucs, who've lost eight one-score games this year.
  • The Packers were tied for second place in passing plays gaining more than 20 yards through Week 14, but they didn't get a single one against the Bills, who've allowed 27 long pass plays all year. Seattle's the only defense with fewer allowed.
  • What do Dez Bryant, Marshawn Lynch, Jeremy Maclin, Arian Foster, and Matt Forte have in common? They've all scored at least seven touchdowns in the third and fourth quarter this year. The entire San Francisco offense has six second-half TDs.