Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

09 Dec 2016

Clutch Encounters: OAK-KC

by Scott Kacsmar

We are now more than 75 percent of the way through the NFL's regular season, and the biggest game yet went down in Kansas City last night. There arguably may not be another game this big until the postseason. Consider that in the NFC, Dallas and Seattle are not going to play each other until possibly the NFC Championship Game. Since New England is not scheduled to play Oakland or Kansas City, this battle for first place in the AFC West was pivotal.

With the 21-13 win, the Chiefs (10-3) have moved into first place in the division and No. 2 in the AFC. The Raiders (10-3) fell from the No. 1 seed down to the No. 5 seed after a fifth-straight loss to their rivals. There was no comeback this time, but we certainly had an attempt as the Raiders trailed 21-13 for the game's final 28 minutes, unable to score on its final five possessions.

We will recap the rest of Week 14's close finishes in Clutch Encounters on Tuesday, but here is a special Friday recap of a very important game.

Oakland's 10-2 Record: More Than Meets the Eye

The Raiders (15.6%) did come into the game ranked slightly higher than the Chiefs (12.2%) in DVOA, but a short week to travel to Arrowhead on a 21-degree night was a tough task. The surprise scratch of left guard Kelechi Osemele (illness) was also a blow to Oakland, though the running game still looked very competent with 28 carries for 132 yards, including a 103-yard effort from Latavius Murray.

Despite the team's 10-2 record, Oakland only ranked sixth in DVOA and sixth in estimated wins (7.5) through Week 13. As this column has detailed since Week 1 in New Orleans, Oakland has gutted out many close wins this season, including six fourth-quarter comebacks. Some were impressive runaway wins like the 29-0 scoring run against Buffalo last week, while others were largely aided by incompetence from the opponent and/or referees, such as the win over Houston in Mexico City in Week 11.

Oakland had the worst scoring differential (plus-48) among the 76 teams to start 10-2 since 1940. The average 10-2 team outscored its opponents by 10.1 points per game, compared to 3.8 points per game by Oakland.

Lowest Scoring Differential For 10-2 Team Since 1940
Rk Team Year PF PA PD Final Record Result
1 OAK 2016 345 299 46 TBD TBD
2 NE 2003 257 209 48 14-2 Won Super Bowl
3 MIN 2000 306 250 56 11-5 Lost NFC-CG
4 NYJ 1986 306 248 58 10-6 Lost AFC-DIV
5 DEN 2015 269 210 59 12-4 Won Super Bowl
6 LARM 1978 227 164 63 12-4 Lost NFC-CG
7 DET 1953 271 205 66 10-2 Won NFL-CG
8 CLE 1965 329 259 70 11-3 Lost NFL-CG
8 NYG 1986 244 174 70 14-2 Won Super Bowl
10 ATL 2010 304 233 71 13-3 Lost NFC-DIV

Three of these teams still won the Super Bowl, including Denver last season, but those were all defensive-driven efforts. When Oakland's offense isn't clicking like it wasn't again in a game against the Chiefs, the results are not going to be so kind. This game was not lost by the Oakland defense.

First Half: Who Are These Quarterbacks?

Kansas City is known for protecting the football, but turned it over three times to match a season-high. NFL teams that turn the ball over exactly three times and go scoreless in the second half have only won 9.6 percent of the time since the merger, but the Chiefs pulled it off after a monster first half put them ahead 21-3.

There were opportunities early for the Raiders. After Tyreek Hill muffed a punt to put the offense at the Kansas City 38, Oakland gained just 12 yards and settled for a 44-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski. The Raiders were fortunate to get that score after a fumble by Amari Cooper was reversed on replay. The referee's language was most interesting since he said Cooper "did not complete the catch upright," which meant this was one of those dreaded "going to the ground" rulings of an incomplete pass. Senior Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino backed up the call on Twitter:

Again, some interesting semantics here with "upright" and "lands." I think you could easily argue that Cooper was upright when he made the catch, and never lost control of the ball until after he took multiple steps and was tackled to the ground.

In that position with the defender draped over him, what exactly did Cooper have to "land" from? When Dez Bryant had his infamous "going the ground" incompletion ruling in the 2014 NFC divisional playoffs, he was airborne at the catch point and had to control the ball after his landing.

Here, Cooper was just running a slant and good defense brought him down quickly. I don't see why this was characterized as a "going to the ground" play instead of a catch, tackle and fumble recovered by the Chiefs.

While the Raiders struck first, Alex Smith started the game with a bit of a statement on third-and-10. Instead of opting for his usual checkdown, Smith ripped a deep ball to Chris Conley for a 39-yard gain on a plus-24 ALEX throw. Smith had only surpassed plus-24 in ALEX on third-and-long once this season, and that pass was intercepted. But Smith has been a little more aggressive in 2016. His third-down ALEX was plus-0.5 coming into Week 14, his first positive season since 2007.

Smith has had some surprisingly strong numbers against Oakland in his career, and while Jack Del Rio's defense leaves a lot to be desired, Smith looked the part of a great quarterback in the first half. He was accurate and aggressive, and he hit Hill on a 36-yard touchdown pass. Smith even extended a play by carefully keeping his second foot at the line of scrimmage before releasing the ball late for another big gain. Once Hill took advantage of an Oakland penalty to get another crack at a punt, he returned the second attempt 78 yards for a touchdown that seemed to knock Oakland out at 21-3 in the second quarter.

Smith had 202 passing yards in the half on just four possessions -- impressive for a guy with only seven 300-yard passing games in 138 career starts. Meanwhile, Derek Carr was sitting on 18 passing yards before the Oakland offense finally came to life with a much-needed 92-yard touchdown drive to end the half. During the drive, Kansas City linebacker Derrick Johnson likely injured his Achilles on a non-contact play. That was a big loss, but the Chiefs were able to work around it for the second half.

The Third Quarter: Missed Opportunities

For as great as Smith was in the first half, he was terrible in the third quarter. Smith had back-to-back turnovers that set up the Raiders at the Kansas City 18 each time. The first was an interception on a bad read, and the second was a strip-sack by Khalil Mack, who beat Eric Fisher on a play where Smith needed to get rid of the ball sooner.

Oakland's offense came into the week with the best average starting field position in 2016. Fortunately, the Kansas City defense held and only allowed three points on the two drives. On the first drive, Steve Nelson punched a touchdown away from Seth Roberts, who was wide open on the play. The Raiders settled for a 33-yard field goal. The second drive was harmed by a holding penalty on tight end Clive Walford. On third-and-goal from the 17, Carr checked down on a pass that never had any hope of gaining anything. When it looked like another field goal was coming, the Raiders almost appeared to execute a poor fake, but it was really just a botched hold that punter Marquette King had to eat for no points.

That failure to take advantage of the superb field position really did in Oakland's comeback bid. Carr continued to struggle with accuracy and getting on the same page with his receivers. The offense only got into Kansas City territory one more time in the game.

The Failed Fourth-Quarter Comeback Attempt

Still only down 21-13, Oakland's defense continued to give the offense opportunities with the ball. None were better than on a third-and-7 with 9:26 to play. Carr stepped up in the pocket and ripped a deep ball to a wide-open Cooper, but the receiver pulled up awkwardly at the last second and the pass fell incomplete.

Oakland got the ball back with 7:25 left. A pass interference penalty on Nelson that was tightly called got the Raiders into Kansas City territory again. Carr came into the week with a league-high 15 defensive pass interference penalties for 264 yards, and he added two more here. In fact, 19.1 percent of Carr's 1,120 passing DYAR this season have come on DPI flags. Carr has also increased his league lead to 7.7 expected points added through penalties, according to ESPN.

It started to look like we would have another prime-time game come down to a late two-point conversion, but the Raiders really stalled out badly after getting a third-and-1 at the Kansas City 14 with 2:06 left. Carr threw deep into the end zone for Andre Holmes, but Marcus Peters was there to knock the pass away. A false start on Austin Howard was big to set up a fourth-and-6, and that was really a spot where Carr's inability to go under center with the dislocated pinky may have been a problem. Ideally, Oakland would have just lined up and ran the ball down Kansas City's throat again to get that yard on fourth-and-1. On fourth-and-6, Kansas City rushed four, and Carr threw up a 50-50 ball for Roberts that Terrance Mitchell knocked away with 1:56 left. It was strange to see Carr going to Holmes and Roberts in crunch time, but Cooper and Michael Crabtree were held to nine catches for 50 yards on 17 targets. That's incredible work by the Chiefs, who did not get much more pressure on Carr than his low season average, but the coverage was strong.

The Chiefs only had 23 carries for 62 yards on the night, but Spencer Ware put the game away with three runs that produced one more first down to run out the clock.

Derek Carr's Historically Bad Night

Carr came into this game with a lot of mainstream buzz for this season's MVP award, with some viewing him as the front-runner at the three-quarters mark. After this performance, they may want to rethink that one. Carr finished 17-of-41 passing for 117 yards. The average of 2.85 yards per attempt is the second-lowest game in NFL history for a quarterback with at least 40 attempts. Only Jesse "The Bachelor" Palmer fared worse with 2.56 yards per attempt (110 yards on 43 attempts) against the Panthers in 2003.

Even before this game, Carr's grip on the MVP was tenuous at best. This season lacks a runaway candidate like there usually is, but Dak Prescott and Matt Ryan have been having seasons that fall much more in line with an MVP quarterback season than what Carr has done. After Thursday night, Carr slipped to 17th in ESPN's QBR. Seven of the previous eight quarterbacks to win the MVP ranked first or second in QBR, as only Cam Newton (12th last year) was below that standard. Carr's yards per attempt have also fallen to 7.00, good for 21st in the league. Out of the 32 quarterback seasons to win the MVP since 1970, only Peyton Manning (13th in 2008) and Fran Tarkenton (17th in 1975) ranked out of the top 10 in yards per attempt.

Some might point to dropped passes for Carr's bad night, but that likely only cost him one touchdown (Roberts in the third quarter) at best, depending on how you view the Cooper miss in the fourth quarter. As for the pinky injury, it never seemed to be a problem with Carr operating exclusively out of the shotgun and pistol since returning against the Panthers two weeks ago with the injury. As for the nasty weather conditions that are generally unfavorable for a California team, well, if Alex Smith can go 11-of-16 for 202 yards in a half in that weather, then Carr could certainly have done more in the same conditions.

This was more about Kansas City's continued mastery of Carr and the Oakland offense over the last three seasons. While Carr won his first start against the Chiefs in 2014 in memorable fashion, the last five starts have all been rough losses. Carr has been held under 6.0 yards per attempt in all but one meeting with the Chiefs, and his highest game was just 6.62 yards per attempt earlier this season.

There are still three tough games remaining for Oakland: at San Diego, Indianapolis in Oakland, and at Denver. The Chargers and Colts should be able to score often against this team, and Carr has always struggled with Denver's defense. The Raiders might be hitting a rough patch at the worst time, and Carr will have to heal up quickly for Oakland to enter the playoffs on a positive note.

Carr doesn't have to get back to an MVP level for this team, because frankly, that's not where he was at any point this season. He's a good, young quarterback, but this offense still has some growing to do, and the Chiefs have continued to exploit that well in their meetings.

Conclusion: We Should Take Kansas City Very Seriously Now

Since that Week 4 pounding in Pittsburgh left the Chiefs at 2-2, this team has won seven of its last eight games with only that slip up against Tampa Bay with Smith's bad red-zone interception. When Kansas City started 9-0 in 2013 and won 11 games in a row last season, we still questioned the team because of the competition it faced, and whether or not the offense could score enough points behind Smith. Well, the non-offensive scoring is still happening. This win completed a particularly impressive three-game stretch where the Chiefs came back late against Denver's defense to win in overtime, outscored Atlanta's top-ranked offense with the help of a pick-two, and now completed a sweep of Oakland. If a team can do all of those things, then what can't the Chiefs overcome this season?

The loss of Rob Gronkowski makes the Patriots vulnerable, and while Kansas City still has to host Denver on Christmas night, the Chiefs are in good position for a first-round bye and home playoff game. This is looking like the best team Andy Reid has had in his four years in Kansas City, and we should be considering the Chiefs as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

Season Summary

Fourth-quarter comeback wins: 57
Game-winning drives: 63
Games with 4QC/GWD opportunity: 118/193 (61.1 percent)
10+ point comeback wins (any point in the game): 28 (and one tie)

Historic data on fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives can be found at Pro Football Reference. Screen caps come from NFL Game Pass.

Posted by: Scott Kacsmar on 09 Dec 2016

46 comments, Last at 13 Dec 2016, 5:19am by Winterguard78

Comments

1
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 1:52pm

Thought the Cooper catch-tackle-fumble overturn was terrible. Just muddies the water further on what a catch is with Blandino saying it doesn't matter whether it's the receivers momentum or being tackled.

2
by BJR :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 1:53pm

KC are rounding nicely now that Houston and Maclin are back healthy, but I don't agree that this is the best team of the Andy Reid era, and nor does DVOA. Last year had a regular season with a total DVOA of 25.2%, finishing the season an a tear, compared to just 12.2% so far this year (albeit before last night). In particular the offence was a lot more efficient last year.

The difference is that last year they narrowly missed out on winning the division (and achieving a top 2 seeding) so had to go on the road in the playoffs, and by the time they reached Foxboro in the divisional round were missing several key starters due to injury (including Houston, Hali and Maclin). This year they look likely to win the division and gain a first round bye, and the current injury list is manageable. So yes, a Super Bowl run is more likely, but I don't believe this is a better team than 2015.

7
by barf :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 3:23pm

Excellent points. I was at the game last night and it was fun to watch (okay, fun in the first half anyway). They need to figure out why they seem to bog down at times on offense. Thank goodness Colquitt is great at punting and burying opponents inside the 20. Special teams in KC are indeed very special.

One key difference this year though is the bigger contributions by Kelce and the addition of Tyreek Hill. Talk about having matchup problems - Kelce is too big for safeties and too fast for linebackers. And Hill is a game changer. Smith threw the TD to him well out in front and let him go get it in the end zone. And every time he returns a punt it is electric. Reminds me of Dante Hall if Hall had a jet pack strapped to him. Hill is one of the fastest players I've ever seen.

If they get their offense to be more consistent down the stretch and can keep guys healthy, they're a dangerous team. Oh, Andy needs to not make dumb decisions in the playoffs. Clock management..... sigh.

45
by FlippingADollar :: Mon, 12/12/2016 - 8:47am

Maybe I'm rationalizing, but any chance Reid pulled in the offense in the 2nd quarter after the two turnovers, the defense playing well, plus Carr's inaccuracy and his WR's stone hands?

46
by Winterguard78 :: Tue, 12/13/2016 - 5:19am

Andy has played offensive keep away a lot in the 2nd halves of many Chiefs wins (sometimes, especially during 11 game win streak asking a lot from the defense) I feel like the game plan was solid, although I would have liked to see that 2nd half drive that petered out at the edge of Santos range turned into 3. His lack of killer instinct won't cut it against a team with a better coach than Del Rio, but I think Andy knows that.

3
by ramirez :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 2:16pm

This guy has been ripping Carr all season, so he must be enjoying the fact that he had a bad game against KC. But in all the instances where he has criticized Carr in the past, there are 3 crucial factors Kacsmar never bring up:

-Carr's excellent td-int ratio

-his very low sack rate

-and the weakness of the Oakland defense, which came into the KC game ranked in the bottom 10 in the league in DVOA

He's also repeatedly said that Stafford is more deserving of an MVP vote, despite the fact that Stafford has one of the highest YAC rates of any QB this year. And in the past, Scott has been very critical of QBs who get a lot of YAC. He just moves the goal posts as far as necessary to conclude that the guys he doesn't like are overrated, and virtually never mentions the things players like Carr, Brady, Newton and Rodgers do well.

I don't think Carr will get the MVP after his weak performace last night, but he's been very impressive for Oakland.

5
by Damon :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 3:17pm

"He's also repeatedly said that Stafford is more deserving of an MVP vote, despite the fact that Stafford has one of the highest YAC rates of any QB this year"

Because Stafford is more deserving of an MVP vote than Carr

Team DVOA through 13 weeks: 6. Oakland, 26. Detroit

Team Defense DVOA through 13 weeks: 22. Oakland, 31. Detroit

Estimated wins through 13 weeks: Oakland 7.5 (10-2 actual record), Detroit 4.9 (8-4 record)

QBR through 13 weeks: 9. Stafford, 15. Carr

9
by ramirez :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 3:26pm

You may be right about Stafford deserving it more than Carr. My point was that by talking up Stafford, Scott is being inconsistent, because in the past, he's argued that a QB shouldn't be the MVP if he plays in a YAC-heavy offense. That's what he said about Brady last season, for example.

13
by theslothook :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 3:33pm

Did he really say a qb should never be a mvp candidate if he's in a YAC heavy offense?

15
by ramirez :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 3:55pm

He didn't use those exact words, but he repeatedly argued that Brady shouldn't be the MVP because his receivers were getting too much YAC. This was when the Patriots were undefeated, and had by far the best offense in the league. It's also been the main thrust of his argument against Brady throughout his career, despite the fact that Brady doesn't always put up a lot of YAC.

17
by theslothook :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 4:20pm

He considers Brady in his top 5 qbs all time .

YAC is less a function of the qb based on the research I've done and seen.

19
by ramirez :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 4:57pm

"YAC is less a function of the qb based on the research I've done and seen."

I would love to know what your numbers say, because the admittedly limited research I have done on this suggests that YAC is hugely dependent on the deep-threat ability of the receivers, and the offensive play-calling.

When guys like Steve Young, Kurt Warner, Brett Favre, Gannon, Brady, Peyton, and Rodgers all have MVP seasons featuring a high rate of YAC, I find it hard to believe that YAC hurts offense, or that it was just because of the supporting cast.

23
by theslothook :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 6:12pm

"When guys like Steve Young, Kurt Warner, Brett Favre, Gannon, Brady, Peyton, and Rodgers all have MVP seasons featuring a high rate of YAC, I find it hard to believe that YAC hurts offense, or that it was just because of the supporting cast."

I never said YAC hurts offense.

There have been studies by ESPN's qbr department and others who have tried to look at the consistency of YAC and find its heavily tied to receivers. I can't really comment more than that on those studies because I don't know what methods they used but I can comment on my own study that I did. I am hoping it gets a guest post someday.

The basic idea is to look at seasons where a team had two quarterbacks play for a large chunk of the season and the two quarterbacks were statistically very different from one another. I forgot, but I think I set the cutoff at something like a 20 percent difference in dvoa. Think something like Manning and Osweiler last year.

Anyways, then you would compare the yac numbers of the two qbs and see if there was a statistically significant difference in the YAC numbers. If its significant, then you can say qb has an impact on the YAC numbers.

I'm simplifying a bunch since you have to control for a lot of other variables and avoiding the probability of committing a type I error.

Anyways, I did this for 06-15 and found no significant difference in the YAC numbers. Thus I concluded that whatever affect a qb has on YAC, its probably too minimal to be distinguished from noise.

28
by ramirez :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 9:46pm

So I think we basically agree that YAC rates are heavily tied to receivers. What I'm saying is that skilled QBs will post radically different air yards v. YAC figures depending on who they are throwing the ball to. The example of the 2000 Rams might be a good one for a team with 2 quarterbacks using the same receivers. The problem is that while Trent Green had a much higher rate of air yards than Warner that season, this doesn't fit a wider pattern. Warner had a high rate of YAC in 1999, but a much higher pct of air yards in 2001. Green went to Kansas City and put up high YAC numbers, and later on, Warner threw for a high percentage of air yards in Arizona. So I think Green and Warner are both examples of guys who can operate in either type of offense.

If we're going to take credit away from QBs for high YAC rates, we need to be darn sure that it's a reflection of skill level. When I look at the rates posted by guys like Young, Warner, Brady, Rodgers, and Manning it appears that all of those guys will put up impressive air yards totals with good deep threats, but more YAC with receivers who don't go deep. But guys like Alex Smith and Cassel appear to post high YAC numbers whatever their receiving personnel. So it doesn't make sense to me to discredit seasons like Young in 94, Warner 99, Brady 10 or Rodgers 14 just because those particular years involved more YAC.

30
by theslothook :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 11:09pm

Its important to keep in mind what the implications are:

The point is not that quarterback skill has no effect on Yac. Of course it does. Good qbs complete more passes, avoid sacks, face more favorable down and distances, target the better matchups, etc etc.

The point is, once controlling for those factors, does Yac get moved much by qb play? Its helpful to do a thought experiment. IF the same qb was put on two different teams, but team A had better yac receivers than team b; the numbers would obviously favor the qb on Team A, despite the fact that the quality of qb play was the same. This is the right way to think about things. IF two qbs look and feel fairly similar, but a big difference in their raw production is coming off Yac, then yes, we ought to take that into consideration.

Now - does that mean we "discredit" the above seasons? Look, all of those qbs are great. You could lop off the entire Yac from their numbers and they'd still be great seasons.

The reason this becomes a punitive issue is because Tom Brady is in discussion for the greatest qb of all time. Once that becomes the insane criteria, of course stuff like this becomes a stinking point. Since this sort of topic tends to overtake the thread, I'm not going to comment further on it other than to say:

Tom Brady is a great qb. You could take away all of his YAC numbers and he'd still be a great qb.

31
by ClavisRa :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 11:14pm

YAC isn't that difficult to understand. The biggest determinant of YAC is the route; certain routes exist entirely because of an expected return on YAC, like an immediate out at the LOS, and underneath crossing routes. Whereas a comeback route won't typically generate YAC. Obviously, the more accurate the QB the more YAC, in general, but the most obvious statistical correlation will be between the receiver and YAC, because receivers tend to run certain routes more than others, based on their skill set and roll in the offense (because of that skill set).

In short, arguing against a QB because of a high YAC makes no sense. At all.

32
by theslothook :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 11:26pm

Look - I tried to be agnostic till I saw the results. The fact that two qbs with vastly different dvoas can have basically the same Yac numbers tells me its a scheme and receiver thing and less a qb thing.

That said...good qbs complete more passes and thus get more Yac than lousy qbs do so its unfair to say qbs have 0 influence on YAC

33
by ramirez :: Sat, 12/10/2016 - 12:07am

But how many examples are there, really, of two QBs on the same team, who both get significant playing time, and have vastly different DVOA numbers? It's clear that when skilled QBs have talented deep threat receivers, they will get good deep passing and air yards numbers. But surround that QB with good receivers who don't go deep, and his YAC figures will go up. This is why I've never bought into, for example, the claim that Aaron Rodgers is in decline. Yes, his YAC rate has gone up, and particularly over the last couple years, he's throwing deep less. But I don't believe that's because his skills have eroded. It's because he's throwing to different receivers, who aren't as good at going deep as Greg Jennings and pre-injury Jordy Nelson. Wes Welker didn't suddenly become a deep threat when he joined the Broncos. But his QB had good air yards figures because he was throwing to other guys like Demariyus Thomas and Eric Decker. It's the skill set of the receivers, not the QB. And a quarterback who can succeed with YAC-dependent receivers and still put up strong numbers shouldn't be penalized for doing so. As long as great QBs are putting up strong numbers overall, it shouldn't matter whether it comes from air yards or YAC.

The fact that 2 players on the same team may have similar YAC rates, but vastly different results, suggests to me that the skill level of the QB counts for a lot.

34
by theslothook :: Sat, 12/10/2016 - 12:51am

Ok, let me phrase it this way. If qb A puts up stronger numbers than qb b but qb A faced fewer pressures than qb b(from lets say better blocking) - would you not adjust qb A's numbers for that fact?

35
by ramirez :: Sat, 12/10/2016 - 1:14am

Perhaps I have misunderstood your example. I think you're saying that two QBs, on the same team and with the same receivers, will get similar YAC rates even if they get largely different DVOA numbers. You're saying that this proves that YAC is a function of the receivers, and I agree with that. But I'm saying that the difference in results also suggests that a better QB will get better results in the same offense, even if both rely on YAC. Basically, I'm saying that Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, throwing to some combo of Welker, Edelman, Hernandez, Amendola and Shane Vereen will get better numbers than Christian Ponder or Andrew Walter with the same coaches and receivers. Ponder might put up the same rate of YAC with those guys, but the final numbers won't be the same.

It's not a perfect example, but look at the Patriots in 2007 and 2008. Brady's team set records for passing offense and points. Cassel came along the next year and did very well, though not nearly as well as Brady, despite having much of the same personnel and the same coaches, and a much easier schedule. But one of the key differences was in YAC. Brady produced 2787 air yards and 2019 YAC. Cassel had 1577 air yards and 2116 YAC. So Cassel was much more reliant on YAC, even with Randy Moss. It illustrates quite vividly that someone like Brady or Young or Rodgers is going to get results that a lot of other guys can't match. I still think Cassel can be very effective on the right team, but he's clearly not the downfield passer that Brady is.

If you're trying to say that Brady can't be the best ever because he gets too much YAC, you need to consider who he is throwing to, and who other guys are throwing to when they get more impressive air yards numbers.

36
by xydux :: Sat, 12/10/2016 - 2:55am

I might be missing something, but this discussion seems to be two sides talking past each other.

Ramirez: the people you're arguing with don't appear to me to be saying that Brady isn't a good QB. They're just arguing that YAC shouldn't be tied to the QB very much, because it's more dependent on the system in operation and the receivers in the system. Similarly, getting yards due to YAC shouldn't be used to penalize the quarterback; it should just be noted that those yards may be due to system/receivers. Noting this doesn't necessarily mean that the quarterback isn't doing a good job of making the correct reads, throwing accurate passes, and running the offense well.

To give an example, let me bring up Tom Brady vs. Kirk Cousins. Both of them are in systems geared to produce a lot of YAC, and both have been racking up yardage. However, Cousins has been rather inefficient in the red zone, while Brady has been efficient. The reason for this (as I believe was proposed in an article that I think was at Football Outsiders but may have been on Bleacher Report) is that in the red zone, the windows to throw into get tighter, and Brady has been far superior at throwing into tight spots than Cousins has this year (and throughout their careers).

Point is, just as QBWinz are a flawed metric (which I don't want to discount completely, given that clutchness IS a factor), YAC is a poor metric for judging QB quality. It looks good in the stats, but the eye test may show that the QB's performance wasn't as good. (For what it's worth, I think that an unbiased eye test is a fairly good judge of how well a team played, regardless of what the scoreboards or stats say.)

39
by ramirez :: Sat, 12/10/2016 - 11:52am

I don't think myself and theslothook actually disagree. Based on what he has said in this forum, he hasn't advocated that we should penalize for YAC. But many other people have said that, and some analysts have created metrics that specifically penalize for YAC, and I think that's a mistake.

It's one of the reasons why I've never been that high on Expected Points Added, because it provides a bonus for downfield passing and a penalty for YAC. Although QBR was modified before the 2016 season, so EPA may have been as well.

40
by theslothook :: Sat, 12/10/2016 - 2:25pm

What does "penalize" mean to you? I think the question is, a pass goes for 30 yards and a td. One was a 20 yard pass with 10 yards of yac. The other is a 10 yard pass with 20 Yac. Is there fundamentally any difference in how we should treat the qb between those two situations?

I tend to say yes, so to that extent, I believe we should penalize the qb. I didn't create qbr and I don't have a metric of my own, so I haven't even begun to think about how one appropriately goes about doing it. That's my view.

Also to the poster above about clutchness being a factor - every statistical study I've seen done in all of the major sports has failed to show clutchness as a factor whatsoever. It also doesn't help that no one can even define what clutch means. Is it games on prime time television? Games in the postseason. The final postseason game? The final postseason game but limited to the 4th quarter? The final postseason game with the 4th quarter and 2 min left??

In any of these definitions, the clutch factor never shows up.

41
by ramirez :: Sat, 12/10/2016 - 2:49pm

"I tend to say yes, so to that extent, I believe we should penalize the qb."

This is the point that I am really interested in. I would love to know why you feel this way. If you take that approach, you're going to decide that Steve Young's 1994 season was significantly less valuable than his other great seasons, or Warner's 99 was less valuable than 01, or Brady was significantly less valuable in 2010-11 than in 2007, or Rodgers was significantly less valuable in 2012 and 2014 than 2011. Was Peyton's 2013 season less impressive, simply because his YAC rate went up? He still set records for points, yards, and TDs. When you look at how often deep passes go to star receivers, it changes how I feel about this.

Between 2002-2006, Manning completed 133 passes that went more than 20 yards downfield, which is fantastic. But 104 of them went to either Harrison or Wayne, which is 78%. Doesn't that suggest that Manning got a big advantage from playing with hall of fame receivers who could get downfield? If it was really because of the QB, shouldn't we expect the other guys on the team to get more deep receptions? I can provide other examples if you want.

If you're going to rate one player ahead of another specifically because of air yards v. YAC, you need to consider who was on the other end of the passes being thrown.

43
by theslothook :: Sat, 12/10/2016 - 8:24pm

Its easier not think of qbs or seasons. Fundamentally, its the same adjusting for opponent. We want a systematic way to compare qbs; especially when we know the circumstances they faced are not the same. We want to adjust numbers up or down based on the opponent because that is something beyond the qbs control.

The reason I did the study was to answer the question : Is Yac something qbs SHOULD be adjusted for. You can see an argument on either side - The whole point of the analysis was to show, above and beyond completing the pass, the YAC earned afterwards does not seem like a qb related result and thus, like the opponent, is a bit out of the qbs control.

So yes, when we want to compare qbs side by side, we need a systematic method that isolates the qb himself. And Yac feels like something we ought to adjust for.

8
by eggwasp :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 3:24pm

+1
The "carr for MVP" chatter has been a godsend for scott and cian as it allows them to still criticise Carr for not being MVP, and ignore that they said he was average in preseason, and they never even imagined he could be in the conversation. Whether it was the cold, the finger or just playing poorly, Carr's accuracy was way down last night. I think he also played it conservatively given what we know about the scoring capabilities of the Chiefs defense. Even so, Chiefs won on a rekick punt return, whilst Carr gave the team a chance in the last two minutes in Arrowhead, despite no Osemele and by then, Crabtree (who is the best Raider sideline receiver), never mind Spidercamgate.

Its like there are so many "experts" desperate to tell us the Raiders arent all that. Yeah we know, but it sure was fun being in #1 seed spot in December, rather than being in #1 draft spot... still a good team, should still make the playoffs and as good as the Chiefs are, they are relying on TD (& 2-point) returns themselves. They could easily lose one of their remaining games. Raiders get supermario and maybe Aldon smith back for playoffs too. Sure beats just reading about potential.

22
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 5:11pm

Oh god, is a little bit of Raiders success going to see their fans trying to reclaim the title of "It's a conspiracy against us" from the Patriots fans ...

10
by tuluse :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 3:27pm

" there are 3 crucial factors Kacsmar never bring up:

-Carr's excellent td-int ratio"

This is neither a crucial factor nor something that should be brought up.

16
by ramirez :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 3:56pm

You're right. Let's just ignore his 24-5 ratio. A QB who is throwing TDs while avoiding turnovers isn't helping his team at all. Bring back Andrew Walter!

20
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 4:58pm

I've beating the drum for years that Stafford has been criminally underappreciated (most often by other Lions fans), but he doesn't belong in the MVP discussion, either.

Stafford is top 10 in passer rating, QBR, DYAR, DVOA, ANY/A, but an MVP quarterback needs to be in top 3-5, at least, in the major statistical categories. And his team needs to be in the running for best team in the conference (because that stuff is important to MVP voters). Sure, Stafford has no support from any semblance of a running game, and an average at best offensive line, but as a wise man once said, "them's the breaks."

If a quarterback wins MVP, it's going to be Brady or Prescott (Matt Ryan, much like Carr, torpedoed his candidacy with a bad game against the Chiefs).

I'm just quietly enjoying the fact that the Lions are having a good season, and all those people who said Matt Stafford would be a bad or mediocre quarterback without Calvin Johnson were wrong. If I were you, I would enjoy the fact that the Raiders are having a fantastic season, and all those people who said Carr would never be good after his rookie year (there were quite a lot of them, I remember), were also clearly wrong.

4
by techvet :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 2:54pm

At the beginning of the year, the esteemed Bob McGinn picked the Chiefs to get to the Super Bowl. He's feeling better about that pick.

6
by Winterguard78 :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 3:19pm

As a lifelong Chiefs fan the last 3 games (and really 3 years) have been fantastic. The most exciting thing is that I don't think Atlanta or Oakland received anything like our 'A' game. The 2014 team was better in passing D, but lacked ballhawks and the 2015 team didn't have anything as explosive on O as Tyreek Hill or peak Kelce and was without their best player on defense. I'm genuinely excited and believe this team could beat NE in Foxboro at least 5/10, depending on the breaks.

12
by theslothook :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 3:28pm

If KC gets the 1 seed, the path to sb is clear. But traveling to Foxborough has been an ugly affair for every afc team. I agree, odds are better than most this year for KC given that the Pats no longer have their best player. But I still don't trust Smith vs the Pats

25
by greybeard :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 9:17pm

It is KC against Pats, or is Smith playing alone? I would never trust a team with a single player to beat an opponent with 11 players on the field.

27
by theslothook :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 9:24pm

Fine. Its smith + the kc offense. Franky im being unfair to Smith. I believe bb voodoo affects all offenses that enter foxborough

29
by Winterguard78 :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 9:55pm

I agree that it is an almost impossible task historically to win a night playoff game@Foxboro. I am right in the middle in my evaluation of Smith's skills compared to the two extremes you get in KC- from "In QB wins he's just as good as Brady and Rogers" to "This offense worked a lot better with Matt Cassel"- both parties are obviously insane. Smith took a lot of national criticism after the NE loss last year+ the playoff loss to Indy in '13. Those games are actually what give me the most confidence that he could lead KC to a victory against anyone with the current roster. Smith played his best games as a Chief in the postseason (despite major injuries to an already lean cupboard of skill position talent) As long as we can hold on to the bye and not lose anymore top 5 guys (DJ56 my favorite Chief ever) I like this team as well as any we've had since 1997 and I trust Smith&Reid more than Schottenheimer&Grbac!

38
by t.d. :: Sat, 12/10/2016 - 7:45am

I don't know, Baltimore seems fine in Foxboro. I thought home field was critical last season against KC because the line sucked (though they wouldn't have had to deal with Houston or Hali, regardless), but the Pats seem solid this year on that front. Their problem will be if they play the Chiefs again, this is a much more talented team, dvoa be damned (Jamaal Charles might be back for the postseason, Hill is a huge addition, the corners are better players than they were a year ago, and the pass rushers are healthy). In contrast, the Pats are probably worse (losing Gronk, Jones, and Collins). If they meet, it should be a hell of a game

42
by Winterguard78 :: Sat, 12/10/2016 - 8:06pm

While I hold out hope that the Chiefs somehow obtain the #1 seed or see an AFCS team pull a miraculous upset 2 games in a row and play the AFCC game @ Arrowhead, I'm not going into a game in NE thinking KC needs to do more than play their A game (on display in Sunday Night Denver win+@ Oakland week 6) to have a really good shot. It must be fun being a Patriot fan. NE is sort of the default measuring stick me and my buddies use to determine if KC has a chance. If health holds up, I think it would be a great game in either stadium.

11
by Winterguard78 :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 3:27pm

The officiating was abysmal in this game. That was a fumble, the two PI calls were tickytack BS and there was a holding call on Fisher or LDT for executing a textbook pancake block- I have noticed 2 separate clues that I fear drawing in the postseason worse than the opponent- McCaulie+Walt Coleman's crew throw DPI on plays that leave you shaking your head and they also call a hold or block in the back on seemingly every punt or kick return. It cost KC a game and Tyreek Hill his 1st KR TD at the end of a close loss in Houston in week 2.

14
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 3:34pm

"NFL teams that turn the ball over exactly three times and go scoreless in the second half have only won 9.6 percent of the time since the merger"

What an oddly specific stat. Those teams have still won something like 89 games.

Including this amusing example:
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/198809040clt.htm

18
by SandyRiver :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 4:35pm

And lost over 800. For a simpler question, I wonder what the win % is for teams in games where they're -3 on takeaways.

21
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 5:01pm

Reading the names Gary Hogeboom and Dean Biasucchi was quite a nostalgic trip down memory lane for me. I had to resist the urge to run and finish my algebra homework.

24
by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 6:30pm

G. Hogeboom was on a season of Survivor at oen time

37
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Sat, 12/10/2016 - 7:30am

Are you sure you were watching Survivor? It may have been the late 80s edition of Colts Hard Knocks

44
by Raiderjoe :: Sat, 12/10/2016 - 8:54pm

itr was Durvivor. Others on Survivor: former cobwoys and bolphins coach Jimmy Johnson and Bucaneers defensive lineman brad culpepper. also eddie George appeared on an episode during loved ones visit a shis wife was contestant

26
by greybeard :: Fri, 12/09/2016 - 9:19pm

One wonders how many of them were ahead by 11 points.