Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Catch Radius: The Bigger, the Better?

Our season finale of catch radius focuses on the growing size of Josh McCown's talented receiving duos, including breakout stud Alshon Jeffery. Also: Anquan Boldin's incredible year.

18 Jan 2011

Quick Reads: Divisional Round

by Bill Barnwell

Just one month ago, both Aaron Rodgers and his Packers team seemed to be on their last legs. Rodgers was concussed and ruled out for a crucial game at New England, while the Packers seemed likely to fall out of the playoff picture with a loss to the streaking Patriots. For yet another season, it seemed like the copious amounts of talent in Green Bay would fail to produce a deep run into the playoffs -- if the playoffs even loomed at all.

A lot can change in a month. The Packers got some help from the Eagles, whose miraculous comeback to beat the Giants gave their eventual conquerors a clear path to the postseason. Rodgers promptly came back in Week 16 and had the best game of both his career and the 2010 season, producing 294 DYAR in a dominant performance against the then-top-ranked Giants pass defense.

And on Saturday? Rodgers put up a performance that belongs in the discussion with both that game and the greatest playoff performances of the past 18 years.

In his dominant victory over the Falcons, Rodgers produced 287 DYAR on his 40 touches (36 passes, two sacks, and two runs). It's the second-best game of Rodgers' career, coming in just behind that game against the Giants. While Rodgers's raw performance in the Falcons game was better by our numbers, the opponent adjustments in DYAR boost up his Giants game just beyond this performance. That's because the Falcons had the league's tenth-ranked pass defense this year.

With DVOA and DYAR calculated through the 1993 season, we have records of every playoff performance by a quarterback over that timeframe. Rodgers finished with the fourth-highest DYAR total by a quarterback in a single game over that timeframe. The record for single-game DYAR by a quarterback was actually set during a playoff game that Rodgers played in; unfortunately, he was on the losing side.

Last year, Rodgers lost in the Wild Card round despite producing 193 DYAR in a 51-45 loss to the Cardinals. That is the 24th-best performance in the playoffs of the DVOA Era. Number one is the other starting quarterback in that game: Kurt Warner. Warner produced a massive 385 DYAR by going 29-of-33 for 382 yards with five touchdowns, no interceptions, and just one sack against the league's fourth-ranked pass defense. Games two and three on the list both belong to Peyton Manning: The famous Roc Alexander game against the Broncos in 2004 produced 329 DYAR, while his win over the Jets last season resulted in 305 DYAR, thanks to a massive opponent adjustment.

Disappointed that Rodgers doesn't end up with the greatest playoff game in recent history? Don't be. Consider that Rodgers's performance was better than any playoff game in the careers of Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Brett Favre, or Ben Roethlisberger. He's unquestionably the best quarterback left in the playoffs, and if you believe that quarterbacks can get particularly hot or cold, he's put up two of the top 15 games of the past 18 years in the course of the past four weeks.

Sure beats the place Rodgers and the Packers were in a month ago.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
1.
Aaron Rodgers GB
31/36
366
3
0
287
273
14
Was Rodgers's performance better than the numbers? Perhaps. The numbers don't see how he makes the plays, and not all plays are created equally. How many third downs did Rodgers convert after ducking a free pass rusher, only to scramble out of the pocket and hit his receiver in stride? Rodgers had better numbers as a passer whilst scrambling than anyone outside of Michael Vick this year. Of course, he didn't always need to scramble. Rodgers converted seven of the first eight third downs he faced, and the only one he didn't get was the one where Greg Jennings fumbled after 30 yards, which is hardly Rodgers's fault.
2.
Mark Sanchez NYJ
16/25
194
3
0
130
130
0
Remember all that stuff about how the Jets had simplified their offense and were limiting Sanchez to slants and other safe throws after the 45-3 loss to the Patriots? Well, they made it more complex. Sanchez was fantastic against the Patriots, often hitting his receivers in stride and even making plays downfield. His best throw was about as complex as you can get, signaling Braylon Edwards to change his route on the fly with a hand signal and then launching a perfect 36-yard corner route to the sideline. He turned 10 third downs into four first downs and two touchdowns, particularly important considering his rushing game produced just one first down in the first half.
3.
Matt Hasselbeck SEA
27/47
271
3
0
125
125
0
Against a very good pass defense, Hasselbeck actually had a really nice game, even if those three touchdowns all came in the final 12 minutes of the game. Hasselbeck had three or four passes flat-out dropped by his receivers and several more that probably should have been caught. His wide receivers flat-out stunk: Mike Williams had two of those late touchdowns, but he finished with four catches and a pass interference call on 14 targets, totaling 22 yards, and had six straight incompletions at one point. (It isn't all Williams's fault, but a fair amount of his incompletions were catchable balls.) Ben Obomanu was 4-of-8. Even Brandon Stokley -- who finished the game with eight straight completions or DPIs -- had three incompletions to start.
4.
Jay Cutler CHI
15/28
274
2
0
68
33
35
You'll note that more than half of Cutler's DYAR came as a rusher, thanks to five runs that produced three first downs and two touchdowns. He also had great passing numbers as a scrambler this year. Cutler started his day with the best throw he made all game, the touchdown pass to Greg Olsen up the seam against the Lawyer Milloy statue. Otherwise? Blech. The near-interception in the end zone was a truly awful decision (produced in part by Johnny Knox's route), but Cutler had at least two other plays that saw him attempt to throw the ball away by tossing it vaguely in the direction of a receiver. After a 26-yard screen to Matt Forte in the second quarter, Cutler went nine dropbacks without a first down, with two sacks and five incompletions in the process.
5.
Ben Roethlisberger PIT
19/32
226
2
0
54
51
3
Roethlisberger really led two drives of any consequence all game: The opening 80-yarder and the 65-yarder to end the game (which was mainly one fantastic play). Otherwise, the scoring drives for the Steelers were products of field position, as their other 17 points came on drives that requred an average of 24 yards to go for a touchdown. Roethlisberger was sacked six times, with one resulting in a fumble and touchdown for the Ravens. Just 15 of his 39 dropbacks were successful.
6.
Tom Brady NE
29/45
299
2
1
50
48
3
Brady took five sacks in the game. The last time he was sacked five times, coincidentally, was by the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. The time before that was in 2003, when the Jets sacked him five times in a 23-16 win. That was when Herm Edwards was coach and Darrelle Revis was a senior in high school. The Jets were able to throw Brady off the scent of big plays by blitzing less frequently than normal (a gambit that also worked against the Colts) and taking Brady's wide receivers out of the game. Brady attempted just four passes to his wideouts before halftime. He picked up a few first downs throwing to them after the break, but Brady didn't complete a pass that traveled more than 13 yards in the air to his wideouts, and nothing further than 20 yards in the air to anybody. The Jets limited him to throws to his lesser receivers and then tackled well. After missing a tackle on Danny Woodhead to start the game, the Jets allowed just 44 yards on 11 further passes to Patriots running backs.
7.
Matt Ryan ATL
20/29
186
1
2
0
0
0
His two interceptions were unconscionable decisions, awful throws into windows that just weren't there. (Credit should go to for Tramon Williams for helping lure Ryan into those throws.) Ryan was sacked five times for the first time in his career, produced just 10 first downs all day, and had a turnover just about once every 12 dropbacks. Opponent adjustments boost his game up to exactly 0 DYAR.
8.
Joe Flacco BAL
16/30
125
1
1
-9
-9
0
Flacco's biggest play of the game was a 33-yard DPI drawn by Derrick Mason. His longest completion was for 21 yards, and he had just five completions for more than 10 yards all game. That's one of the reasons why he finished with just eight first downs and one touchdown. It fell apart in the third quarter, of course, and it ended up being quite the ugly run: Sack, completion to Ray Rice resulting in a lost fumble (no blame assigned to Flacco for the fumble, of course), sack, incompletion, interception, incompletion, snap fumbled away. That whole stretch produced -89 DYAR.


Five most valuable running backs
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Chester Taylor CHI
44
1
0
0
22
22
0
Taylor's been a drain on the Bears offense for most of the season, failing to live up to his promise as a third-down back and complement to Matt Forte. Although he had a relatively quiet day in the win over the Seahawks, Taylor finished as the best back of the week because he had successful carries on eight of his 12 rushes, producing three first downs and a touchdown from the 1-yard line. (That's a victory for the Bears.) It also helps that no other running back had a big game. Nobody ran for more than 80 yards this week, and that took Bears teammate Matt Forte 25 carries. Taylor produced 22 DYAR, which wouldn't rank in the top ten during most weeks of the regular season.
2.
Danny Woodhead NE
57
0
52
0
21
2
19
Although the Jets have a great run defense, Woodhead needs to produce more than two first downs, six successes, and 57 yards on 15 carries against them to contribute much more than replacement-level performance. (He also fumbled on a carry, which was one of the sneaky aspects of the Jets' win: The team that recovered an astounding percentage of fumbles during the regular season didn't recover either of the key fumbles in their game and still won.) After his 25 YAC on the opening play, Woodhead had just 35 YAC on his final five catches.
3.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis NE
43
0
11
0
16
18
-1
As I said, it wasn't a good week for running backs. Four of Green-Ellis's nine carries went for seven yards or more, and he had just one stuff all game.
4.
Matt Forte CHI
80
0
54
0
13
-19
32
With 25 carries, Forte produced just two first downs. He was stuffed for no gain or a loss on five carries, gaining a lone yard on five additional carries. Two of those stuffs came inside the Seahawks' three-yard line, harkening back to his disastrous goal-line season of a year ago. On the bright side, all three of his targets as a receiver produced first down. Maybe they should have thrown him 25 passes and given him three carries instead.
5.
Shonn Greene NYJ
76
1
9
0
11
7
4
After six unsuccessful runs to start the game, Greene finished the first half with a successful five-yarder on first-and-10. That portended good things to come, and he had three first downs and a touchdown on 10 carries in the second half, including a 20-yarder in the third quarter and his 16-yard touchdown run to seal things up with 1:46 left.


Least valuable running back
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
James Starks GB
66
0
0
0
-35
-35
0
Starks simply didn't contribute to the Packers' win. You can point to his carry total (25) and create some murky idea of balancing the offense, but they could have handed the ball to Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn 25 times, too. Those guys might have even hit three yards a carry. He produced just four first downs and seven successful plays, was stuffed on both his carries near the goal line, and averaged less than two yards a carry on first down. All this against the run defense that ranked as the league's second-worst over the second half of the season.


Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Jordy Nelson GB
8
8
79
9.9
1
65
Nelson simply dominated Christopher Owens in the slot. Those eight catches produced six first downs and a touchdown, including four third down conversions. The catch that didn't result in a first down gained nine yards on first-and-10. Nelson's now caught three touchdowns this year and two of them have come in the same corner of the Georgia Dome. Nelson's going to be a seriously valuable contributor to this team next year after James Jones leaves in free agency.
2.
Michael Jenkins ATL
6
8
67
11.2
0
49
With the Packers taking away Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez on most third downs, Jenkins became the only guy who could move the chains for the Falcons. They threw him passes on four third downs and a fourth down, and he produced four first downs (one on a 23-yard defensive pass interference penalty). He fumbled the ball away after converting a fourth-and-1, but that was with a 24-point deficit.
3.
James Jones GB
4
4
75
18.8
1
46
It's good to see that Jones didn't drop anything in this game; he's a talented player that doesn't deserve a reputation for dropping an extraordinary amount of passes. He was able to physically overwhelm Brent Grimes on two of his three catches; Grimes was in great position for Jones's 20-yard touchdown catch, but Jones was simply too big for Grimes to handle.
4.
Roddy White ATL
6
10
57
9.5
1
35
White picked up a couple of early third-down conversions on plays where it seemed like the Packers had plum forgot about the other team's best wide receiver. Not surprisingly, those options went away pretty quick. White had a 12-yard DPI immediately preceding the pick-six, and then had three catches for 18 yards in the second half. His longest catch of the day was just 12 yards, though.
5.
Brandon Stokley SEA
8
11
85
10.6
1
34
As mentioned in the Hasselbeck comment, Stokley started the day with three incompletions and then had eight straight plays resulting in either a completion or a DPI, producing five first downs and a touchdown. They all came with a three-score disadvantage, tempering their value, but they were also against the Bears.


Least valuable wide receiver or tight end
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Anquan Boldin BAL
1
5
-2
-2.0
0
-37
This isn't what the Ravens went out and got Boldin for. The Ravens threw Boldin the ball five times and got two drops (one in the end zone), four incompletions, and -2 receiving yards. Sometimes, the concept of replacement-level can be hard to grasp, but it's pretty clear here: The Ravens could have thrown five passes to a guy off their practice squad and gotten more than what Boldin produced here simply by having him drop all the passes.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 18 Jan 2011

122 comments, Last at 20 Jan 2011, 3:08pm by armchair journeyman quarterback

Comments

1
by Kal :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:18pm

even if those three touchdowns all came in the final 48 minutes of the game.

Uh...I think you mean the final 12 minutes of the game.

And I just don't see the issue with Cutler's performance the way you do; I think that if you look at YAR and not DYAR, he'll show out significantly well. The problem is that the Seahawks defense is simply horrible against the pass so doing well against them looks just meh, and doing okay some of the time is even worse.

There were a couple throws that were horrible, but only one was Cutler-esque. By comparison he opened the game with a perfect pass to Olsen, threw well to a number of receivers (who also dropped quite a few, just like Hass - but can't mention that, can we?), and reasonably took sacks and threw things away when his receivers were not open.

I also don't get the animosity of Cutler throwing a ball away by it being 'in the general vicinity of a receiver'. Isn't that the mark of a good QB? I thought that QBs should in general try to put the ball where it can't be intercepted but could in theory be caught, and by throwing it far Cutler did that a couple times.

2
by Bill Barnwell :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:20pm

The typo has been corrected.

25
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:48pm

The Chicago game had massive amounts of garbage time. The stats here clearly didn't take that into account (the analysis probably should, though). Lovie stops pressing on both sides of the ball. Purely a question of coaching style that had very little with the outcome of the game.

26
by Jimmy :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:52pm

I also don't get the animosity of Cutler throwing a ball away by it being 'in the general vicinity of a receiver'. Isn't that the mark of a good QB?

You would think so in an offense where the ball is often supposed to be thrown to a spot before the receiver cuts.

29
by Boots Day :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:55pm

Yeah, the Cutler and Hasselbeck comments seem to want to follow the storyline - Cutler was worse than you think, and Hasselbeck better - more than they want to objectively assess their games. Let's all harp on the fact that Cutler threw a near-interception at the goal line, and ignore the fact that Hasselbeck did exactly the same thing, except that his near-pick got tipped to a receiver for a TD.

I wonder, if Peanut Tillman holds onto that ball, does Cutler finish ahead of Hasselbeck in DYAR? Of course, the outcome of that pass really shouldn't matter either way, and shouldn't affect the way we evaluate the quarterbacks in that game, because the game was over at that point.

37
by Mac32 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 2:33pm

My thoughts exactly. Tillman had two INTs go straight through his hands, but that doesn't get taken into account for Hasselbeck, whereas Cutler has one bad throw mixed in with a ton of beauties (the last TD to Davis was great) and the bad throw is the story, because Cutler is that type of QB.

Similar story with Forte. His yards per carry went down from 4.1 to whatever it was in the 2nd half because the bears were up by 4 TDs and everyone and their mother knew they were handing off to him.

79
by JCutler6 :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 10:48pm

The adjustment for garbage time yards would appear to need to be stronger. Hasselbeck did not have a good game at all - when it counted.

If I remember correctly, Seattle's first 8 drives went -

Punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt

3
by Packer Pete (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:21pm

What was so visually striking about Rodgers' performance was how he threw rockets right into his receivers' numbers time after time. His accuracy and ball speed seemed remarkable. Add that his scrambling and escaping unblocked blitzers and Rodgers' effort became an epic performance. And he always made good reads on the scrambles - he didn't just chuck it up as has been seen in these parts before.

5
by Packer Pete (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:23pm

Visually striking as seen through my Green and Gold tinted lenses, of course...

17
by Dave :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:37pm

My blue and white glasses show the same thing.

He has easily the best combination of velocity, accuracy, and quick release, especially on the run, of any QB I can remember.

17
by PatFan (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:37pm

Hey, I'm a Patriots fan and I think that performance by Rodgers was the best QB performance I have ever seen by far. Not only was he accurate but he was firing laser shots on the run after eluding sure sacks. His elusiveness does not get captured in the box score very well. I've never seen a QB get out of so many sacks and then deliver hard and accurate throws on the run. Unbelievable. Now if only we had a QB like that in New England....

27
by Dave :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:53pm

During the game I questioned how it compared to Manning's game last year but completely forgot (at the time) about Warner's game against the Packers.

I tend to think the D adjustment in Warner's case is overdone for that game. I'd have to see it again to speak with authority, but I remember being amazed and upset at the poor play of the GB defense, and Capers and his obvious blitzes (against a QB who destroys blitzes). He had a bad habit of calling obvious and ineffective blitzes in dumb situations like 3rd and long for a while... saw less of it this year.

Any great game by a QB is going to make a defense look bad, of course. But to my eyes, Warner's job wasn't as hard that day as the GB defensive stats would indicate. He was flawless, of course, but I didn't come away from that one thinking "damn, that was one of the best games I've ever seen" like I did with the others.

Regardless, that's just my opinion. Rodgers impressed me because he just did everything. He moved around. He ran. He threw on the run. He threw deep. He threw short. He was patient. He's not hesitating anywhere near as much (though the sack that came back after an illegal contact penalty was poor). He's not forcing throws. And he's just deadly accurate. Who was it (Jennings, maybe) that said he could beat Brady's INT record if he wanted? I believe it. Of course, for that to happen, Jennings needs to not let perfectly thrown deep balls bounce off him backwards and into the defender that's badly beaten...

Speaking of Jennings screwing Rodgers' stats, I would argue that they ought to get credit for converting that third down before the fumble. Jennings' fumble was a separate event from the passing portion of that play. Seems unfair, but more importantly it seems inaccurate, to penalize Rodgers.

70
by Spielman :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 8:36pm

The version of events I remember hearing about that Cardinals-Packers game was that Warner noticed something about the Packers defense in the previous week, when the two teams had a meaningless week 17 matchup. He pointed it out to the coaching staff, they all agreed that it was exploitable, and built their game plan for the next week around it.

So it's something of a question of what you find impressive. If it's making tremendously difficult plays under duress, then obviously that game by Warner was pretty meh. If it's being far enough ahead mentally that it makes everything on the field look easy, then that game was pretty awesome.

82
by justanothersteve :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 11:09pm

If Warner noticed anything, it was how the Steelers late in the year had destroyed the Packers defense - have 3-4 really good receivers on the field most of the game. The Packers last year were pretty good against #1 and #2 WRs. They were awful against #3 and #4 WRs. Warner exploited the same weakness Pittsburgh exposed.

85
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 12:09am

Yep, when you are down to your #6 and #7 corners in your nickle and dime packages (as opposed to the #3 and #4) defense against the 3rd, 4th, and 5th receivers gets pretty bad. Pittsburg exploited this first, then Arizona did as well. However, watching Woodson miss 3 or 4 tackles in one game was pretty strange as well.

Warner played a hell of a game, the gameplan against them was excellent as well, but the Packers also played poorly.

Even had the Packers D played better than they did, I would not have been surprised to see Arizona put up 35+ points. Though maybe not 50. I actually think Atlanta's D against Rodgers this weekend looked better than the Packer's D vs Arizona. Arizona had 45 offensive points in that game (the Packers only had 41 against Atlanta) so that seems obvious, but what I mean by that is there is Good to Great offense vs OK to Good defense that can get you a lot of points. And there is just OK to Good offense vs Bad to OK defense that will get you similar results. The Falcons didn't miss a lot of tackles, the coverage wasn't completely out of position all the time. Had the Green Bay passing offense not executed so well the defense would have stopped some of the plays that were successful. It felt like the offense earned more of it, not that the defense gave it up.

The Arizona game, the Packers defense helped the Arizona offense more. There were more clearly blown coverages, there were more bad tackles, or bad decisions to try and get a turn over but miss the chance to tackle type of plays. The offense still had to be good to exploit all of them, and there were still plenty of Warner passes into solid coverages that were just executed so well it didn't matter. But the defense of the Packers was much sloppier.

You can have 150 yards of offense in a game because the offense sucks, but you can also have 150 yards of offense in a game because the defense was lights out. Same goes for 500 yards of offense.

97
by Spielman :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 8:12am

The Cardinals #1 and #2 receivers in that game combined for 13 catches for 207 yards and 3 TDs. The majority of the damage through the air was done passing to those two guys.

104
by justanothersteve :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 1:43pm

The Cards played most of the game with more than two receivers, using bunch formations to screw up the Packers man coverage. When your free safety is by far your leading tackler, that's a lot of busted coverages.

105
by Spielman :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 2:03pm

Okay.

106
by Arkaein :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 2:06pm

Actually, the #2 and #3 WRs did the most damage for the Cardinals. Fitzgerald had only 5 more yards than Doucet, but both had 2 TDs and Fitzgerald had the Cardinals only turnover (a fumble forced by Woodson and recovered by Matthews).

Although Fitz had a solid day by normal standards, he was really the 3rd best WR on his team when he would normally be the clear best. That tells me that it was really the lack of depth at CB that hurt GB. Giving up 82 yards to a #1 WR isn't going to beat a team by itself, but letting the #2 and #3 WR look like Pro Bowlers certainly will.

108
by Spielman :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 2:43pm

Okay then.

6
by Led :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:24pm

Yeah, he was firing laser beams. A few of those 20 yard wrist-flick throws while on the run seemed unnatural.

22
by Jimmy :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:43pm

With proper techique it is actually quite easy to throw laser beam type passes as you are running along. You already have momentum so as long as you don't try to throw too hard you can throw hard and accurately by just lifting the ball to your ear and flicking your wrist through it. If you get your weight transition correct too (you want to be jumping slightly off your right foot as you release the ball) you can throw very easily with little effort and it doesn't matter which shoulder is leading upfield as you don't need to get power from your hips (due to the momentumm you already have).

28
by Dave :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:54pm

True. But it's quite a bit harder to do it accurately.

30
by hbh_uk :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 2:01pm

Whilst that might be true, there are relatively few QBs who manage to get the sort of accuracy the Rodgers does on the run. Drew Magary on Deadspin talks about "'99 Warner", who can "ejaculate through a Froot Loop and not hit the sides of it". That's the sort of game Rodgers played Saturday, and he did it whilst evading pass rushers and scrambling. Serious stuff.

38
by Jimmy :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 2:34pm

(also to Dave)

I would agree that Rodgers was lights out amazing last weekend. My comment was a reply to someone who said the way he threw on the run was 'unatural' and it isn't, it is just a different throwing motion. He clearly parctices throwing on the run and scrambling away from pressure. When he decides to leave the pocket he tucks the ball away and then bolts sideways and keeps sprinting horizontally until he crosses the numbers, only then does he look to throw (if you watch out for this he does it every time). Back when he used to end up taking too many sacks he would jitter about in the pocket, moving about and trying to look downfield at the same time - it wasn't all that successful. McCarthy must have mixed up his practices to give him a less frantic approach that alows him to escape pressure and then make a play rather than trying to do both at once, and it has worked. Rodgers and McCarthy are an excellent combination of a QB who wants to be as good as he can be and a coach who knows how to help him get better.

4
by Led :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:22pm

Regarding Sanchez, although he has been troublingly inaccurate at times recently, he appears, at least from the TV feed, to be reading defenses well and finding the open man. He doesn't always hit the open man, but I wonder to what extent (if any)the poor throws are injury related. In any event, the accuracy issues are either physical or mechanical. The fact that he is pretty clearly improving in the mental part of the game is reason for optimism.

19
by Dave :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:39pm

I pick on him a lot but the injury/mechanics explanation for the high throws makes perfect sense. (It was linked somewhere last week; too lazy to go find it, sorry.) So even though I thought he really sucked against the Colts, I don't actually blame him.

The other areas of his game have exceeded my expectations and even impressed me. If he straightens out the sailing throw issue I think he'll be a fine QB. And almost certainly the best QB in New York. Er, New Jersey.

32
by Biebs (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 2:03pm

It's funny that you mention "the best QB in New York". Because his career path after 2 seasons, to me, looks very similar to Eli Manning

Horrific 1st season with more picks than TDs, better 2nd season, but still very inaccurate. The Giants had 1 stud RB (Tiki Barber) rather than the Jets 2, though the Jets rushed for more yards.

7
by ChaosOnion :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:25pm

All James Starks did was make ATL worry about the run after his 123 yard performance last week against the Eagles. That may be all GB needs to help keep Rodgers clean. I wonder what his hands are like, because if CHI gets pressure with the front four, Rodgers will be checking down to someone.

8
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:25pm

James Jones is leaving GB? His agent hasn't stated anything to that effect.

20
by Mr Shush :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:40pm

Obviously there's no guarantee that Jones will be leaving, but if there is a new CBA and if it is broadly similar to the old one he will be a free agent, and I for one would be slightly surprised if his services turned out to be worth as much to the Packers as they will be to other teams. For one thing, they'll presumably be trying to figure out an extension for Jennings in the not too distant future - I doubt they'll want him to hit free agency in 2011. The Packers are stacked at WR. Someone who isn't will outbid them for Jones.

9
by IsraelP (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:30pm

"Rodgers promptly came back in Week 16 and had the best game of both his career and the 2009 season,"

2009?

10
by TheRojas (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:31pm

"Warner produced a massive 385 DYAR by going 29-of-33 for 382 yards with five touchdowns, no incompletions..."

Did you mean interceptions?

11
by TheRojas (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:32pm

"Warner produced a massive 385 DYAR by going 29-of-33 for 382 yards with five touchdowns, no incompletions..."

Did you mean interceptions?

98
by bengt (not verified) :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 8:45am

Now that you mention it...
Those numbers mean that a replacement level player would have passed for -3 yards, right? If yes, there appears to be a problem with calibration, if no, 'yards above replacement' is quite a misleading name.

101
by Eddo :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 11:24am

A "yard" used in YAR is not equivalent to a raw yard. For example, a one-yard pass on 3rd-and-ten counts as 1 passing yard, but it will count as fewer YAR yards. The reverse is true for a one-yard pass on 3rd-and-one; YAR will count that as more than just 1 yard, since there's a first-down "bonus", if you will, built in.

EDIT: Additionally, incompletions and interceptions both count as 0 raw yards, but will actually decrease a QB's YAR.

Think of YAR yards moreso as the yardage used in Adjusted Net Yards per Pass (ANY/A).

102
by Eddo :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 11:33am

To further expand on my reply, Warner's "adjusted net yards" would have been:

= (raw yards) + (20 * TD) + (-45 * INT) - (sack yardage)
= (382) + (20 * 5) + (-45 * 0) - (4)
= 382 + 100 + 0 - 4
= 478

Therefore, DYAR it's saying that a replacement QB would have thrown for 93 adjusted net yards against the 2009 Packers' defense.

What does that mean? Well, one passing line that would generate 93 adjusted net yards is:

180 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, 17 sack yards.

119
by Andrew Potter :: Thu, 01/20/2011 - 12:05am

Which, interestingly enough, is almost exactly Matt Ryan's 0 DYAR stat line against the 2010 Packers defense (186yds, 1TD, 2INTs, 5 sacks).

120
by Eddo :: Thu, 01/20/2011 - 10:46am

Wow, I didn't even think to make that connection. Thanks for pointing it out.

While I liked the change from PAR to YAR (I like the whole-number measurements, aesthetically), I'm beginning to see why many commenters were against it. Every other week, it seems, we get a comment that simply subtracts actual yardage from a player's DYAR, and then wonders why or criticizes the metric because of it.

122
by armchair journe... :: Thu, 01/20/2011 - 3:08pm

I miss DPAR.

12
by Bill Barnwell :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:33pm

Typos! My fault for rushing it up.

13
by buzz :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:33pm

There has been quite a bit about the 5 sacks on Brady and how his OLine failed him. Given how much time he had to actually throw on each of those passes I think at least 25 other QB's in the league would love to get that type of time. All but one of those sacks were pretty much coverage sacks that Brady probably should have gotten rid of the baller sooner on (most likely as a throw away). If NE wants to get rid of those linemen I am guessing other teams will be more than happy to scoop them up.

21
by Dave :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:43pm

I haven't seen anything like that here. People here tend to know the difference between a bad line, a coverage sack, and one where you can blame the QB (Flacco's final sack to set up the fateful 4th and long, for instance... or any play involving Derek Anderson).

It's the general pundit/apologist crowd that is finger-pointing at the line.

(Granted, Ellis did make some of them look silly on a handful of plays; I don't mean to imply that the line played a great game or anything. But I think it's possible Ellis would've have done that to anyone.)

54
by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 4:45pm

The line gave Brady a ton of time on all but a few plays. The issues were the WRs not getting open at all, or not catching the ball when they were open.

By about half time, Brady was starting to get happy feet because of the hits.

And I've said this a few times, the way to beat Brady isn't blitzing, its not complicated zones. Its good man coverage, with good corners. Champ Bailey always gave him fits, and so does Revis. Brady is fantastic at reading coverages and timing, and all that, but he just doesn't have the arm to whip balls into tight man like Rodgers or Manning, or Favre (used to).

You can't protect forever, and Brady just refuses to throw the ball into coverage.

59
by are-tee :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 5:37pm

When the Jets chose to drop eight in coverage, Brady could have taken advantage of the lack of a pass rush by pulling down the ball and running - but that's not his thing. That's why I think the Jets will have to change their strategy against Pittsburgh. What worked against pocket QB's like Manning and Brady won't work against Big Ben (or Rodgers if they face him in the Super Bowl.)

63
by Dave :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 6:29pm

I'm not sure I'd agree that Manning's arm is better than Brady's. But I get where you're going with that. I think you could pretty safely use that last sentence to describe the difference between Brady's and Manning's INT%. This season was probably a bit of an outlier for each (though actually, ending up at 17 wasn't too far out of line for Peyton as it turned out), but you see Peyton throwing a lot more of those balls to Clark or Collie when there's about 3 yards of space between the man on him and the safety behind him. Not a whole lot of margin for error there. He's pretty ballsy about that kind of throw, though maybe it's largely because of his level of familarity/trust (this year excepted).

I've seen Brady throw plenty of balls to guys who are wearing defenders too, though. So it's not like he's totally risk-averse. He just puts it in that low and away spot where it can't be intercepted.

86
by RickD :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 1:38am

I thought the big difference between the 45-3 rout and Sunday's loss was that in the rout the Jets played more man-to-man while Sunday they played more zone.

Now if I can find the link...

14
by buzz :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:35pm

"With DVOA and DYAR calculated through the 1993 season, we have records of every playoff performance by a quarterback over that timeframe."

I would love to see an article on what all of the best QB performances of the playoffs have been as well as who has accumulated the most DYAR in the playoffs, etc.

15
by Jimmy :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:35pm

His best throw was about as complex as you can get, signaling Braylon Edwards to change his route on the fly with a hand signal and then launching a perfect 36-yard corner route to the sideline.

This seems more schoolyard touch football than complex deciphering of coverages. Roll out, see a reciever and point to him to go deep and then throw long. It was a nice play but not an elite QB dismantling the defense. Unless I hae the wrong play in my head that is.

87
by RickD :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 1:40am

I thought his best pass was the TD to Holmes. There was only a tiny window to get that pass in where Holmes could catch it and stay in bounds.

The Edwards pass had the benefit of him being covered only by Darius Butler, a.k.a. "the Weakest Link". Good decision and pass by Sanchez, for sure, but there was more margin for error.

Also, he had about an hour and a half to throw on that play.

107
by Dave :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 2:39pm

The reason he had time was actually because he had to duck away from the rush (actually backed almost under the end). I watched the game again last night and was very impressed not just with the move, but the calmness with which he did it. It was, dare I say, very Brady-like.

They showed Edwards explaining it, too. According to the original play design he actually was supposed to run a corner. He adjusted it to an even route, and then Sanchez asked for the original route.

I agree, though, that throw-wise the TD was better.

He did play really well after the Pats made it 3-0.

121
by MJK :: Thu, 01/20/2011 - 1:16pm

Let's not forget the play that really broke the Pats back. After the Pats had got the 2-point conversion to get within 3, Sanchez hit Cotchery on a shallow cross and Cotchery rumbled almost all the way down the field to set up the Jets critical TD that put the game practically out of reach. Yes, a lot of that was good running by Cotchery, and abysmal tackling by the Pats defense, but Sanchez had something to do with that, too...hitting Cotchery perfectly in stride, freezing the safeties with his other reads.

As a Pats fan, I was hoping Sanchez looked like he did against the Colts...the Pats INT-happy secondary would have eaten him alive. But unfortunately for them, he played really well...no throw looked like it came close to an INT, and he was converting 3rd and mediums with ease.

I think, if you had to simplify the story of this game to one sentence, it is that Sanchez happened to play significantly better than he normally plays on a day when Tom Brady happened to play significantly worse. And that was the story of the game.

(And that is probably largely due to coaching...congrats to Rex Ryan).

Interesting aside...the name "Ryan" actually means "Little King". Rex, of course, also means "King". So Rex Ryan's name is "King Little King".

16
by Barry (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:36pm

I think the animosity comes from the fact Cutler is a whiny baby. He doesn't deserve a superbowl ring.

23
by Jimmy :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:44pm

Thanks for that Barry.

24
by Dave :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 1:44pm

I haven't seen Cutler act like a child in a while.

I don't like him either, but I'm actually kind of rooting for him now after that pointless Rick Reilly hit piece last week. That article wouldn't have been fair even if Jay had taken Rick's daughter out for a nice dinner and never called her again.

31
by Eddo :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 2:01pm

Yeah, that Reilly piece was awful. He basically criticizes Cutler for not being an attention-whore, particularly when Cutler visited some diabetic children in the hospital without making a media event out of it. (Therefore, the media winds up not liking him, since he doesn't give them any positive material.)

PFT (shudder) had a nice rebuttal. Cutler's seems to be a not-very-outgoing person, at least when he's out of his comfort zone. And yet, he seems well-liked by both current and former teammates. Reports were that he had a private dinner with former Vanderbilt and Denver teammates at a Chicago restaurant last week.

He's moody, and that turns him into a punk at times, but I don't see him as a bad person. Just a socially inept one.

34
by hbh_uk :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 2:14pm

I hadn't read the Reilly piece (I try to avoid his work), so when I saw this comment I Googled "Rick Reilly Jay Cutler". What's interesting is that the hatchet job piece is the second hit: the top hit is a piece that Reilly wrote for ESPN Magazine that portrays Cutler as a reluctant role model, a guy who has overcome Type 1 diabetes to have a pro football career. Overall it is very positive, talking about the support he provides to young sufferers of the disease. The column is from August 2010, so it isn't like Cutler is a different public figure now than he was before.

This tends to confirm my long-standing feeling that Reilly is a hack.

44
by Marko :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 2:55pm

Agreed. Reilly is a clown and has been for quite a while. As I recall, he used to be a decent writer years ago for SI, but he has become a joke. Other media members openly criticize and mock him. About 6 months ago, he did a video piece about running with the bulls that Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports ripped as "Dangerous self-aggrandizing garbage." http://twitter.com/YahooSportsNFL/status/19505666589. His hit piece on Cutler has many media members sticking up for Cutler and making Cutler a sympathetic figure.

I really don't get what value Reilly adds for ESPN. If there were salary caps for media companies, no doubt he would be a cap casualty.

On a somewhat related note, there is a story going around about Aaron Rodgers snubbing and ignoring a cancer patient (who apparently is a well-known Packers fan) who wanted his autograph at the airport as the Packers were leaving for Atlanta. The fact that this has become a story is ludicrous. I'm no Packer fan by any means, but can't a guy focus on his business and get to the plane without being besieged by autograph requests? What if 50 people wanted his autograph? Does he have to sign for everyone?

45
by Eddo :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 3:06pm

And in another story I read, Rodgers had even given her an autograph the week before. It's indeed ludicrous that the "snubbing" story ever gained traction.

46
by Eddo :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 3:12pm

I was impressed, however, with both quarterbacks when reading Kevin Seifert's blog entry:

"In this rivalry, players stop before, during and after games to chat and exchange friendly barbs. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has often expressed his appreciation to Bears quarterback Jay Cutler for helping his brother get assimilated at Vanderbilt University. And Sunday, Cutler acknowledged he sent Rodgers a congratulatory text message this weekend after the Packers' 48-21 divisional playoff victory against the Atlanta Falcons.

"'I'll probably have a few text messages from him, so we'll have friendly banter, I'm sure,' Cutler said."

48
by GlennW :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 3:50pm

I see Rick Reilly as I kinda do someone like Dave Berry-- maybe he was witty and clever once upon a time, but then the act got old. Reilly was indeed a decent writer at SI, but then he decided he wanted to be more of a new-age media celebrity than just a writer. Big mistake-- except for his bank account, I'm sure. Reilly is just awful trying to be funny on TV, simply awful.

In the bigger picture I do regret what new media has done to the overall quality of sportswriting. When I look back at those decades-old Sports Illustrated columns, I see that a lot of the content was overly romanticized fantasy, but dammit, it was fine writing, and this is only sports we're talking about, after all. A little myth-making is not a bad thing.

75
by Jerry :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 9:45pm

...until you find out that Pete Rose bets on baseball.

33
by JasonG (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 2:06pm

"a truly awful decision (produced in part by Johnny Knox's route)"

Knox is generally viewed as their #1 and I would agree. Paradoxically, at the same time, he is also their worst receiver. Many times it seems he quits on routes and plenty of those have led to interceptions or near interceptions, many of the hideous variety. Statistically, he got over 100 targets, but only 50 catches. That's pretty bad. I'd love to see FO (Tanier, game charters, whoever) breakdown Knox film. I'm not giving Cutler a pass here, but I'd venture more than a handful of his "truly awful decisions" are actually his receivers' faults with Knox being the most egregious offender.

39
by mac32 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 2:37pm

Agreed - when knox is your number 1 you know you have no receivers. He's put Cutler in bad spots all year.

40
by Jimmy :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 2:40pm

Knox has some very desirable attributes for a WR (especially in a Martz offense) but he does have his issues too. Last year he used to stop his routes or change them to stuff that was just too ambitious when your QB is running for his life, I am convinced that he caosed at least six picks last season. This year he seems to run the correct route (or at least runs it a lot more) but hasn't gotten the hang of coming back to the QB to prevent DBs breaking on the ball.

41
by Eddo :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 2:45pm

I don't necessarily agree that Knox is the Bears' worst receiver. He's their #1 for a reason, and I would say that's because he's the most reliable at actually getting open. He's generally a good route-runner, though, as you note, he's prone to giving up on them.

His biggest weaknesses are that he's awful at adjusting to balls once they've been thrown and at using his body to shield defenders. I suspect these two things are related, in that he doesn't position himself well when he's being covered tightly. This is why he's at least a little bit responsible for many of Cutler's interceptions.

Hester is actually quite good at those two facets, particularly using his body. Ditto for Earl Bennett. The reason they don't get the targets, in my opinion, is that they're just not as good at getting separation.

66
by tuluse :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 6:58pm

I think he's worst attribute is physical play. He's just small and weak and can't fight for the ball. Route running, hands, and adjusting all seem fine to me.

35
by Travis :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 2:19pm

Where does Matt Forte rank if you include the interception he threw at the beginning of the 4th quarter?

36
by chemdrj (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 2:20pm

I don't understand how Michael Jenkins gets credit for a 1st down on 4-1 because he fumbled after converting it but Jennings doesn't. Did Jenkins fumble on the very next play because if not I can't see a difference between the two fumbles except that one guy gets credit for the first down and one does not.

42
by Anonymous Coward (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 2:50pm

He's unquestionably the best quarterback left in the playoffs

It isn't even questionable whether the guy who had a higher DVOA and more DYAR/start might be as good???

47
by bobt (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 3:25pm

Yeah, this seems like hyperbole based on overreaction to last week. The guy is 2-1 in playoff games in his career and the Falcons weren't exactly the 85 Bears. If Rodgers craps the bed this week nobody would look back on it and say he was the best QB who was left (which would not be the case for guys like Brady or Brees, who have an actual track record of consistent high performance that Rodgers doesn't).

56
by dmb :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 5:17pm

I think the suggestion that Rodgers is head-and-shoulders above Roethlisberger is overstating his case, but I think you're overstating the case "against" Rodgers even more badly. Setting aside the fact that won-loss record is a team statistic, you do realize that Rodgers went 28/42 (66.7%) for 423 yards (10 y/a), 4 TD, and 1 INT in "his" loss, right? Did you read the intro, where it mentioned the performance earned him 193 DYAR? And if you're concerned about his performance against a superior defense, how about his game just a couple weeks ago against the Eagles, the #2 defense? 18/27 for 180 yards 3 TD, 0 picks, and 99 total DYAR (including rushing/sacks/fumbles) is a pretty strong performance. Or you could go a few weeks farther back, to the Giants' game, which was in all practicality a playoff game. You can re-read the intro to see how that went.

Roethlisberger is a very good QB, and I think you could make a reasonable argument that he's just as good, and maybe better. But trying to pick at GB's won-loss record in playoff games when Rodgers is under center is definitely NOT the way to do it.

65
by bobt (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 6:42pm

"Roethlisberger is a very good QB, and I think you could make a reasonable argument that he's just as good, and maybe better. But trying to pick at GB's won-loss record in playoff games when Rodgers is under center is definitely NOT the way to do it."

This is the only argument I'm making. Rodgers has done quite well in his very limited playoff exposure. But what GB asks him to do involves putting up big numbers and giving him the offensive tools and line to do it. That's not what PIT asks BR to do, so saying Rodgers is better on that basis (as FO is doing) when he hasn't demonstrated a similar level of overall success yet is ridiculous and unfair.

88
by RickD :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 1:48am

Your response is comic.


But what GB asks him to do involves putting up big numbers and giving him the offensive tools and line to do it. That's not what PIT asks BR to do...

Oh?

Translation: Green Bay asks Rogers to live up to the ideal of a great QB. Pittsburgh asks Roethlisberger to do some unspecified other thing. Which is...?

57
by anonymouse (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 5:18pm

Everyone knows DVOA is crap.

Rodgers has swagger. End of story.

60
by Jonadan :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 5:38pm

Rodgers is probably not Brady, Brees, Manning, etc quite yet (though then again he might be - certainly he's up there for the last few years for fantasy, which is admittedly way less accurate than DVOA or even passer rating but still a useful rough guide). But I don't really get the "no actual track record" for Rodgers. Last three years (in other words, his entire career as a starter): 3 years over 3,900 yards, 3 years better than 2:1 TD-INT, 3 years over 200 yds rushing (and over 300 the last 2). He's cut fumbles this year. The only thing that stands out about the other guys that they take about half the sacks Rodgers takes - oh, and Brees, Brady, and Manning each have rings, but I see your rings and say Marino.

Okay, fine, let's say he's not in that company. But best left in the playoffs? Pretty much. Let's see:

- The Sanchize is not in Rodgers league, I don't care what he did on Sunday.
- Big Ben has an aura of clutch, but he doesn't consistently turn in the kind of results I've seen from Rodgers (and I don't like him) - and his numbers reflect that. Well, not that I don't like him, but the rest of it.
- That leaves Cutler as Rodgers' only competition, and we'll definitely have a test by fire on this one this coming weekend. Gut says Rodgers is the better QB. It may not be completely unarguable that he's the best left, but it's also hard to argue against.

61
by GlennW :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 5:48pm

I'll also vote for Rodgers as best QB remaining in the playoffs, but I don't think it's credible to eliminate Roethlisberger from the discussion in favor of Cutler. Ben is Cutler without the frequent bad decision-making...

67
by tuluse :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 7:00pm

That's an odd comparison. I actually think Rodgers is Cutler with better decision making (and better teammates). Big Ben is kind of his own QB, the only other guy I could compare to him is a younger McNabb.

68
by Dave :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 7:49pm

Those comparisons make little sense to me. Likening them to McNabb and Cutler is an insult to both of them. The only way Ben is like McNabb is around the stomach area.

Actually I think the best comparison for each is the other.

Rodgers has improved dramatically in this regard, but both had a habit of holding the ball too long hoping to make something happen, and thus took too many sacks. Now they both can make plays with their legs and their arms (and both), both can throw the ball damn near 80 yards, and both can roll up 400 yards on you in a hurry. Ben is basically a slower and dumber, but bigger and tougher, version of Rodgers.

71
by tuluse :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 9:30pm

Ways in which Big Ben and McNabb are similiar: big strong QB that can break tackles, mobile, good deep accuracy and looking to throw deep a lot.

Rodgers doesn't have that tackle breaking ability that McNabb and Ben have.

78
by Socalgng (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 10:40pm

John Abraham may disagree.

80
by Dave :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 11:00pm

But Ben can actually hit his receivers in stride when they're five yards away from him. I'd say that pretty much cancels out the similarities.

72
by Jonadan :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 9:41pm

My conclusion after looking over stats and records (but not reviewing plays): statistically, all three of these guys are basically the same QB. From what I remember of the season, none of them are stereotypical pocket QBs. Big Ben is actually slightly more efficient than the other two; Rodgers runs a little more. Cutler's stats are a little worse than the other two overall, but his receivers are definitely worse than the Packers, and probably worse than the Steelers as well (I'm sorry, I don't watch Pittsburgh much and don't know any names except Mike Wallace. He's still with the Hypocycloids, right?).

Conclusion: I still stand by my original statement - I don't like Big Ben much, so he can't possibly be the best left, and Rodgers vs Cutler will be very interesting this weekend.

(One final note: Rothlisberger seems like he shrugs off damage in game a little bit more due to size, but over the course of a season he seems to get injured as often as anybody else.)

103
by GlennW :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 11:59am

I was talking level of performance, not style. Style has nothing to do with which QB is "best". For my money it's Roethlisberger > Cutler even within the context of their team situations (admittedly Ben has better receivers-- although I think you have to give Ben full credit for what he's done with these young inexperienced WRs), at least at this point in time. Both QBs are playing behind shaky O-lines, but within that limitation Roethlisberger makes fewer bad decisions. And I think it's safe to say that Ben has proved more in his longer career (passer rating of 88.7 in 11 career postseason games, 94.5 after his rookie season). I know that Cutler hasn't had the opportunity, but to use a golf analogy Ben is sitting in the clubhouse with a very nice score on the board and my take is that Cutler has not done enough in his career to give me the confidence that he'll match it. Rodgers has, on the other hand.

89
by RickD :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 1:50am

Not every QB without Super Bowl rings is as good as Dan Marino.

(Is any QB without Super Bowl rings as good as Marino? And I don't mean guys who played before Super Bowls like Sammy Baugh. Tarkenton, perhaps, given that he played before the passing explosion of the 80s.)

92
by Jerry :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 3:03am

Marino's probably the guy. The two names that leap to mind are Kelly and Fouts, but I think Dan ranks ahead of them.

110
by MCS :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 3:18pm

Just a thought: Warren Moon

113
by Insancipitory :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 7:07pm

Warren Moon was the best I ever saw. Even as a kid who didn't know anything, the first time I saw him play in person was a "holy shit" kind of experience.

114
by Jerry :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 7:47pm

Maybe it's because I saw him against the Steelers twice a year, but I wouldn't put Moon up there with the other guys I mentioned.

117
by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 11:43pm

Tarkenton probably has the best case, especially when you consider that he played in a passing-unfriendly era, that he had lousy teammates, and that he was a great runner.

84
by Intropy :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 11:49pm

Agreed. As a Steelers fan, Rodgers is the only QB in the league I'd rather have than Roethlisberger, but I think it's questionable which one is better. So, agree with relative order but disagree on degree.

And now for your screaming controversial pleasure, before the divisional round I would also have said "Rodgers is the best QB remaining in the playoffs."

91
by troycapitated p... :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 1:59am

If you compare the career stats for Brady, Roethlisberger and Rodgers, (I used pro-football-reference) you'll see that all 3 have remarkably similar career rate stats- with the exception that Rodgers and Roethlisberger take a lot more sacks. I think the numbers make a pretty good case for putting all 3 at about the same level. If you want to split hairs, you can make definitely make the case for Rodgers as the best of the 3. Brady's biggest advantage, at this point, is that he's just done it longer than the other 2 so they have to show they can maintain this level as long as he has.

93
by rk (not verified) :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 3:19am

Brady has done it longer than the other 2, but I think Roethlisberger deserves some credit for doing it longer than Rodgers: 7 seasons as a starter vs. 3. I think it's entirely too early to compare Rodgers to established players. I understand the idea of best QB "right now," but the idea of Rodgers as the "best" QB may end up being laughable if he turns into 2002-2004 Kurt Warner or even 2006 Roethlisberger and doesn't bounce back.

43
by Flounder :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 2:52pm

Having watched every Green Bay game this year, I can say with the utmost confidence, that if Brandon Jackson got the same carries Starks did, his DYAR would have been worse.

55
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 4:50pm

Agreed.

Several of those 2 yard runs by Starks would have been 0 or negative yards by Jackson or Kuhn.

The line still had it's normal run blocking problems. Starks did what he could which sometimes was just falling forward and getting 2 yards. Jackson just doesn't do that. He'd run into the stuffed hole, turn sideways and then get brought down. Starks hit that same "hole", drops his pads delivers a blow, falls forward, 2 yard gain.

It's very clear that Starks run more forcefully than Jackson. If he keeps working he'll be able to get 1200 yards behind this sub par run blocking just like Grant was able to.

69
by Jay Z (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 8:12pm

I'll take Starks' day over Ray Rice.

Rice did score a 14 yard touchdown, but even with that he only rushed 12 times for 32 yards. He caught 7 passes, but again only for 32 yards. Plus that fumble was brutal, and he hadn't fumbled all year.

49
by are-tee :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 3:55pm

On his TD run, I was yelling for Sonn Greene to take a knee instead of scoring; the first down was enough for the Jets to run out the clock. As it turns out, the Pats still had a longshot opportunity to tie the game had they recoverd the last onsides kick.

So that run should count as successful for passing the first down marker, but unsuccessful for getting into the end zone.

50
by QQ (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 3:55pm

"Nelson's going to be a seriously valuable contributor to this team next year after James Jones leaves in free agency. "

GB would be really stupid to let James Jones leave. Yeah Jones is inconsistent but he is far better at getting separation from defenders than is Nelson and is much more talented.

51
by Flounder :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 4:19pm

It really depends. I'm sure Thompson has a value for Jones in mind, and if some team thinks they can make him a semi-featured #2 guy and makes Jones and offer accordingly, Thompson will let him walk.

Driver is going downhill, but, assuming good health, the #2 receiver next year will still be the #3 option anyways, with Jennings and Finley being the top two.

If Jones leaves, I'd like to see GB spend a third to fifth round pick on a receiver they can develop for a couple years, and who in the meantime has the ability to return kickoffs and/or punts.

53
by MCS :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 4:36pm

Flounder brings up a good point about Finley returning.

I'm also curious to see the skill-set that Brett Swain brings to the team.

52
by MCS :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 4:31pm

James Jones is going to demand a lot of money on the market. Can Green Bay afford to pay that kind of money for a player who has a tendency to put the ball on the ground in the worst situations? I think that Jones is clearly more talented, but he offers higher risk and greater expense.

Nelson has twice the DYAR as Jones. Nelson also has a 70% catch rate compared to 57% for Jones while catching at over 1 ypc more than Jones.

Nelson also offers his talents as a kick returner (not a good one, but a capable one).

With Driver running on fumes, I'm curious to see how TT handles this.

58
by DenverCheeze (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 5:36pm

I would have to agree that Jones would be allowed to walk if some team gave him an overinflated offer. If he was smart he would stay in GB for less $$ because he realizes that his play and value are inflated by being in the offense with one of the league's best QBs and he will have better opportunities in GB than elsewhere to make the playoffs and Super Bowl. Not sure if he is that smart yet, but I guess we will see.

62
by QQ (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 5:52pm

GB should be willing to pay Jones #2 WR money. Driver has to be close to running on fumes and Jones is the logical replacement. Yeah they will be getting Finley back but considering he has had injury problems so far I am a little skeptical about feeling too confident in him.

81
by justanothersteve :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 11:01pm

They've already signed Bishop and T Williams. I think they pretty much have to let Jones go. Too many teams need decent wideouts that it will only take one or two more big plays before someone gives him #1 money.

64
by Vlad (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 6:36pm

When noting Roethlisberger's sacks, it's important to remember that both of the Steelers' starting offensive tackles (themselves second-stringers due to injuries earlier in the season) left the game due to injury/illness. In the secnod half, he had swing lineman Trai Essex playing left tackle and right guard Ramon Foster playing right tackle, against a pretty good pass rush. That's not usually a recipe for success.

94
by rk (not verified) :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 3:21am

Not to mention a backup center who takes more snaps at fullback playing right guard and resident train wreck Chris Kemoeatu at left guard.

73
by R. Carney (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 9:44pm

AS far as great individual playoff games by QBs, the first one that comes to mind for me is the Phil Simms Super Bowl game against the Broncos (22-25, 286, 3td). While the yards aren't gaudy, 286 is strong, and 25 years ago before the game changed to slinging it around the yard and spread offenses, etc, 286 was pretty large. 88% completion is sick, as is 10+ yds/att. Also, this was a Super Bowl, which has to be weighed in somewhere. The other obvious one is Peyton manning in the '04 Wild card against Denver. This was one of his couple "Peyton games" in which he threw more tds than incompletions (22-26, 377, 5td, 0int). I don't think anyone else has ever done that, definitely not in the playoffs, although Simms was close in his SB. I'd still give Simms the nod due to circumstance, and the fact that Manning did essentially the same thing to DEN the following year (27-33, 458, 4td, 1int). I'm only 26, but those are the games that come to mind. Rodgers was great, but I think these performances are a bit better.

90
by RickD :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 1:58am

Um, the Phil Simms Super Bowl was great and all, but in the name of historical accuracy, it came well after the passing explosion. 286 wasn't pretty large, and Simms only passed for 268. Elway passed for 306 in the same game (albeit with less accuracy). Bradshaw had already thrown over 300 yards twice, as had Marino and Ken Anderson. The record-holder at the time was Montana with 344 yards.

99
by Keith (1) (not verified) :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 10:20am

Kurt Warner had more touchdowns than incomplete passes last year. In the playoffs. Against a far better defense than what Denver had.

100
by Mr Shush :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 10:23am

As discussed above, Warner threw more touchdowns than incompletions in the Wildcard round game against Green Bay last year.

109
by Treima6 (not verified) :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 2:57pm

Tom Brady, 2007 Divisional Round vs. Jacksonville: 26/28, 262 YDS. 3 TD. The two incompletions were drops. So yeah, other players have done your so-called "Peyton game".

111
by Andrew Potter :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 5:02pm

So have:
- Kurt Warner, 29/33, 5TDs. January 10th, 2010 vs. Green Bay.
- Tony Eason, 10/12, 3TDs. 12th January 1986 at Miami.
- Dave Krieg, 12/13, 3TDs. 24th December 1983 vs. Denver.

Honourable mentions to Phil Simms (22/25, 3TD) and Dan Pastorini (12/15, 3TDs, 1 INT).

115
by RickD :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 7:49pm

Sorry - seeing Eason's name on that list was a spit-take moment.

He might have been a decent QB if the Chicago Bears hadn't eaten his soul in Super Bowl XX.

Nah.

74
by Lumpy Gravy (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 9:45pm

On the topic of James Starks: while the numbers may show him to have been the "least valuable" running back, actually re-watching footage from the game shows that on many of the called runs to Starks, there was massive penetration from the Falcons into the offensive backfield. In spite of this, Starks was able to, on more than one occasion, evade one or two tackles (again, in his own backfield) and move the ball past the line of scrimmage; perhaps he didn't break off a big gain each time, but a one or two yard gain is far better than a three or four yard loss. I don't think the analysis takes blocking into account here - please correct me if I'm wrong.

Also, as has been mentioned by previous posters, his performance was enough to, I think, keep Atlanta's defense honest. Additionally, to echo another poster, it's simply irresponsible to state that one would have preferred that Brandon Jackson get all the carries from the beginning of the game.

76
by Nevic (not verified) :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 9:52pm

Why is Jennings' fumble 30 yards downfield not counted as a success for Rodgers? He got the pass there and earned the first down. Seems to me this should read as a success for Rodgers but a failure for Jennings. Wouldn't this make it more predictive of Rodger's future performance?

77
by Kal :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 9:56pm

I would have thought the same; technically he made a play that was a success in the sense that it got first down yardage. It's not Rodger's fault that the guy fumbled. I think that probably should be manually changed.

83
by BillWallace :: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 11:32pm

What's clear from looking at these numbers is... you have to run to win in the NFL playoffs.

95
by rk (not verified) :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 3:23am

It's a shame Shonn Greene passed up the opportunity to kneel to win.

112
by JPS (not verified) :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 5:34pm

I thought the same thing on his touchdown that made it 28-14. "He should have kneeled at the 1."

116
by RickD :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 7:51pm

Pretty much everybody on the discussion thread at the time agreed with that sentiment. Indeed, after the Jets coughed up a TD so quickly I wondered if Greene's decision to score points would come back to haunt the Jets. But the second failed onside kick ended that threat.

96
by Insancipitory :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 5:26am

I'd be curious to know if the West to East 10 am Game correlated with more drops and other errors.

118
by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Wed, 01/19/2011 - 11:46pm

Matt Ryan had exactly 0 DYAR.That's pretty cool. I don't remember that ever happening before, although I'm sure it has.