Quick Reads
The best and worst players of the week according to Football Outsiders stats.

Week 16 Quick Reads

Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

Back in Week 2, I took a stab at organizing quarterbacks by style of play rather than by quality of play -- specifically, how each player tended to react when under pressure. "When under pressure, quarterbacks must choose which risk to take," I wrote at the time. "Do they hang on to the ball and risk taking a sack? Force a throw into coverage and risk an interception? Or throw the ball away and risk the opportunity to make a play? Good quarterbacks will minimize those risks and make the wise decision in each situation, but sooner or later everyone who throws a pass will be forced to make one choice or another."

In that Week 2 piece, I looked at how quarterbacks had performed up to that point this century, as well as how they had fared in 2018. Now, with the 2019 season nearly complete, I thought it was time to analyze this year's passers and see where the younger players fell, and which veterans saw significant changes.

You can read my original column as well as this Twitter thread for specific details on my methodology, but the bullet-points version is this:

  • Quarterbacks who throw a lot of interceptions end up near the top of the chart.
  • Quarterbacks who take a lot of sacks end up in the bottom left.
  • Quarterbacks who avoid interceptions and sacks but fail to throw for yards or touchdowns end up in the bottom right.
  • Quarterbacks who are equally good (or bad) in all three categories end up near the middle.

I have made two changes in this process since September. First, every single reader who responded to my Week 2 column hated that I referred to quarterbacks who took a lot of sacks as "bystanders." (Seriously, I have been writing regularly since second grade, and nothing else I've ever produced has produced such a negative response.) Therefore, I've stopped trying to be so clever and re-named these quarterbacks as simply "Sack-Takers." Second, I have changed the size of each quarterback's point on the chart to show his quality, as defined by Pro Football Reference's adjusted net yards per attempt statistic (yards per dropback, including sacks, with a reward for touchdowns and a penalty for interceptions). Patrick Mahomes has the largest dot because he leads the league with 8.51 ANY/A; Dwayne Haskins has the smallest dot because his 4.25 ANY/A is the worst among qualified passers.

I then ran these numbers for 35 quarterbacks -- the 34 players who already have at least 200 dropbacks, plus Marcus Mariota, who could theoretically get there should he play most of the game in Week 17 for some reason. Those numbers produced the following chart, which is … kinda boring.

Back in Week 2, we noted that the absurd numbers that Ryan Fitzpatrick had put up in Tampa Bay in 2018 were skewing results for everyone else, shoving them down and to the right in contrast. This year there are two quarterbacks who are doing the same thing. Jameis Winston, Fitzpatrick's former teammate with the Bucs, has thrown an interception on 4.7% of his pass attempts, the highest rate in the league by a full percentage point. That enormous gap is pushing the rest of the league's quarterbacks down. Meanwhile, in Tennessee, Ryan Tannehill is having quite a schizophrenic season. He leads the league with 9.6 yards per pass, a full yard more than the second-place passer (Matthew Stafford, believe it or not). However, he has also been sacked on 10.4% of his dropbacks, second-most of any qualified passer behind Dwayne Haskins (12.5%). Combine that with his mediocre interception rate of 2.3% and Tannehill ends up way out on the left by himself, pushing everyone else to the right.

TL;DR: almost everyone in 2019 has played like a game manager, limiting sacks and interceptions by checking the ball down over and over again. Only four players -- Tannehill, Haskins, Mariota, and Russell Wilson -- qualify as Sack-Takers, and only one of those (Wilson) is going to start more than 10 games this year. Only four others (Winston, Stafford, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Philip Rivers) qualify as Gunslingers. Everyone else is a Game Manager, none more so than Tom Brady. Brady's interception and sack rates are both fine -- better than his career averages, in fact. However, his 3.8% touchdown rate would be the worst of his career, and his 6.6 yards per pass would be his worst since 2002.

The other takeaway from this chart is where the best passers ended up. Most of the biggest dots -- the players with the best ANY/A statistics -- are near the center of the graph. There are exceptions like Wilson and, in a much smaller sample size, Tannehill, but for the most part it's hard to be an effective passer when you have one glaring weakness in your game.

Otherwise, however, it's hard to draw any meaningful conclusions from this, because three-quarters of the league's passers end up bunched together in one corner. We can mitigate this somewhat by charting each quarterback by his rank in each category, rather than by his raw numbers. This effectively draws Winston and Tannehill closer to the pack -- and, in the process, separates everyone else in the pack from each other.

Now we find a near-perfect split among our three categories -- a dozen Gunslingers, a dozen more Game Managers, and 11 Sack-Takers. Rivers ends up as even more of a Gunslinger than Winston -- he's third behind Winston and Baker Mayfield in highest interception rate, while he's 12th or better for best rate of both yards/touchdowns and sacks. Mayfield, Goff, Garoppolo, and Dak Prescott also stand out as notable Gunslingers. The anti-Gunslingers are a pair of veterans who perfectly overlap each other at the bottom of the graph: Joe Flacco and Aaron Rodgers. Jaguars rookie Gardner Minshew isn't far off.

Brady sticks out even more prominently as the top Game Manager in the, uh, game. He's followed by his former backup Jacoby Brissett, who is in turn followed by a trio of quarterbacks noted for their small-ball style: Carson Wentz, Teddy Bridgewater, and Mitchell Trubisky. Winston is obviously this year's top anti-Game Manager -- he's just the second player ever with 31 touchdowns and 28 interceptions in a season, and with just two more picks against Atlanta on Sunday he can become the first-ever member of the NFL's 30-30 Club. Meanwhile, he has also taken 46 sacks; Wilson and Kyler Murray are tied for the league lead with 47. Winston has a chance to join Jon Kitna in 2007 as the only players to lead the NFL in sacks and interceptions in the same season.

Wilson (sixth-highest sack rate, third-lowest interception rate, eighth-best yards/touchdown rate) is joined by Mariota as the most obvious Sack-Taker, but it's their counterpart on the opposite side of the chart who grabs my attention. Look at poor Mason Rudolph out by his lonesome! Only five quarterbacks have better sack rates than Rudolph's 5% this year, but only Trubisky has been worse at producing yards/touchdowns, and only four players have worse interception rates.

Though all players are more scattered here than they were in our first graph, we again see that the best quarterbacks are generally found near the center. That's especially true for Mahomes -- he has a lower interception rate than anyone else besides Rodgers, while ranking fourth in sack rate and seventh in rate of yards/touchdowns. He is the only quarterback to rank in the top seven of all three categories. His counterpart would be Haskins, who is the only quarterback to rink ninth or worse in all three categories.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Sacks
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Opp
1.
Tom Brady NE
26/33
271
1
0
0
179
176
4
BUF
A game management case in point: Brady on Sunday became the first player to throw a pass in a game against Buffalo without throwing an interception or taking a sack. He threw three passes in the red zone: a 6-yard gain on third-and-2, a 5-yard gain on third-and-5, and an 8-yard touchdown on first-and-goal.
2.
Patrick Mahomes KC
23/33
251
2
0
1
149
139
11
CHI
Mahomes led the league in fourth-quarter DYAR. In the last 15 minutes, he went 5-of-6 for 73 yards; each of those five completions picked up a first down, including a 14-yard touchdown.
3.
Daniel Jones NYG
28/42
352
5
0
1
145
170
-25
WAS
Jones led the league in DYAR on third/fourth downs this week, going 10-of-11 for 107 yards and eight conversions, including two touchdowns. He also led the league in DYAR on deep passes, going 6-of-10 for 158 yards and two touchdowns.
4.
Lamar Jackson BAL
20/31
238
3
0
0
141
130
11
CLE
Jackson's passing success rate of 58% was best of any starting quarterback this week. In the second quarter, he went 9-of-14 for 159 yards and two touchdowns.
5.
Ryan Tannehill TEN
17/27
272
3
0
5
136
133
3
NO
Tannehill's average completion gained 7.8 yards after the catch, most of any starter this week. His three touchdown passes gained a total of 24 yards through the air and 60 yards after the catch.
6.
Jared Goff LAR
28/46
323
2
1
0
127
123
4
SF
Goff gains a league-high 88 DYAR due to opponent adjustments. He led the league in first-quarter DYAR this week, going 9-of-12 for 115 yards and a touchdown.
7.
Matt Ryan ATL
32/45
384
1
2
1
125
122
3
JAX
Ryan did a fine job of moving the chains on third downs, going 9-of-11 for 109 yards and seven conversions (including a touchdown), with one sack.
8.
Derek Carr OAK
26/30
291
1
0
3
118
110
8
LAC
Carr's average pass traveled 4.6 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, least of any starting quarterback this week. He only threw four passes that traveled 10 or more yards downfield, but he completed each of them for a first down, gaining a total of 96 yards.
9.
Drew Brees NO
27/38
279
3
0
3
111
111
0
TEN
Brees led the league in red zone passing DYAR this week. He did take one sack in the red zone, but each of his five pass attempts inside the Tennessee 20 was completed for a first down, including two touchdowns, for a total of 46 yards. Brees also led the league in third-quarter DYAR, going 7-of-8 for 100 yards and a touchdown, plus a 17-yard DPI. However, he was in a three-way tie for the league lead in failed completions this week with 10.
10.
Carson Wentz PHI
31/40
319
1
0
1
107
104
3
DAL
Wentz was in a three-way tie for the league lead in failed completions this week with 10. He was nearly perfect inside his own 40, going 11-of-12 for 137 yards; only one of those completions failed to pick up a first down.
11.
Josh Allen BUF
13/26
208
2
0
4
95
82
14
NE
Allen gains 72 DYAR due to opponent adjustments. He did throw a 1-yard touchdown, but his other five dropbacks in the red zone resulted in four incompletions and one sack. He failed to even complete a pass on third or fourth downs, going 0-for-6 with a sack.
12.
Baker Mayfield CLE
20/33
192
2
1
0
84
84
1
BAL
Mayfield's best results came on passes that traveled 10 to 22 yards downfield, where he went 5-of-6 for 95 yards, with a seventh throw resulting in a 12-yard DPI. Anything deeper than that, though, he went 0-for-4 with an interception.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Sacks
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Opp
13.
Ryan Fitzpatrick MIA
31/52
419
3
1
2
60
54
6
CIN
Fitzpatrick loses 93 DYAR due to opponent adjustments. He and his counterpart, Andy Dalton, were tied for the league lead in passing first downs this week with 21 apiece. He was nearly perfect inside of scoring range -- inside the Cincinnati 40-yard line, he went 10-of-12 for 104 yards and all four of his touchdowns.
14.
Dwayne Haskins WAS
12/15
133
2
0
2
56
56
0
NYG
Haskins' average completion gained 2.4 yards after the catch, least of any starter this week. He picked up first downs on eight of his first nine dropbacks, completing passes on all nine of those plays for a combined 111 yards and two touchdowns. And then he failed to pick up a first down the rest of the day, going 3-of-6 for 22 yards with two sacks.
15.
Philip Rivers LAC
27/39
279
0
0
1
54
54
0
OAK
Rivers loses 61 DYAR due to opponent adjustments. He did not pick up a first down on any of his first 10 dropbacks, going 6-of-10 for 42 yards over that stretch.
16.
Drew Lock DEN
25/33
192
1
0
0
42
44
-2
DET
Lock loses 47 DYAR due to opponent adjustments. He had a very streaky game, with one first down in his first nine dropbacks, followed by five first downs in a row; then one first down in nine dropbacks again; and finally six first downs in his last 11 dropbacks. In those two cold stretches, he went a combined 10-of-18 for 70 yards.
17.
Kyler Murray ARI
11/18
118
1
0
1
38
37
1
SEA
Murray had a horrible day on throws to his right, going 2-of-6 for all of 12 yards. Neither of those completions picked up first downs.
18.
Case Keenum WAS
16/22
158
1
0
1
33
25
8
NYG
Keenum entered the game with Washington down 28-14 in the third quarter. He failed to pick up a single first down on throws to his left, where he went 4-of-7 for 33 yards.
19.
Dak Prescott DAL
25/44
265
0
0
2
6
5
1
PHI
Prescott only threw for two first downs on Philadelphia's side of the 50, going 7-of-12 for 50 yards with two sacks. One of those sacks came on his only dropback in the red zone.
20.
Sam Darnold NYJ
16/26
183
1
0
2
6
17
-11
PIT
Darnold gains 40 DYAR due to opponent adjustments. The magic passing range for Darnold came on throws that traveled 13 to 23 yards downfield, where he went 4-of-6 for 74 yards and a touchdown, with a seventh throw picking up a DPI for 14 more yards.
21.
Aaron Rodgers GB
26/40
216
0
1
3
0
0
0
MIN
22.
Brett Hundley ARI
4/9
49
0
0
1
-2
-18
17
SEA
Hundley came into the game with Arizona up 20-7 in the third quarter. All three of his first downs came within his own 30-yard line. Over the other 70 yards of the field, he went 1-of-5 for 6 yards with a sack.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Sacks
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Opp
23.
Mason Rudolph PIT
14/20
129
1
0
1
-2
9
-11
NYJ
Rudolph came into the game with Pittsburgh down 10-0 in the second quarter and left it with Pittsburgh down 13-10 in the third. Six of his seven first downs came on throws that traveled at least 6 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, where he went 7-of-9 for 94 yards and a touchdown.
24.
Jacoby Brissett IND
14/27
119
0
0
3
-16
-32
16
CAR
Brissett had the worst red zone passing DYAR this week, going 2-of-6 for 4 yards with no touchdowns (no first downs, for that matter) and one sack. His first pass of the second half was a 19-yard completion to Ross Travis, but that was his last first down of the day. From that point forward, he went 5-of-11 for 25 yards with three sacks.
25.
Andy Dalton CIN
33/55
396
4
0
4
-16
-16
0
MIA
Dalton loses a league-high ONE-HUNDRED TWENTY-THREE DYAR due to opponent adjustments. Dalton and his counterpart, Ryan Fitzpatrick, were tied for the league lead in passing first downs this week with 21 apiece. Three of his four touchdowns came in the final seven minutes of regulation; over that stretch, he went 10-of-18 for 120 yards.
26.
David Blough DET
12/24
117
1
0
4
-25
-25
0
DEN
Blough's passing success rate of 29% was worst of any starting quarterback this week. At one point he went 10 straight dropbacks without a first down, and then he failed to pick one up in any of his last 10 either. Between those two stretches, he went 5-of-17 for 27 yards with three sacks.
27.
Mitchell Trubisky CHI
18/33
157
0
0
3
-33
-25
-8
KC
Trubisky gains 47 DYAR due to opponent adjustments. He did not throw for a single first down in Kansas City territory, going 2-of-12 for 4 yards (not a typo) with two sacks.
28.
Gardner Minshew JAX
13/31
181
1
0
3
-36
-44
8
ATL
Red zone passing: 0-for-4 with a sack.
29.
Jimmy Garoppolo SF
16/27
248
1
2
6
-50
-55
6
LAR
Garoppolo had by far the NFL's worst passing DYAR in the third quarter, when he went 2-of-5 for 10 yards with an interception and three sacks. In one stretch of the second half he was sacked a half-dozen times in 14 dropbacks.
30.
Deshaun Watson HOU
19/32
184
0
1
5
-54
-71
17
TB
Watson was remarkably ineffective in scoring range. He only threw for one first down inside the Tampa Bay 40-yard line, going 5-of-16 for 27 yards with no touchdowns.
31.
Kirk Cousins MIN
16/31
122
1
1
5
-95
-95
0
GB
32.
Will Grier CAR
27/44
224
0
3
5
-97
-92
-4
IND
Grier was in a three-way tie for the league lead in failed completions this week with 10. In the red zone, he went 2-of-6 for 8 yards with one sack and no first downs, let alone touchdowns.
33.
Russell Wilson SEA
16/31
169
1
0
5
-105
-97
-8
ARI
Wilson loses 41 DYAR due to opponent adjustments. He failed to throw for a first down in the second or third quarters, going a combined 6-of-13 for 43 yards with three sacks. Nearly half that yardage came on one 21-yard catch by David Moore that ended in a lost fumble.
34.
Jameis Winston TB
25/48
335
1
4
3
-116
-118
3
HOU
Winston's average pass traveled 13.0 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, most of any starting quarterback this week. He had the worst DYAR in the first quarter this week, going 4-of-10 for 64 yards and two interceptions. (His first pass of the second quarter was also intercepted.) He was also last in the fourth quarter, when he went 8-of-14 for 98 yards with an interception.
35.
Devlin Hodges PIT
11/17
84
0
2
3
-127
-127
0
NYJ
Hodges had the league's worst DYAR on third/fourth downs this week, going 2-of-7 for 18 yards with more interceptions (two) than conversions (one). He also had the worst DYAR on deep passes, going 0-for-3 with an interception. On New York's side of the 50, he went 5-of-10 for 30 yards with one sack and two interceptions.

 

Five Best Running Backs by DYAR (Total)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Saquon Barkley NYG
22
189
1
4/4
90
1
78
39
39
WAS
Barkley loses 12 DYAR due to opponent adjustments. He ran for seven first downs against Washington, with four runs of 12 yards or more, the longest a 67-yard touchdown. He was stuffed only three times. Only two of his catches went for first downs, but those two plays were a 51-yard gain on second-and-7 and a 33-yard touchdown.
2.
Christian McCaffrey CAR
13
54
0
15/15
119
0
73
11
62
IND
Each of McCaffrey's carries against Indianapolis gained at least 1 yard. Four went for first downs, the longest a 14-yarder. Seven of his catches gained first downs, including a pair of third-down conversions. Only two players had more catches for first downs this week: Michael Thomas and Julio Jones.
3.
Alvin Kamara NO
11
80
2
6/7
30
0
47
48
-2
TEN
Only one of Kamara's carries was stuffed. And while only three went for first downs, they were all big plays: a 1-yard touchdown, a 40-yard touchdown, and a 14-yard gain on second-and-12. Only two of his catches produced first downs.
4.
Kenyan Drake ARI
24
166
2
3/4
18
0
39
41
-1
SEA
Drake loses 11 DYAR due to opponent adjustments. He was stuffed just twice in 24 carries, most of them with Arizona leading in the second half. He only ran for six first downs, but three of those runs gained 10 yards or more, including an 80-yard touchdown.
5.
Rex Burkhead NE
5
20
1
4/4
77
0
39
17
22
BUF
Each of Burkhead's five carries gained 1 to 6 yards. Four were successful plays; the other was a 4-yard gain on second-and-7. Three of his receptions gained first downs, and the fourth would have too if Burkhead hadn't fumbled the ball away. The fact that he makes this table despite that fumble should tell you how efficient he was on his other eight plays.

 

Five Best Running Backs by DYAR (Rushing)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Aaron Jones GB
23
154
2
2/3
6
0
24
49
-25
MIN
2.
Alvin Kamara NO
11
80
2
6/7
30
0
47
48
-2
TEN
3.
Kenyan Drake ARI
24
166
2
3/4
18
0
39
41
-1
SEA
4.
Saquon Barkley NYG
22
189
1
4/4
90
1
78
39
39
WAS
5.
Phillip Lindsay DEN
19
109
1
2/3
9
0
28
38
-10
DET
Only one of Lindsay's carries was stuffed for no gain or a loss. Six went for first downs, with four runs of 10 yards or more, the longest a 27-yard touchdown.

 

Worst Running Back by DYAR (Total)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Joe Mixon CIN
21
50
0
2/2
23
0
-38
-44
6
MIA
Mixon loses 16 DYAR (12 rushing, 4 receiving) due to opponent adjustments. Only one of his carries picked up a first down, none gained more than 9 yards, and five went for no gain or a loss.

 

Worst Running Back by DYAR (Rushing)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Joe Mixon CIN
21
50
0
2/2
23
0
-38
-44
6
MIA

 

Five Best Wide Receivers and Tight Ends by DYAR
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
Opp
1.
Michael Thomas NO
12
17
136
11.3
1
55
TEN
Ten of Thomas' receptions picked up first downs, and he had an 11th first down on a 17-yard DPI.
2.
Tajae Sharpe TEN
5
6
69
13.8
2
55
NO
Sharpe gains 9 DYAR due to opponent adjustments. All of his targets came on third or fourth down, and four resulted in conversions, including touchdowns of 7 and 36 yards.
3.
Cole Beasley BUF
7
12
108
15.4
0
45
NE
Beasley gaines TWENTY-SIX DYAR due to opponent adjustments. His 108 yards receiving are the most the Patriots have allowed all season, and he is the first player to gain 100 yards receiving against New England since Golden Tate in Week 6. Five of Beasley's catches picked up first downs, including gains of 25 and 28 yards.
4.
A.J. Brown TEN
1
2
34
34.0
0
43
NO
Brown's totals include 11 DYAR receiving, 33 DYAR rushing for his one carry, a 49-yard touchdown.
5.
Jared Cook NO
3
4
84
28.0
2
43
TEN
Cook had three first downs against the Titans: 16- and 61-yard touchdowns, plus an 11-yard DPI.

 

Worst Wide Receiver or Tight End by DYAR
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
Opp
1.
Amari Cooper DAL
4
12
24
6.0
0
-56
PHI
Weirdness: All four of Cooper's catches against the Eagles gained exactly 6 yards. Only one of them picked up a first down though.

 

Comments

27 comments, Last at 26 Dec 2019, 12:56pm

1 Where’s Tom Brady? Ooooooooooh.

Lately, I’ve been scrolling down to the bottom and then working my way back up to find Brady. 
 

How long has it been since he was best in DYAR terms in a given week? 

7 Speaking of Regular Seson …

Speaking of Regular Season:

He was #2 in Week 14 and 13 of 2018, #2 in Week 16 of 2017

He was #1 in Week 2 of 2017 (vs. NO)

That was also the best game for a QB in that season, and also the best game (by DYAR, 303) of Brady's career. 

 

 

 

13 Week 2 of 2017

Even as a Saints' fan, I can't say exactly what/why, but the Saints D in 2017 looked horrible for the first 2 weeks, and then drastically changed after that. Those positive changes in the defense made Brady's game look better than it was, simply b/c of the transformation of the D after that game. [To wit--iirc, after that game,according to DVOA, the Saints were a bottom 5 defense for 2017; after that, they were top-10. According to PFR, they were the worst 2 games the Saints D played all season--6 expected points worse than any other game that year. They were also of 2 of the 3 regular season games where the D didn't force any turnovers.] Partly owing to that, the Saints went from 0-2 to 8-2, ended up winning the NFCS, a playoff game, and nearly another (curse you, Stefon Diggs).

17 Brady threw for 5 TDS the next week vs, HOU

In reply to by Joseph

I think Brady would have done that to any team Week #2 2017 as they were near peak 2010-2019 NE Patriots offense (except Edelman was already gone for the year). Healthy Gronk and O Line, very good WRs and RBs, coming off a disappointing 1st opening night home loss and they would have torn any team apart. Of course it didn’t last long as Gronk and the O line got hurt shortly after, but team was a train.

19 I watched that game. Iirc,…

I watched that game. Iirc, Anzalone and the defense in general simply could not cover the middle of the field at all that day. It was a great game by Brady but certainly not one I'd call the best of his career. Curiously, that 06 win at Minnesota sticks in my memory, when the pats didn't bother trying to run on the Williams wall, something that seems obvious but was heretical at the time. Others include the 45 pt dismantling of the 2010 Jets or that 50 pt bomb on the Titans.

2 The debacle that was the…

The debacle that was the Vikings passing offense last night was another reminder that the "running backs don't matter" trope has always been a ginormous overstatement. The Vikings offense can't function consistently without the zone stretch, and their third string running back just lacks the twitchiness to make the play a significant threat. That's why he's third on the depth shart. You take that away, and the Vikings pass blockers become very exposed, and, combined with Thielen getting back to.full speed very slowly, the offense just collapses. "Cousins is 0-9.on Monday Night!" will of course be the talking point of the yappers.

10 Za'darius is up to #5 in the…

Za'darius is up to #5 in the NFL in PFR's charted QB pressures (hurries + knockdowns + sacks - and Donald, a DT, is one of the guys ahead of him), and #3 in the NFL in tackles for a loss. He could be in the Bakhtiari zone - pro bowl snub but 1st or 2nd team all-pro.

Although Bakhtiari has rebounded to have a solid but not spectacular season this year, and now he has the reputation to make the pro bowl.

6 Running Backs

While running back is the most fungible position, I think it's erroneous for people to say it doesn't matter. But we're asking for nuance in sports conversations.

15 It's really, really tempting…

In reply to by Sophandros

It's really, really tempting to say WR is the most fungible position/doesn't matter looking at this Browns season.

 

I've voiced skepticism on OBJ here in the past seasons, and understandably been ridiculed, by pointing out the Giants' record with and without him his first seasons, noting offensive production with and without him, etc. and the only reason I thought it would be different with him in CLE was that he was besties with Jarvis.

20 As someone who was high on…

As someone who was high on GB before the year, I'm pretty disappointing at what theyve turned out to be, record not withstanding. Aaron Rodgers' pedigree gives me pause, but they look like a paper tiger for reasons you said.

23 Expecting More From the Packs Offense?

I find it hard to be disappointed when the Packer's weapons are awful. For receiving targets it is Adams, Jones, Washed up TE's, and Undrafted Wr's.

If Mahomes and Rodgers swapped teams, Rodgers would be an MVP candidate and people would be wondering what was wrong with Mahomes.

24 Most of the packer games I…

Most of the packer games I've watched were early to mid season save for that horrendous loss to the 49ers. Rodgers is not a playing like an MVP who's stats are being depressed by his supporting cast. Its also not the impression I've gotten from the other fans who write in these comments.

25 Both things are true:…

Both things are true: Rodgers is not playing anywhere near an MVP level (and that's only been more true as the season has gone on), and their pass-catching group is also limiting the offense. For example, their overall drop rate is pretty good, but according to SIS they've lost more value on dropped passed than any team in the league. Jimmy Graham is an embarrassment. I'm not sure he's caught a single pass this season where he's actually been covered by a defender not named "hole in zone."

8 well something sure wasn't…

well something sure wasn't working.

I've felt the offence has been sliding for a number of weeks now. The running game has been slowed. Cook was only averaging 3 yds per carry since the KC game and even pass targets to him were down 2 yds per target.

Hopefully they get healthy and figure something out, as they aren't fooling anyone anymore. I remember in 2017 I was convinced the Eagles were toast, their offence fell of a cliff when Wentz went down and even half way through their playoff game with Atlanta Foles was just awful, then they played 9 quarters of incredible offensive football. Things can turn on a dime in this game. 

But, being a Viking fan, I know such things only happen to other franchises. 

 

 

12 Well, look, if you had told…

Well, look, if you had told me in August that they would have about a half season each of Thielen and Cook in decent health, and Rieff would miss some starts, and Rhodes would have to be compensated for like an average or worse corner, 10-6 and a 6th seed would be about where I would have said the best case scenario was. 

I say 10-6, because if the healthy starters play more than 1 series against the Bears, that's a mistake. This isn't college with an 85 man roster, so some starters need to play, but the only goal in week 17 should be to avoid further injury. 

Once they lost in Seattle, and the Packers beat the Bears for the 2nd time, 5th or 6th seed was very likely the best possible outcome, and the Rams losing Saturday obviously put a floor in on how far they could fall. They really didn't have much to play for last night. Who cares if you are seeded 5th or 6th? At that point, you're going to have to beat a good team in their stadium to get to a conference championship, which is the point where you can say that you have had some playoff success; losing in the divisional round or wild card round makes little difference.

 

 

 

 

 

9 Cook certainly would have…

Cook certainly would have made things more interesting (he had a 75 yard TD on outside zone back in week 2, after all), but the Smith brothers setting the edge has been one of the strengths of the Packers defense this year and it matches up very nicely with what the Vikings want to do on offense, both run and pass. The Vikings may just need to come up with a new gameplan the next time they play GB.

This is the second week in a row that I noticed the opposing QB or coach was been asked "why didn't you run more bootlegs?" in the post-game press conference. Trubisky didn't have an answer other than "We should have," because he doesn't seem to understand what's really happening on the field, but Zimmer indicated last night that they couldn't because they were getting killed on the edge. (And on most other dropbacks.)

11 Setting the edge is only…

Setting the edge is only part of the equation when the running back is upper crust, but when the running back is 3rd on the depth chart, that will suffice. The Viking really didn't even try to run the outside zone, because they knew they didn't have the running back who accomplish much with it, and without it, their pass blocking really gets exposed.

14 Packers D looked very good…

Packers D looked very good last night, first time they’ve looked that good since Week 1. Offense is what it is at this point: above average but not world-beating. For the team overall, in their best week they look like the equal of an average NO or SF game. In their worst week, they’re the Colts: mediocre offense, creative but beatable defense. If they get lucky and get the 1 seed, they could reach SB, but if they have to travel to NO or SF they will get stomped.

16 A Limitation of DVOA/DYAR

The defense adjustment is based on the overall quality of the defense, measured by every play of the season. It's a basic assumption here that this is consistent across all games. We know there are exceptions, and the Washington secondary this week is a prime example. It was missing its top 3 cornerbacks this Sunday (Dunbar, Moreau, and Moreland, plus Norman who's been benched for poor performance but might not be worse than the replacements for the top 3). So Jones shredded a replacement-level set of corners. Kudos for doing it, but probably his defense-adjustment understates how bad a secondary he was facing.

18 This is the frustrating…

This is the frustrating aspect of the small data set NFL season.  There's just not enough data to properly analyse the impact of missing one or two key starters, or having key players playing hurt at less then full efficiency.  As a result, there's a tendency to just hand wave those things away and assume that the only player whose presence/absence impacts the team is the QB.

You can see the same thing in game, too.  An OL goes down and suddenly pressure goes up.  A DB gets hurt and suddenly the passing game catches fire.  But the narrative is invariably about edge rusher starting to dominate or the QB playing a better second half.

26 Aaron Jones

How did Aaron Jones manage -25 receiving DVOA on 2/3 catches?

Even if he doesn't get the first down 3 times on 3rd downs, how is that worse that 3 run stuffs?