NFL Week 2: Statistical Quarterback Review (QBI) - Mahomes, Fitzpatrick Off To Historic Starts
Patrick Mahomes, off to a 10-TD-0-INT start, has overtaken Ryan Fitzpatrick for the NFL's Quarterback Index lead.
Week 2 of the 2018-19 NFL Season continued a lot of trends from the previous week. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Patrick Mahomes continued their phenomenal starts, while high-ranking starters like Matthew Stafford, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Derek Carr continued to fall below average. This week’s edition of the Quarterback Review will take a look at the first eighth of the NFL season, based on Quarterback Index (QBI). QBI is a different take on NFL quarterback performance than Passer Rating or ESPN’s QBR. A player’s score is read as +/-___%, based on the percentage variance from the mean performance by a starting NFL quarterback in the modern era. As the statistics are efficiency-based, the metric can apply to games or seasons, or even careers with account for an era-based adjustment. Week 2 saw a change in the top of the QBI leaderboards, while the bottom-ranking players began to regress (positively) towards the mean. This week’s edition will be formatted as a ranking of the 32 NFL quarterbacks who have been the majority starter thus far in 2018.
- Patrick Mahomes II, Kansas City Chiefs: +94.87% - Mahomes was a revelation in Week 1, and he continued his dominant debut season with a 42-point thrashing of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense. Mahomes put up 6 touchdowns to 0 interceptions to raise his TD rate to 18.2, far and away the best in football through two weeks. Mahomes’ Passer Rating (143.3) and Adjusted Net Yards Per Attempt (ANY/A - 13.65) are currently through the roof after Mahomes’ Chiefs improved to 2-0. So, is Mahomes the real deal? I certainly think so, though the regression is coming. That’s a given. Dak Prescott was a stud in his first NFL season, but has only been average ever since. Mahomes has been fantastic thus far, and if we use Prescott’s model for regression, Mahomes will still finish 2018 as a well above-average NFL quarterback.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: +75.75% - The only bigger story in the NFL this year than Patrick Mahomes has been the play of FitzMagic. The Bucs’ “backup” tossed another 400 yards against the defending Super Bowl champions, with his ANY/A falling by around 3 to a league-best 14.68 from Week 1. Fitzpatrick has played out of his mind this far, with a completion rate of more than seventy-eight percent, a wild figure. The only question now for the Bucs is: do you hand the keys to Jameis, or roll with Fitzpatrick? My answer: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Fitzpatrick is playing at a higher level than Winston ever has.
- Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints: +35.73% - Below the nuclear stratosphere of Fitzpatrick and Mahomes resides the usual candidates, and a couple of unexpected faces. The top of this second tier of first-eighth quarterback place has been Brees, despite his team’s relatively poor start (they almost lost to the Cleveland Browns, and arguably should have). Brees has yet to throw an interception, and despite having to air it out in a Week 1 loss to Tampa Bay, Brees has maintained a completion percentage of 81.3 through two weeks, a figure wildly above the NFL average of roughly 63%. With a little luck, the Saints’ defense will hit their stride soon, and with Brees’ level of play, the Saints will cruise to the playoffs. Don’t count on it though, Saints fans. Even Drew is bound to regress towards the mean eventually.
- Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers: +32.69% - Inarguably, Rivers hasn’t faced the strongest defensive opposition of anyone through two weeks of the NFL season, but he’s been stellar against the teams he has played. Rivers, perhaps helped out by the Week 1 need to air it out to catch up to Kansas City, has posted the NFL’s third-best ANY/A at 9.05 and a completion rate and touchdown rate both well above the average. Rivers is playing at a super high level right now, and should help catalyze a Chargers playoff push.
- Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals: +27.84% - Here’s another big surprise through two weeks: Andy Dalton is playing at a very high level as the Bengals have quietly gone to 2-0. Dalton was okay in Week 1 but really turned it on for a Week 2 Thursday night win over Baltimore, hitting A.J. Green for a touchdown hat trick and boosting his touchdown rate to 8.6% to a meager 1.4% interception rate. As with all of the above, Dalton is sure to regress towards the mean, but he’s been the best quarterback in the AFC North so far. If Dalton can even come close to matching his early progress, the Bengals could be a dangerous team, and might even have a playoff spot in hand after missing for a few years.
- Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: +24.92% - Rodgers was amazing in a Week 1 comeback win over the Bears, and was still successful against a tough Vikings’ defense, though to a lesser degree. Rodgers has yet to throw an interception while completing 69.4 percent of his passes through an eighth of the season’s progress. The Packers may be only 1-0-1, but they look to not have lost a step in terms of quarterback play and are definitely going to be in the playoff mix barring another serious injury to Rodgers.
- Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings: +24.15% - Cousins has been a great performer in Minnesota’s start, mostly blending with his very talented receiving corps. Thielen and Diggs have been studly with Cousins as their quarterback, and Dalvin Cook should start to produce more soon. Cousins’ 8.02 ANY/A and 7.1 percent touchdown rate both best the NFL average by more than a quarter, and Cousins has been above-average in every measured rate in Quarterback Index through two weeks. The Vikings will play more talented defenses than Green Bay or San Francisco, but so far Cousins has looked worth the $84M deal he signed this offseason.
- Tom Brady, New England Patriots: +18.17% - Brady hasn’t shown much to suggest he’ll regress any time soon. Brady’s QBI reflects that every measured stat has been above-average, though Brady hasn’t led the league in any regards so far this season. That can be expected to change. Brady’s week one performance against the Houston Texans was thrilling, with a trio of touchdowns and a decent ANY/A, but QBI suggests the GOAT was even better against Jacksonville, as he tossed 2 touchdowns and no picks for a Passer Rating and QBI higher than his first week. The scary thing about Brady’s performance: he’s played at this Pro Bowl level without Julian Edelman, who returns in two weeks, and now he has arguably the most physically talented wideout in the game in the troubled former Brown Josh Gordon. For the rest of the NFL, the best case is Gordon flames out. The worst is that the league had better take cover as Brady, Gordon, and the rest of the offense lead another Super Bowl charge.
- Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams: +14.13% - Goff had another day in remember in LA’s thirty four-nothing beatdown of the Arizona Cardinals (who, by the way, look atrocious). Goff’s 8.56 ANY/A is a great mark and is to be expected in Sean McVay’s revolutionary offense that Goff has mastered with ease. As long as Goff keeps playing at this level, the Rams will be the Vegas Super Bowl favorite. With Todd Gurley behind him and one of the league’s best defensive units on the other side of the ball, the prospect of Goff’s success becomes even more terrifying to the rest of football.
- Alex Smith, Washington: +9.44% - So far, the Chiefs are patting themselves on the back for dumping Smith and moving on to Patrick Mahomes, but Smith hasn’t been bad himself. Fueled by a great Washington debut, Smith has completed 71.1 percent of his passes and has yet to have a pass fall into the wrong hands. The one thing the ‘Skins hope Smith will improve upon: his 2.6 percent touchdown rate, a mark that falls far below the NFL average and just ahead of the likes of non-stellar Bills rookie Josh Allen (2.1%). Smith’s roughly +10% performance shows just the cliché people have always used for Alex Smith: he’s a game manager. He won’t be the talk of the game every week, but he’ll be more than serviceable.
- Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins: +7.42% - Though Tannehill falls short in Adjusted Net Yards Per Attempt and interception rate, his touchdown rate of 7.8 and a completion percentage over 70 have been big factors in his above-average performance. The Dolphins have quietly taken over first place in the AFC East at 2-0, and Tannehill is (sort of) a big reason why. He’s not, nor has he ever been, a world-beater, but Tannehill has started off just where he was in his 2016 campaign, if not better. During his 2016-17 year, Tannehill finished with a Quarterback Index of +0.29%.
- Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars: +7.42% - Blake Bortles was nothing short of special against a disappointing New England Patriots defense in the Jaguars’ 31-20 revenge win. Bortles threw for 4 touchdowns and a pick, boosting his ANY/A to 7.03. Bortles’ performance in Week 2 upped his stock in every regard from Week 1, during which he posted a pedestrian -17.53% QBI, with a 377-yard performance in the absence of Leonard Fournette. Call me crazy, but the Jaguars’ offense is sometimes better when removing Fournette makes them less predictable. Bortles had a great game and is trending up, hoping to improve from his last year’s -4.72% Quarterback Index.
- Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers: +5.70% - The former Auburn star and 2011 first overall pick bounced back from a poor Week 1 performance to deliver a 335 yard, 3 touchdown, 1 interception performance for the Panthers to boost his QBI above the average of 0.0. Newton’s low interception rate and high completion rate have been two factors suggesting improvement on his -10.52% 2017-18 NFL regular season.
- Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens: +5.56% - Following a great week one performance in a thorough 47-point dismantling of the Buffalo Bills’ defense, Joe Flacco returned to Earth against the Bengals. He actually passed for more yardage, 376 yards in the second game, but most of it was playing catch-up as he completed less than 60% of his passes and had 2 passes fall into Cincinnati hands. Flacco’s fluctuations almost canceled each other out to hit 0.0, but his Week 1 performance was just dominant enough. Flacco’s completion percentage fell to 64.0 overall, a mark less than 1% over the NFL average, as he became the fourteenth and final member of the above-average club through two weeks.
- Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys: -1.43% - Prescott has yet to impress this season, and his Quarterback Index reflects that. His first two games have featured just 330 total passing yards, a number several quarterbacks have eclipsed in just one. Prescott’s ANY/A isn’t great, at 5.3, and his touchdown percentage, a meger 1.9, is not good enough for an offense that is struggling to put up points. Prescott’s saving grace has been relative efficiency, the name of his game. Prescott has held onto the ball, and has yet to throw an interception. He hasn’t been the dynamic playmaker he was en route to a +17.81% QBI rookie year, but he’s been efficient and hasn’t turned the ball over. Combining that with a very average completion rate, and you get Prescott’s barely-below-average Quarterback Index.
- Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks: -5.16% - Wilson’s performance can’t be put entirely on his shoulders. For crying out loud, the guy was sacked five times in the first half of a Monday night loss to Chicago. However, Wilson has been a far cry from the MVP-contending performer he was in 2017. Wilson will need to cut the interception rate and improve his ANY/A to boost his Quarterback Index, among many other things. Without star receiver Doug Baldwin and with a less-than-superb running game (first-round pick Rashaad Penny lost the job to Chris Carson in camp), Wilson will still have his challenges.
- Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers: -5.41% - Roethlisberger played well in Week 2, but it’s hard to break even on QBI following a 4-interception performance that came close to breaking -40 percent. Roethlisberger had a night-and-day switch against Kansas City’s weak secondary, throwing for 452 yards to help boost his ANY/A just barely above the average mark. With no return in sight for Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown not reporting on Monday, the 0-1-1 Steelers could be in trouble if Roethlisberger continues to fluctuate like this rather than playing at a consistently high level.
- Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans: -7.30% - Coming back from an ACL tear is no easy feat, but everybody expected Deshaun Watson to come back to his Pro Bowl form sooner. Instead, Houston is staring down an 0-2 start and Watson is playing at a below-average level, having just lost to Blaine Gabbert and the Tennessee Titans. Watson’s touchdown percentage has plummeted from last season’s 9.3, an NFL best, to 4.5, and his interception problems haven’t sorted themselves out since his rookie campaign. Watson hasn’t been the electric playmaker the Texans have wanted to see so far, and if he can’t get back into form soon, Houston’s season could be in jeopardy.
- Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts: -8.86% - Andrew Luck was far better statistically in week one than in week two, but the Colts won their first game during the latter week. Failing to hit 200 yards against a mediocre Washington defense dropped Luck’s ANY/A to below 5, not usually a good sign for a quarterback to play well. While Luck’s completion and touchdown rates were pretty good, throwing a pair of interceptions raised his rate respectively higher than the median for Quarterback Index. What to take from Luck’s performance thus far? He’s had a year off for shoulder surgery - I wouldn’t worry too much.
- Sam Darnold, New York Jets: -10.84% - Darnold was something special in his NFL debut, outscoring Tom Brady by Quarterback Index while completing 76.2 percent of his passes. Darnold’s production dipped in Week 2 from a QBI perspective, as he threw for his first 300-yard game but needed 41 passes to do it, completing only 25 of them (60.9%). The biggest killer for Darnold’s QBI in his Week 2 performance, however, was a pair of interceptions that raised Darnold’s interception rate above the league average by a good margin. As a rookie, these things should be expected, but they show that maybe Darnold isn’t quite ready to be the savior in New York.
- Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons: -11.50% - Ryan returned to his Pro Bowl ways in a Week 2 victory over the Carolina Panthers, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a very poor opening night performance. Ryan completed 82.1 percent of his passes against Carolina, but the insane figure was docked to a below-average 62 by Ryan’s sub-50-percent Week 1 rate. Ryan was better in all phases in Week 2, throwing his first two touchdowns of the season to raise his touchdown rate to a still-subpar 2.8 percent. Ryan is trending in the right direction, but he wasn’t quite hot enough in Week 2 to offset his poor start.
- Eli Manning, New York Giants: -12.01% - Eli wasn’t able to get much going in Week 1 against a scary Jacksonville defense that legitimately features a Pro Bowler or two at almost every position, but he improved against a lesser Cowboys defense the following week to cut his -25 QBI after the first week in half. Eli completed three quarters of his passes in Week 2, passing for a single touchdown to raise his rate from 0 to 1.2 percent, still a mark that will need to improve for the Giants to make any serious run at the playoffs. Like Ryan at the No. 21 spot, Manning experienced positive regression towards the mean in Week 2, but he’ll need to continue on that trend to finish with an above-average Quarterback Index.
- Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles: -13.59% - It was only fair to expect this. Foles was the savior and the hero in the Eagles’ 41-33 Super Bowl LII triumph, but he’s been a far cry from that player through two games. Foles was actually relatively good playing catch-up in a loss to the Buccaneers, throwing for 334 yards and a score, but it couldn’t offset a poor Thursday night debut, where Foles threw for just 117 yards and an interception. Foles’ 1.2 percent touchdown rate sits a weighted 58 percent below the standard, and that’s where it will remain this season as Carson Wentz takes the reins in Week 3. Foles’ (likely) finish for 2018 won’t be quite as spectacular as 2017 was.
- Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions: -17.02% - Matthew Stafford represents another clear example of a player who played very poorly in the season’s first week only to follow it up with an above-average performance. Stafford finished the team’s 48-17 Week 1 loss, head coach Matt Patricia’s first game with any real offensive involvement to public knowledge, with a Quarterback Index of -52.54%. His Week 2 performance, including a 3-0 TD-INT split, raised his ANY/A from a pitiful 2.74 to 5.1, still below average but by all means a drastic improvement. Stafford and Patricia will face a big test on Sunday night as Matty P attempts to scheme up a gameplan to beat his former team, but who knows the Patriots’ defensive personnel better than the man who coached them to a pair of Super Bowl victories (except for Belichick, obviously)?
- Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears: -17.29% - Trubisky certainly has begun with a sophomore slump. Trubisky has yet to eclipse exactly 200 passing yards in a game despite playing the mediocre secondaries of Green Bay and Seattle (wow - five years ago the latter would’ve caused an uproar), and has an even 2.9 touchdown and interception rate, below average in both regards. Trubisky ranks at least 10% below the average in all but one major category, with a completion rate of 69.6. The Bears have a solid team built around Trubisky now, the only thing they’ll have to do is get Trubisky himself going. With Matt Nagy’s creativity and a mediocre schedule, it shouldn’t be overly difficult.
- Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders: -17.54% - When looking at the box scores of Carr’s first two games, and Oakland’s 0-2 start, two positive numbers stick out. First of all is Carr’s 303 passing yards in a Week 1 game against the Los Angeles Rams, a number that had its meaning skewed by a constant deficit and by Carr’s 3 interceptions and corresponding 62.8 Passer Rating in that game. In the Denver-Oakland game, Carr’s statline is notable for his completion percentage of 90.6, giving him a two-game completion rate directly 10 points below that. Carr has been effective completion and yardage wise, but a 1.4 percent touchdown rate and 4.2 percent interception rate are inexcusable, especially for a $100M man. Carr should be expected to perform better as Gruden figures out the deal with coaching again and as they play worse defensive units than Denver and L.A., but this is certainly not the start the team was expecting.
- Blaine Gabbert, Tennessee Titans: -18.25% - Gabbert improved upon his subpar play in Week 1 in the place of an injured Marcus Mariota by spearheading a Week 2 win for Tennessee. Gabbert’s passing yardage figures were an identical 117 yards in each game, with Gabbert improving upon his completion percentage and swapping an interception for a touchdown on his Week 2 line. Still, Gabbert falls well below average with a poor 2.4 percent touchdown rate, but Titans fans can rest easy knowing Marcus Mariota should be back, and should be ready to improve on a minus-85 QBI in Week 1.
- Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers: -20.75% - Garoppolo played well in a win over the Lions in Week 2, but he struggled against a high-quality Minnesota defense in the opening week to drag down his Quarterback Index. Garoppolo’s 3 interceptions against Minnesota give him an equal TD and INT rate, at 5.1. The touchdown figure is solid. The interception one, not so much, but Garoppolo’s 5 interceptions as a starter last season showed already that he was going to make that occasional mistake. Garoppolo completed almost 70% of his passes against former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia (during Garoppolo’s time in New England), but that strength was mitigated by a sub-50-percent completion rate against Minnesota. Garoppolo hasn’t had the start any 49ers fan was hoping for, but if he continues his positive regression towards the mean, he could help San Francisco make a late run for the playoffs in a loaded National Football Conference.
- Tyrod Taylor, Cleveland Browns: -21.42% - A 4.18 Adjusted Net Yards Per Attempt isn’t anything to be proud of, but it isn’t even the worst part of Taylor’s statline. The Browns acquired Taylor for his promise as a game-managing quarterback who takes care of the football and works efficiently. He has been up to neither of his personal standards through two games, currently sitting at a below-average 2.9 interception percentage and a completion rate of 52.9, lowered by a laughable Week 1 performance in which Taylor completed 37.5% of his passes. That’s a Tim Tebow-level completion rate, not one you’d want from a real NFL quarterback. Taylor’s play has been bad, but it’s been good enough to start 0-1-1, and to be a real kicker away from 2-0.
- Case Keenum, Denver Broncos: -23.14% - Keenum isn’t playing at the statistical level of his performance in Minnesota, but he’s playing better than the mediocre backup he was for a great portion of his career. Keenum’s ANY/A and touchdown rate aren’t bad, but his 5.4% interception rate is. Keenum and the Broncos are 2-0, but it’s safe to wonder whether they should be with Keenum’s level of play. When the team faces a top contender, it’s reasonable to worry about whether Keenum will be the 2017 Keenum or the pre-2017 version.
- Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills: -35.09% - Josh Allen has had his growing pains, completing a pedestrian 50 percent of his passes through two weeks. Allen marks well below-average in every category, not a surprising fact given his 31st ranking. His offense has almost nothing going for it, as star LeSean McCoy reportedly has some kind of a rib injury and might be out a while, and no receivers have been doing anything. Allen has managed a touchdown rate of just 2.1, a rate which is doubled by his interception percentage. It’s safe to say Josh Allen is not off to a great start in the National Football League, but who expected him to be after failing to complete 60% of his passes at Wyoming?
Worst of the Worst: Sam Bradford, Arizona Cardinals: -41.57% - This should come as no surprise given the Los Angeles Rams’ 34-0 destruction of the Cardinals on Sunday, a game in which Bradford could do no good. His ANY/A dropped to a qualifying-players-low 2.16, and he’s produced 6 - yeah, six - points through two games (no touchdown passes). Bradford falls below average in every category, taking the biggest hits for his ANY/A, non-existent touchdown rate, and poor interception rate. It’s clearly, in my mind, time to move to Josh Rosen. He was lauded by “experts” as a pro-ready rookie quarterback who impressed his teammates in camp. So why let the (so far) worst starter in football play over him any more? Six points in two games is inexcusable, regardless of whether one game was against the Rams. With plenty of weapons (David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk) at Rosen’s disposal, the Cardinals have to stop settling for a quarterback playing at a rate of 58.43% of the average NFL starter.