Teams Are Excelling When Their QBs Leave The Pocket. Can That Continue?

In Kansas City’s Oct. 6 game against Indianapolis, Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes faced a third and 18 from the Colts 27-yard line. Perhaps a bit skittish after an 8-yard sack on the previous play, Mahomes vacated the pocket early despite good protection from his line. Retreating backward, Mahomes faked left, then spun around and sprinted to the right sideline. He turned upfield at the boundary, and before crossing the line of scrimmage, he threw the ball approximately 35 yards across his body to wide receiver Byron Pringle in the end zone.

Mahomes is perhaps best known for his rocket arm and improbable no-look passes, but his ability to salvage plays like this — scrambling outside the pocket when the intended play design fails — is also off the charts. Mahomes has quickly become exhibit A when coaches talk about the value of a QB who can create out of structure. Throws outside the pocket have been on the rise across the league in recent years, including plays that are explicitly designed to put the QB on the move. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has even said that scheming movement for his quarterback is what makes his offense go.

This season, it seems to be paying dividends for teams that are proficient at it. With some notable exceptions, NFL teams that are successful on dropbacks outside the pocket have tended to win more games.

The Chiefs, 49ers and Patriots are all likely playoff teams that have taken different approaches to moving their quarterbacks.

The Chiefs have eight wins and rank fifth in the NFL in expected points added per play on dropbacks outside the pocket. I looked at all 60 plays that Kansas City has run outside, and I determined that half were improvised — plays made when the original call in the huddle broke down. On those improvised plays, Mahomes and the Chiefs averaged 0.39 EPA per play1 — 0.27 EPA per play better than the schemed plays designed by Reid.

San Francisco’s similar success to Kansas City belies a profound difference in approach. The 49ers are tied for the league lead in wins with 10 and are first in the NFL in EPA per play on outside dropbacks (0.51). But the Niners have run the second-fewest outside dropbacks in the league (28), and while the Chiefs have been reliant on the improvisational brilliance of their superstar QB, San Francisco has leaned heavily on head coach Kyle Shanahan. Nearly two-thirds of the 49ers’ plays outside the pocket in 2019 have been schemed, and Shanahan’s offense has been brilliant on those 18 occasions, earning 1.2 EPA per play. But when quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has been asked to improvise outside the pocket, he’s been a liability, accruing -0.43 EPA per play.

Similarly, the Patriots seldom ask Tom Brady to leave the pocket. The Patriots rank just above the 49ers in outside dropbacks on the year with 32, third-fewest in the league. Perhaps one reason is that when the 42-year-old Brady does move outside, it’s generally been a disaster: 62.5 percent of Brady’s plays outside the pocket have been improvised, and New England has an EPA per play of -0.70 on those scrambles. That’s far worse than the team’s work on schemed plays, which have generated 0.0 EPA per play.

Which approach is most likely to succeed? To answer that, we need to know if we should expect outside-the-pocket performance to continue. And if it does, which flavor of outside-the-pocket performance is most likely to persist: the improvisational approach exemplified by Mahomes and Kansas City, or the scheme-based approach of Shanahan and San Francisco?

To try to answer these questions, I tested the year-to-year stability of EPA per play both inside and outside the pocket.2 The results were somewhat surprising. It turns out that a quarterback’s performance inside the pocket has a 96 percent chance of being more stable than their performance outside the pocket. That is, a QB’s performance inside the pocket is a better predictor of future success (and future struggles) than the plays he runs outside of structure. This aligns generally with the work of Eric Eager at Pro Football Focus, who found that QB play from a clean pocket is a more consistent measurement of quarterback performance, relative to QB play under pressure. Moreover, the evidence suggests that performance on schemed plays outside the pocket — specifically play-action — is almost completely unstable, further driving home that we can’t infer much about a quarterback’s success on outside the pocket.

None of this is to say that outside-the-pocket performance doesn’t matter. It’s simply unpredictable. Fumbles have an enormous impact on the outcome of a game, but they’re basically random events. Just because a team has had good or bad fumble luck throughout a season doesn’t mean future fumbles are more or less likely to occur.

We can use this information to set reasonable expectations for the rest of the season and into the postseason. Kansas City relies on Mahomes’s out-of-pocket exploits to a large degree: They’ve run nearly as many plays outside as San Francisco and New England have combined. And while outside-the-pocket performance is generally unstable across years, the type of plays Mahomes makes out of structure tend to be the most steady. Mahomes is also impressive throwing from the pocket. Among healthy, qualifying QBs, Mahomes ranks second in in-the-pocket QBR, behind only Lamar Jackson. It’s reasonable to conclude that his performance has a good chance to continue.

Mahomes has performed well in and out of the pocket

Quarterback rating in plays inside and outside the pocket for QBs this season with a minimum of 100 passing attempts, through Week 13

QBR
player Team games out of pocket in pocket TOTAL
Matthew Stafford* DET 8 15.1 82.7 68.5
Lamar Jackson BAL 12 72.1 76.9 81.6
Patrick Mahomes KC 10 75.2 74.6 76.6
Drew Brees NO 7 8.6 72.8 61.0
Dak Prescott DAL 12 81.1 70.8 72.9
Deshaun Watson HOU 12 84.7 68.0 71.9
Derek Carr OAK 12 55.3 67.7 56.3
Kirk Cousins MIN 12 66.5 66.7 60.5
Kyler Murray ARI 12 23.7 64.0 59.6
Jimmy Garoppolo SF 12 87.5 63.8 58.4
Russell Wilson SEA 12 92.8 63.4 72.1
Jacoby Brissett IND 11 18.4 59.5 48.2
Teddy Bridgewater NO 7 18.0 58.2 47.8
Matt Ryan ATL 11 28.3 58.0 54.5
Carson Wentz PHI 12 94.4 57.9 64.3
Ryan Fitzpatrick MIA 11 58.5 57.7 64.1
Aaron Rodgers GB 12 66.1 55.5 55.9
Philip Rivers LAC 12 12.0 55.1 46.2
Tom Brady NE 12 12.1 54.4 52.5
Josh Allen BUF 12 18.1 54.2 47.3
Jared Goff LA 12 46.0 50.3 42.1
Ryan Tannehill TEN 8 18.3 49.8 52.9
Sam Darnold NYJ 9 36.2 48.7 43.3
Joe Flacco* DEN 8 35.7 48.0 48.3
Case Keenum WSH 8 72.0 47.1 47.2
Baker Mayfield CLE 12 30.8 46.9 51.8
Daniel Jones* NYG 11 28.4 46.7 51.4
Jameis Winston TB 12 92.1 46.0 52.0
Mitchell Trubisky CHI 11 39.0 44.1 38.8
Andy Dalton CIN 9 7.3 42.7 39.5
Kyle Allen CAR 10 43.6 41.4 38.3
Nick Foles JAC 4 5.9 40.0 34.3
Gardner Minshew JAC 10 66.6 38.1 43.3
Marcus Mariota TEN 6 16.7 33.1 33.0
Mason Rudolph PIT 9 65.2 32.7 32.9
Jeff Driskel DET 3 45.6 30.8 48.8
Josh Rosen MIA 6 13.3 21.5 19.7
Dwayne Haskins WSH 6 10.2 13.0 14.2

*Quarterbacks sidelined with injuries coming into Week 14.

Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group

The performances of Garoppolo and Brady outside the pocket, however, take on less importance. Garoppolo likely won’t be as good in the future on outside plays — since most of them were schemed play-action — and there’s a chance that Brady won’t be as bad moving forward. We should probably temper our expectations on that count, though, since it’s unlikely that Brady will grow new legs at age 42. Perhaps the poor out-of-pocket numbers are here to stay for New England. More concerning is Brady’s very average in-the-pocket QBR of 54.4 through 13 weeks. If that number doesn’t improve, the Patriots’ path through the postseason could end up being one of the toughest, despite their gaudy regular-season win total.

Check out our latest NFL predictions.

What We Learned From Week 5 Of The NFL

sara.ziegler (Sara Ziegler, sports editor): In Week 5, we saw two teams get their first wins of the NFL season, a coach receive his pink slip and an undrafted rookie quarterback out of Samford — yes, Samford — make his NFL debut, nearly leading his team to a comeback win.

We also saw last season’s MVP limping around the field on Sunday night. Guys, how worried should we be about Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs?

Salfino (Michael Salfino, FiveThirtyEight contributor): This was the second game in a row where a team took the deep ball away from Mahomes. Of course, Tyreek Hill could be back next week, so that could turn the tables in the Chiefs’ favor again, regardless. Mahomes’s ankle injury didn’t seem too serious, but it could affect his ability to evade the rush for a few weeks, as it did after the injury last night.

neil (Neil Paine, senior sportswriter): Yeah. He’s had some ankle issues already earlier this season, but he’s expected to be fine from all the reports I’ve seen. What his performance really did was underscore just how strange it is for Mahomes to not be amazing.

Believe it or not, this was only the second start of his career in which he was below-average in our Elo QB metric.

joshua.hermsmeyer (Josh Hermsmeyer, NFL analyst): I think the same is true of QBR — but I suppose our metric and QBR are closely related.

neil: Right. Mahomes’s previous below-average start was his first career start, at the end of 2017. So that means Mahomes had a streak of 22 consecutive above-average starts end yesterday.

Salfino: Mahomes had been on an epic run of efficiency on 20-plus air-yard passes, and in the past two weeks, he was just 4 for 15 with a passer rating of 80.7. Not good.

sara.ziegler: So should we have expected that his amazing run was going to come to an end at some point, and this was just the time it happened? Or is there something else going on here?

Salfino: I think the Lions and Matt Patricia went to school on it, and the Colts followed up even with an injury-riddled secondary. Now the ball is in the Chiefs’ court. Sort of the NFL circle of life.

neil: If anybody can adapt, it’s Andy Reid. And it still helps to have a QB who can do this:

joshua.hermsmeyer: I think it’s interesting to see how reliant the team really is on its all-world QB. It’s just so clear how much he means to the Chiefs, and I would think their top priority is to keep him healthy.

Salfino: Someone posted a diagram on that play showing that pass-rushers have to coordinate rather than going for the cheese in the same direction. The deeper rusher, we were told, should have gone outside to keep Mahomes contained. Sort of like how the Raptors worked in Jurassic Park. 🙂

neil: And here I thought all the Raptor talk this week would be confined to basketball

sara.ziegler: LOL

So what do the Chiefs need to do to take care of Mahomes? The offensive line looked … not good.

Salfino: Deeper passes require more protection. Maybe they need to get into a quicker rhythm and forget about emphasizing the deep throws so often. His protection for his career to date has been top-notch.

joshua.hermsmeyer: There are schemes you can employ to buy more time and prevent him from having to hang in the pocket, but they’re probably not sustainable. It’s also tough because what makes him so special is what he does when a play breaks down — and that’s also a dangerous time to be a QB.

Salfino: But they’re still winning the battle of the passing game so decisively for the season to date that I really believe that, despite the loss, the Chiefs are right on schedule. The pass defense is decent. The run defense … not so good. But high-scoring teams naturally evolve this way, if they’re smart. It’s the old Colts/Peyton Manning model.

sara.ziegler: So if the Chiefs are going to be fine, how about the Cowboys? They looked incredibly flat on Sunday against the Packers.

neil: The Cowboys are now 3-0 against teams with pregame Elo ratings under 1500 (i.e., average) and 0-2 against teams with pregame ratings over 1500.

Salfino: If you believe the Cowboys have the kind of high-powered passing offense their per-play stats suggest, they’re golden. I’m not sure I believe that, though. I’m not quite ready to go all-in on Dak Prescott as a true franchise-level QB. He’s good, though.

Neil’s point about their win quality is spot-on.

neil: Though, to push back against my own snarky observation about opponent-quality splits, Dallas did beat six above-1500 Elo teams during that period last season when they won eight times in nine games down the stretch.

So it’s not necessarily a persistent split. But it has stood out so far this season.

joshua.hermsmeyer: Dak has been fantastic. I thought they mounted a respectable second-half comeback. If I’m a Cowboys fan, I’m not worried when my team’s QB is playing like one of the top 5 at his position.

sara.ziegler: So the game did nothing to change anyone’s priors on the Cowboys?

joshua.hermsmeyer: It was a loss, so not great! But I’m not selling on the Cowboys yet.

Salfino: Definitely not selling. They are a legit Super Bowl contender.

sara.ziegler: You guys are refusing to overreact, and it’s annoying.

neil: Maybe the past two games have settled them back into the tier below the top contenders again.

Salfino: You can overreact to Captain Kirk, Sara. The Vikings are an offensive juggernaut.

sara.ziegler: I will not.

And they are not.

neil: Speaking of teams and QBs that play well only against below-average opponents…

sara.ziegler: Damn.

Tough but fair.

neil: That IS a trend dating back to last season.

Salfino: The Giants defense is … inviting.

sara.ziegler: I am on record saying that the Vikings were 100 percent going to win that game. It was a classic game of absolutely no stakes, so Kirk Cousins played well. Easiest call I’ve ever made.

neil: Can’t he just convince himself that all games have no stakes?? We said it ourselves last week: We all die in the end. Loosen up a little, Kirk.

sara.ziegler: LOLOL

joshua.hermsmeyer: I was just happy to see the Squeaky Wheel narrative pay off for Adam Thielen. Two touchdowns was a great game for him.

sara.ziegler: OK, so what about the other notable NFC North teams this week? Aaron Rodgers did nothing, but the Packers looked … great?

Salfino: The Packers pretty much ignored their wide receivers in the game. It somehow worked.

We may have to accept that the Lions are the best team in the North. Did I just type that?

sara.ziegler: The same Lions that tied Arizona? Those Lions?

neil: Let’s not go crazy here.

Salfino: Actually, the Vikings grade better in my key stat — net yards per pass play — but I don’t want Sara to have unrealistic expectations. I will say the Lions are playing better than the Bears.

sara.ziegler: My expectations are always as low as possible.

neil: BTW, all four NFC North teams still have winning records.

sara.ziegler: But what about those Bears? Is Chase Daniel not the answer???

Salfino: No less not the answer than Mitchell Trubisky.

I’ve tied myself up in double negatives.

Daniel and Trubisky are a double negative.

neil: 😂

joshua.hermsmeyer: I need more coffee to parse these Salfino Bears takes. Interestingly, if you were hanging your hat on their defense being great against the pass this season, early returns are not that good. Chicago, so far, has allowed the fifth-highest completion percentage in the league.

neil: Daniel basically played like you would expect from somebody with four career starts in 10 NFL seasons.

Salfino: Daniel is beating the system.

But Jon Gruden is still a good coach. That he’s 3-2 — with a team that is not talented and with all the Antonio Brown distractions — is impressive. The Raiders should be a losing team and probably still will be, but it won’t be because of Gruden.

neil: What about JAY Gruden? Lol.

sara.ziegler: First coaching casualty!

neil: Josh, is the Bears’ performance another example of defenses just regressing to the mean incredibly quickly in the NFL?

joshua.hermsmeyer: I don’t know what to make of NFL defenses, tbh. Some claim there was a jet-lag factor with Chicago, or they didn’t sleep well. It’s all a muddle.

Salfino: I’m shocked by how bad the Ravens pass defense has looked, even yesterday against the third-string QB.

sara.ziegler: Devlin Hodges was the best part of that game.

That story is my favorite of the season so far. Guy goes undrafted, signed to the practice squad, makes the team because some other backup is traded away … then, BAM. He’s leading a second-half comeback.

Salfino: The Browns may win the AFC North by default even with a loss tonight.

neil: We do still have Cleveland as favorites (granted, at 49 percent) to win the division.

joshua.hermsmeyer: I feel like you were bagging on Baker Mayfield just a week or two ago, Mike. How quickly the winds change.

neil: And we were pumping up Lamar Jackson!

Salfino: No, I was defending Baker. I was bagging on Baker in August. I am still bagging on Baker Mayfield the spokesperson.

neil: Lol

BTW, speaking of Jackson, he had the second-worst QB Elo game of the week yesterday. After that hot start, his rolling QB rating is basically average again.

However, the worst by a MILE belonged to poor Luke Falk of the Jets. In fact, Poor Sad Luke Falk had the worst QB game of the entire season. Meanwhile, Deshaun Watson of the Texans had the best game of the entire season!

The best — and worst — of 2019 QB starts were in Week 5

Best and worst quarterback games of the 2019 NFL season, according to FiveThirtyEight’s QB Elo ratings vs. league average

Best QB Games of 2019 season
Date Quarterback Team Opp QB Elo vs. Average
10/6/2019 Deshaun Watson HOU ATL +464
9/22/2019 Russell Wilson SEA NO +379
9/8/2019 Dak Prescott DAL NYG +340
9/8/2019 Patrick Mahomes KC JAX +270
9/15/2019 Dak Prescott DAL WSH +265
9/8/2019 Lamar Jackson BAL MIA +259
9/15/2019 Patrick Mahomes KC OAK +255
9/22/2019 Patrick Mahomes KC BAL +253
9/15/2019 Lamar Jackson BAL ARI +239
10/3/2019 Russell Wilson SEA LAR +224
Worst QB Games of 2019 season
Date Quarterback Team Opp QB Elo vs. Average
10/6/2019 Luke Falk NYJ PHI -478
9/15/2019 Ryan Fitzpatrick MIA NE -350
9/30/2019 Andy Dalton CIN PIT -326
9/22/2019 Luke Falk NYJ NE -263
9/8/2019 Jameis Winston TB SF -239
9/29/2019 Case Keenum WSH NYG -235
9/16/2019 Trevor Siemian NYJ CLE -202
9/29/2019 Josh Allen BUF NE -200
9/5/2019 Mitchell Trubisky CHI GB -200
9/22/2019 Joe Flacco DEN GB -185

Source: ESPN

joshua.hermsmeyer: Mike’s Jets: Out indefinitely.

neil: This was such a sad play:

Salfino: Jets fans like me have not had a season at all yet, and it’s Week 6. Can’t even kill the team for the way they’re playing. Can’t practice Falk if you think Sam Darnold can play because you have to get him ready for his health’s sake. And you can’t know how big his spleen is. But practice is not gonna save Falk, who just has no clock in his head for when to throw the ball. That’s fatal in the NFL. The Jets defense is actually … OK.

neil: When will Jets QBs not be on the receiving end of the universe’s jokes?

joshua.hermsmeyer: It’s the curse Namath put on the franchise after that embarrassingly inept attempt at hitting on Suzy Kolber on the sidelines.

sara.ziegler: I’ve never before thought about how big a quarterback’s spleen is.

Maybe never want to again.

neil: There’s Big Brain Time, and then there’s Big Spleen Time.

Check out our latest NFL predictions.

How Much Trouble Is Kansas City In?

sara.ziegler (Sara Ziegler, sports editor): In Week 5, we saw two teams get their first wins of the NFL season, a coach receive his pink slip and an undrafted rookie quarterback out of Samford — yes, Samford — make his NFL debut, nearly leading his team to a comeback win.

We also saw last season’s MVP limping around the field on Sunday night. Guys, how worried should we be about Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs?

Salfino (Michael Salfino, FiveThirtyEight contributor): This was the second game in a row where a team took the deep ball away from Mahomes. Of course, Tyreek Hill could be back next week, so that could turn the tables in the Chiefs’ favor again, regardless. Mahomes’s ankle injury didn’t seem too serious, but it could affect his ability to evade the rush for a few weeks, as it did after the injury last night.

neil (Neil Paine, senior sportswriter): Yeah. He’s had some ankle issues already earlier this season, but he’s expected to be fine from all the reports I’ve seen. What his performance really did was underscore just how strange it is for Mahomes to not be amazing.

Believe it or not, this was only the second start of his career in which he was below-average in our Elo QB metric.

joshua.hermsmeyer (Josh Hermsmeyer, NFL analyst): I think the same is true of QBR — but I suppose our metric and QBR are closely related.

neil: Right. Mahomes’s previous below-average start was his first career start, at the end of 2017. So that means Mahomes had a streak of 22 consecutive above-average starts end yesterday.

Salfino: Mahomes had been on an epic run of efficiency on 20-plus air-yard passes, and in the past two weeks, he was just 4 for 15 with a passer rating of 80.7. Not good.

sara.ziegler: So should we have expected that his amazing run was going to come to an end at some point, and this was just the time it happened? Or is there something else going on here?

Salfino: I think the Lions and Matt Patricia went to school on it, and the Colts followed up even with an injury-riddled secondary. Now the ball is in the Chiefs’ court. Sort of the NFL circle of life.

neil: If anybody can adapt, it’s Andy Reid. And it still helps to have a QB who can do this:

joshua.hermsmeyer: I think it’s interesting to see how reliant the team really is on its all-world QB. It’s just so clear how much he means to the Chiefs, and I would think their top priority is to keep him healthy.

Salfino: Someone posted a diagram on that play showing that pass-rushers have to coordinate rather than going for the cheese in the same direction. The deeper rusher, we were told, should have gone outside to keep Mahomes contained. Sort of like how the Raptors worked in Jurassic Park. 🙂

neil: And here I thought all the Raptor talk this week would be confined to basketball

sara.ziegler: LOL

So what do the Chiefs need to do to take care of Mahomes? The offensive line looked … not good.

Salfino: Deeper passes require more protection. Maybe they need to get into a quicker rhythm and forget about emphasizing the deep throws so often. His protection for his career to date has been top-notch.

joshua.hermsmeyer: There are schemes you can employ to buy more time and prevent him from having to hang in the pocket, but they’re probably not sustainable. It’s also tough because what makes him so special is what he does when a play breaks down — and that’s also a dangerous time to be a QB.

Salfino: But they’re still winning the battle of the passing game so decisively for the season to date that I really believe that, despite the loss, the Chiefs are right on schedule. The pass defense is decent. The run defense … not so good. But high-scoring teams naturally evolve this way, if they’re smart. It’s the old Colts/Peyton Manning model.

sara.ziegler: So if the Chiefs are going to be fine, how about the Cowboys? They looked incredibly flat on Sunday against the Packers.

neil: The Cowboys are now 3-0 against teams with pregame Elo ratings under 1500 (i.e., average) and 0-2 against teams with pregame ratings over 1500.

Salfino: If you believe the Cowboys have the kind of high-powered passing offense their per-play stats suggest, they’re golden. I’m not sure I believe that, though. I’m not quite ready to go all-in on Dak Prescott as a true franchise-level QB. He’s good, though.

Neil’s point about their win quality is spot-on.

neil: Though, to push back against my own snarky observation about opponent-quality splits, Dallas did beat six above-1500 Elo teams during that period last season when they won eight times in nine games down the stretch.

So it’s not necessarily a persistent split. But it has stood out so far this season.

joshua.hermsmeyer: Dak has been fantastic. I thought they mounted a respectable second-half comeback. If I’m a Cowboys fan, I’m not worried when my team’s QB is playing like one of the top 5 at his position.

sara.ziegler: So the game did nothing to change anyone’s priors on the Cowboys?

joshua.hermsmeyer: It was a loss, so not great! But I’m not selling on the Cowboys yet.

Salfino: Definitely not selling. They are a legit Super Bowl contender.

sara.ziegler: You guys are refusing to overreact, and it’s annoying.

neil: Maybe the past two games have settled them back into the tier below the top contenders again.

Salfino: You can overreact to Captain Kirk, Sara. The Vikings are an offensive juggernaut.

sara.ziegler: I will not.

And they are not.

neil: Speaking of teams and QBs that play well only against below-average opponents…

sara.ziegler: Damn.

Tough but fair.

neil: That IS a trend dating back to last season.

Salfino: The Giants defense is … inviting.

sara.ziegler: I am on record saying that the Vikings were 100 percent going to win that game. It was a classic game of absolutely no stakes, so Kirk Cousins played well. Easiest call I’ve ever made.

neil: Can’t he just convince himself that all games have no stakes?? We said it ourselves last week: We all die in the end. Loosen up a little, Kirk.

sara.ziegler: LOLOL

joshua.hermsmeyer: I was just happy to see the Squeaky Wheel narrative pay off for Adam Thielen. Two touchdowns was a great game for him.

sara.ziegler: OK, so what about the other notable NFC North teams this week? Aaron Rodgers did nothing, but the Packers looked … great?

Salfino: The Packers pretty much ignored their wide receivers in the game. It somehow worked.

We may have to accept that the Lions are the best team in the North. Did I just type that?

sara.ziegler: The same Lions that tied Arizona? Those Lions?

neil: Let’s not go crazy here.

Salfino: Actually, the Vikings grade better in my key stat — net yards per pass play — but I don’t want Sara to have unrealistic expectations. I will say the Lions are playing better than the Bears.

sara.ziegler: My expectations are always as low as possible.

neil: BTW, all four NFC North teams still have winning records.

sara.ziegler: But what about those Bears? Is Chase Daniel not the answer???

Salfino: No less not the answer than Mitchell Trubisky.

I’ve tied myself up in double negatives.

Daniel and Trubisky are a double negative.

neil: 😂

joshua.hermsmeyer: I need more coffee to parse these Salfino Bears takes. Interestingly, if you were hanging your hat on their defense being great against the pass this season, early returns are not that good. Chicago, so far, has allowed the fifth-highest completion percentage in the league.

neil: Daniel basically played like you would expect from somebody with four career starts in 10 NFL seasons.

Salfino: Daniel is beating the system.

But Jon Gruden is still a good coach. That he’s 3-2 — with a team that is not talented and with all the Antonio Brown distractions — is impressive. The Raiders should be a losing team and probably still will be, but it won’t be because of Gruden.

neil: What about JAY Gruden? Lol.

sara.ziegler: First coaching casualty!

neil: Josh, is the Bears’ performance another example of defenses just regressing to the mean incredibly quickly in the NFL?

joshua.hermsmeyer: I don’t know what to make of NFL defenses, tbh. Some claim there was a jet-lag factor with Chicago, or they didn’t sleep well. It’s all a muddle.

Salfino: I’m shocked by how bad the Ravens pass defense has looked, even yesterday against the third-string QB.

sara.ziegler: Devlin Hodges was the best part of that game.

That story is my favorite of the season so far. Guy goes undrafted, signed to the practice squad, makes the team because some other backup is traded away … then, BAM. He’s leading a second-half comeback.

Salfino: The Browns may win the AFC North by default even with a loss tonight.

neil: We do still have Cleveland as favorites (granted, at 49 percent) to win the division.

joshua.hermsmeyer: I feel like you were bagging on Baker Mayfield just a week or two ago, Mike. How quickly the winds change.

neil: And we were pumping up Lamar Jackson!

Salfino: No, I was defending Baker. I was bagging on Baker in August. I am still bagging on Baker Mayfield the spokesperson.

neil: Lol

BTW, speaking of Jackson, he had the second-worst QB Elo game of the week yesterday. After that hot start, his rolling QB rating is basically average again.

However, the worst by a MILE belonged to poor Luke Falk of the Jets. In fact, Poor Sad Luke Falk had the worst QB game of the entire season. Meanwhile, Deshaun Watson of the Texans had the best game of the entire season!

The best — and worst — of 2019 QB starts were in Week 5

Best and worst quarterback games of the 2019 NFL season, according to FiveThirtyEight’s QB Elo ratings vs. league average

Best QB Games of 2019 season
Date Quarterback Team Opp QB Elo vs. Average
10/6/2019 Deshaun Watson HOU ATL +464
9/22/2019 Russell Wilson SEA NO +379
9/8/2019 Dak Prescott DAL NYG +340
9/8/2019 Patrick Mahomes KC JAX +270
9/15/2019 Dak Prescott DAL WSH +265
9/8/2019 Lamar Jackson BAL MIA +259
9/15/2019 Patrick Mahomes KC OAK +255
9/22/2019 Patrick Mahomes KC BAL +253
9/15/2019 Lamar Jackson BAL ARI +239
10/3/2019 Russell Wilson SEA LAR +224
Worst QB Games of 2019 season
Date Quarterback Team Opp QB Elo vs. Average
10/6/2019 Luke Falk NYJ PHI -478
9/15/2019 Ryan Fitzpatrick MIA NE -350
9/30/2019 Andy Dalton CIN PIT -326
9/22/2019 Luke Falk NYJ NE -263
9/8/2019 Jameis Winston TB SF -239
9/29/2019 Case Keenum WSH NYG -235
9/16/2019 Trevor Siemian NYJ CLE -202
9/29/2019 Josh Allen BUF NE -200
9/5/2019 Mitchell Trubisky CHI GB -200
9/22/2019 Joe Flacco DEN GB -185

Source: ESPN

joshua.hermsmeyer: Mike’s Jets: Out indefinitely.

neil: This was such a sad play:

Salfino: Jets fans like me have not had a season at all yet, and it’s Week 6. Can’t even kill the team for the way they’re playing. Can’t practice Falk if you think Sam Darnold can play because you have to get him ready for his health’s sake. And you can’t know how big his spleen is. But practice is not gonna save Falk, who just has no clock in his head for when to throw the ball. That’s fatal in the NFL. The Jets defense is actually … OK.

neil: When will Jets QBs not be on the receiving end of the universe’s jokes?

joshua.hermsmeyer: It’s the curse Namath put on the franchise after that embarrassingly inept attempt at hitting on Suzy Kolber on the sidelines.

sara.ziegler: I’ve never before thought about how big a quarterback’s spleen is.

Maybe never want to again.

neil: There’s Big Brain Time, and then there’s Big Spleen Time.

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