NFL Playoff Picture: Jared Goff vs. Carson Wentz, plus 8 stats to know for Week 14
Jared Goff or Carson Wentz? We investigate, plus eight more things to know about the upcoming slate of games
It's Week 14 of the 2017 NFL season and the best quarterback matchup of this weekend's slate of games is Carson Wentz vs. Jared Goff. The idea of writing that sentence was downright insane a year ago. Now, it's a reality. Factor in what's at stake for the Eagles and Rams -- both teams are in the hunt for the top seed in the NFC -- and it automatically becomes the game of the weekend.
If the NFL ever needs another example to tout its parity, it should point to Wentz and Goff's rapid Year 2 ascensions. Both quarterbacks have gone from bad to great in one year. You know how in "The Force Awakens" (yeah I know, another "Star Wars" reference) Rey catches a lightsaber for the first time and still manages to fight off Kylo Ren? Goff and Wentz are like Rey in that they shouldn't be this good this soon, but they've somehow defied logic to actually be this good this soon.
It's hard to believe, but it's true.
So, before the two second-year signal callers face off in Los Angeles (), let's compare them. If you're asking who's been better, the answer is Wentz. Take a look at their statistics in 2017:
When you factor in Wentz's contributions on the ground (283 yards and a masterful, Brady-esque quarterback sneak), there's no doubt that Wentz has been better than Goff by standard statistics. But let's also break them down by more advanced quarterback statistics.
By Football Outsiders' metrics, Goff has been the league's fifth-best quarterback. Wentz? Ninth. However, by Pro Football Focus' passer rating, which takes into account dropped passes, throw aways, spikes, and yards in the air, Wentz leads Goff. He's ranked seventh while Goff checks in at 14th.
Goff and Wentz are pretty much equals when it comes to deep passing. On passes thrown at least 20 yards downfield, Wentz's passer rating is 96.7 and Goff's is 94.2, according to PFF. Wentz has thrown three times more touchdowns on deep passes than Goff (9-3), but Goff has thrown four times fewer interceptions on such passes (1-4). When under pressure, Wentz has been better than Goff, posting an 84.0 passer rating. Goff's passer rating under duress is 76.5. Both rank in the top-10, according to PFF, and both face pressure at roughly 34-35 percent. So give the slight edge to Wentz, again.
Wentz has been better than Goff this season. There's no denying that. But if you're asking who's seen the biggest improvement, the answer is Goff.
Comparing 2016 to 2017, Goff has seen his completion percentage rise by 7.6 percent, his yards per attempt rise 2.8 yards, his touchdown rate rise 2.7 percent, his interception rate decrease 1.9 percent, and his passer rating rise 34.8 points. Of course, plenty of that has to do with Goff's god-awful rookie season. Wentz wasn't as awful as Goff last year, but he was still bad. So, his improvement has also been notable. Wentz's completion percentage is down 1.7 percent, his yards per attempt is up 1.3 yards, his touchdown rate has risen an absurdly high 4.7 percent, his interception rate has dropped 0.8 percent, and his passer rating has jumped 22.7 percent.
Goff has seen the bigger jump. There's no doubting that. People were already writing him off a year ago. Now,
Still, at this point, it's safe to say Wentz has been better. But I will mention this: Wentz's numbers are bound to regress in the next year. That's not because Wentz is actually a bad quarterback in disguise -- he's really damn good! -- it's entirely because of his touchdown rate, which is unsustainable.
Wentz's touchdown rate this season is 7.3. Since 2000, there are eight instances of a quarterback finishing with a higher touchdown rate in a single season (minimum 12 starts). The quarterbacks who topped Wentz?
The career touchdown rates of those quarterbacks?
- Manning: 5.7
- Rodgers: 6.4 (fifth-highest in NFL history)
- Brady: 5.6
- Roethlisberger: 5.1
- Romo: 5.7
Everyone else came back down to Earth. Wentz will too. That doesn't mean Wentz isn't a great quarterback. He certainly looks like a quarterback who'll be among the best in football in the years to come. It just means he probably won't throw a touchdown on 7.3 percent of his passes for the remainder of his career.
OK, let's move onto to the rest of the week. Read on for eight stats to know about Week 14.
1. This might be the worst stretch in Bears history
Last weekend, the Bears were officially eliminated from the playoff race --So, let's officially say goodnight to John Fox's Bears, because this is probably the last time they'll be featured in this column considering they're no longer in the playoff picture and Fox will most likely get fired at the conclusion of the season.
Fox took over in 2015 and in his time on the Bears' sideline, he's gone 12-32. And that means Fox is officially the worst coach in the history of the Chicago Bears.
Some additional context:
According to ESPN, the Bears are tied for the third-worst record (25-51) since they fired Lovie Smith after the 2012 season. The two teams that have been worse? The Jaguars and Browns.
2. Calais Campbell is playing like an MVP
The Jaguars, though, will be sticking around in this column. That's because they're on pace to secure their first playoff berth since 2007, the year I graduated eighth grade and started high school (go Knights!). They're heading to the playoffs because of their top-ranked defense -- no, not because of Blake Bortles. One reason that defense is so damn good: Calais Campbell, who isn't just playing like a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. He's also playing like an MVP.
because ... I'll let my colleague Jared Dubin explain, as he did on his ballot:
Campbell, meanwhile, has been the best defensive player in football, leading the best defense in the league — one that is so good that Blake Bortles is now the quarterback of an 8-4 team. Campbell has 12.5 sacks, 55 quarterback pressures, 31 run stops, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and a touchdown. He could not be playing any better.
That's why he deserves MVP love. If we give automatic MVP consideration to the quarterbacks of the league's best offenses, why not also give consideration to the best player on the best defense?
This week, Campbell's task will be difficult, because he'll be asked to bring down Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who finished tied with Brady atop our MVP leaderboard. As the Eagles found out on Sunday night, tackling Wilson is tricky.
If anyone can stop Wilson, it's the Jaguars, who are ranked second in defensive DVOA, first in yards allowed, first in points allowed, first in sacks, and second in takeaways. This will be one of the best games of the week.
3. Did the Seahawks finally find a running back?
One reason Wilson is such a viable MVP candidate is because he isn't just the Seahawks' best passer, he's also their best runner. Wilson leads the Seahawks with 432 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. But maybe, just maybe, they've finally found their running back.
Mike Davis might be the real deal. Against the Eagles' stout run defense, Davis rushed for 64 yards on 16 carries (he also caught four passes for 37 yards.). Look at him move!
Read Option with Mike Davis. He makes a man miss in the hole but is chased down by the unblocked DE that Wilson is reading. Showing some nice ability to make a defender miss in the hole pic.twitter.com/HJJvQVpoTt— Coleman Crawford (@Coleman3SD) December 5, 2017
The Jaguars' defense is actually allowing the fifth-most rushing yards per attempt (4.5), so Davis will have a chance to be productive for a second straight week.
4. Ingram-Kamara the best duo ever?
For once, the Saints aren't good entirely because of Drew Brees, though Brees' presence certainly makes them a Super Bowl contender. Instead, the Saints are good (9-3) in large part because of their running backs. To this point, Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara have formed arguably the best running duo in the Super Bowl era. They've combined for 2,397 yards from scrimmage and 20 rushing/receiving touchdowns.
Take a look at the list below, because you'll see both of their names:
Kamara and Ingram will lead the Saints in a crucial Thursday night game against the Falcons. The Saints are trying to take a stranglehold over the NFC South and fight their way into the No. 1 seed conversation while the Falcons (7-5) are just trying to stay alive in the Wild-Card race. Of course, a Falcons win on Thursday could also get them back in the mix in the division too.
5. The Vikings' transformation up front
If the season ended before Week 14, the 10-2 Vikings would be rolling into the postseason with home-field advantage. I'm not talking about the location of the Super Bowl -- the Vikings are the No. 1 seed in the NFC right now. They're ahead of the 10-2 Eagles based on strength of victory (.464 to the Eagles' .375).
The Vikings are in this position for a variety of reasons, from Case Keenum's surprising level of play to the defense's dominance, but let's take a moment to give credit to their offensive line, which has gone from one of the worst units to one of the best in a span of a year.
This year, the Vikings have allowed 14 sacks -- the second-fewest in football. Last year, they allowed 38 sacks -- the 10th-most in football. Give credit to Keenum for his mobility within the pocket, but also give credit to general manager Rick Spielman, who re-tooled the offensive line in the offseason. We're seeing the effects every Sunday and as a result, the Vikings are floating on just fine.
Last year's Vikings offensive line would've been demolished by a Panthers defense with 34 sacks (tied for fifth). This year, they're well-equipped to deal with them on Sunday.
6. Time to recognize Robby Anderson
Before the season, some people (me) thought the Jets could go 0-16 because of their clear lack of talent. Well, it's Week 14 and the Jets still aren't eliminated from playoff contention. They're two games back of the Ravens for the final playoff spot.
The Jets probably won't make the playoffs, but their season can already be considered a success. One reason for all of their unforeseen success? The emergence of WR1 Robby Anderson.
Anderson has accumulated 821 receiving yards (tied for 13th), is averaging 16.8 yards per catch (fifth), and has caught seven touchdowns (tied for sixth). He's the best deep threat in football this year:
Plus, he's a magician.
This week will be a big test for Anderson when he visits Chris Harris and Aqib Talib of the Broncos' no-fly zone. Before the season, the idea of Anderson torching the Broncos' defense would've been insane. Now? Give the Josh McCown-Anderson combo the advantage over Harris and Talib.
What a weird year.
7. Keenan Allen's streak
In his past three games, Chargers receiver Keenan Allen has accumulated 436 yards and four touchdowns. He set an NFL record:
This week, he'll go up against a Washington secondary that features Josh Norman. If the Chargers are going to complete their miraculous comeback in the AFC West -- they're locked into a three-way tie with the Chiefs and Raiders -- they can't drop a winnable game against the Redskins.
One more note: Allen went to Cal. That's an important note only because Cal is a super good school. Mildly related: I went there too. #GoBears
8. Antonio Brown is still the best
But Steelers receiver Antonio Brown is still the best receiver in football, and he has been for a while now. It's not even particularly close.
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