Just when there's a calm in the storm, three more starting signal-callers go down with injuries in Week 13. Here's my 10 quarterback observations for Week 14, starting right there:
1. Trubisky is NFL's 53rd different starting QB this season
The QB carousel will not stop spinning as the injuries continue to mount. Trevor Lawrence (high-ankle sprain), Kenny Pickett (ankle surgery) and Derek Carr (concussion) all went down in Week 13. Here's the latest on QB injuries around the league:
- Mitch Trubisky became the 53rd different starting QB this year in the Steelers' 21-18 loss to the Patriots on "Thursday Night Football."
- Trevor Lawrence has not been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Browns. He has never missed a game due to injury in his high school, college or NFL career.
- Joe Flacco is on track to make his second start for the Browns.
- Zach Wilson is starting for the Jets again.
- Jameis Winston could start for the Saints.
If C.J. Beathard starts for Lawrence and Winston for Carr then we'll be up to 55 different starting QBs and 17 teams who have used multiple starters this year. Maybe the craziest part is the four through seven seeds in the AFC entering the week (Jaguars, Steelers, Browns, Colts) could all be using backup QBs.
That doesn't mean they should be counted out, as several backups have proven this year.
- Jake Browning has the highest completion rate (81 percent) through two career starts in NFL history (beating out Chad Pennington) and led the Bengals to a 34-31 overtime win on Monday.
- Josh Dobbs was the first QB in NFL history to have a pass TD and rush TD in each of his first three games with a franchise (Vikings).
- Will Levis (who was a backup at the time) tied an NFL record for touchdown passes in a debut (four).
Backup QB mania has been fun, but has hardly softened the blow of what's been a chaotic season of QB injuries. If you don't believe me, here's a list of every starting QB change this year.
|Starting QB Sequence This Season
Kenny Pickett > Mitchell Trubisky
Trevor Lawrence > C.J. Beathard (possibly)
Derek Carr > Jameis Winston (possibly)
2. Allen vs. Mahomes is best QB rivalry since Brady vs. Manning
- Mahomes (2.5) and Allen (2.4) rank 1-2 all time in pass + rush touchdowns per game.
- They rank 1-2 in QB wins, total touchdowns and total yards in the last four seasons.
- They've combined for 3,401 pass + rush yards in their first five matchups, the third most for any QB rivalry ever through five meetings.
- This is their sixth meeting in four years, a rarity among QBs from different divisions.
- They locked horns in one of the best playoff games of all time, the Chiefs' 42-36 OT win in 2021.
I can't wait to see what Sunday produces in a game both teams desperately need to win. Mahomes can help Kansas City avoid their first road playoff game since he's been with the team. For Allen, he'll try to help Buffalo just get into the playoffs.
3. Statement stretch awaits Prescott
We talk a lot of how a team controls its own destiny for playoff positioning. Well, Dak Prescott controls his own destiny for the NFL's MVP award. He's the co-MVP favorite with Brock Purdy, thanks to the best QB heater this year, throwing 21 touchdown passes to two interceptions in seven games since a 42-10 Week 5 loss to the 49ers. Next up, games against the 10-2 Eagles, 6-6 Bills, 9-3 Dolphins and 9-3 Lions. If he performs well in this stretch and Dallas wins at least two or three games, he's pretty much a lock. The 49ers don't have a tough schedule down the stretch and Brock Purdy may not have the chance to change the narrative on his biggest knock, how he performs vs. adversity (late, close situations or with injured supporting cast).
The Cowboys still haven't beaten a team that currently has a winning record this season. Dak Prescott has been historically bad vs. great teams in his career. He is 9-24 vs. teams that finish the season with 10-plus wins and 54-16 vs. everyone else. Only Matthew Stafford and Kirk Cousins have bigger disparities since 1970. This stretch represents an opportunity for him to kill two birds with one stone. Put up numbers and win games that will lock up an MVP and kill the narrative that he can't win big games, thus building confidence entering the postseason where Dallas has choked.
It starts with a critical home game against the Eagles. The Cowboys have to win for their division title hopes and Prescott's MVP hopes. They have the rest advantage (last played on Thursday), have won 14 straight at home and can beat a Philadelphia team when it's down.
There's not a stretch I'm more looking forward to watching in the next month.
4. Love breakout with least experienced WR room in NFL
Jordan Love got his statement win on "Sunday Night Football," outdueling Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. He's the second-hottest QB in the league right now behind Prescott, throwing eight touchdowns and no interceptions during the Packers' three-game win streak.
What impresses me most about the run and gives me the most belief that this is legit, besides seeing the tape, is looking at the circumstances. Love has been an above-average QB in his first season as the starter surrounded by the most inexperienced WR room in the NFL. The Packers have the most receiving yards by first- or second-year players through 12 games by any team in 35 years! No team has ever had more catches by players within their first two seasons through 12 games, and 21 of Jordan Love's 22 touchdown passes this year have been to first- or second-year players.
The Packers have the most Rec yards (2,418) by 1st or 2nd-year players through 12 games since the 1988 Buccaneers.— Doug Clawson (@doug_clawson) December 7, 2023
Credit to Jordan Love doing what he's doing with the most inexperienced WR room in the NFL and looks like Green Bay has a nice core for years to come ...
He does have a great offensive line and play-caller, but wasn't the main reason Rodgers and the Packers struggled last year blamed on the lack of weapons around him after Davante Adams was traded?
Love now has an opportunity to solidify his status as one of the league's better starters if he leads the Packers to the playoffs after a 3-6 start. Christian Watson's hamstring injury will make that even more challenging.
5. Shanahan coaching tree atop QB leaderboards
This one is courtesy of CBS Sports researcher Ryan Satsky. 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan can take partial credit for the top three QBs this year in terms of yards per pass attempt: Brock Purdy (9.6), Tua Tagovailoa (8.6) and C.J. Stroud (8.5). All three of their play-callers (Shanahan, Mike McDaniel and Bobby Slowik) were on the 49ers' coaching staff in 2021.
- Purdy is on pace to break the NFL record for yards per attempt (9.6) in a season (min. 400 attempts).
- Tagovailoa is on pace to be the third QB since 1970 with at least 8.5 yards per attempt in consecutive years (1992-94 Steve Young and 2009-10 Philip Rivers).
- Stroud is on pace for the first 5,000-yard season was a rookie all time.
All historically efficient years from the same coaching tree, incredible. I think this already makes them more productive than Bill Belichick's coaching tree.
6. Cold twitter takes: Purdy YAC and Tyreek defends Tua
The trolls were out in full force after the 49ers' 42-19 win over the Eagles on Sunday, discrediting Brock Purdy's performance vs. the Eagles due to the run and catch ability of Deebo Samuel. There's plenty of info circulating on how he leads the NFL in YAC per completion and yards per attempt on screen passes. There's plenty of discourse on how he's a system QB, relies too much on YAC or is elevated by his teammates.
Thankfully, there's plenty of sensible people out there painting the full picture. He is second in the NFL in air yards per completion (7.0) and first in YAC per completion (6.6). He is first in completion percentage on throws of 20-plus air yards and fifth in completions on those throws. No matter how you split up his throw distance, he's top five in yards per attempt.
|Brock Purdy Yards per Attempt by Air Yards
Negative air yards
0-9 air yards
10-19 air yards
20-29 air yards
30+ air yards
That pretty much sums up what we're looking at here. He makes big-time throws AND benefits from incredible weapons and play-calling. It all adds up to his impressive MVP profile, one shared by other recent MVPs. Forty-eight percent of his passing yards are from YAC, right around the league average and the same as MVPs in the last decade.
Say what you want about what Purdy has done in late, close situations this year, but don't use YAC to discredit him.
Speaking of cold takes and a QB who is discredited regularly. This pretty much says it all on Tua Tagovailoa:
This pretty much sums it up. The only QB that could make everyone happy:
The perfect twitter QB:— The Monday Morning Quarterblack (@TheMMQBL) December 7, 2023
-Plays with Undrafted WRs only
-Throws the ball 20+ yds every play to WRs in coverage
-coach has no scheme
-completes 70%+ of his passes
-Defense gives up 30+ ppg
-wins 80% of games every year, no drop off in stats
-wins 100% of playoff games https://t.co/70k4neWB9K
7. A tale of two picks: Stroud vs. Wilson
The Texans and Jets play on Sunday, a battle of the last two QBs drafted second overall, C.J. Stroud and Zach Wilson.
The night-and-day difference the same draft slot can produce is mind blowing. The matchup is best described through the eyes of Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two Picks." Check out the video:
8. QB 101: Motion helps, just ask Will Levis
It's not a big secret that the use of pre-snap motion, or motion at the snap, is a formula for success. Teams use it more and more every year because it accomplishes several things:
- It gives QBs information about what the defense is in (based on how they react to motion).
- It can help receivers create separation if they already have a full head of steam moving toward the line of scrimmage at the snap.
- It can create confusion on defense, attract defenders, and create openings elsewhere.
Will Levis is a case study on how motion can help a young QB. It's an extreme case, too. Levis leads the NFL in completion percentage (75%) with motion and ranks last without it (52%). The Titans need to use way more motion. They are using it 36% of the time in Levis starts, well below the league average (47%).
Here's what it can do:
- This is an easy downfield completion to DeAndre Hopkins. Once the defense doesn't follow the man in motion, Levis has a pretty good idea he's facing zone.
- Chris Moore got separation on this play thanks to the "cheat motion" that has him already sprinting up field when the ball is snapped.
9. QB hot seat with five weeks left
Coaches aren't the only people on the hot seat this time of year. A lot of teams are giving QBs a final audition with five weeks to play. Here's my top five QBs on the hot seat, not including guys who are already benched or out for the year.
QB hot seat
- Justin Fields will be playing his last games in Chicago as it has two projected top-five picks with a great incoming QB class. He's a dynamic playmaker with his legs and has made big downfield throws to D.J. Moore this year, but hasn't developed in Matt Eberflus' system. A team with a better coach and supporting cast could turn Fields into a star (more on a possible destination in a second).
- Kyler Murray is also probably playing his last games in Arizona, which can replace him with a top-five pick. He's shown flashes of greatness like Fields, but too much inconsistency coupled with durability issues. The Cardinals' new regime will likely want a fresh start. I think the Raiders should give Arizona a call.
- Desmond Ridder has been too turnover prone this year, was benched for two games for Taylor Heinicke and hasn't elevated any of the Falcons' high-drafted talent. If I'm Atlanta I would hire Eric Bieniemy and trade for Justin Fields.
- Derek Carr has been worse than Andy Dalton was last year and the Saints offense has taken a step back. They can't move on from his contract in 2024, but they can draft a QB in the first round for the first time since 1971 and use Carr as a bridge if needed.
- Kenny Pickett will probably get another year in Pittsburgh as it won't have a high draft pick and it's an organization that is all about stability. Still, Pickett has been way too inaccurate this year and offered little upside down the field. He has the lowest touchdown percentage of any QB with at least 500 attempts since 1970 (1.8%). If I'm Pittsburgh I'd upgrade with a veteran like Kirk Cousins if he's available.
10. DeVito ranks Italian foods
If this doesn't make you smile, you may not have a soul.
Well said, Bill.