I really don't think Mark Sanchez is that hated. I refuse to believe it. Especially after this past week, the fantasy owners of Jamaal Charles, Reggie Wayne, and Roddy White sure hold some disdain for those respective guys. Michael Vick has been hated in Philadelphia by a select group for years (with that select group being, most Eagles fans). Try selling Ryan Lindley to Cardinals fans. And nobody who has ever had T.O. on his or her team has left happy.
So there's only so much manufactured hatred I can come up with for Mark Sanchez, still the biggest story in this Jets/Titans matchup. But that's why I don't have to manufacture anything: I have the stats on my side. And the stats show a distinct pattern in Sanchez's play, among a few other keys to this game.
As always, we're here to help make sense of everything. For our official predictions, you'll need to check out our numberFire premium selections. But for a sneak peek into our thought process and some key stats we're looking at for this game, read on.
An Ugly QB Battle
Mark Sanchez gets a lot of hatred, and at least this season, a good portion of it is well-deserved. It's not from me, of course: I could never hate somebody who introduces the phrase "buttfumble" into the national lexicon. But the haters actually have a point.
To measure the efficiency of QBs, we take a look at our Net Expected Points (NEP) formula. The idea behind NEP is simple: how many points would the average NFL team score at the end of a drive that began on this given play? Now, how does a play involving a certain player increase or decrease that expected total? Add up all those plays, and you have a player's NEP score.
Since passing is more efficient than running, most quarterbacks hold a positive NEP score. But that's not the case for Mark Sanchez. At -19.88 NEP, he's lost the Jets a little less than two points per game through his play. Among current starting QBs, only Ryan Lindley, Chad Henne, and Brady Quinn also hold a negative NEP score. And of the 27 quarterbacks to have thrown over 300 pass attempts entering Week 15, only three - Michael Vick (0.02), Ryan Tannehill (-0.01), and Sanchez (-0.03) - have averaged less than 0.05 NEP per pass attempt.
Jake Locker's not playing much better, however. You see, Locker would have qualified for that list up there if he had enough pass attempts; he's averaged 0.04 NEP per pass in 259 attempts so far this season. That's only good for 26th in the NFL among current starting QBs. But it's still better than Matt Hasselbeck, who was averaging -0.06 NEP per pass in 234 attempts as Locker's replacement. The Jets may be laughably inefficient with the passing game, but realize that the Titans elicit a few snickers as well.
A Few Struggles
So with the analytics for the quarterbacks looking that poor, and the Jets and Titans coming into the game with the No. 24 and No. 25 opponent-adjusted offenses in the league respectively, we can expect this to be a low-scoring game, right? Perhaps even low enough to be under 42 points?
If the games that the numbers say are the strongest indicators point to something, it's that the answer is indeed "Yes". In our premium product, we take a look at the 25 games since 2000 that have the most similarities to this matchup in terms of the style and efficiency of the teams in the game. And according to the top ten games deemed most similar, yeah, that under pick doesn't look so bad. I've put the top five below.
|Date||Matchup||Total Score||Result O/U||Similarity %|
Other than a ridiculous outlier-ridden 54-31 Chiefs victory over Buffalo in 2008, nine of the top ten most similar games went under the totals line. Of those nine games, only two - the Detroit/Arizona game that is the most similar match and a 23-16 Jets victory over the Titans in 2006 - even got within a score of the current 42 point line. The other seven games all had a total of 33 points or below. Now that's a trend worth watching.
The Defensive Difference
The Jets come into this game as two-point underdogs; after watching that offense play against semi-competent teams this season, Vegas knows what it has in the Jets. But as I've already mentioned, these two offenses are similar - No. 24 (Jets) and No. 25 (Titans) in our power rankings entering Week 15. The defenses, however, tell a different story. The Jets sit at No. 13, while the Titans sit all the way down at No. 25.
Sometimes, a single outlier game or two can provide the explanation for why a team's defensive ranking is so low. That's the case for the Steelers at least - if not for Weeks 1 and 3 where they allowed a combined 25 points over expectation against the Broncos and Raiders, they would likely be a top five defense in the NFL. But for the Titans, the opposite is true: a single outlier game prevents them from being one of the five worst defenses in the league.
Week 10 against the Miami Dolphins was an odd game in a number of ways, the final score of 37-3 in favor of Tennessee just being one of them. For instance, the Titans were able to put up that many points with their QBs going a combined 9-22 for 122 yards. But it was the defense that saved that game, and perhaps its own efficiency stats in the process. Tennessee held the Dolphins to 17.02 points under expectation in that game, easily the most in the league. Before Week 10, the Titans had given up 100.84 points over expectation, then the third-most in the league. But with that game, they moved down to only seventh-worst in the league, a figure they've been right around ever since.
So when you see that Tennessee has numberFire's No. 25 overall defense, it doesn't look good. But when you look at the numbers, you find that it could be much, much worse. Bad enough, perhaps, to allow even Mark Sanchez to be able to throw the ball? As the wise ones (and Chris Berman) say, "That's why they play the game."