3 Week 9 Storylines to Watch: What's Wrong With Julian Edelman?

Matt Ryan is having a career year, Edelman is struggling, and the Rams should consider switching quarterbacks.

In Week 8, we saw the Cleveland Browns blow a 20-7 halftime lead against the New York Jets, losing their eighth consecutive game.We also saw Tom Brady shred the Buffalo Bills and Jordan Howard rush for 153 yards on 26 carries, leading the Chicago Bears to a huge win against the division-rival Minnesota Vikings.

Now officially halfway through the 2016 season, we're starting to get a better idea of player roles and potential playoff scenarios.

Plenty of interesting narratives remain, so let's get to it.

Matt Ryan's Ascension

Matt Ryan's Atlanta Falcons earned a big win already in Week 9, but that doesn't mean we can't focus on Ryan's stellar play. Ryan has taken a lot of heat over the course of his career from fans and analysts alike. Critics point to his 1-4 record in playoff games as a starter or the fact that he’s thrown 12 or more interceptions in six of his eight full seasons as reasons why Ryan just isn’t that good.

The table below shows Ryan’s per-game averages -- prior to last night's 344-yard, 4-touchdown game -- since 2010 stacked up against three of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history still active in 2016:

Player Games Completion % Passing Yd/G Passing TD/G INT/G
Matt Ryan 104 65.9 264.1 1.8 0.8
Aaron Rodgers 94 65.4 268.9 2.3 0.5
Drew Brees 102 68.3 321.3 2.4 1.0
Tom Brady 100 65.2 289.8 2.2 0.5

He lags behind in touchdowns and passing yards but boasts a better completion percentage than both Aaron Rodgers and Brady over this 6.5 season span.

As far as efficiency is concerned, since the 2010 season, Ryan has lagged behind the other three on average over this time frame, according to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics.

Player Passing NEP Passing NEP/P Success Rate
Matt Ryan 109.49 0.20 51.33%
Aaron Rodgers 121.43 0.25 50.78%
Drew Brees 148.80 0.24 53.25%
Tom Brady 141.20 0.29 52.05%

If we look at 2016 alone, however, Ryan entered Week 9 leading all quarterbacks in total Passing NEP (111.08) by a fairly wide margin and ranking second in Passing NEP on a per-play basis behind only Brady. Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he added 19.7 points to his Passing NEP total.

He also led the NFL in passing yards and touchdowns through Week 8. His Thursday-night performance just increased the gap.

While he may not measure up to the likes of Brady, Drew Brees, and Rodgers over the course of their respective careers, there’s no denying that Ryan is playing at an extremely high level right now and has earned consideration as one of the best quarterbacks in the game.

Don't forget about Ryan when Rodgers and Brees have likely big games in Week 9.

What's Up With Julian Edelman?

With the New England Patriots' offense cruising, it's odd to see Julian Edelman, normally a major contributor to the success of the Patriots’ offense, currently sitting at WR39 in PPR scoring through eight weeks.

The most obvious answer to the question posed in the header is that Edelman simply isn’t scoring touchdowns at the same rate we’re accustomed to seeing, with his only touchdown this season coming in last week’s game against the Bills. For comparison, in his first eight games of 2015, Edelman snagged seven touchdowns.

Touchdowns are obvious drivers of success for wide receivers, but Edelman’s weekly yardage production has also been extremely troubling. Edelman has failed to reach 40 yards receiving in five of eight games, three of which have come with Tom Brady under center.

Using the Rotoviz Adjusted Yards per Attempt app, which shows efficiency between quarterbacks and pass-catchers targeted, we can see that Edelman has been by far the most inefficient target available for Brady this season:

With a healthy Rob Gronkowski, James White stepping in for Dion Lewis, and the additions of Martellus Bennett and Chris Hogan, it may be difficult for Edelman to return to his 2015 levels of production suddenly. At 7-1, the Patriots seem comfortable with the way the offense is operating, and for good reason.

Unfortunately for Edelman and his fantasy owners, that basis of operation includes his averaging roughly the same yards per target as Tavon Austin.

Should the Rams Bench Case Keenum?

Case Keenum has been bad so far this season. Not that anyone honestly expected anything different once he was named the starter before Week 1, but according to our NEP metrics, only Brock Osweiler has been as inefficient on a per-play basis so far this season among passers with at least 200 drop backs.

Last week against the New York Giants was a four-interception disaster that’s tough to forget, but in Keenum’s defense, from Week 3 to Week 6, he completed 66.5 percent of his throws with 7 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. There’s also the fact that the alternative, Jared Goff, has yet to attempt an NFL pass and, by all accounts, is simply not ready to assume the starter's role.

With the Los Angeles Rams at 3-4 and still technically alive in the NFC West, it’s unlikely that we see the normally-conservative head coach Jeff Fisher make a move to a total unknown in Goff in the middle of the season.

Keenum has been wildly inconsistent from week-to-week so far this season, but aside from a sudden change of heart from the Rams’ coaching staff regarding Goff, we’ll likely see Keenum continue to be under center even though he's been one of the most inefficient quarterbacks this season.