NFL

Six Facts to Know Through Week 9

Marc Trestman is the quarterback whisperer.

This has yet to be confirmed or denied, but there’s reason to believe Josh McCown is somehow related to Rocky IV’s Ivan Drago. A simple Google search of the two shows quite the resemblance.

Perhaps this relationship has something to do with McCown's Bears magical win against the Packers on Monday night. It wasn't so much about Aaron Rodgers' broken collarbone, but rather it may have been all about Josh McCown standing at the line of scrimmage, looking B.J. Raji in the eyes and confidently saying, ”I must break you.

McCown was great under the direction of Marc Trestman against the Pack, and his metrics reflect that. How good? Take a look for yourself.

Case Keenum and Josh McCown have almost identical advanced metrics this season.

There’s been a lot of talk surrounding these two passers, and when I dug into the analytics we use here at numberFire, I nearly laughed at how close these players have performed numbers-wise with one another.

Take a look at the chart below displaying the number of drop backs these quarterbacks have had, as well as their individual Passing NEP scores:

PlayerDrop BacksPassing NEPPassing NEP/Pass
Josh McCown6321.560.34
Case Keenum6520.040.31

They’re twinsies. So far this year, both Keenum and McCown have made almost an identical impact for their teams, per our Net Expected Points metrics (read more about NEP). One of the big things I do want to point out, however, is that my boy Marc Trestman (he’s my boy because of this article) is a quarterback whisperer. Perhaps a player like Keenum on the Bears would produce better production metrics.

Even so, both quarterbacks have been phenomenal stepping in for their starters. Expect Keenum to slow down a bit because his efficiency is close to elite, and as for McCown, well, his chances of breaking defenders is getting slimmer with Smokin’ Jay’s groin feeling better.

Jamaal Charles has the seventh-worst Rushing Net Expected Points total in the league

Charles has been lower in the Rushing NEP ranks throughout the season, but I decided to wait a bit before running to this article declaring that he’s been an inefficient runner. But guys, he’s kind of been an inefficient runner.

Don’t throw things at me just yet – simply hear me out. Charles easily has the worst yards per carry average of his brilliantly underrated career, sitting at 4.3. While per carry statistics are often skewed while not telling an entire story, it's the first thing you notice with Charles’ production this year.

But digging deeper, much of his inability to keep a ridiculous yards per carry average is game flow. Charles has had 116 carries – over 68% of his total – while his team was winning this season. In other words, he’s facing opposing defenses that are more than likely prepared to stop the run.

You could make the argument that Charles is used to seeing stacked boxes, as he’s rarely had effective quarterbacks to keep defenses honest. But consider this: Last year, in Jamaal Charles’ highest-volume season, JC had just 34 carries – fewer than 12% of his total volume – while his team was winning.

When you’re running the ball in garbage time, your efficiency is bound to improve. Though Charles is near the bottom among running backs in total Rushing NEP, much of it has to do with the Chiefs continuously feeding him the ball. On a per carry basis among 100-plus runners, Charles’ rank jumps up a few spots.

All of this is to say not to overreact when you see a particular metric, thinking that a player is doomed. Charles’ yards per carry average is down, sure, but in fantasy, volume can still be king.

Pittsburgh has the sixth-worst defense in the NFL.

If we look at our Adjusted Defensive NEP rankings – defensive rankings that adjust for strength of schedule – we find Pittsburgh listed only ahead of St. Louis, Jacksonville, Minnesota, San Diego and Atlanta. To put it kindly, Pittsburgh is awful on defense.

Their Adjusted DNEP value is 53.82. That may not mean much to you, but this tells us that if you placed a fairly average defense in the Steelers situation, they would have limited offenses to 54 fewer points this year.

The Steelers worst total during the Ben Roethlisberger era in Adjusted DNEP? 4.22 in 2009.

For Pittsburgh, this defense is historically atrocious.

On a per play basis, Tennessee ranks seventh in passing efficiency.

Yeah, yeah – I know. I missed with Jake Locker last week with my fantasy predictions. But there’s no doubt he and the Titans offense has been efficient this year throwing the ball, ranking seventh in the entire league on a per play basis. If not for limited volume, perhaps we’d see higher totals from the passing game.

I’ve mentioned this in the past, but upcoming for the Titans is Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Oakland, Indianapolis and Denver. According to our pass defense metrics, Jacksonville ranks 28th against the pass, Denver 25th, Oakland 24th and Indianapolis 18th. Don’t give up on that passing game just yet.

DeSean Jackson has the best Target Net Expected Points total in the league.

Target NEP looks at how many points a receiver is adding for his team on all targets. It’s different – and lower – than Reception NEP in that Reception NEP looks at a player’s efficiency on receptions only.

If a player has a good catch rate, he, in turn, will have a better Target NEP. After all, catch rate is defined as receptions divided by targets, so if this is high, there will be less variance between Reception NEP and Target NEP. Got it? Good.

DeSean Jackson’s Target NEP is tops in the league right now, and much of this has to do with his catch rate. Historically, D-Jax has had between a 49 and 56 percent catch rate. That is, he would catch half of the number of passes thrown his way. It’s a low number, but keep in mind that he’s a deep ball guy.

Under Chip Kelly, things have changed a bit. His catch rate is up above 62 percent, and in turn, his Target NEP is high. He’s adding more points for his team on all targets than any other receiver in the game. Perhaps he’s not just a big play threat after all.

Danny Woodhead ranks ninth in the entire NFL in receptions.

I wrote about the top pass-catching running backs in early October, highlighting the fact that players like Danny Woodhead were on pace to break running back receiving records.

It hasn’t stopped.

Woodhead currently ranks ninth in receptions, and this ranking includes wide receivers and tight ends. He has the same number of catches as Jimmy Graham this year!

Danny boy has 49 catches in eight games, putting him on pace for 98 on the season. That would be good for fourth-best by a running back in NFL history, and just three shy of Larry Centers’ 1995 record of 101 receptions.