5 NFL Teams in Need of a Passing Rebound
Like I've written about many times in the past: passing matters. The game of football at the pro level is evolving, and with each year, passing the rock effectively means more and more to team success.
And this, because I'm a nerd who ponders the strangest angles to sports imaginable, got me thinking: Which teams declined the most passing the football last year when compared to how they performed in 2012? Of all the squads in the NFL, which ones suffered through the biggest change within their passing attacks?
To find the answer, I dug into numberFire's Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, which measures the number of points added or lost by a player or team above or below expectation through the air. If you'd like to read more about the sweet metric, click here.
Keep in mind that Net Expected Points can be adjusted for strength of schedule, and those numbers are the ones I used for this study. In essence, I looked at every team's Adjusted Passing NEP from 2012, compared the numbers to 2013, and found the biggest dips in effectiveness. The five teams below, in order of least to most points, saw the biggest drop-off in production.
5. Buffalo Bills
Just when Bills fans thought it couldn’t get any worse, E.J. Manuel and company made it worse. Though the Bills’ 28.25 Adjusted Passing NEP in 2012 ranked just 17th in the league, the team quarterbacked an even more miserable passing offense in 2013, dropping their Adjusted Passing NEP total to -60.20.
In a less numbers-driven way of thinking about it: Ryan Fitzpatrick > E.J. Manuel
It’s pretty obvious that the Bills need help through the air, and in their case, it’s more about development than anything else. E.J. Manuel will have a year under his belt next year, and the team has a group of receivers with potential. Keep in mind that they added Mike Williams too, which should help the struggling passing game.
4. New England Patriots
Perhaps it’s a little unfair to put a team on this list who finished sixth in the NFL in Adjusted Passing NEP a season ago, but Tom Brady’s Patriots dropped a little over 97 expected points through the air from 2012 to 2013, good for the fourth-highest fall of any NFL team. That’s over six points per game, and that can certainly determine the outcome of a handful of contests.
Fortunately for the Patriots, they were still strong in other areas, getting to the AFC Championship game. But 2013 marked Tom Brady’s lowest Passing NEP season since 2006, and any sort of continued decline would be a huge concern for New England during the 2014 season.
3. Washington Redskins
Rookie RGIII was a lot of fun in Washington. The team finished 10th in the league in Adjusted Passing Net Expected Points, playing 78.56 points above expectation through the air. And everyone was happy. Very happy.
This past season, that number dropped to -31.93. Thanks for nothing, Dan Snyder.
Fortunately, the Redskins have two things going in their favor to help improve this situation. First, they signed DeSean Jackson. And while I’m not incredibly high on him in a Redskins uniform, he’s certainly a nice addition to the passing attack.
But secondly – and most importantly – Bobby Griffin will be healthy. Griffin’s Passing NEP dropped 53 points last year after his stellar rookie campaign, while his Rushing Net Expected Points total fell by nearly 52. Having the confidence to escape the pocket and throw down field will be huge for Washington.
2. New York Giants
Insert Manning face here. Nothing really went well offensively for the Giants last season, which is a big reason they finished the year under .500. Eli Manning ended up posting the second-lowest Passing NEP season of his career, which is saying something considering, well, considering it’s Eli Manning.
It wasn’t just Eli though. The offensive line finished 18th according to Football Outsiders in pass protection, and the rushing unit ranked 31st in the NFL in Adjusted Rushing NEP. So no, don’t go blaming Eli, New York.
Improvements to the offensive line and progression from their young wide receivers should help next season. And really, I’m not sure it can get a whole lot worse.
1. Houston Texans
Matt Schaub had an underrated time in Houston. Our own Daniel Lindsey laid it out for us in an article earlier in the month, noting that, before this past season, Texans’ passing offenses never ranked below 15th with Schaub under center, while he consistently ended as a top 10 or 15 quarterback.
Last year wasn’t the norm though. After the Texans played 72.56 points above expectation through the air in 2012 – a fairly similar number as RGIII’s Redskins – Schaub and his boys dropped to a -65.22 score, edging out the Giants by 0.7 points as the biggest drop off from 2012 to 2013.
But unlike the Giants, the Texans don’t have any sort of proven commodity at quarterback (as much as I love Ryan Fitzpatrick), and could see themselves at the bottom of the league passing-wise in the near future. It all depends on what they end up doing with the signal-calling situation.