5 NFL Facts to Know for Week 14
Aaron Rodgers “beat” Tom Brady this past weekend, but both put up solid numbers. Brady contributed 11.81 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) while Rodgers accumulated an even 17.00 Passing NEP -- they both finished in the top 10 among quarterbacks this past week.
Yet, while Rodgers and Brady put on a show, other quarterbacks stepped up to the plate as well. Let’s start this week with three quarterbacks who had their best week of their respective seasons despite some inconsistent play.
Three Turnaround Games
Since Week 6, Philip Rivers hasn't play the way he started the year. In Weeks 7 through 12 (minus his bye week), Rivers has had two games below expectation in Passing NEP (-10.10 and -2.46) and two others barely above average (0.64 and 0.65) - which isn't even really average given the fact that passing is much more effective than rushing - in terms of Passing NEP.
However, in Week 13, that all changed, as Rivers added 15.84 Passing NEP (fifth-best from the week) for the Chargers in a close road win over the Ravens.
Drew Brees also had a brilliant game on the road this past weekend. Brees and the Saints marched into Pittsburgh and threw five touchdowns en route to the third-best week according to numberFire's data -- a 17.89 Passing NEP day.
Last but not least, we have Ryan Fitzpatrick, who can add his name to the list of quarterbacks who have thrown six touchdowns in one game this season. Fitzpatrick – who was benched in favor of Ryan Mallett in Week 11 – played beautifully on Sunday, contributing 24.15 Passing Net Expected Points. Fitzmagic has returned and he easily had the best passing day in Week 13.
AFC Playoff Hunt
Thanks to the heroic return of Fitzpatrick, the Texans are still clinging to playoff hopes. With the win, they moved to 6-6 and have a 17.2% chance at making the playoffs.
The Bills are 7-5 and part of a three-team race for the AFC East. The Bills and Dolphins have the Patriots to contend with, so they'll likely have to settle for a wild-card spot. And thanks to beating the Jets, the Dolphins currently have the edge due to some tiebreakers.
The Bengals currently lead the AFC North, but the Steelers, Ravens and, yes, the Browns, are still viable contenders for the division. If the Patriots and Broncos continue their hold on the top two seeds, the AFC North division winner will grab the third or fourth seed depending on the Colts.
Speaking of the Indianapolis, they probably have the easiest chance at securing their division and a playoff spot as they only have one other team contending for the division. They currently line up as the seventh-best team in numberFire’s power rankings and have a 91.1% chance at making the playoffs. A win over the Texans in Week 16 will basically guarantee that.
NFC Playoff Hunt
The NFC has a couple more teams than can be considered eliminated from the playoffs, but with four weeks left, it's still very hard to predict. The Bears and Rams both sit at 5-7 and still have one little string of hope for the playoffs. However, numberFire only gives the Bears a 0.1% chance of making the postseason, and the Rams have only a 0.5% chance. Neither has an ounce of hope for their division, and even if they won out, they would need a lot of help from a bunch of other teams.
But there is one 5-7 team that still has a chance, and a pretty good one at that for the Saints thanks to Brees' performance on Sunday. The numberFire algorithms give the Saints a 53.5% chance at winning their division and, thus, making the playoffs over the Falcons, who actually hold the division tiebreaker right now. Three divisional games remain for the Saints, while the Falcons only have two with a pivotal showdown between the two teams in Week 16.
The rest of the NFC is up for grabs as well. The Cardinals are suddenly mortal, and the Seahawks and 49ers are ready to pounce in the NFC West. The Packers are holding off the Lions for now in the NFC North, and the Eagles are trying to race past the Cowboys. Winning and losing a division title for any of these teams could be the difference between a first round bye and the sixth seed or even missing the playoffs completely.
You're Next, Rookie!
14 quarterbacks were drafted in 2014. One was released before the season started (Tahj Boyd), another is on the reserve/non-football injury list (AJ McCarron), and three are on their teams' practice squad (David Fales, Keith Wenning and Garrett Gilbert), leaving only two rookie quarterback that have yet to see playing time (Tom Savage and Aaron Murray).
Currently starting for their respective teams are Derek Carr, Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater and Zach Mettenberger. However, Logan Thomas, Jimmy Garoppolo and, most recently, Johnny Manziel, have all seen action in NFL games but are yet to be called upon to start.
That could all change before the end of the season.
Don't be surprised if Manziel and even Thomas make a start in the final weeks of the season. The Browns are truly at a crossroads with the play of Brian Hoyer, but Manziel could provide a spark for the team as they attempt to make the playoffs in the muddy AFC. The Cardinals are still in control of the number-one seed in the NFC, but are feeling the heat from multiple teams. If Drew Stanton can't turn around an offense that hasn't scored a touchdown in the last 10 quarters, then cries for Thomas could be heard.
Another Rookie Receiver Makes an Impact
Mike Evans has made an impact for the Buccaneers since Week 1. Odell Beckham Jr is making his case for the best rookie receiver. Kelvin Benjamin is the only playmaker in Carolina outside of Cam Newton and Greg Olsen. There have been some great rookie performances this year, and Week 13 gave us one more to put on the list.
Enter Donte Moncrief, Andrew Luck’s newest weapon in Indianapolis. On the surface, Moncrief had eye-popping stats, as he caught 3 passes for 134 yards and 2 touchdowns. But when we look at his Target and Reception NEP, it's even better.
Moncrief nearly doubled his Target NEP by contributing 12.04 points in Week 13, the fourth-best mark of the week. He increased his Reception NEP by 60% as well, contributing 12.52 points on his catches. With Hakeem Nicks on the outside looking in and Reggie Wayne getting older, there's no time like the present to get Moncrief involved for a push to the playoffs.