The Best Home and Road Quarterbacks of 2015

Drew Brees -- and young quarterbacks -- are said not to play well on the road. Did the advanced metrics support that this year?

The guys who do the behind-the-scenes work here at numberFire have recently presented us writers with a Net Expected Points (NEP) query tool which allows us to break down player efficiency to smaller, more localized areas.

For instance, my last few articles highlighting the  best and worst third-down quarterbacks from 2015 were made possible because of this amazingly handy search tool. So naturally, like any self-respecting nerd would do, I kept digging into other areas often highlighted by raw statistical analysis.

This led me to investigate which quarterbacks are most dependent on home-field advantage for their efficiency.

It’s a well-worn narrative that certain players --  Drew Brees for instance -- are quite literally a real-life “Jekyll and Hyde” when it comes to home/road splits. Over the course of the 2015 season, Kirk Cousins seemed to follow this line of logic, as well.

So instead of relying on simple passing yardage, touchdowns, and other basic stats, let’s dive a little deeper to see which quarterbacks saw the largest drop (or gain) in their respective NEP metrics while playing at home or on the road. 

Home Cookin'

These are the 10 players who saw the biggest difference in Passing Net Expected Points at home compared to on the road. Because not everybody played a full 16-game season, the per-play numbers are listed as well.

Player Home PNEP Away PNEP Diff. Home PNEP/P Away PNEP/P Diff.
Drew Brees 146.57 5.80 140.77 0.42 0.02 0.40
Eli Manning 72.02 9.37 62.65 0.22 0.03 0.19
Kirk Cousins 93.93 34.99 58.94 0.35 0.12 0.23
Matthew Stafford 54.62 16.33 38.29 0.17 0.05 0.12
Ben Roethlisberger 73.13 37.59 35.54 0.29 0.16 0.13
Joe Flacco 27.48 -6.00 33.48 0.13 -0.03 0.16
Matt Ryan 74.58 42.65 31.93 0.25 0.13 0.12
Tom Brady 98.17 66.37 31.80 0.28 0.21 0.07
Cam Newton 66.76 39.17 27.59 0.26 0.14 0.12
Johnny Manziel 12.14 -14.96 27.10 0.22 -0.08 0.30

Playing below replacement level on the road (the average Passing NEP per drop back this year was 0.11), Brees was far and away the most efficient home quarterback in 2015. 

In fact, he was the only passer to post a triple-digit Passing NEP mark at home this season. It should really come as no surprise that Drew Brees tops the list of the quarterbacks with the highest efficiency split between games played at home and on the road. 

What is surprising is the ocean-sized span between his two NEP metrics.

Ben Roethlisberger has long been documented as a quarterback that plays much better at home, and his efficiency metrics from this season support that theory. Kirk Cousins was another example of a player who from an efficiency standpoint simply performed better at home this season.

One notable name missing from this list -- ranking 11th -- is Aaron Rodgers.

His 2015 season appears to be an outlier from a quarterback who is regularly among the most efficient passers in the game, possibly dulling the importance of his absence here. Long thought of as a quarterback who piled up stats in games played at Lambeau Field, Rodgers ranked just 17 th in Home Passing NEP among the 38 passers charted.

Road Warriors

Which quarterbacks got the biggest boost playing away from their home stadium?

Player Home PNEP Away PNEP Diff. Home PNEP/P Away PNEP/P Diff.
Derek Carr -11.21 45.72 -56.93 -0.03 0.17 -0.20
Jameis Winston 19.40 58.29 -38.89 0.07 0.20 -0.13
Blake Bortles -3.99 33.71 -37.70 -0.01 0.10 -0.11
Sam Bradford -9.42 21.11 -30.53 -0.03 0.08 -0.11
Marcus Mariota -0.98 28.25 -29.23 0.00 0.15 -0.15
Tony Romo -14.37 10.10 -24.47 -0.21 0.17 -0.38
Tyrod Taylor 27.27 48.31 -21.04 0.14 0.21 -0.07
Brian Hoyer 7.87 27.79 -19.92 0.04 0.15 -0.11
Alex Smith 10.38 30.15 -19.77 0.05 0.11 -0.06
Ryan Tannehill -7.43 8.45 -15.88 -0.03 0.02 -0.05

The most notable thing from looking at the chart above is the youthfulness of the quarterbacks at the top.

The connection between youth (i.e. inexperience) and playing much better on the road is a tough issue to parse out and probably has more to do with unquantifiable measures -- “mental pressures, etc.” -- than we’d probably like to admit.

But either way, having Derek Carr, Jameis Winston, Blake Bortles and Marcus Mariota -- with an average age of 22.8 years old -- all residing in the top-five is absolutely worth taking note of.

Although they comprise just 20 percent of the group, Tony Romo and Brian Hoyer are examples of quarterbacks who their play home games indoors but were actually much more efficient on the road this season.


This study into home/road efficiency splits is not meant to be an absolute, end-all explanation. There are countless variables that are not explicitly explained here that affect how a quarterback plays at home and on the road, including injuries.

If some theoretical quarterback's best pass-catcher and left tackle missed the last eight games of the regular season, and that specific teams’ schedule was back-loaded with five away games, it’s possible that the overall metrics could be skewed.

But all theoretical assumptions aside, it’s interesting to see confirmation that Drew Brees is not only a better fantasy quarterback at home but that he is also wildly more efficient inside the Superdome.

And what’s most interesting, and most worth monitoring as we move forward, is how the quarterbacks that occupy the younger-side of the age spectrum fared much, much better in away games. While this could be an anomaly found only in 2015, it’s worth keeping an eye on in upcoming seasons.