Published: Sept. 27, 2018 at 10:14 a.m.
Updated: Sept. 27, 2018 at 10:24 a.m.

Next Gen Stats: Hidden numbers that defined Week 3

Want to see the numbers behind the numbers? Nick Shook dives into a fresh batch of Next Gen Stats and identifies figures that helped shape Week 3.

8 Photos Total

  • Alex Smith has long been labeled as a quarterback who can't stretch the field and he was largely living up to that billing through the season's first two weeks, according to Next Gen Stats. His 46-yard touchdown pass to Paul Richardson in Week 3 was his first attempt this season of 40-plus air yards (41.8). As Washington continued to attack the Packers downfield, Smith posted an average of 10.0 air yards per target. In Weeks 1 and 2, he averaged 5.7 air yards per target.<br><br>
 
The Redskins would be wise to continue testing defenses deep. Last season with the Chiefs, Smith was 3 for 6 with 191 yards, two touchdowns and a 135.4 passer rating on passes that traveled 40-plus air yards. All but one of those were targets for Tyreek Hill, and while Smith doesn't have a player of Hill's caliber in Washington, Richardson will do just fine. 8

    Mark Tenally/Associated Press

    Smith shattering assumptions

    Alex Smith has long been labeled as a quarterback who can't stretch the field and he was largely living up to that billing through the season's first two weeks, according to Next Gen Stats. His 46-yard touchdown pass to Paul Richardson in Week 3 was his first attempt this season of 40-plus air yards (41.8). As Washington continued to attack the Packers downfield, Smith posted an average of 10.0 air yards per target. In Weeks 1 and 2, he averaged 5.7 air yards per target.

    The Redskins would be wise to continue testing defenses deep. Last season with the Chiefs, Smith was 3 for 6 with 191 yards, two touchdowns and a 135.4 passer rating on passes that traveled 40-plus air yards. All but one of those were targets for Tyreek Hill, and while Smith doesn't have a player of Hill's caliber in Washington, Richardson will do just fine.

  • Dak Prescott is struggling at the helm of the Dallas Cowboys, and it appears as though Jason Garrett's staff has decided to shorten the field to try to make things easier for the third-year signal-caller. Per Next Gen Stats, Prescott has only thrown a deep pass (20-plus air yards) four times in 2018, completing one for a 64-yard touchdown to Tavon Austin in Week 2. In Week 3, he didn't attempt a single deep pass.<br><br>
 
Additionally, the Cowboys are better when Prescott isn't throwing a lot. In concert with a power-running attack, Dallas is 10-1 when Prescott attempts 25 or fewer passes, with Prescott posting a perfect 15:0 TD-to-INT ratio and a sterling 114.0 passer rating in those games. As we've known about Dallas for a couple of years now, the Cowboys are best when pounding the rock on the ground. 7

    John Froschauer/Associated Press

    Downfield, Dak?

    Dak Prescott is struggling at the helm of the Dallas Cowboys, and it appears as though Jason Garrett's staff has decided to shorten the field to try to make things easier for the third-year signal-caller. Per Next Gen Stats, Prescott has only thrown a deep pass (20-plus air yards) four times in 2018, completing one for a 64-yard touchdown to Tavon Austin in Week 2. In Week 3, he didn't attempt a single deep pass.

    Additionally, the Cowboys are better when Prescott isn't throwing a lot. In concert with a power-running attack, Dallas is 10-1 when Prescott attempts 25 or fewer passes, with Prescott posting a perfect 15:0 TD-to-INT ratio and a sterling 114.0 passer rating in those games. As we've known about Dallas for a couple of years now, the Cowboys are best when pounding the rock on the ground.

  • A simple team-building tenet is: draft, develop and retain All-Pro players. In the case of Khalil Mack, the Raiders decided to decline the third part of the process, replacing "retain" with "trade" -- and so far, it doesn't look a wise move for them. Oakland is 0-3 and has now twice failed to protect fourth-quarter leads. It gets worse: Mack has outproduced the entire Raiders defense in several key categories through three games. Mack has more sacks (four) than Oakland does as a team (three). Mack and the Raiders have the same number of pressures (15), Mack has forced three fumbles to the Raiders' one, they've each recorded one interception, and Mack has one defensive touchdown (Oakland doesn't have any). Mack's pressure rate of 18.5 percent (15 pressures on 81 pass rushes) is better than Oakland's cumulative pressure rate of 15.8 percent (15 out of 95), which is the worst in the league. 6

    Associated Press/USA TODAY Sports

    Raiders missing Mack

    A simple team-building tenet is: draft, develop and retain All-Pro players. In the case of Khalil Mack, the Raiders decided to decline the third part of the process, replacing "retain" with "trade" -- and so far, it doesn't look a wise move for them. Oakland is 0-3 and has now twice failed to protect fourth-quarter leads. It gets worse: Mack has outproduced the entire Raiders defense in several key categories through three games. Mack has more sacks (four) than Oakland does as a team (three). Mack and the Raiders have the same number of pressures (15), Mack has forced three fumbles to the Raiders' one, they've each recorded one interception, and Mack has one defensive touchdown (Oakland doesn't have any). Mack's pressure rate of 18.5 percent (15 pressures on 81 pass rushes) is better than Oakland's cumulative pressure rate of 15.8 percent (15 out of 95), which is the worst in the league.

  • Of quarterbacks with 90 or more pass attempts through three weeks, Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees have thrown into tight windows with the least frequency. Only 10.1 percent of Brees' targets have been in tight windows, with Rodgers at 10.3 percent and Mahomes at 10.8 percent. That helps explain Brees' 1,078 passing yards (third-most in the league), as well as his league-best completion percentage (80.6), which is 10.2 percentage points higher than his expected rate (70.4 percent). Quick decisions are helping Brees, too -- he's releasing the ball in an average of 2.44 seconds.<br><br>
 
Mahomes is making the most of those windows, with a league-leading passer rating of 137.4 through three games. His air-yards-per-attempt mark (11.6, second-most in the NFL) also shows he isn't afraid to take a downfield shot, which is easier, of course, when the target is open. Those three passers are the only QBs in the NFL with at least 90 pass attempts and zero interceptions. 5

    Associated Press

    Wide-open spaces

    Of quarterbacks with 90 or more pass attempts through three weeks, Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees have thrown into tight windows with the least frequency. Only 10.1 percent of Brees' targets have been in tight windows, with Rodgers at 10.3 percent and Mahomes at 10.8 percent. That helps explain Brees' 1,078 passing yards (third-most in the league), as well as his league-best completion percentage (80.6), which is 10.2 percentage points higher than his expected rate (70.4 percent). Quick decisions are helping Brees, too -- he's releasing the ball in an average of 2.44 seconds.

    Mahomes is making the most of those windows, with a league-leading passer rating of 137.4 through three games. His air-yards-per-attempt mark (11.6, second-most in the NFL) also shows he isn't afraid to take a downfield shot, which is easier, of course, when the target is open. Those three passers are the only QBs in the NFL with at least 90 pass attempts and zero interceptions.

  • The <a target="_blank" href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSt04QipkAQ">Kirk Cousins-to-Adam Thielen connection</a> from Week 2 still reigns as the least likely completion of the season, but A.J. Green gave it a run for its money in Week 3. Under pressure, Andy Dalton launched a pass <a href="http://www.nfl.com/videos/cincinnati-bengals/0ap3000000965022/Can-t-Miss-Play-A-J-Green-tip-toes-down-the-sideline-for-31-yard-gain">only Green could catch</a> -- and even then, it looked almost uncatchable. Next Gen Stats tells us Dalton only had a 14.9 percent chance of completing the pass. Green caught the ball, but the play was so unbelievable, officials initially ruled it an incomplete pass. Only replay review could convince the naked eye it had indeed seen something magical. "Good Morning Football" co-host Nate Burleson highlighted it during his weekly "Toe Drag Swag" segment, and frankly, we might have the early-season leader for catch of the year. 4

    Jason E. Miczek/Associated Press

    Least likely completion of Week 3

    The Kirk Cousins-to-Adam Thielen connection from Week 2 still reigns as the least likely completion of the season, but A.J. Green gave it a run for its money in Week 3. Under pressure, Andy Dalton launched a pass only Green could catch -- and even then, it looked almost uncatchable. Next Gen Stats tells us Dalton only had a 14.9 percent chance of completing the pass. Green caught the ball, but the play was so unbelievable, officials initially ruled it an incomplete pass. Only replay review could convince the naked eye it had indeed seen something magical. "Good Morning Football" co-host Nate Burleson highlighted it during his weekly "Toe Drag Swag" segment, and frankly, we might have the early-season leader for catch of the year.

  • While the Browns' offense has had its struggles, Cleveland has played in three games that were close to the very end thanks to a relentless defense. A <a target="_blank" href="https://twitter.com/TheNickShook/status/1044641178933555200">dive into the numbers</a> reveals Cleveland has three of the league's most productive defensive linemen. Of defensive linemen with 50 or more pass rushes through three weeks, the Browns have three players in the league's top 11 for QB pressure rate: Myles Garrett (third), Chris Smith (ninth) and Larry Ogunjobi (11th). Only one other team has more than one player in the top 11: Arizona, with Robert Nkemdiche and Benson Mayowa. Garrett and Ogunjobi have combined for seven sacks, and Garrett also ranks third among defensive linemen in sack rate at four percent. 3

    Associated Press/USA TODAY Sports

    Browns bringing it

    While the Browns' offense has had its struggles, Cleveland has played in three games that were close to the very end thanks to a relentless defense. A dive into the numbers reveals Cleveland has three of the league's most productive defensive linemen. Of defensive linemen with 50 or more pass rushes through three weeks, the Browns have three players in the league's top 11 for QB pressure rate: Myles Garrett (third), Chris Smith (ninth) and Larry Ogunjobi (11th). Only one other team has more than one player in the top 11: Arizona, with Robert Nkemdiche and Benson Mayowa. Garrett and Ogunjobi have combined for seven sacks, and Garrett also ranks third among defensive linemen in sack rate at four percent.

  • The Bills stunned the NFL in Week 3 with their rout of the Minnesota Vikings. "<a href="http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-videos/0ap3000000965942/White-screams-you-like-that-after-Bills-beat-Vikes">You like that</a>" references aside, Buffalo's blueprint wasn't all that complicated: The Bills registered 29 pressures of Kirk Cousins in their 27-6 win, the most pressures in a single week by any defense in the NFL this season. The next-highest: Cincinnati's 20 pressures of Ravens QB Joe Flacco in Week 2, which resulted in four sacks for the Bengals. Cousins was sacked just as many times in the Vikings' stunning loss. 2

    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    Buffalo bullies

    The Bills stunned the NFL in Week 3 with their rout of the Minnesota Vikings. "You like that" references aside, Buffalo's blueprint wasn't all that complicated: The Bills registered 29 pressures of Kirk Cousins in their 27-6 win, the most pressures in a single week by any defense in the NFL this season. The next-highest: Cincinnati's 20 pressures of Ravens QB Joe Flacco in Week 2, which resulted in four sacks for the Bengals. Cousins was sacked just as many times in the Vikings' stunning loss.

  • Tyreek Hill still owns the crown for fastest speed registered while carrying the ball during the 2018 season -- they don't call him "Cheetah" for nothing -- but Week 3 brought a pair of worthy challengers. Miami receiver Albert Wilson hit 21.74 mph on <a href="http://www.nfl.com/videos/miami-dolphins/0ap3000000965485/Can-t-Miss-Play-Wilson-channels-Tyreek-on-74-yard-TD-celebration">his 74-yard touchdown reception</a> late in the Dolphins' win over the Raiders, complete with a Hill-esque peace sign at the goal line. While the play didn't count, DeSean Jackson would have moved into the top five, tying Antonio Callaway's Week 2 mark of 21.48 mph with <a href="http://www.nfl.com/videos/tampa-bay-buccaneers/0ap3000000966418/D-Jax-shows-frustration-after-punt-return-TD-is-called-back">his 83-yard punt return</a> that was wiped out by a holding call in Tampa Bay's 30-27 loss to Pittsburgh on "Monday Night Football." Hill remains at the top, with speeds of 21.95 mph and 21.78 mph in Week 1. 1

    Associated Press

    Threatening the speed throne

    Tyreek Hill still owns the crown for fastest speed registered while carrying the ball during the 2018 season -- they don't call him "Cheetah" for nothing -- but Week 3 brought a pair of worthy challengers. Miami receiver Albert Wilson hit 21.74 mph on his 74-yard touchdown reception late in the Dolphins' win over the Raiders, complete with a Hill-esque peace sign at the goal line. While the play didn't count, DeSean Jackson would have moved into the top five, tying Antonio Callaway's Week 2 mark of 21.48 mph with his 83-yard punt return that was wiped out by a holding call in Tampa Bay's 30-27 loss to Pittsburgh on "Monday Night Football." Hill remains at the top, with speeds of 21.95 mph and 21.78 mph in Week 1.