Published: Nov. 14, 2019 at 02:39 p.m.
Updated: Nov. 14, 2019 at 03:28 p.m.

Next Gen Stats: Key figures that could shape Week 11

Want to see the numbers behind the numbers? NFL Research's Joseph Ferraiola dives into a fresh batch of Next Gen Stats and identifies figures that are helping to shape the NFL narrative entering Week 11 of the 2019 season.

7 Photos Total

  • Drew Brees has thrown for 330 yards per game and completed 75 percent of his passes since his return from a thumb injury in Week 8, but the numbers hide Brees' ineffectiveness on downfield passes. Brees is averaging 6.3 air yards per attempt, second-fewest in the NFL behind his backup, Teddy Bridgewater (6.2 air  yards per attempt). Short passing is clearly a staple of the Saints' offense. However, Brees' air yards per attempt have dropped from 7.1 in 2018 to 6.3 this season, and he is attempting deep passes at the lowest rate in the NFL (4.4 percent of attempts). After connecting on 20 deep passes (out of 44 attempts) last season for 8 TDs, 0 INTs and a 130.8 passer rating, Brees is just 2 for 6 on deep passes this year with zero TDs, 1 INT and a 38.2 passer rating. Facing the porous Tampa Bay defense on Sunday might be just what the doctor ordered for the Saints' deep passing game, as the Buccaneers allow a 124.8 passer rating on deep passes, third-highest in the NFL. 7

    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Drew Brees' short passing: Scheme or necessity?

    Drew Brees has thrown for 330 yards per game and completed 75 percent of his passes since his return from a thumb injury in Week 8, but the numbers hide Brees' ineffectiveness on downfield passes. Brees is averaging 6.3 air yards per attempt, second-fewest in the NFL behind his backup, Teddy Bridgewater (6.2 air yards per attempt). Short passing is clearly a staple of the Saints' offense. However, Brees' air yards per attempt have dropped from 7.1 in 2018 to 6.3 this season, and he is attempting deep passes at the lowest rate in the NFL (4.4 percent of attempts). After connecting on 20 deep passes (out of 44 attempts) last season for 8 TDs, 0 INTs and a 130.8 passer rating, Brees is just 2 for 6 on deep passes this year with zero TDs, 1 INT and a 38.2 passer rating. Facing the porous Tampa Bay defense on Sunday might be just what the doctor ordered for the Saints' deep passing game, as the Buccaneers allow a 124.8 passer rating on deep passes, third-highest in the NFL.

  • The Rams' pass rush has improved in 2019, pressuring QBs on 35.8 percent of dropbacks this season (highest rate in the NFL) after pressuring QBs on 27.5 percent of dropbacks in 2018 (16th-highest). The increase can be attributed to the additions of Clay Matthews (16.8 percent pressure rate; second-highest, min. 100 pass rushes) and Dante Fowler (31 QB pressures, 12th-most in the NFL) along the edge. But the key piece for the Rams' pass rush is Aaron Donald. Donald currently leads the NFL in QB pressures (48), a year after accumulating the most QB pressures in a single season since Next Gen Stats began tracking pressures in 2016. Donald's success rushing the passer can be attributed to his quick get-off. He averages 0.80 seconds to cross the line of scrimmage this season, the fastest among interior DL (min. 100 pass rushes). Donald will have a chance to wreak havoc on Sunday night against Mitchell Trubisky, who has the sixth-lowest passer rating when pressured this season (45.8). 6

    David Dermer/Associated Press

    Rams' dominant pass rush

    The Rams' pass rush has improved in 2019, pressuring QBs on 35.8 percent of dropbacks this season (highest rate in the NFL) after pressuring QBs on 27.5 percent of dropbacks in 2018 (16th-highest). The increase can be attributed to the additions of Clay Matthews (16.8 percent pressure rate; second-highest, min. 100 pass rushes) and Dante Fowler (31 QB pressures, 12th-most in the NFL) along the edge. But the key piece for the Rams' pass rush is Aaron Donald. Donald currently leads the NFL in QB pressures (48), a year after accumulating the most QB pressures in a single season since Next Gen Stats began tracking pressures in 2016. Donald's success rushing the passer can be attributed to his quick get-off. He averages 0.80 seconds to cross the line of scrimmage this season, the fastest among interior DL (min. 100 pass rushes). Donald will have a chance to wreak havoc on Sunday night against Mitchell Trubisky, who has the sixth-lowest passer rating when pressured this season (45.8).

  • Dak Prescott has had his struggles when facing pressure this season, especially during the Cowboys' three-game losing streak from Weeks 4 to 6, but he has drastically improved his play under pressure since Week 7. Prescott has increased his completion percentage (Weeks 4 to 6: 47.1 percent; Weeks 7 to 10: 53.1 percent), yards per attempt (Weeks 4 to 6: 6.6; Weeks 7 to 10: 7.4), TD-INT ratio (Weeks 4 to 6: 1-2; Weeks 7 to 10: 3-0), and passer rating (Weeks 4 to 6: 53.9; Weeks 7 to 10: 108.3) when under pressure in that span. The Lions, who'll host the Cowboys on Sunday, have been inept at pressuring opposing QBs this season (19.4 percent pressure rate, lowest in NFL) and have allowed an average of 3.06 seconds to throw (longest in NFL). Prescott has a TD-INT ratio of 6:2 with a 109.6 passer rating on passes in which he has 2.5-plus seconds to throw since Week 7. 5

    Roger Steinman/Associated Press

    Dak Prescott's improvement under pressure

    Dak Prescott has had his struggles when facing pressure this season, especially during the Cowboys' three-game losing streak from Weeks 4 to 6, but he has drastically improved his play under pressure since Week 7. Prescott has increased his completion percentage (Weeks 4 to 6: 47.1 percent; Weeks 7 to 10: 53.1 percent), yards per attempt (Weeks 4 to 6: 6.6; Weeks 7 to 10: 7.4), TD-INT ratio (Weeks 4 to 6: 1-2; Weeks 7 to 10: 3-0), and passer rating (Weeks 4 to 6: 53.9; Weeks 7 to 10: 108.3) when under pressure in that span. The Lions, who'll host the Cowboys on Sunday, have been inept at pressuring opposing QBs this season (19.4 percent pressure rate, lowest in NFL) and have allowed an average of 3.06 seconds to throw (longest in NFL). Prescott has a TD-INT ratio of 6:2 with a 109.6 passer rating on passes in which he has 2.5-plus seconds to throw since Week 7.

  • Kirk Cousins is having a career year, throwing 18 TDs to 3 INTs with a 112.0 passer rating (third-highest in NFL) and it's difficult to find a Next Gen Stats split where he doesn't rank highly. Cousins' passer rating on tight-window throws (90.0, first in the NFL), deep passes (134.2, second), when under pressure (95.4, second), and vs. the blitz (123.0, second) rank in the top two among qualifying QBs this season. Cousins' efficiency has the Vikings in the thick of the playoff race entering Sunday's game against the Broncos. 4

    Roger Steinman/Associated Press

    Kirk Cousins' career year

    Kirk Cousins is having a career year, throwing 18 TDs to 3 INTs with a 112.0 passer rating (third-highest in NFL) and it's difficult to find a Next Gen Stats split where he doesn't rank highly. Cousins' passer rating on tight-window throws (90.0, first in the NFL), deep passes (134.2, second), when under pressure (95.4, second), and vs. the blitz (123.0, second) rank in the top two among qualifying QBs this season. Cousins' efficiency has the Vikings in the thick of the playoff race entering Sunday's game against the Broncos.

  • Tom Brady was effective vs. the blitz in the first five weeks of the season, averaging 8.2 yards per attempt, throwing 5 TDs to 1 INT, and recording a 102.1 passer rating. But Brady has struggled against the blitz recently, as his yards per attempt (5.3), TD-INT ratio (0:2) and passer rating (51.6) have all declined since Week 6. The Patriots' next opponent, Philadelphia, has increased its blitz percentage from 19.4 in Weeks 1 through 4 to 31.0 in Weeks 5 through 9. Since increasing their blitz rate, the Eagles' pass rush has gotten to the QB more often (Weeks 1 to 4: 23.4 percent pressure rate, 1.7 percent sack rate; Weeks 5 to 9: 31.6 percent pressure rate, 13.3 percent sack rate). Additionally, the Eagles defense has allowed a 64.4 passer rating on blitzes since Week 5, compared to a 129.1 passer rating on blitzes in Weeks 1 through 4. 3

    Associated Press

    Tom Brady vs. the Eagles' blitz

    Tom Brady was effective vs. the blitz in the first five weeks of the season, averaging 8.2 yards per attempt, throwing 5 TDs to 1 INT, and recording a 102.1 passer rating. But Brady has struggled against the blitz recently, as his yards per attempt (5.3), TD-INT ratio (0:2) and passer rating (51.6) have all declined since Week 6. The Patriots' next opponent, Philadelphia, has increased its blitz percentage from 19.4 in Weeks 1 through 4 to 31.0 in Weeks 5 through 9. Since increasing their blitz rate, the Eagles' pass rush has gotten to the QB more often (Weeks 1 to 4: 23.4 percent pressure rate, 1.7 percent sack rate; Weeks 5 to 9: 31.6 percent pressure rate, 13.3 percent sack rate). Additionally, the Eagles defense has allowed a 64.4 passer rating on blitzes since Week 5, compared to a 129.1 passer rating on blitzes in Weeks 1 through 4.

  • Former ACC rivals Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson will face off for the first time in their professional careers on Sunday. While both QBs were the last QB picked in the first round in their respective drafts, they have been proving their doubters wrong ever since they earned their first start, and both are now in the MVP conversation. Jackson has refined his pocket passing this season, throwing from inside the tackle box on 83.9 percent of his attempts, up from 72.4 percent in his rookie season (the lowest rate of any QB in a season since 2016, min. 150 attempts). Watson now owns the title of lowest percentage of passes inside the tackle box (77.5 percent). Watson (8.3 yards per attempt) and Jackson (8.5) have remarkably similar numbers inside the tackle box this season, both throwing 13 TDs and 5 INTs. These two quarterbacks really have excelled throwing down the seam, where Jackson has the second-highest passer rating (130.3) and Watson ranks fifth (122.7). 2

    Associated Press

    Young MVP candidates battle for first time as pros

    Former ACC rivals Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson will face off for the first time in their professional careers on Sunday. While both QBs were the last QB picked in the first round in their respective drafts, they have been proving their doubters wrong ever since they earned their first start, and both are now in the MVP conversation. Jackson has refined his pocket passing this season, throwing from inside the tackle box on 83.9 percent of his attempts, up from 72.4 percent in his rookie season (the lowest rate of any QB in a season since 2016, min. 150 attempts). Watson now owns the title of lowest percentage of passes inside the tackle box (77.5 percent). Watson (8.3 yards per attempt) and Jackson (8.5) have remarkably similar numbers inside the tackle box this season, both throwing 13 TDs and 5 INTs. These two quarterbacks really have excelled throwing down the seam, where Jackson has the second-highest passer rating (130.3) and Watson ranks fifth (122.7).

  • Could Patrick Mahomes' kneecap dislocation have been a blessing in disguise for his ankle injury, which predated the knee issue? He seemed to indicate as much after returning from a two-game absence, crediting the time he missed due to the knee injury for <a target="_blank" href="https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/chiefs-patrick-mahomes-has-strong-return-in-loss-explains-how-his-knee-injury-helped-his-ankle-injury/">giving his ankle time to heal</a>, as well. He certainly looked healthy on Sunday, with 24.0 percent of his attempts vs. the Titans coming on the run (8-plus mph), his second-highest such rate in a game this season. Andy Reid still played it safe, protecting Mahomes with a quick passing game (62.0 percent of his attempts took fewer than 2.5 seconds, a career high). The quick passing game has limited Mahomes this year, who averages 9.6 more air yards per attempt with 2.5-plus seconds time to throw (14.0) compared to quick passes (4.4), the largest increase in the NFL. 1

    Joe Robbins/Associated Press

    Will Chiefs unleash Mahomes?

    Could Patrick Mahomes' kneecap dislocation have been a blessing in disguise for his ankle injury, which predated the knee issue? He seemed to indicate as much after returning from a two-game absence, crediting the time he missed due to the knee injury for giving his ankle time to heal, as well. He certainly looked healthy on Sunday, with 24.0 percent of his attempts vs. the Titans coming on the run (8-plus mph), his second-highest such rate in a game this season. Andy Reid still played it safe, protecting Mahomes with a quick passing game (62.0 percent of his attempts took fewer than 2.5 seconds, a career high). The quick passing game has limited Mahomes this year, who averages 9.6 more air yards per attempt with 2.5-plus seconds time to throw (14.0) compared to quick passes (4.4), the largest increase in the NFL.