The best and worst QBs of the Wild Card round
Connor Cook and Matt Moore struggled with turnovers, and Matthew Stafford couldn't escape a late-season slump. Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger lit up the scoreboard. Take a look at the top and bottom QB performances from the weekend.
Wild-card weekend was full of both memorable and forgettable quarterback performances. Which QBs were the best and worst this past weekend? ESPN Stats & Information takes a look using the prism of its Total Quarterback Rating (QBR).
1. Ben Roethlisberger: 91.9 Total QBR
Roethlisberger completed his first 11 passes, including a pair of 50-yard touchdown passes to Antonio Brown, in the Steelers’ blowout victory over the Dolphins. The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that Big Ben is the first player in NFL history with two 50-yard touchdown passes in the first quarter of a postseason game.
Roethlisberger’s first incompletion came with 1:08 remaining in the second quarter. That incompletion was also his first interception and marked the first time in four drives that the Steelers failed to score a touchdown. Still, Roethlisberger ended the first half 11-of-12 for 188 yards and a 97.8 Total QBR. The majority (78 percent) of those yards came by his receivers after the catch, but he effective getting the ball into his playmakers’ hands.
After the first half, Roethlisberger slowed down, but by that point the outcome of the game was not in question (QBR down-weights plays in blowout situations). Other quarterbacks may have had a larger total impact than Roethlisberger this weekend, but on a per-play basis, no quarterback was more efficient than Big Ben.
2. Aaron Rodgers: 84.9 Total QBR
If these rankings were based on the final 2.5 quarters of the game, there is no doubt Rodgers would be sitting atop this list. Rodgers started slow – he completed 6-of-14 passes and took four sacks in Green Bay’s first five drives – but was unstoppable for the remainder of the game.
One his final eight drives, Rodgers was 19-of-26 for 308 yards and four touchdowns, including a 42-yard Hail Mary to end the first half. That Hail Mary was the biggest EPA play (plus-2.7 expected points added) for any quarterback this wild-card weekend and was one of three touchdowns Rodgers threw more than 15 yards downfield. Overall, Rodgers joined Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner and Alex Smith as the only quarterbacks to throw for at least 350 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions in a postseason game.
3. Brock Osweiler: 80.7 Total QBR
After signing Osweiler to a four-year, $72 million contract this offseason, the Houston Texans expected a playoff win and the much-maligned Texans QB delivered. Though Osweiler’s raw numbers (14-of-25 for 168 yards and 1 touchdown) in his first career playoff start are not going to blow anyone away, he managed the game effectively and avoided the major mistake (no turnovers or sacks) in Houston’s win.
After a slow start, Osweiler picked it up in the second quarter, going 8-of-11 for 114 yards and a 2-yard touchdown to DeAndre Hopkins. He also connected with Hopkins on a 38-yard completion to set up that score. Overall, Osweiler had a 98.3 Total QBR and added 5.1 expected points in the second quarter, his most EPA in a single quarter this season.
Osweiler slowed down in the second half, but he did enough to lead Houston to its first playoff win since the 2012 wild-card game against the Bengals. After the win, Osweiler was named Houston’s starter for next week’s divisional matchup with the Patriots.
4. Russell Wilson: 69.6 Total QBR
Seattle’s 26-6 win over the Lions was a team effort, but Wilson’s contributions should not be overlooked. He completed 23-of-30 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns in Seattle’s 10th straight home playoff win.
One of those passing touchdowns was a highlight-worthy (or penalty flag-worthy) completion to Paul Richardson in the second quarter to give Seattle a 7-0 lead. That touchdown came on fourth-and-2 and was the second-biggest EPA play (plus-2.1) by a quarterback so far this postseason, behind Rodgers’ Hail Mary.
Wilson was also 6-of-7 for 125 yards and a touchdown on passes traveling at least 10 yards downfield, bringing his career postseason completion percentage on such passes to 56.4 percent. Next up for Wilson is a trip to Atlanta, where he has a 89.8 Total QBR in two career road games against the Falcons.
5. Eli Manning: 55.1 Total QBR
Manning posted the top Total QBR of the losing quarterbacks this weekend, but he still had some issues with ball security (fumble lost) and consistency. Though Manning was the victim of a number of dropped passes by his teammates, he still struggled to move the ball as the Giants were forced into a three-and-out or turnover on more than half of their drives.
QBR accounts for those dropped passes and the fact that Manning could not move the chains. He gained five first downs on 14 third-down dropbacks, which is good for a 13.2 third-down QBR.
6. Matt Moore: 51.7 Total QBR
Moore completed 80.6 percent of his passes in Miami’s loss, marking the highest completion percentage for a losing quarterback in a playoff game in the Super Bowl era (min. 25 attempts). Masked in those impressive raw passing numbers, however, is a multitude of mistakes that impacted the game.
Moore took five sacks, lost two fumbles and threw an interception. Those plays cost the Dolphins a combined 16 expected points in their 18-point loss. Moore showed flashes of brilliance, particularly on third down, but ultimately those costly plays dropped him to sixth in the wild-card QBR rankings.
7. Matthew Stafford: 51.0 Total QBR
Stafford was held to a season-low 18 completions and 205 passing yards in Detroit’s loss to Seattle. He also was able to lead the Lions to only six points, their fewest in a playoff game since they lost 5-0 at the Cowboys in 1970.
Stafford led the Lions on a few long drives, but once he crossed the 50-yard line his efficiency and consequently, the Lions’ drives, stalled. On nine dropbacks beyond midfield, Stafford failed to gain a first down and posted a 20.8 Total QBR.
Through Stafford was under duress on 40 percent of his dropbacks, he actually performed better when under pressure (55.2 QBR) than when he had time to throw (42.4 QBR). Once adjusting for the strength of Seattle’s defense and the game site, Stafford’s QBR rose a bit, but it still registered as the second worst of any QB this weekend.
8. Connor Cook: 8.3 Total QBR
Cook had a day to forget in the Raiders’ 27-14 loss in Houston. Not only did he complete 40 percent of his passes, the second-worst completion percentage in Raiders postseason history, but he also threw three interceptions and took three sacks in the loss.
Not much went right for Cook in this game, as 67 percent of his plays resulted in negative EPA. One number that stands out is his inefficiency downfield; he was 1-of-14 (7.1 percent) with two interceptions on passes traveling at least 15 yards downfield, the most such attempts with one or fewer completions by a quarterback in a playoff game in the last 10 seasons.
Cook produced only two first downs in 15 third-down dropbacks, which is a major reason the Raiders were forced to punt on eight straight drives in the second and third quarters.