As the great philosopher Sean “Jay-Z” Carter famously said on The Blueprint 3, “Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t.” And when it comes to prognosticating and evaluating the NFL, a few key numbers tell a greater story.
Whether it’s your wagers, survivor pool, fantasy choices or bragging rights at an NFL watch party or in the group chat, I’ll provide those numbers on a weekly basis in this space.
Here are 10 stats that will tell the story of the upcoming week in the NFL.
1. Money can’t buy you wins
It’s been a tough start for the game’s highest-paid QBs. Fresh off signing record-setting contracts, the league’s highest-paid players haven’t yet managed to translate that value to the field. The highest-paid QB is Joe Burrow at $55 million per year, followed by Justin Herbert at $52.5 million. Both are 0-2. Not far behind, as the fifth highest paid player, Russell Wilson is making $49 million per year and also has yet to win a game this season.
2. Bad Burrow
Herbert put up big numbers in losing efforts. That isn’t the case for Burrow. The Bengals used to be an explosive offence but they are currently far from it. Of the 21 pass attempts of 10 or more air yards by Burrow this season, he’s only completed six — none of which has gained more than 20 yards. Burrow is the only starting QB who hasn’t completed a pass longer than 12 yards.
3. Deion can’t lose
Everything that Deion Sanders touches turns to gold. The Colorado Buffaloes are already 2-0 and the talk of the sports universe after winning just one game all of last season. Sanders’ former pro teams are also off to fast starts. He played for the Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Commanders and Baltimore Ravens. All are undefeated, with a combined 11-0 record.
Desmond Ridder doesn’t lose at home. Dating back to college, he’s 30-0 in a home uniform, as he went 26-0 at home at Cincinnati and is now 4-0 at home to start his young NFL career.
5. Positionless Bijan Robinson
Arthur Smith vowed to be creative with his usage of offensive weapon Bijan Robinson and thus far he’s done just that. Robinson is much more than a running back, and really has proven to be positionless. He’s has lined up for 56 snaps in the backfield, 18 snaps from the slot, 10 slots from the perimeter as a wide out, and seven snaps as a tight end.
6. Quick-action Jackson
Lamar Jackson is off to a fast start and the main reason is he’s working quickly. Thus far this season, Jackson is getting the ball out of his hands in 2.6 seconds. In his first four seasons, his average drop back before passing was 2.96 seconds, longest by any qualified quarterback. A big benefit to getting the ball out quick is the ability to avoid taking hits. Jackson faced a career-low 9.1 per cent pressure rate in Week 2.
7. Checkdown Josh
Josh Allen has made similar adjustments but, for him, it’s depth of target not quickness of release. In Week 1, Allen struggled to a 40 QBR with one TD and three interceptions mainly because he was enamoured with the big play. Allen averaged 7.4 air yards in Week 1. He learned from his mistake in Week 2 with a 79 QBR, three TDs and no interceptions all due to the fact he brought his air yards-per-attempt average down to 3.9. That’s the second shortest average pass distance of his career.
8. Tua wins over the winners
Tua Tagovailoa is tied for the most consecutive wins against Super Bowl-winning coaches, with nine. That in big part because he’s dominated Bill Belichick, going 5-0 against the Hoodie, better than any other QB. With a win over Sean Payton’s Denver Broncos this week, Tagovailoa could push his streak to double-digits.
9. The Chris Jones effect
Yes, the Kansas City Chiefs played well without Chris Jones in Week 1, but don’t ever question his impact. Even in limited snaps versus Jacksonville in Week 2, he proved to be a game-changer. With Jones off the field this year, the Chiefs defence has played 103 snaps, given up 5.2 yards per play, registered just two sacks and given up a total QBR of 41. During the 31 snaps Jones has been on the field, the yards per play dropped to 3.5, and the defence registered 3 sacks (1.5 of which belong to Jones) and held opposing QBs to just a 11 total QBR. On top of that, against Jacksonville, Jones had a 39.2 per cent pass rush win rate. He’s definitely worth the raise he received.
10. Free Justin Fields
Justin Fields is right to question his coaching. His best attributes as a player are his big arm and his ability to run. Currently, the Bears aren’t utilizing either. Fields has rushed the ball just 13 times this season, and only four of those plays were designed runs. More alarming, Fields has the shortest average air yards-per-throw at 5.0. Because of the conservative approach, the expected average completion percentage for Fields is 71, yet his actual completion percentage is 61 per cent. That 10 per cent gap is the biggest in the NFL.