NFL Media researcher Brandon Mendoza identifies several of the biggest overreactions from each week’s set of games. The storylines below are bound to play out because, after all, numbers never lie. Right?
NOTE: All stats and rankings are current through Sunday of Week 16.
Steelers need to run the ball even less
Dear Steelers, please stop trying to run the ball. Just throw it.
The Steelers rushed for just 20 yards in their 28-24 come-from-behind win over the Colts on Sunday — the second-lowest total in a win in team history. That’s quite a feat for a franchise that has been around since the 1930s.
The formula is simple for the 2020 Steelers: When Ben Roethlisberger has at least 40 pass attempts, Pittsburgh is 7-1 (Big Ben had 49 on Sunday). The rest of the NFL’s QBs — excluding Patrick Mahomes, who’s 9-1 in such games — haven’t fared nearly as well, posting a 33-81-2 mark when attempting 40-or-more passes in a game this season.
Excluding two Roethlisberger kneel downs, the Steelers had five rush attempts in the second half versus the Colts while erasing a 21-7 halftime deficit. That amounted to the largest second-half comeback in NFL history against a team that had already won 10 games (2002 Rams overcame a 17-point second-half deficit to the then 10-5 49ers in Week 17).
This Pittsburgh offense boasts five players with at last least five receiving TDs, which is tied for the most by a team in a season in NFL history (most recently the 2018 Buccaneers). Just imagine how much more effective their passing game would be if they didn’t lead the league in drops.
Ravens’ offense not built to win the Super Bowl
The Ravens rushed 40 times for 249 yards in their 27-13 win over the Giants in Week 16. It was the Ravens’ fifth game of at least 200 rush yards this season (most in the NFL) and their 38th consecutive game of at least 100 rush yards, which is tied with the 1935-39 Lions for the second-longest streak in NFL history. Only the 1974-77 Steelers had a longer streak (43 games).
In a league that has shifted from run-first to pass-heavy, it is impressive Baltimore has found so much regular-season success despite being the only team in the NFL to rush on more than 50 percent of its offensive plays in each of the last two campaigns. The formula has for the most part paid off, as Lamar Jackson won the 2019 NFL MVP and became the first QB in NFL history with at least 900 rushing yards in consecutive seasons.
The Ravens’ dominant run game should have them in prime position for a Super Bowl LV title … if they were playing last century.
Baltimore is running the ball on 54.5 percent of their offensive plays this season, a mark that 14 Super Bowl winners also hit during their roads to the Lombardi Trophy. However, 13 of those 14 teams won their titles in 1991 or earlier. The only outlier — the 2005 Steelers led by second-year QB Ben Roethlisberger. While the Ravens boast an NFL-best 177.8 rush yards per game, you have to go all the way back to the 1975 Steelers to find a team that rushed for at least 175 yards per game in the regular season and then won the Super Bowl.
Jets shouldn’t draft a QB with No. 2 overall pick
Congrats to the Jets, who in Week 16 became the third team in NFL history to win multiple games after starting 0-13. The others for those curious are the 1986 Colts, who won their final three games, and the 2011 Peyton Manning-less Colts, who won two straight en route to a 2-14 season.
The trade-off for accomplishing such a rare feat was losing the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft to the Jaguars. Now that the Jets are entrenched at No. 2, they must avoid using that selection on a QB at all costs!
In the Common Draft era (since 1967), there have been nine QBs taken No. 2 overall: Mitchell Trubisky (2017), Carson Wentz (2016), Marcus Mariota (2015), Robert Griffin III (2012), Donovan McNabb (1999), Ryan Leaf (1998), Rick Mirer (1993), Bert Jones (1973) and Archie Manning (1971).
The Bears did not pick up Trubisky’s fifth-year option prior to this season, making his future in Chicago beyond this season unclear. Wentz has been benched for the last several weeks. Mariota, Griffin, Leaf and Mirer didn’t make it beyond their rookie contracts with the teams that drafted them. Bert Jones had a few 10-wins seasons but never won a playoff game. And Archie Manning finished his 14-year career without a single winning season. McNabb easily had the most success of the bunch, but some would argue that just one Super Bowl appearance after playing in five conference championship games is a bit disappointing.
The combined record of this group is 317-383-5, good enough for a .453 winning percentage, with McNabb’s Super Bowl XXXIX loss the lone title appearance for a QB drafted No. 2 overall since 1967. Jets fans, maybe don’t be in such a hurry to move on from Sam Darnold, you know, the third overall pick from just three years ago.
Travis Kelce should have asked for WR1 money
In August, Travis Kelce inked a four-year, $57 million extension, which was the second-largest tight end contract in terms of total value and average per year ($14.3 million). Only George Kittle earns more money at the position than Kelce. And yet, the Chiefs’ six-time Pro Bowler is still severely underpaid.
On Sunday, Kelce broke the NFL’s single-season receiving record by a tight end, reaching 1,416 yards on the year to surpass Kittle’s mark (1,377) from 2018. The two-time All-Pro currently leads the entire NFL in receiving yards and could become the first player at his position to do so for a full season in the Super Bowl era.
With one game remaining, Kelce already has 105 receptions and 11 TDs to go along with his record-breaking yardage. The last player to hit 100 receptions, 1,400 receiving yards and 10 receiving TDs in a season was wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in 2018. Now, Hopkins is making $27.3 million per year, which is almost double Kelce’s annual average. Is it too soon to renegotiate?
Deshaun Watson having the greatest season nobody will remember
How can anyone not root for Deshaun Watson? He plays hard, has incredible arm talent, is dangerous with his legs and plays through the final whistle. He is the only QB in the NFL this season who ranks top-three in completion percentage (3rd: 70.1), pass yards (2nd: 4,458), TD-to-INT ratio (T-3rd: 38:6) and passer rating (2nd: 112.1). He does it all, and yet, stuck on a team that is 4-11, no one will remember his magical season.
On Sunday, Watson broke the Texans’ single-season pass TD record previously held by Matt Schaub (29 in 2009) and posted his ninth 300-yard passing game of the year. Watson is now tied with MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes for the most 300-yard games in the NFL this season. Since Week 6, Watson has 21 pass TD and just one INT, by far the best TD-INT ratio in the NFL during that span.
This weekend Watson also reached 100 career passing TDs in just his 53rd career game, which is the fourth-fewest games to hit the century mark by any passer in the Super Bowl era. Only Mahomes (40) and a couple Hall of Famers (Dan Marino, 44; Kurt Warner, 50) did so faster.
IF the Texans had 11 wins and not 11 losses, Watson would undoubtedly be competing with Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers for the league’s MVP. Instead, the Texans QB is on track to end the 2020 season as the only QB since 1950 to lose 10 or more games and still post a passer rating over 100.
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