Commentary

Football Outsiders: Week 2 Quick Reads

Originally Published: September 15, 2008
By Bill Barnwell | Football Outsiders.com

Look down this week's Quick Reads list of the most valuable players of Week 2, and you might notice a couple of missing names. Darren McFadden led all running backs with 166 yards. Brandon Marshall led all receivers with 18 receptions. How could they have missed out on the Quick Reads top five at their positions? Their absence points out some important differences between an advanced metric such as YAR (Yards Above Replacement) and the standard stats we're all used to using.

McFadden's raw line looks great. He picked up 166 yards on only 21 carries, averaging nearly 8 yards per carry. It was an awesome day for fantasy teams, but merely good for the Raiders. Fifty of McFadden's yards came on one carry, and 136 of them on five. The rest of the day, McFadden ran 16 times for a total of 30 yards. That means countless second-and-10 and third-and-9 situations that put JaMarcus Russell in an extremely difficult position all day long.

The Raiders gave the ball to McFadden eight times on second down with between 6 and 10 yards to go; in those situations, he gained 2, 2, 1, 2, -2, 24, 2, and 5 yards. The big play certainly is nice, but unless McFadden becomes more consistent in gaining positive yardage, he'll become a very overrated back very quickly -- and Russell will have many more days when he goes 6-for-17. McFadden also needs to work on his hands: He fumbled twice. That 50-yard gain would not have seemed so special if the Chiefs had picked up the ball at the end. Overall, McFadden earned just eight YAR on the ground.

Marshall also is missing from our Quick Reads top five, although not by much -- he ranks sixth for the week, just behind Detroit's Calvin Johnson despite an astounding 18 receptions on 20 attempts, two short of the NFL record for receptions in a game. What hurts Marshall most is his fourth-quarter fumble. Although Denver recovered the fumble, we know from our five years of research that fumble recoveries are luck, not skill. Therefore, although your fantasy league might not have punished Marshall, we know to dock him for letting loose.

Furthermore, although it might have looked as if Marshall caught every single Cutler pass until Eddie Royal scored the touchdown at the end of the game, in truth he wasn't around on third downs. Marshall converted only one of three times he was targeted on third down.

Here are the rest of the best and worst players of Week 2, according to the Football Outsiders YAR statistics.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
YAR
Pass
YAR
Rush
YAR
EYds
1.
Kurt Warner ARI
19/24
361
3
0
221
221
0
449
Warner averaged an absurd 15 yards per attempt; no quarterback has hit that figure with more than 20 attempts in a game since 2003, when Steve McNair dropped 421 yards in 27 attempts against an overwhelmed Texans secondary. Like that game, this one probably will look a little less impressive once we have enough data to make opponent adjustments.
2.
Jay Cutler DEN
36/50
350
4
1
183
185
-2
557
The only blemish on this brilliant day was the ugly interception in the end zone, which comes out as -68 YAR; otherwise, Cutler's your quarterback of the day.
3.
Eli Manning NYG
20/29
260
3
0
168
168
0
382
Imagine how great he might be if any of his running backs could pass block.
4.
Philip Rivers SD
21/33
377
3
1
163
163
0
408
Rivers averaged 7.7 YAR on deep passes and 3.6 YAR on short ones. Norv Turner, you have Chris Chambers and Vincent Jackson out wide. Let your quarterback go deep.
5.
Jason Campbell WAS
24/36
321
1
0
132
135
-4
378
Campbell's one-week turnaround was remarkable; he was particularly impressive in the "back" zone, our term for the space in between a team's 20- and 40-yard lines that often separates three-and-outs from steady drives. There, Campbell was 7-of-10 for 127 yards, and that's where he threw the game winner to Santana Moss.
6.
Aaron Rodgers GB
24/38
328
3
0
129
122
7
395
Rodgers picked up 162 of his 122 passing YAR in the first half. Yes, that looks funny. Rodgers managed to put up -40 YAR in the second half by virtue of an aborted snap, a sack and a 44 percent completion rate.
7.
Trent Edwards BUF
20/25
239
1
0
103
103
0
291
Edwards was sacked on his first and last dropbacks of the day; in between, he put up 158 YAR against a defense that held J.P. Losman to -7 YAR last year.
8.
J.T. O'Sullivan SF
20/32
321
1
0
64
55
9
316
O'Sullivan was sacked eight times, including one play during which his center tripped him during the dropback. We're pretty sure this was just a drill Mike Martz decided to implement during the game to keep O'Sullivan on his toes.
9.
Matt Cassel NE
16/23
165
0
0
64
69
-5
224
In his first NFL start back in 2001, Tom Brady threw for 168 yards on 23 attempts. If Cassel continues to produce at 98.2 percent of Brady's level, the Patriots should be fine. The Patriots aren't looking for Cassel to be the Brady of 2007; they just need him to be the Brady of 2001.
10.
Kerry Collins TEN
14/21
128
1
0
43
43
0
180
Collins had the chance to throw only two passes in the red zone; both were 11-yard completions to Justin Gage. One of those passes earned a first down; the other, a touchdown. They are responsible for 37 of his 43 YAR.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
YAR
Pass
YAR
Rush
YAR
EYds
11.
Ben Roethlisberger PIT
12/19
186
1
0
43
50
-7
166
12.
Brian Griese TB
18/31
160
1
0
26
26
0
183
13.
Chad Henne MIA
7/12
67
0
0
17
17
0
94
Henne came in during the fourth quarter and completed seven passes to six different receivers. Most importantly, none of them wore Arizona uniforms.
14.
Chad Pennington MIA
10/20
112
0
0
9
9
-1
112
15.
Peyton Manning IND
26/41
311
1
2
-2
18
-20
208
Manning racked up 56 YAR on the three-play drive that saw Reggie Wayne score a touchdown but scored -38 YAR the rest of the time. His -20 rushing YAR comes from back-to-back failed quarterback sneaks on the Minnesota 1 in the third quarter.
16.
Brett Favre NYJ
18/26
181
1
1
-3
3
-6
122
17.
David Garrard JAC
17/28
165
0
1
-4
-16
12
191
Fortunately for Garrard, Week 3 sees the Jaguars drawing a Pittsburgh defense that had a league-low 11 picks last year.
18.
Kyle Orton CHI
20/32
149
0
0
-10
-10
0
174
Orton's best pass was his first, a hitch-and-go to Brandon Lloyd where Orton threw the ball 3 yards behind Lloyd's back shoulder. YAR does not award style points.
19.
Drew Brees NO
22/32
216
1
2
-10
-15
5
171
20.
JaMarcus Russell OAK
6/17
55
0
0
-10
-9
-2
75
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
YAR
Pass
YAR
Rush
YAR
EYds
21.
Derek Anderson CLE
18/32
166
0
2
-45
-42
-3
105
22.
Tarvaris Jackson MIN
14/24
130
0
0
-50
-44
-5
75
On Brad Childress' tombstone, it will read "He Stuck with Tarvaris Jackson." Jackson was 2-for-12 on third down.
23.
Matt Hasselbeck SEA
18/36
189
0
2
-58
-65
7
125
24.
Tyler Thigpen KC
14/31
151
1
1
-63
-64
1
87
25.
Jon Kitna DET
21/41
276
2
3
-65
-68
4
162
26.
Jake Delhomme CAR
12/21
128
0
1
-68
-64
-4
24
Delhomme had multiple big plays wiped out by illegal formation and holding penalties. We'd recommend not using the play in your playbook that results in an illegal formation every time you run it.
27.
Carson Palmer CIN
16/27
134
0
2
-85
-85
0
28
Before Week 14 of the 2007 season, Carson Palmer had never played a full regular-season game without scoring more than four fantasy points. Since that week, he's scored fewer than four points in four of his six starts, including both games this year.
28.
Marc Bulger STL
20/32
177
1
1
-110
-114
4
25
29.
Matt Ryan ATL
13/33
158
0
2
-149
-137
-12
-28
Since 1995, the average quarterback rating for a rookie quarterback seeing the Tampa 2 defensive scheme for the first time on the pro level is 55.2. Ryan's 29.6 rating from Sunday won't help matters.
Five most valuable running backs
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
YAR
Rush
YAR
Rec
YAR
EYds
1.
Darren Sproles SD
53
0
72
1
53
16
37
135
This doesn't even include Sproles' 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Is the difference between him and Reggie Bush really worth more than $26 million in guaranteed money?
2.
Ahmad Bradshaw NYG
52
1
18
1
48
26
22
109
Forget Kyra Sedgwick or Jonathan Papelbon; Bradshaw's the real closer. Of Bradshaw's 242 career regular-season rushing yards, 178 have come in the fourth quarter.
3.
Fred Jackson BUF
17
0
83
0
41
3
38
138
Jackson's an absolute dynamite receiver out of the backfield in the vein of Larry Centers. Most halfbacks catch dump-offs and checkdowns for minimal gain, but Jackson caught seven passes and picked 96 yards after the catch.
4.
Jonathan Stewart CAR
77
2
0
0
39
39
0
116
Stewart was the highlight of a dreary game, breaking seemingly half the tackles attempted by the Bears' defense. When you consider the personnel that entails, it's high praise for a rookie back coming off a toe injury.
5.
Adrian Peterson MIN
160
0
20
0
38
40
-3
169
For those of you who complained about Chester Taylor's getting a key third-down carry before the Colts tied it up, Peterson did not get a single third-down carry against Indianapolis, and that may be partly because he was 1-for-4 on third down in Week 1.
Least valuable running back
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
YAR
Rush
YAR
Rec
YAR
EYds
1.
Chris Perry CIN
64
1
-8
0
-59
-40
-20
-10
Stuffed for no gain on third-and-1 and third-and-2, Perry had only one second-down play (out of eight attempts) where he gained the 60 percent of yardage required to make his run "successful" by our standards.
Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
YAR
EYds
1.
Santana Moss WAS
7
9
164
23.4
1
92
211
This includes Moss' 27-yard run for a first down as well; the final four times that Moss was targeted resulted in four first downs, including a fourth-down conversion and a touchdown.
2.
Anquan Boldin ARI
6
6
140
23.3
3
90
171
Remember that Steve McNair performance we mentioned in the Kurt Warner comment above? In that game, Derrick Mason also caught three touchdowns on six passes.
3.
Isaac Bruce SF
4
8
153
38.2
0
57
142
Bruce also drew 21 yards on two pass-interference penalties, both in the red zone.
4.
Larry Fitzgerald ARI
6
9
153
25.5
0
56
139
Fitzgerald didn't score any touchdowns, unlike his teammate Boldin. But he picked up five first downs and managed some of the most awe-inspiring jukes you'll ever see. Or, if you're a Dolphins defensive back, flail at wildly.
5.
Calvin Johnson DET
6
12
129
21.5
2
52
147
Johnson picked up two touchdowns, but he also was the target on Jon Kitna's two late interceptions that sealed the game for Green Bay.
Least valuable wide receiver or tight end
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
YAR
EYds
1.
Michael Jenkins ATL
0
7
0
0.0
0
-46
-25
If you go 0-for-7 in a baseball game, you get some catcalls and a mention in the paper. If you're a receiver and you go 0-for-7 in a football game, no one notices. Except for us.


Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) is a staff writer for Grantland.