Welcome to “Two QBs For Me and You,” a feature where I focus on and breakdown two notable quarterback performances from the week before. … I then go over what they mean moving forward.
There were certainly some top quality quarterback duels to watch last week in the NFL. We had Aaron Rodgers taking on Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson against Drew Brees, and the rookie battle of Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott. But I was extremely excited for the matchup in Tampa Bay between two young dynasty stars, Jameis Winston and Derek Carr. Carr has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the year so far, while Winston has continued his up-and-down, inconsistent start to his career.
They went toe-to-toe in an overtime thriller on Sunday. Let’s take a look at how they both performed.
40-of-59, 513 yards, 4 touchdowns, 0 interceptions
- Carr did not start the way he finished. Early on in the game, he threw behind Seth Roberts on a slant that fell incomplete. Later in the first quarter, Carr uncharacteristically held on to the ball for too long and was strip-sacked, leading to a Bucs touchdown on a short field.
- Let’s talk about sacks. In Carr’s 40 NFL games, he’s been taken down 64 times (although only nine times this year). His brother David was sacked 76 times in one season. Granted, it was an NFL record so it’s not the average, but it’s interesting to see how different things have been for him and his brother. Some people might put it down to the offensive lines, and those people would be wrong. Derek Carr gets the ball out quickly. That’s what he does. He did it at Fresno State, and he’s continuing to do it at the professional level.
- Despite the record-setting day, Carr was still sluggish on his third drive as he was called for intentional grounding. The only help he got early was from the Bucs’ defense, as they blew the coverage on the Raiders’ fullback Jamize Olawale who romped down the right sideline for 60 yards to the three-yard line. At that point, we didn’t know the Raiders would set an NFL record with 23 penalty flags, but they were already on their way when Michael Crabtree pushed off in the end zone and forced them to settle for a field goal, their only score of the half.
- The Raiders came out firing in the second. Carr zinged one to Amari Cooper across the middle of the field, threw another laser to Roberts, and after a long throw to Cooper was stopped with pass interference, converted with a short touchdown to offensive tackle Donald Penn. That’s right, an offensive tackle caught the touchdown pass.
- On the next drive, Carr threw another perfect strike to Cooper from 34 yards out for a score. He looked in a rhythm.
- The next two set of plays were once again flag-filled despite Carr looking good, and the Raiders were down 24-17 with 3:48 to go when Carr led the best drive of the day. He zipped one to Roberts, hit Mychal Rivera on a crosser with a great leading throw, put awesome touch on a high ball that Cooper came down with, and had them at the goal line with time to spare. The drive ended in another touchdown throw, this time placed where only Rivera could get it. 24-24, and on to overtime (so we thought).
- Tampa Bay’s conservativeness at the end of regulation allowed the Raiders one last chance to get a win, and it was Carr’s legs that got them into field goal range with only four seconds left. But Sebastian Janikowski missed it. With the state of NFL kickers right now, we should have seen it coming.
- Carr stayed strong in overtime. Crabtree made a great play to get into field goal range, and it looked as though the game would be over. However, a costly penalty on Cooper pushed them back, and Janikowski missed again. On the second drive, penalties forced him into a 3rd-and-17, and a punt.
- The third drive ended the game, as the team put the ball in Carr’s hands. He hit both Latavius Murray and Michael Crabtree before being faced with a 4th-and-four from the Tampa Bay 40. He put the ball exactly where it needed to be for Seth Roberts to catch it on the move, break two tackles, and take the ball to the end zone. Game over.
As productive of a game this was from Carr, I have a fear that the hype might get out of control. He threw a franchise-record 513 yards. Despite an NFL record 23 penalties and two missed field goals by Sebastian Janikowski, Carr still led his team to a win. Amari Cooper had 12 catches for 173 yards, and Michael Crabtree had another solid performance.
But despite of all that, I still want more. Carr looked great with the volume today, but a true test will come this week against Denver. What can he do against one of the best defenses in football? While this will give us a better look at him as a “real” player, he’s still having a great fantasy football season and should be started every week.
16-of-32, 180 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions
- Winston was disappointing on the day, despite the 2:0 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The 50% completion rate was a reflection of both bad decisions and a very concerning tendency to throw high or far ahead of his receivers. While his strength is in comfort and escapability from the pocket, the accuracy and decision-making must improve.
- When he is accurate to Mike Evans, the duo can’t be stopped. Early in the game, on a third down, Winston put the ball so high that only Evans could snag it from the air with his long limbs.
- After taking over with a short field, Winston completed two in a row to Cameron Brate followed by Russell Shepard, who made a leaping grab for 19 yards. Again, Winston placed the ball high, and his receiver climbed to get it to make it 10-0.
- On the next series after the touchdown drive, Winston had an ugly set of plays. He threw too high for Evans (again), who probably still should have caught it on his deep crossing route, wobbled an ugly low ball on a bubble screen that was called back for a penalty, and on third down had another overthrow in Evans’ direction. Evans is currently second in the NFL in targets (86) behind only A.J. Green (88), and I can see why. Green also has 301 yards more than Evans, and I can see why too. Winston and Evans just don’t seem to be on the same page, and they seem to lack the connection that we see from the top QB-WR duos.
- The inconsistency is what seems to be holding Winston back. On a later drive, he overthrew his receiver, followed up with a strike to Evans for 15 yards, impressively scrambled for nine yards, then threw a pass that should have been returned for six.
- Up 10-3, with one minute and three timeouts remaining in the first half, I was very disappointed to see the Bucs run the ball twice and settle for half time, especially as Oakland received the ball to start the second half. Does this show the coach doesn’t trust his quarterback? Is it a lack of confidence from the second-year signal-called? I am baffled as to why they didn’t attempt to move the ball in that situation.
- Most of Winston’s second half was dreadful. He was way off on another deep ball early, and at one point was 2-0f-10 for 13 yards, but receiver Adam Humphries sparked the team with a catch-and-run for 42 yards, and the quarterback took advantage by hitting Cameron Brate with a (you guessed it) high throw. However, in what could have been a game-changing play, rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo missed the extra point. How long can the team put up with their second-round pick?
- The Bucs’ final scoring drive was all about the Raiders shooting themselves in the foot. Oakland was flagged four times, and the Bucs were able to move the ball despite Winston missing his receivers left and right. It might have been the most ugly drive I’ve seen all year. Jacquizz Rodgers managed to finish it with a one-yard touchdown, and Winston and Evans were able to connect this time to make up for Aguayo’s missed XP. 24-24.
- Tampa Bay had three more drives in this game. A score on any would have won it for them. Winston was 1-of-6. Five of the attempts were in the direction of Mike Evans, and the one he caught was not enough for a first down. It was a fitting end to an extremely underwhelming performance.
Good quarterbacks are hard to find in this league. Quarterbacks who live up to early first-round selections are extremely hard to find. Right now, Winston hasn’t lived up to his high expectations. In the last ten years, JaMarcus Russell, Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, and Andrew Luck have been taken with the top pick. and at this point Winston is near the bottom of that list. Top picks don’t guarantee success, but they usually guarantee starts, at least for a few years. Winston has a lot of improving to do.
As a QB2, Winston is a fine play, because the unpredictability includes the potential for a hugely positive week. If I’m relying on him as a number one, however, I’m not feeling too comfortable right now.
Other Week 8 Quarterback Performances of Note
Marcus Mariota is starting to show the world why he’s by far my favorite quarterback prospect of all time. He has this unique “clean” way of playing football, and it showed in a dominant performance against division rivals. Mariota had only four incompletions on the night (18-of-22) and seems to be finding his comfort zone. While Houston is in the lead, the AFC South is still wide open. Bortles did what Bortles does. The Week 8 Garbage Man.
Both Andy Dalton and Kirk Cousins put on a good show for the London audience. It’s fitting they came up with a 27-27 tie, as I have them so evenly matched as quarterbacks. Nick Foles is back, people! Actually, it was the Nick Foles imposter we saw in 2013, the one who had an astonishing season. Either way, Sunday’s Foles went 16-of-22 for 2 touchdowns and no picks. In all likelihood, Andy Reid will manage to get a second-round pick for him, and he will suck once more, because that’s what Andy Reid does.
After recent performances by Andrew Luck and Cam Newton, I’m not sure who we should consider the top young fantasy star right now. They both tend to rack up the points, but is there a clear number one? On the other hand, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Matt Ryan are all clearly standouts this year. I would ride all four, and if I can move either of the youngsters who may have higher name value for a vet plus another asset, I would do it.
Carson Palmer has gone off the rails, and the Cardinals’ offense is not what it once was. Even if he is on the roster next year, I think it’s time Bruce Arians brings in some competition. Talking of struggling players, Russell Wilson has only thrown five touchdowns this year. Five! It was quite easy to predict Wilson would regress after last year, but this is too extreme. He still has a good floor, and I expect him to level out a little over the second half of the year. Don’t panic if you need to play him, but don’t be afraid to move on either.
Matt Ryan is playing at the highest level right now, so ride it. I don’t think there’s a reason to “sell high” when there’s no reason to believe his situation will change. In the rookie battle, Carson Wentz looked the more composed and clinical through three quarters of the game, and then Dak Prescott turned it on when it matters. Of course, with Prescott’s weapons he has an advantage, but he also came up big against what had been a strong defense for most of the game. This rivalry could be legit.
Jay Cutler came back with a bang, once again fooling us all with his cannon for an arm. Everyone loves to hate Cutler, but he’s always had such great “arm talent.” He’s such a mystery that I’m curious where he will be next year. Who knows (shrug)? Sam Bradford, on the other hand, is starting to revert to the old Sam. It didn’t take long.
Quarterbacks covered so far:
- Week 1 – Trevor Siemian and Carson Wentz
- Week 2 – Philip Rivers and Sam Bradford
- Week 3 – Aaron Rodgers and Carson Palmer
- Week 4 – Blake Bortles and Andrew Luck
- Week 5 – Marcus Mariota and Ryan Tannehill
- Week 6 – Tom Brady and Case Keenum
- Week 7 – Alex Smith and Drew Brees