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Monday, December 19, 2011
QBR ranks: John Skelton, the closer

By Mike Sando

The Arizona Cardinals have a 5-1 record when quarterback John Skelton plays this season.

They are 2-6 when he does not.

The disparity raises questions about how the team should proceed if doctors clear starter Kevin Kolb to return this week from a concussion. The numbers say Kolb or just about anyone else should start, but the team might want to keep Skelton around for fourth quarters and overtimes.

Skelton, who played a leading role in the Cardinals' comeback from a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit Sunday, owns four game-winning drives after third quarters in his last eight appearances. But he has been much worse than average earlier in games.

In fact, Skelton ranks last among 36 qualifying quarterbacks in first-quarter Total QBR this season, posting a 6.3 score that lags far behind average (50) on a 100-point scale. Skelton improves to 28th in second quarters (32.0) and 28th in third quarters (35.9) before making a striking transformation. Skelton ranks 12th in fourth-quarter QBR (66.5) and ninth in fourth quarters and overtimes combined (71.4).

That 71.4 figure in fourth quarters and overtimes ranks just ahead of those for Tom Brady (68.2), Matt Cassel (66.1), Matt Ryan (65.2) and, yes, Tim Tebow (63.0).

Tebow outranks Skelton in fourth-quarter QBR, 73.5 to 66.5, but Skelton has done more to help his team win in overtimes.. The Cardinals are 3-0 in overtime games this season, including 2-0 with Skelton. They visit Cincinnati in Week 16.

Quick thoughts on how NFC West passers graded out in Week 15 according to Total QBR, with NFL passer ratings in parenthesis as a reference point:
The chart below shows how quarterbacks from games involving NFC West teams fared in Total QBR for Week 15.

The clutch-weight average column reflects game situations, not how well players performed during those situations. Any clutch average above 1.0 reflects a quarterback performing in higher-pressure situations.