Stats & Info: Carson Palmer

Fitzgerald's deal: Stable QB should help

February, 18, 2015
Feb 18
1:19
PM ET

Mark J. Rebilas/USA TodayLarry Fitzgerald’s statistics in 2014 were better before Carson Palmer’s injury.
Larry Fitzgerald and the Arizona Cardinals agreed to a two-year contract Wednesday, keeping the most productive receiver in franchise history in place. And if Carson Palmer can make a successful return from ACL surgery, there's reason to think Fitzgerald will benefit.

What does Fitzgerald mean to the Cardinals? He has 323 more receptions, 3,654 more receiving yards and 20 more touchdowns (rushing or receiving) than any other player in Cardinals history.

Receptions: 1. Fitzgerald 909, 2. Anquan Boldin 586
Receiving yards: 1. Fitzgerald 12,151, 2. Roy Green 8,497
Rushing and receiving touchdowns: 1. Fitzgerald 89, 2. Green 69

Is there an explanation for declining stats?
Fitzgerald had the fourth-most receiving yards in the NFL in 2011. His average rank in the three seasons since has been 38th.

With nine 30-yard receptions combined in the past three seasons, he appears to have lost the threat of a deep play. He had 14 30-yard receptions in 2011.

In 2014, Fitzgerald had a career-low two receiving touchdowns. He also had his fewest receptions (63) and receiving yards (784) since his rookie season of 2004.

But with Palmer at quarterback, Fitzgerald averaged 81 yards per game, which would have been his highest total since 2011.

The future for Fitzgerald
The 2015 season will be Fitzgerald's 12th in the NFL. There have been 39 instances of a player having at least 1,000 receiving yards in his 12th season or later in NFL history.

Fitzgerald has caught at least one pass from 16 quarterbacks and a touchdown pass from 12 quarterbacks in his career. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, catching at least one pass from 16 QBs is one shy of the most by an active player.

Brandon Lloyd and Derek Hagan have caught at least one pass from 17 quarterbacks, and Santana Moss also has at least one reception from 16 quarterbacks.

Cardinals reminiscent of 2012 Ravens

November, 21, 2014
11/21/14
11:07
AM ET

Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesAndre Ellington has helped the Arizona Cardinals overcome the loss of Carson Palmer and maintain the best record in the NFL this season.
One of the teams in Sunday’s Seattle Seahawks-Arizona Cardinals showdown is following a tried-and-true Super Bowl formula.

A productive running back and a quarterback who isn’t afraid to throw deep have complemented an excellent pass defense, just like in a recent Super Bowl season. No, not the Seahawks again. It's the Cardinals who look almost identical to a recent Super Bowl champion -- the 2012 Baltimore Ravens.

On the ground
Start with the running back. Andre Ellington has accounted for 28.5 percent of his team’s yards from scrimmage this season, third most in the league.

Ellington’s versatility is reminiscent of Ray Rice during Baltimore’s Super Bowl season. Rice also was responsible for over one quarter of the Ravens' yards from scrimmage, and (like Ellington) was equally capable of making an impact as a receiver.

In the air
With Ellington as the focal point of the offense, the Cardinals haven’t been afraid to throw down the field, regardless of the quarterback.

Sixteen percent of Arizona’s pass attempts have been thrown at least 20 yards downfield, fourth highest in the league and the same percentage as the 2012 Ravens (second highest in the league).

Carson Palmer’s injury has left Drew Stanton as Arizona’s signal-caller for the rest of the season.

But Stanton has been impressive throwing downfield so far this season. He’s completed 10 of 25 downfield attempts (40 percent) for 325 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions despite facing the Lions (second in QBR allowed), 49ers (sixth) and Broncos (14th).

Those numbers look similar to what Joe Flacco did in Baltimore’s postseason run. Flacco was 14-of-29 (48.3 percent) for 504 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions during the Ravens’ four-game playoff stretch.

On defense
If Stanton stays hot and the Cardinals put up points, Arizona’s elite pass defense can hold up against teams throwing to catch up. The Cardinals have allowed a 45.4 QBR this season, fourth best in the league and right on par with the 2012 Ravens.

No team in the league has a better QBR allowed when targeting wide receivers than the Cardinals (55.8), the only team below 60.

The Cardinals’ pass rush diverges from how Baltimore pressured opposing quarterbacks.

Arizona has sent extra rushers on 42.2 percent of dropbacks this season, second most in the league. The Ravens blitzed on only 28.7 percent of opponents’ dropbacks.

Though they went about it in different ways, the result was largely the same. Quarterbacks haven’t been comfortable against the Cardinals, who pressure (sack, under duress or hit while throwing) on the 12th-highest percentage in the league (26.8 percent).

Baltimore’s 2012 rank in pressure percentage? Eleventh.

Neither defense had problems stopping the run. The Cardinals have allowed 3.5 yards per rush this season, fifth best in the league. The 2012 Ravens also allowed fewer than 4.0 yards per rush (3.99).

And special teams, too!
The similarities don’t stop at offense and defense. Even the Cardinals' special-teams unit resembles the 2012 Ravens, a group that played a critical role in the 34-31 Super Bowl victory, when Jacoby Jones took the second-half kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown to go up 28-6.

The Ravens’ special teams contributed 1.75 expected points per game, fourth best in the league. The Cardinals’ special teams have contributed 1.71 points per game, seventh in the league.
The Arizona Cardinals are 7-4 this season and riding a four-game winning streak. After starting 26th in the preseason ESPN.com NFL Power Rankings, the Cardinals have now jumped to ninth and are in the hunt for a Wild Card spot.

When did this happen? How did this happen?

The Cardinals lost 11 of their last 12 games last season after starting 4-0, with the likes of Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley and Brian Hoyer at quarterback. The Cards finished the season with the league's worst Total QBR (20.6).

The poor quarterback play led to the offseason acquisition of Carson Palmer. Palmer has played well during the Cardinals’ winning streak, but his 47.6 QBR over the full season ranks 26th out of 38 qualifying quarterbacks.

According to QBR standards, the jump in quarterback play for the Cardinals is from replacement level to league average. On it's own, that doesn’t vault a team to a 7-4 record. Palmer had a 51.7 Total QBR in Oakland but went just 8-16 as the starter.

Unlike the Oakland Raiders, the Cardinals have had one of the best defenses in the NFL the past two seasons, and quarterback play is no longer masking that.

How good is the Cardinals’ defense?
The Cardinals’ defense has been one of the most disruptive units over the last two seasons. Just ask Matt Ryan, who has thrown nine interceptions in his last two starts against Arizona (compared to 17 picks in 25 games against the rest of the NFL).

The Cardinals’ 37 interceptions are second in the NFL since the start of last season, one shy of the Chicago Bears’ 38. Cornerback Patrick Peterson has led the charge with 10, but 13 other players have intercepted passes.

The interceptions have led to a 37.8 opponent Total QBR in each of the last two seasons. Only the Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks have been better this season (Arizona also ranked fourth last season).

The stout secondary allows the Cardinals to bring heavy pass rushes. No team has sent five or more pass rushers more frequently than the Cardinals this season (48 percent). Arizona has put opposing quarterbacks under pressure (sack or duress) on 36 percent of dropbacks with such pressure (19 percent with four or fewer rushers).

In addition to a strong pass defense, the Cardinals have been one of the best run-stopping teams in the NFL this season. Only the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets have allowed fewer yards per rush than the Cardinals (3.5) this season.

The Cardinals and Baltimore Ravens are the only two teams in the top five of yards per rush allowed and Total QBR allowed this season.

Keys to victory: Seahawks 34, Cardinals 22

October, 18, 2013
10/18/13
1:31
AM ET
What were the biggest statistical keys for the Seattle Seahawks in their win over the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday night?

Russell Wilson was sharp
Russell Wilson threw for three touchdown passes, the most he has thrown in a road game in his two-year career.
Russell Wilson
Wilson

Wilson was able to connect with receivers along or near the sidelines. He was 13-for-20 for 181 yards and two touchdowns on throws that were to the outside of the painted numbers.

He was also 5-for-7 on throws at least 15 yards downfield, with a pair of touchdowns. In his previous three games, Wilson had completed 31 percent of such throws with a touchdown and interception.

Lynch a bulldozer runner
Marshawn Lynch rushed for 91 yards and a score. Of those 91 yards, 78 came after contact. That's the second-most rushing yards after contact in a game this season, trailing only Adrian Peterson's 93 yards in Week 4 against the Steelers.

Coming into the game, 38 percent of Lynch's rushing yards this season had come after contact.

Lynch has seven touchdowns this season, the most in the NFC. The other four players with at least that many touchdowns all play in the AFC West.

The Seahawks have six consecutive games with 125 or more yards rushing, the longest active streak in the NFL.

Key unit: Seahawks defensive line
The Seahawks recorded seven sacks, six of which were with four or fewer pass-rushers, their second most in a game in the past seven seasons.

Carson Palmer was put under duress or sacked in 27 of his 54 dropbacks.

Palmer had his fifth straight game with multiple interceptions, the first quarterback with such a streak since Vinny Testaverde for the 2000 Jets.

Top stats to know: Seahawks at Cardinals

October, 17, 2013
10/17/13
11:35
AM ET

Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY Sports Russell Wilson and the Seahawks will try to avenge last season's road loss to the Cardinals.
Week 7 of the NFL season kicks off tonight as the Arizona Cardinals play host to the Seattle Seahawks.

Last season, the Seahawks lost 20-16, in their Week 1 road game against the Cardinals, but avenged that loss at home in Week 14 with a 58-0 drubbing.

Here are some of the storylines for the game.

1. The Seahawks have won 11 straight home games, but the bad news for them is this game will be played in Arizona. The Seahawks are just 5-6 on the road over the last two regular seasons. In road games this season, the Seattle defense is allowing more than 20 points per game, while allowing opposing quarterbacks a 69 Total QBR. That means the average quarterback playing at home against Seattle is basically producing at a Pro Bowl level this year (Cam Newton, Matt Schaub and Andrew Luck).

To compare, in their three home games this season, the Seahawks have allowed just 11 points per game, and an NFL-best opponents’ Total QBR of 15.

2. Russell Wilson's key for success will be to use play action to set up his pocket passing.

Wilson has attempted 65 throws off play action this season, the second-highest total in the league, and his 93.5 Total QBR on such throws ranks behind only Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers.

But Wilson will have to avoid leaving the pocket. Over the last two seasons, no quarterback has thrown more from outside the pocket than Wilson. While he excelled on such throws last season (62% comp pct, 71 Total QBR), his numbers have dropped off this season (53% comp pct, 51 Total QBR).

3. The Seahawks defense will have their hands full with Larry Fitzgerald, who showed signs of his old form last week. He had a season-high 117 receiving yards last week, just the second time in his last 19 games that he’s gone over 100 yards.

Still, Carson Palmer has more interceptions (five) than touchdowns (four) when throwing to Fitzgerald this season. That continues a trend for Arizona that started when Kurt Warner retired following the 2009 season.

4. Over the last two seasons, the Cardinals are 1-7 against their fellow NFC West teams, the worst divisional record of any team in the NFL. However, the only win was the aforementioned win over the Seahawks in last season’s Week 1.

5. A matchup to watch is Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch against the Cardinals rush defense.

Lynch has 487 rushing yards this season, the third-most in the NFL. He’s done a large part of his work in the first quarter with 231 of those rushing yards (more than 47 percent) coming in the first quarter, 47 more than any other player.

But the Cardinals rush defense has been stout this season. They’re only allowing 3.5 yards per rush this season, the fourth-best mark in the league. Consider though that after allowing 79 rush yards per game over the first five weeks this season, the Cardinals were gashed for a season-high 149 yards in last week’s loss to San Francisco.

What challenges await new NFC coaches?

July, 25, 2013
7/25/13
1:13
PM ET
Eight NFL teams welcome new head coaches to the sideline this season. We take a closer look at some of the challenges those coaches will face. Here’s a look at the NFC (the AFC can be found here.

Arizona Cardinals: Bruce Arians
2012 record: 5-11


Big addition: Carson Palmer has to be an improvement on the 21.4 Total QBR posted by Cardinals quarterbacks last season, worst in the league.

One headache: Has the offensive line improved enough? Adding Jonathan Cooper and Earl Watford in the draft should help, but Arizona’s line allowed a sack every 11.7 dropbacks last season, worst in the NFL.

Key stat: The defense is ready to win now, finishing with the fourth-best Total QBR allowed last year (40.0). However, the offense cost the Cardinals 217.4 expected points last year, more than 100 points worse than the second-worst offense (Kansas City Chiefs, -107.94).

Chicago Bears: Marc Trestman
2012 record: 10-6


Big additions: Free-agent offensive linemen Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson, Eben Britton and first-round pick Kyle Long will help keep Jay Cutler upright. Cutler’s been sacked every 13.2 dropbacks in his Bears career (2009-12), most among 28 quarterbacks with 1,000 dropbacks in that span.

One headache: Can anyone take pressure off Brandon Marshall? There was a 140-target difference between Marshall (188 targets) and Earl Bennett and Alshon Jeffrey last season (48 each), the second-biggest margin between a first and second target in the league.

Key stat: In the last five seasons, the Bears’ defense allowed 16 more touchdowns than interceptions with Brian Urlacher off the field and had 12 more interceptions than touchdowns with him on the field.

Philadelphia Eagles: Chip Kelly
2012 record: 4-12


Big addition: Cary Williams is the biggest addition in the secondary, after disrupting 24 dropbacks last year (interception, pass defensed or sack). Only Richard Sherman (26) had more among defensive backs.

One headache: Lane Johnson may not be enough to upgrade an Eagles offensive line that ranked last in sacks or tackles for loss allowed.

Key stat: Chip Kelly’s Oregon offense averaged a play every 20.9 seconds, which would have been easily the NFL’s most up-tempo offense (New England Patriots, 24.9 seconds per play). Oregon averaged 82.8 plays per game, well beyond New England’s NFL-most 74.4 per game.

Rodgers ignores pressure, throws 6 TD

October, 15, 2012
10/15/12
2:10
AM ET
Aaron Rodgers
Rodgers
Entering Sunday, Aaron Rodgers had just 10 touchdown passes through five games this season. He had a coming out party against the Houston Texans, tossing six touchdowns on Sunday night alone.

That tied the Green Bay Packers franchise record for most in a single game -- set last season by Matt Flynn.

Five of Rodgers’ six touchdowns came against five or more pass rushers, marking the first time this season that a quarterback has thrown at least four touchdowns against extra pressure in a single game.

Rodgers is the only quarterback to throw five touchdown passes without an interception against five-or-more pass rushers since the start of the 2008 season.

Rodgers also racked up 338 yards as he recorded the fifth game in NFL history with 330 pass yards, six pass touchdowns and zero interceptions (Tom Brady twice, Mark Rypien and Y.A. Tittle).

Those eye popping numbers led him to a 95.8 Total QBR. That is Rodgers’ best in 2012 and 18th game with a Total QBR of 90 or more over the last five seasons (T-most in the NFL).

Rodgers completed half of his pass attempts and had four touchdowns on throws that traveled at least 15 yards downfield.

That was a huge improvement because entering Week 6, Rodgers had the third-lowest completion percentage on throws of that distance among qualified quarterbacks.

James Jones and Jordy Nelson were the two biggest recipients of Rodgers’ performance.

Jones notched his third straight game with multiple touchdown catches, tying Don Hutson's franchise record set in 1943.

Nelson caught three touchdowns for the second time in his career. He’s needs one more game with three receiving touchdowns to match Sterling Sharpe for the most in franchise history since 1960.

Next week the Packers play the 3-3 St. Louis Rams on the road. Meanwhile the Texans, who allowed six passing touchdowns for the first time in franchise history, will host the Baltimore Ravens.

Big plays, penalties keep Raiders out of mix

August, 13, 2012
8/13/12
5:42
PM ET

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesDarren McFadden and the Raiders hope to reach the postseason for the first time since 2002.
The Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders make their preseason debuts on Monday Night Football at 8 ET on ESPN. Below, we’ll take a look at the 2012 Raiders and what it will take for Oakland to be a contender for the first time in nearly a decade. For keys to the upcoming Cowboys season, click here.

The Oakland Raiders have failed to make the playoffs since representing the AFC in Super Bowl XXXVII. The nine-season playoff drought is the longest in franchise history and tied for the second-longest active streak in the NFL. Only the Bills have gone longer since last reaching the postseason (12 seasons).

Over that span, the Raiders have not finished above .500 and won an AFC-low 45 games. Only the Lions (44) have won fewer games since the start of the 2003 season. In order break their current stretch of futility, there are a few things that the Raiders will need to do:

IMPROVE THEIR PASSING GAME

The Raiders rank 27th in the NFL in net passing yards per game since 2003 (189.7) and have not ranked among the league’s Top 10 in a single season since 2005 (10th). Each of the last three Super Bowl champions have ranked among the league’s Top 5 in net passing yards per game that season. The Raiders haven’t ranked among the league’s Top 5 since Rich Gannon’s MVP season in 2002.
Carson Palmer
Palmer

In 2012, Carson Palmer should provide a nice boost to a position that has lacked stability in Oakland. He has thrown for at least 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns in each of his last five full seasons and fell just short in 2011 after joining the Raiders midseason (2,753 Pass yds, 13 TD).

COMMIT FEWER PENALTIES

Oakland set NFL single-season records for penalties (163) and total penalty yards (1,358) in 2011. It was the third-straight season in which the Raiders led the league in penalties and if they hope to contend, that can’t continue.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only the 1971 Cowboys and 1974 Steelers have ever led the league in penalties and gone on to win the Super Bowl that season and only the ’74 Steelers did so after leading the league in BOTH penalties and penalty yards.

LIMIT BIG PLAYS ON DEFENSE

Over the last four seasons, the Raiders have allowed 74 rushes of 20 yards or more (31st in NFL) and 83 passes of 30 yards or more (26th in NFL). The 157 combined “big plays” allowed by Oakland are the most in the AFC and the second-most league wide over that span (Lions, 158).

Teams to reach the Super Bowl since 2008 had an average rank of 10th in “big plays” allowed during their Super Bowl seasons and five of the eight ranked among the league’s Top 6. Only the 2011 Patriots reached the Super Bowl after ranking outside the Top 20 (21st).

Raiders draft picks yield early treasure

April, 21, 2012
4/21/12
2:31
PM ET
At first glance, the Oakland Raiders 2012 NFL Draft would make most people snicker as they have just five picks (three coming from awarded compensatory picks). They are tied with the Saints for the fewest picks in the draft.

However, one needs to look back and see what players they received for their traded draft picks before you can fully judge.

First Round
Traded to the Bengals, along with a 2013 conditional pick, for QB Carson Palmer


Last October, the Raiders were in trouble. They were 4-2 after six games but lost Jason Campbell to a broken collarbone in Week Six.

Following the trade, Palmer played in each of the Raiders last 10 games (starting nine), with the Raiders going 4-6 to finish 8-8. Despite no training camp and learning the offense on the job, Palmer finished with a 62.3 QBR, 11th among qualifying quarterbacks.

Second Round
Traded to the Patriots for two picks in the 2011 draft


Those picks turned into OL Joe Barksdale and RB Taiwan Jones. While neither is a starter, they are currently second at their positions on the Raiders depth chart and could eventually start for the team.

Third Round
Used in the 2011 Supplemental draft to take QB Terrelle Pryor


This was certainly a risky play, but Pryor may serve as their backup this season behind Palmer with the Raiders hoping that he can become a future starter.

In supplemental draft history, Only six quarterbacks have been drafted in supplemental draft history, not including the 1984 draft that included players from the CFL and USFL. Each of the previous five made at least 20 starts in the NFL, but only Steve Walsh had a winning record.

Fourth Round
Traded to the Redskins in April 2010 as part of a deal for Jason Campbell


This trade would have looked better if Campbell had stayed healthy last season and led the Raiders to the playoffs. Campbell won 11 of his 18 starts for the Raiders despite sporting a QBR of 43.8 in two seasons. Among qualifying quarterbacks in that time period, Campbell’s QBR ranked 28th.

Seventh Round
Traded to the Seahawks for Aaron Curry


Of all the picks on this list, this pick could have the most value. Curry was the fourth overall pick in 2009 but fell out of favor in Seattle. After the trade in early October, Curry started nine games and had 46 tackles, including five for a loss, and is slated to start for the Raiders this season.

Summary

The Raiders used three picks in the 2012 draft to acquire quarterbacks (Palmer, Pryor and Campbell). Since 1967, only once has a team drafted three quarterbacks in a single draft - the 1975 Raiders - who selected Dave Humm (5th round, 128th overall), Harry Knight (9th round, 232nd overall) and Tom Doyle (14th round, 362nd overall).

The Raiders used five picks in the 2012 draft in five different trades but they did pick up two starters, including a quarterback, and three backup players who could contribute to the Raiders in the future.
One subplot emerging from Week 15 is that each team in the AFC West remains in the hunt for the division title. So how will the west be won?

At 8-6, the Denver Broncos are the only team which controls its own destiny. Simply put, if Denver wins out, it makes the playoffs (although there are other scenarios in which it gets in).

The Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs each need to win out and get some help.

In addition to finishing 2-0:
• Oakland needs the Chiefs to beat the Broncos in Week 17.
• San Diego needs the Broncos to lose out
• Kansas City needs the Broncos to lose out and have the Chargers lose one of its last two games

With the scenarios in mind, here are a few things to watch for in Week 16:

BRONCOS (8-6) at BILLS (5-9), SATURDAY AT 1 ET
Despite its loss at home to the Patriots, Denver still has a five-game road win streak, which is its longest since a six-game road win streak in 1998.

Tim Tebow
Tebow
If the Broncos intend on keeping that streak alive, the offense needs to cut down on the sacks allowed. Tim Tebow has been sacked once every 10.3 dropbacks, which is the second-worst in the NFL behind only Kevin Kolb. When lining up under center, no quarterback has been sacked more than Tebow who has been sacked once every 9.0 dropbacks.

Luckily for Tebow, the Bills have just five sacks on 219 dropbacks from under center, easily the fewest in the NFL.

RAIDERS (7-7) at CHIEFS (6-8), SATURDAY AT 1 ET
The Raiders head to Arrowhead in what is essentially a playoff elimination game. The Chiefs won the first matchup this year 28-0 as they picked off six Raiders passes (three each by Kyle Boller and Carson Palmer).

Carson Palmer
Palmer
The Raiders are taking on water fast, having lost three straight. One of their issues of late has been finding any consistency with the vertical passing game. Over his last five starts, Carson Palmer is just three of 17 on throws traveling at least 21 yards downfield, failing to complete a pass in three of those five games.

The Chiefs will not be an easy team to buck that trend against. Since their Week 7 matchup in Oakland, Kansas City is allowing quarterbacks to complete just 22.2 pct of their passes traveling at least 21 yards downfield, which is the third-best mark in the NFL.

CHARGERS (7-7) at LIONS (9-5), SATURDAY AT 4:05 ET
The Chargers are once again on a roll in December, having won three straight following their six-game losing streak. Since Norv Turner took over in 2007, the Chargers are 20-2 in the regular season in the months of December and January, the best record in the NFL.

Philip Rivers
Rivers
After struggling for much of the season, Philip Rivers has picked his game up. He has four touchdowns and no interceptions in his last three games on throws at least 15 yards downfield, completing a league-best 69.2 percent of his throws. In his first 11 games, Rivers threw six touchdowns and seven interceptions while completing just 45.5 percent on those throws.
On Monday the five finalists invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony were revealed. This year has featured one of the most interesting races for the Heisman as no one player has stood from the rest.

Here's a look at what a Heisman Trophy win -- or loss -- would mean to these players and their respective schools.

Trent Richardson, Alabama
Two seasons ago Trent Richardson was a part of a National Championship team with a Heisman Trophy winner, when running back Mark Ingram became Alabama's first winner. Richardson has nearly identical numbers to Ingram this season, and has already totaled 23 touchdowns compared to Ingram's 20 TD's.

If Richardson were to win the award it would put him and Ingram in some rare company. In the history of the Heisman Trophy only three times have two different players playing the same position at the same school won the award in a span of three seasons. It last happened when USC QB Matt Leinart won it in 2004 after Carson Palmer had taken home the award in 2002.

Andrew Luck, Stanford
Luck is listed second here as he finished second for the Heisman last season and Stanford has actually had the Heisman runner-up in each of the past two seasons (Toby Gerhart, 2009).

If Luck wins he would be the second player in Stanford history to win the award (Jim Plunkett, 1970) and join 1981 Herschel Walker as the only Heisman runner-ups to win the award the next season.

If Luck finishes second, Stanford would set a record. No school has ever had a Heisman runner-up in three consecutive seasons.

Montee Ball, Wisconsin
Montee Ball earned his invite thanks to his impressive numbers. Ball needs one touchdown in the Rose Bowl to tie Barry Sanders' FBS record for touchdowns in a season (39). Sanders won the Heimsan trophy during that 1988 season.

The last time a Big Ten player had 25 touchdowns was Eddie George during the 1995 season. George went on to win the Heisman trophy that year.

Robert Griffin III, Baylor
RGIII finished off a great regular season in which he threw 36 touchdowns compared to only six interceptions, while also leading Baylor to nine wins, its most since the 1986 season.

Griffin's invite is an accomplishment in its own considering he plays for Baylor. The Bears have only had one player finish in the top five of the Heisman vote in school history. In 1963 Don Trull finished fourth.

If Baylor's Robert Griffin III wins the Heisman Trophy this year, he will be just the third player since the BCS was established in 1998 to win the Heisman without his team playing in a BCS bowl game.

Tyrann Mathieu, LSU
The Honey Badger will take the trip to New York looking to join Charles Woodson as the only defensive backs to win the Heisman trophy.

Despite being a defensive player, recent history is on Mathieu's side to take home the award. Since 2003, seven of the past eight Heisman Trophy winners have come from the team at number one in the BCS standings entering the National Championship Game.

Matthew Emmons/US PresswireTony Romo was dominant Sunday in the Cowboys thrashing of the Bills


Week 10 was a good one for quarterbacks as four topped 90 in Total QBR led by Tony Romo, who set an NFL-high for this season with a QBR of 99.3.

As in any game where a quarterback’s QBR is over 99, Romo did many things well. Among them was his ability to complete long passes down field. He was 6-6 on passes that traveled at least 11 yards down field, 4-4 on passes that traveled at least 21 yards and 2-2 on passes that traveled at least 31 yards (both for touchdowns). In the first half with the game still in question, Romo was 18-19 including a perfect 7-7 on third downs that all went for first downs. Romo did not fumble and was not sacked or intercepted.

This was only the third time since 2008 a QB has had a 99+ QBR in a game with at least 25 action plays.

Matt Schaub had the second highest QBR this week at 93.9. Like Romo, Schaub was dominant in almost every area. He was also great on deep balls, going 3-3 on passes that traveled at least 11 yards in the air. This includes the first play from scrimmage where Schaub completed an 80-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones -- 33 of which came in the air.

A week after posting a Total QBR of 47.4 in his first start for the Raiders, Carson Palmer was third among all quarterbacks this week with a QBR of 92.8. Palmer was perfect throwing the deep ball Thursday, going 4-4 on passes 21+ yards downfield for 146 yards, 134 of which came in the air, and two touchdowns.

One of the most interesting QBRs of the week goes to Tim Tebow. Despite completing just two of eight passes for 69 yards, Tebow finished with a 73.3 QBR on 19 action plays. Because Tebow had so few action plays, his QBR was heavily influenced by his one touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter with the game close. Entering the play Tebow’s QBR was 18.2, but due to the increased leverage of the play and the lack of involvement prior, Tebow increased his QBR to 75.9 with just one pass. QBR is a rate statistic, so the fewer the plays the more each play is weighted.

For more information about how Total QBR is calculated, go here.
In the first NFL game on Thursday since the first week of the season, the Oakland Raiders will visit the San Diego Chargers with the two tied atop the AFC West. Both enter the contest heading the wrong way, as the Raiders have lost two straight and the Chargers three straight games. While the issues of these teams are not limited to quarterback play, the struggles of the Chargers Philip Rivers and the Raiders Carson Palmer will undoubtedly be the focus when the two take the field.

Both quarterbacks have struggled this season, primarily with interceptions. Rivers is among the league leaders in many interception-related categories, a far cry from his career performance leading up to this season. Rivers threw a career-high three interceptions in week 9, snapping his streak of 87 consecutive starts without a three-interception game. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that was the longest streak in NFL history by any player at any point in his career – and in Rivers’ case, it coincided with the start of his career. Rivers leads the NFL in both interception (14) and multi-interception games (6), in stark contrast to his run from 2006-10, during which he recorded just 15 multi-interception games in 80 starts.

Going further, Rivers has a league-worst seven interceptions when facing at least five pass rushers after throwing three against the Green Bay Packers in Week 9. Rivers and John Beck of the Washington Redskins are the only qualified quarterbacks without a touchdown pass against five or more pass rushers. Once again in stark contrast to his previous work, Rivers had a +21 touchdown-to-interception differential against that same pressure from 2008-10.

The Raiders traded valuable draft picks to acquire Carson Palmer from the Cincinnati Bengals and while the sample size is small, it has not been a promising start. Palmer has thrown six interceptions in just 56 attempts this season. His rate would more than double the quarterback with the worst interception rate among those with at least 200 pass attempts this season – an honor led by the aforementioned Rivers.

While Palmer was brought in captain a more dynamic offense, the team has actually stumbled in games he’s played, though the first of which was started by Kyle Boller. A comparison between the team’s production with Jason Campbell under center compared to the Palmer/Boller duo is striking. The team's completion percentage is down (60.6 to 50.0), interceptions are up (4 to 9) and Campbell clearly outperformed Palmer/Boller in terms of Total QBR (58.1 to 19.8).

In addition, the Raiders, long known for their preference for the deep ball, have not been successful on deep passes this season. In fact, the team ranks among the worst in the NFL is several deep-passing related categories. And while the team has started to complete more deep passes with Palmer on board – 10 completions of 21+ yards in two games, 17 in six games prior – the impact of those is yet to manifest itself.

However, there are some positive trends at play here as well. For his career, Palmer has completed 71.8 percent of his passes, with nine touchdowns and just one interception in three starts against the Chargers. Likewise, Rivers is 8-2 for his career against the Raiders with 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Their respective teams will need their franchise quarterbacks to play like they have historically against their Thursday opponents, rather than how they have played lately in 2011. After all, there are historical trends in play - the Raiders have won two straight against the Chargers and have not won three in a row since 2000-01, while the Chargers have lost three straight overall and have not lost four straight since 2002-03. One of those will be extended Thursday and it will likely come down to the play of Rivers and Palmer.

The AFC West teams will play each other this weekend as one game separates the four teams in the standings. The Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs enter play tied atop the division, but all three teams are coming off of losses.

The Raiders will be in San Diego for the first Thursday game since the season opener between the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers.

Philip Rivers
Rivers
The game features two quarterbacks who have been turnover prone this season in Philip Rivers and Carson Palmer.

Rivers threw a career-high three interceptions – including two pick-sixes – in last week’s loss to the Packers. Last season Rivers threw just 13 interceptions; this season he leads the league with 14 and has six multi-interception games.

Extra pressure has bothered Rivers -- he leads the league with seven interceptions when facing five-or-more pass rushers.

Meanwhile, Carson Palmer has been getting picked off at an even higher rate. He’s thrown six interceptions on 56 attempts over the course of a game-and-a-half. For comparison’s sake, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers has half as many interceptions as Palmer on 265 attempts.

The Raiders have lost consecutive games, both to AFC West opponents, after going unbeaten in division play last year. The Chargers are looking to avoid losing four straight for the first time since 2002-03 when they lost nine straight.

The defending division champion Chiefs have had an enigmatic season, dropping their first three games before winning four straight, only to lose to the previously winless Miami Dolphins last week.

On Sunday they host the Denver Broncos, who are coming off a 38-24 win against the Raiders. Much of the Broncos’ success came via the run-game, with Tim Tebow and Willis McGahee each topping 100 yards on the ground.

Since Tebow became the starter in Denver, the Broncos have averaged a league-leading 223.7 rushing yards per game.

It should prove a tough matchup for a Chiefs defense that ranks 19th in the league against the run, giving up 120.3 yards per game.

Tebow near the bottom for Week 7 QBR

October, 24, 2011
10/24/11
4:37
AM ET
Week 7 saw six quarterbacks make their first start of the season and three of them including the Broncos' Tim Tebow were in the bottom four for Total QBR. Tebow's QBR was fourth-lowest among the 25 quarterbacks who had at least 15 action plays on Sunday. Only the Seahawks' Charlie Whitehurst, and the Raiders' Carson Palmer and Kyle Boller had a worse QBR.

Tim Tebow:

• Career-low 18.2 Total QBR

• Major cause: Through three quarters Tebow had a 7.8 QBR. After his sack with 6:48 left in the fourth quarter his QBR fell to a game-low 6.9. The Broncos also had a game-low 1.8% chance to win based on ESPN Stats & Information's win probability model.

From there Tebow was able to lead his team on two late scoring drives to tie the game at 15-15, bringing his QBR up to 25.5. However, keep in mind this only gave his team slightly less than a 50/50 chance to win being the road team entering overtime. With the game truly in the balance in overtime, Tebow's only action play was a sack on a third down from midfield which gave the ball back to the Dolphins. The other five offensive plays the Broncos ran in overtime were all non-Tebow running plays.

So Tebow did well to get his team close to winning - as seen by his nearly 20 point QBR increase in the fourth quarter - but he did almost nothing to get the Broncos from 50/50 to 100%.

• It might seem strange that Tebow had an 18.2 QBR this week while leading his team to a victory where last week he had an 83.3 QBR while leading his team to a similar (yet ultimately unsuccessful) comeback. The obvious reason for this is that Tebow had nothing to do with the 16-point deficit he nearly overcame against San Diego, but had a lot to do with the 15-point deficit he faced against the Dolphins. Through his first 27 action plays Tebow had a 6.9 QBR. On his next 16 action plays his QBR was 96.0.

Drew Brees:

• Season-high 97.2 Total QBR

• Major cause: Brees was dominant right from the beginning. From his third pass attempt onward, Brees’ QBR never fell below 97.0. He was 12-12 on throws longer than five yards, the first qualified QB to be perfect on throws of that length this season. He was also 3-3 on throws longer than 10 yards, only the third qualified QB to be perfect on passes of that length this season.

• Brees’ performance jumps him up to the #3 position in the season-long QBR leaderboard. Brees is the only qualified QB to have a 60+ QBR in every game he has played this season.

Cam Newton:

• 77.5 Total QBR

• Major cause: Second half. Up three entering the third quarter, Newton went 8-8 for 152 yards in the second half.


For more information about how Total QBR is calculated, go here.

SPONSORED HEADLINES