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2016 Playoff Passing Numbers

These two were the top passers of the 2016 postseason

With the 2016 postseason in the books, who were the best and worst passers? There are 11 playoff games every year, and since there were no games where a starting quarterback was injured or benched during the game, that gives us 22 quarterback performances to evaluate.

The best performance belongs to Matt Ryan against the Packers in the NFC Championship Game. Ryan threw for 392 yards with 4 TDs and 0 interceptions or sacks. That’s 472 Adjusted Net Yards and it came on 38 dropbacks, which translates to a 12.42 ANY/A average. His opponent, Green Bay, allowed 6.85 ANY/A to passers this year; that means over the course of 38 dropbacks, Ryan produced 212 Adjusted Net Yards of Value above average.

Using that methodology, here are the single game playoff passing numbers from the 2016 postseason:

1Matt RyanATLGNBW 44-21C38392400012.426.85212
2Tom BradyNWEPITW 36-17C42384302109.865.89175
3Aaron RodgersGNBNYGW 38-13W40362405319.135.34171
4Matt RyanATLSEAW 36-20D37338303159.585.94146
5Matt RyanATLNNWEL 28-34S232842054410.005.78118
6Dak PrescottDALGNBL 31-34D38302312117.656.8532
7Aaron RodgersGNB@DALW 34-31D43355213296.986.3728
8Ben RoethlisbergerPITMIAW 30-12W1819722197.266.0224
9Ben RoethlisbergerPIT@NWEL 17-36C4731411006.155.7817
10Tom BradyNWENATLW 34-28S62466215246.526.3114
11Brock OsweilerHOUOAKW 27-14W2516810007.526.9614
12Russell WilsonSEADETW 26-6W30224203147.587.2810
13Tom BradyNWEHOUW 34-16D3828722285.735.663
14Ben RoethlisbergerPIT@KANW 18-16D3122401165.415.76-11
15Matt MooreMIA@PITL 12-30W36289115365.565.89-13
16Aaron RodgersGNB@ATLL 21-44C45287312196.026.31-14
17Matthew StaffordDET@SEAL 6-26W32205003235.205.94-26
18Eli ManningNYG@GNBL 13-38W4429911245.876.85-45
19Russell WilsonSEA@ATLL 20-36D30225223174.796.31-50
20Alex SmithKANPITL 16-18D3417211164.035.89-65
21Brock OsweilerHOU@NWEL 16-34D40197133171.515.78-184
22Connor CookOAK@HOUL 14-27W45161133220.505.66-248

And here were the cumulative results:

  • I may be reading this wrong, but according to this table (http://www.footballperspective.com/ryan-lindley-had-the-9th-worst-passing-performance-in-playoff-history/, did Connor Cook turn in the fourth-worst playoff game in quarterbacking history?

  • sacramento gold miners

    Will always believe there is a premium in making those timely plays in the postseason at the QB position. Bigger stage, tougher competition, etc. Perhaps something like a third and fourth down conversion rate would be helpful in these tables. In the last SB, the Patriots were 8-15, the Falcons 1-8 in this important statistic.

    • WR

      You’re right, Sacramento. The Falcons faced 9 third downs in the game, including a play that resulted in a pass interference penalty and gave Atlanta a 1st down. One was a td pass for the Falcons. Of the other seven, 3 were incomplete passes that led to punts, and 4 were sacks. The last of the 4 sacks was also the fumble that gave NE the ball 25 yards from the end zone.

      Combine that terrible performance on 3rd down with New England’s strong play in the fourth quarter and OT, as well as the fact that Ryan had just 28 dropbacks to Brady’s 67, and it explains how the Patriots were able to win, despite Ryan outperforming Brady by a wide margin in adjusted net yards per attempt.

      • Tom

        Yeah…converting a single third down out of 9 in the Super Bowl is not good…

    • Tom

      I’m in full agreement that much could be added to this if we’re trying to find out who “the best” passer was in the playoffs. We could look at 3rd downs, the score, drops by receivers, WPA, EPA, etc. But I’m not sure that’s what this table is for.

      In any event, I like this the way it is, mostly because it’s simple and gives us a pretty good sense of how guys played against the oppositions they faced…it’s at least a good starting point.

      All that being said, I think what would be more to your liking is a table based on Expected Points. It has bonuses for those 3rd down conversions built in, I’m certain Brady would rank higher (although he would take a hefty hit for the pick-six).

      Sorry for the long comment, but lastly , I think Bryan Frye keeps EPA stats (I do as well for the playoffs), and he might have them posted somewhere?

      • I don’t have them posted, but maybe Chase will let me do something with SRS-adjusted EPA/P.

    • Tom

      For anyone interested, here’s what I have for Expected Points (EP states directly from Brian Burke’s calculator from a few years back):

      Tom Brady: +12.1, +0.18 per drop back (this includes -9.6 for the pick-six and, of course,does not include Edelmann’s pass)
      Matt Ryan: +5.9, +0.23 per drop back (this includes -4.5 for the strip sack fumble)

      Using EP for players I’ve always found a little funky…should Brady really be dinged for the pick-six or just the pick (I call this the Kurt Warner-James Harrison issue)? Should Matt Ryan be dinged for the strip sack fumble? Your decide…once we go down the road of counting and not counting plays, things get silly because you start not doing what the stat is all about: measuring the net point change of a play.

      How big were Ryan’s third down’s? Huge. His total EPA for those 8 plays is -7.5 (-0.94/play). Wow…that’s bad, but that does include the fumble; without it, he’s at -3.0…not good, but not horrific.

      Brady’s total EPA for third downs is -2.5 (-0.16/play), but of course, that includes the pick-six. Leaving that out, he’s at a very healthy +7.1.

      All in all, we can see from an expected points stand point – which has a bit of “clutch”, or timing if you want to call it that, built in to it – Brady fares better than Ryan in total contribution. On a per play basis, Ryan edges Brady out overall, but is far below Brady on 3rd downs per play.

      • Renan

        Is Brian Burke’s EP calculator available? Where can I find it?

        • Tom

          Unfortunately, it’s not available any more…once he went to ESPN, that stuff got taken down. PFR has their calculator which is pretty good: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/win_prob.cgi

          • Renan

            How did you calculate the EPA for a player?
            Did you go play by play and calculate the EP for that play and the play after and calculate the difference between them?

            • Tom

              Yes, that’s exactly how it’s done. You just look at the state before the play and after and take the difference. For QB’s, I’m only counting the plays where he passes, takes a sack or runs, I’m not counting plays where he hands the ball off, of course. Also, plays termed “no play” are not counted. Things can get funky if a receiver catches a pass and then gets an additional 15 yards on a face mask penalty, so there’s a lot of stuff to be wary of, which is why I’m not a big fan of using EP for players (not against it though).

              Also, forgot to mention that as part of his Markov Drive Calculator, Keith Goldner has a spreadsheet with EP states that is really good: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1aWwUTp8FlXBFHgEdwHtvx2n7Uws_mRdBDSND9yF0nwo/edit?authkey=CNWl2cUF&hl=en&authkey=CNWl2cUF#gid=0

              • Renan

                The difference between PFR and Brian Burke is the the probability model? They should be very similar, right?

                • Tom

                  I can’t say for certain what the difference is between the models, but they are different. PFR’s is based on a formula introduced by Wayne Winston in his book Mathletics, and PFR does a good job of explaining exactly how it works (although for the life of me, using their formula, I can’t replicate the numbers they show on their play-by-play so there might be some other secret sauce in there). I’m not sure how Brian’s works, but of course it’s based on actual past results, and from what I’ve gathered, some kind of algorithm.

                  PFR’s model seems to work, but I think it breaks down a bit in the 4th quarter – as is to be expected since it’s a formula and can’t take into consideration timeouts, a team’s intentions, etc. Brian’s model (from recollection since it’s not available for use any more) is more robust in the 4th quarter.

                  So, they should be somewhat similar, but in my mind, not enough to where they are interchangeable at all.

                  • Renan

                    I was looking at PFR box score. For example SB LI.

                    DO you know how the Expected Points Summary table works?

                    How do I compute the Total value? If I add the Tot for Offense, Defense and Special teams, I don’t get the same value as Total. What am I missing?

                    What about TOvr (turnovers) for both offense and defense? Is the offense Tot affected by offense TOvr?

                    I appreciate your help, Tom.

                    • Tom

                      The PFR expected points box score is a mystery to me…the numbers often don’t add up and I really don’t get how they did it. This was one of the reasons that I finally just created my own table of EP states and whenever I want to do an EP analysis, I do it myself with the play-by-play. It takes some time to set up a template and all that, but that’s part of the “fun” I guess.

                      PFR’s table is definitely frustrating because you *can* get the expected points to “zero out”. You’ll have some funkiness with the endings of the half and the game, so you can either include those plays or adjust them to make them fit, or whatever.

                      Here’s my Super Bowl 51 breakdown:
                      NWE ATL
                      OFFENSE TOTAL +12.7 +7.6
                      DEFENSE TOTAL -7.6 -12.7
                      SPECIAL TEAMS 0.0 0.0
                      EOH/EOG +0.9 -0.9
                      TOTAL EPA +6.0 -6.0

                      The “EOH/EOG” is the “left over” EP for the end of half/end of game stuff…in this case it’s the Patriots meaningless (unless something substantial happened of course) kick off that ended the first half. So the “real” EP difference is 5.1 (depending on the numbers you use).

                      Breaking down the offense we get:
                      NWE ATL
                      OFFENSE TOTAL +12.7 +7.6
                      PASSING +10.6 +5.9
                      RUSHING -3.2 +2.6
                      PENALTIES +5.3 -0.9

                      Yep, New England won the “penalty battle”, but really only one of those penalties – THE holding call on Jake Matthews in the 4th quarter – made a difference as far as the story of the game goes. New England gained about 4 points on penalties on their penultimate 2nd quarter drive; all defensive holding calls on Atlanta for 5 yards each, but each one was on third down…but that drive ended in the pick-six, so ultimately didn’t really do much.

                      Hope this stuff helps.

                    • Tom
                    • Renan

                      Thanks ,Tom!
                      I sent an email to PFR. I’ll let you know if they answer me. This should not be a mystery. 🙂

      • Four Touchdowns

        I think a QB can be dinged for an interception if it’s his fault (not deflected by one of his own WRs, the WR ran the correct route, etc.), but whether it’s returned for a TD is usually out of his hands.

        • Tom

          Exactly, which is why I usually just like to use good old ANY/A as a basis for evaluating a QB’s past performance. The INT penalty of 45 yards is “fair” and a good balance between picks that maybe don’t mean anything and picks that are disastrous, and picks that are the QB’s fault and those that aren’t. As sacramento suggested, it (ANY/A) could probably be improved by including first downs (Bryan Frye does this with some version of TAY/P) and failed third downs, but then you’re getting into game-time, clutch-type stuff, in which I think Win Probability might be more suited.

          I asked the question rhetorically – as in, if we’re going to use EP, do we ding Brady the full -9.6 for the pick-six? – demonstrating some of the pitfalls in using EP. I’m in agreement that for probably 99% cases a pick-six isn’t the QB’s “fault”.

    • Four Touchdowns

      For me, it’s tough to know how much those “timely” plays are really dependent on the QB — if they run a play on fourth down and everyone’s covered and the pass rush gets there in 2 seconds… well, is that on the QB?

      Conversely, if the QB’s first read is open immediately and it’s a relatively easy throw, how much credit can we give the QB?

      This is why I like PFF’s grading system, as subjective as it can be, since they are actually looking at the plays. An incompletion on third down should be graded much worse if the QB had several open receivers and plenty of time in the pocket versus a play that had no chance before he gets crushed…. and anywhere in between.

      • sacramento gold miners

        Couldn’t agree more, there will be timely plays in which a block is missed, someone runs the wrong route, etc. But I expand timely plays to include those not only on fourth down(which often happens in the fourth quarter), to plays involving the QB from the very beginning of the game. For example, the QB not checking down, but hitting the better receiver for the first down. Even if the first read is open right away, and it’s a relatively easy throw, the QB deserves credit. And sometimes taking the sack is smarter if the QB is unable to release the ball cleanly. I do believe the postseason magnifies everything, details seem to matter more.

        I have issues with the accuracy of the PFF grading system, from the level of expertise of the people doing the evaluating to something Bill Belichick pointed out. He said there are times when line calls, or other on-field adjustments are made which can’t be caught or understood from the wide camera angle. So if a player was compensating on a play because of where he was told to be, it’s not on the player.