Amon-Ra St. Brown has earned a first down on 17 percent of his third-down routes. To put some context behind the number: That ranks first among all wide receivers with 10-plus third-down targets. St. Brown was one of the best bets you could make in fantasy football and a huge factor in why the once-lowly Lions are a playoff contender heading into the final week of the season.
You can argue the second-year receiver has been one of the most important pass-catchers in all of football this year. When Amon-Ra St. Brown dealt with injuries earlier in the year, not only was the Lions' offense not the same, the entire team appeared different.
Being a consistent chain-mover as a big slot receiver is such a crucial ability. St. Brown has shown to be incredibly adept at playing that role. I am sure everyone is sick of my “Cooper Kupp-lite” comparison by now but he really is so similar to the Rams’ star.
Detroit will know its playoff fate by the time kickoff comes around Sunday night. If Seattle wins earlier in the day, they’re out of it. If not, they have a chance to beat out the Packers for the final NFC seed. St. Brown will need to be a big part of the game if that upset occurs.
Green Bay just put the clamps on Justin Jefferson last week. However, the routes St. Brown runs and where he lines up pre-snap — 55% of snaps in the slot, vs. 23% for Jefferson — will make that a difficult plan to replicate. It also helps that Detroit has a variety of secondary and tertiary threats defenses need to worry about, which, strange as it is to say, Minnesota can’t really claim.
Chris Olave ranks ninth among WRs in yards per route run (2.41)
The Saints rookie is also the No. 2 ranked player in first downs per route run behind St. Brown. Chris Olave has simply been fantastic this year. There’s no reason to parse his numbers or make excuses. He’s been a high-end No. 1 wideout essentially since he hit the NFL field.
Unfortunately, Olave’s odds to be the Offensive Rookie of the Year have greatly fallen:
— NBC Sports EDGE Betting (@NBCSportsBet) January 5, 2023
He hasn’t had any big island-game performances. And he’s been banged up to end the year.
Going forward, there should be nothing but sky-high optimism around Olave. There are few wideouts I desperately want to see paired with a quality passer more than this guy. I’m just not totally sure how the Saints acquire that passer this offseason.
Kenny Pickett has the second-longest time to throw (2.66 seconds) when kept clean
It’s wild that Mike Tomlin has this Steelers team in a position to potentially make a playoff push and avoid a losing season yet again. A good bit of credit must be assigned to his rookie quarterback, especially in light of his late-game heroics over the last two games.
Pickett’s time to throw when kept clean is second among quarterbacks to play 10-plus games. Only Justin Fields holds it longer.
I find Pickett to be a bit of a misunderstood player. He was billed as a high-end processor on the Jimmy Garoppolo-axis of quarterbacks during the draft process. Yet, his best moments as a rookie have come off-script.
As his career progresses, I’d like Pickett to get better at running the offense in rhythm so that his team isn’t in a position where it needs him to play hero in the final two minutes. He just needs to get better on-script. On the other hand, as I’ve said throughout the year, Matt Canada’s offense is the worst-designed attack unit in the NFL. So, I can’t blame Pickett too much for not playing well on-script when the script stinks.
Tyler Allgeier ranks 4th among RBs in EPA per rush the last four weeks
I’ll continue to note how well Allgeier is playing despite the Falcons being far from relevant. He’s going to be one of the most interesting offseason debates.
The history of non-star, Day 3 and undrafted running backs being tossed to the side for higher-pedigree players is long. There’s a chance that Allgeier just gets usurped over the spring or summer. However, given how many needs the Falcons have all across their roster, they could end up bypassing spending big resources at running back and give the surging Allgeier a longer look in 2023.
The Falcons draw the Bucs in Week 18, a team without much to play for in terms of improving their playoff seeding. This gives Allgeier one last big chance to show himself off for the staff and try to earn a big role next year.
Daniel Jones ranks fifth in EPA per dropback since Week 13
With the Giants locked into their playoff seed, it’s unlikely we see Daniel Jones or many other key starters in Week 18. It’s still worth discussing how awesome Jones has played to end the season.
Took my L on Daniel Jones on the recap podcast this morning. Incredible coaching job in New York but still a season by Jones that I never saw coming. pic.twitter.com/gQTfJRSt12
— Matt Harmon (@MattHarmon_BYB) January 3, 2023
Obviously, some of these EPA numbers include scrambling, not just passing. That is … the point. Jones’ ability to play as a battering ram in the run game has been a true weapon, not just a nice little fallback for the Giants offense.
It’s even more impressive that he’s performed this well as the quarterback late in the season when the receiving options have become guys who were never supposed to be part of the rotation.
As I said in the video above, I was so wrong about what Jones would become in the offense. We’re at a point now where the Giants should be hell-bent on finding some kind of mutual solution to bring him back into the fold.
Jarrett Stidham went 5/7 for 120 yards and two touchdowns outside the pocket
Jarrett Stidham’s ability to improvise and play off-script were perhaps the most impressive and unexpected attributes he showed in Week 17. Those out-of-pocket stats do not perfectly encapsulate that point but they help illustrate it.
I doubt Stidham is the solution to the Raiders quarterback position next year. His start did help remind us, however, that whoever takes over as the signal caller in Vegas is getting dropped into a good ecosystem.
For the immediate future, if Stidham plays anything like he did in Week 17, the Raiders can hang with the Chiefs. It would be so “perfectly football” if he threw all over the excellent 49ers defense but then can’t mount a drive against the Chiefs stop-unit. However, if all units perform as expected, the Raiders could at least keep it close with the Chiefs, as the latter battles for the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.
Aaron Rodgers has been hit just 11 times since Week 13
That is good for lowest among full-time starters in that span. We credit the Packers' defensive turnaround for their late-season surge. The emergence of Christian Watson gets brought up often. We need to assign a ton of praise to the offensive line too.
The pass protection was a problem for Rodgers to start the season. Now, it might be the sneakiest factor in why they’re looking at a “win and in” scenario in Week 18.
Justin Herbert has the most dropbacks under pressure this year (PFF)
With the way the betting line moved toward Denver as a 2.5-point favorite on Thursday, it appears that Vegas thinks the Chargers will mostly rest starters in the final week of the season, not work out the kinks. Few teams have dealt with injuries at the very top of their roster quite like the Chargers, so I get it.
One of their biggest issues heading into the playoffs is their pass protection. Left tackle Rashawn Slater apparently has a non-zero percent chance to get back for the postseason. That would be a relief.
If Slater isn’t a part of the picture, the Chargers will have to continue to find other solutions, especially if they run into good pass rushes in the postseason. We need to see Herbert ripping plays downfield if they’re going to make a run.