Which Quarterbacks Have Faced the Toughest Defenses This Year?

As I’ve said before, I’m a big believer that for the most accurate possible analysis of a quarterback, his statistics need to be placed in context. His teammates need to be accounted for, and his opponents need to be accounted for.

This post will address the opponents. Which quarterbacks have faced the toughest opposing defenses this year? To answer this question, I simply went to Football Outsiders and took the average DVOA of the opposing defenses of each quarterback. Here are the results:

Rank QB Average Opponent DVOA
1 Sam Bradford -8.7%
2 John Skelton -7.0%
3 Russell Wilson -5.8%
4 Christian Ponder -4.0%
5 Alex Smith -3.4%
6 Matt Hasselbeck -3.3%
7 Tom Brady -3.2%
8 Mark Sanchez -3.2%
9 Aaron Rodgers -3.0%
10 Matthew Stafford -3.0%
11 Ryan Tannehill -2.2%
12 Tony Romo -2.0%
13 Cam Newton -1.3%
14 Ryan Fitzpatrick -0.6%
15 Drew Brees +0.3%
16 Matt Schaub +0.3%
17 Michael Vick +0.5%
18 Kevin Kolb +1.1%
19 Carson Palmer +1.1%
20 Jay Cutler +1.2%
21 Blaine Gabbert +1.4%
22 Eli Manning +1.5%
23 Robert Griffin +1.7%
24 Andrew Luck +1.8%
25 Jake Locker +2.3%
26 Joe Flacco +2.3%
27 Andy Dalton +2.6%
28 Nick Foles +2.7%
29 Ben Roethlisberger +3.1%
30 Philip Rivers +3.5%
31 Josh Freeman +3.9%
32 Peyton Manning +3.9%
33 Matt Ryan +4.1%
34 Chad Henne +4.6%
35 Matt Cassel +4.8%
36 Brandon Weeden +5.3%

It’s not shocking to see NFL West quarterbacks occupy four of the top five spots on this list. Sam Bradford has faced the toughest schedule overall – he’s had to play San Francisco twice, Arizona twice, Seattle, Chicago, Green Bay, and the Jets. Bradford’s resulting mediocre numbers shouldn’t be taken as a negative sign as far as his development is concerned.

John Skelton’s numbers, on the other hand, are so bad that it’s hard to excuse him, despite the schedule.

Russell Wilson’s fantastic rookie season looks even better with the knowledge that he’s had to face an extremely tough slate of defenses.

Christian Ponder’s high ranking on this list is more evidence that he’s not as bad as you think. This is a second-year quarterback facing Chicago twice, Green Bay, San Francisco, Seattle, and Arizona, and he’s doing it while trying to complete passes to Kyle Rudolph, Jerome Simpson, Michael Jenkins, and Devin Aromashodu.

As long as Colin Kaepernick is playing well, I can’t fault Jim Harbaugh for making a quarterback change, but there was nothing wrong with Alex Smith. In fact, when Smith played Arizona, he produced a passing line of 18/19 for 230 yards. That went largely ignored, but if Kaepernick did that, all hell would break loose in the media.

On the flip side, these numbers aren’t encouraging to supporters of Brandon Weeden, and are indicative that while Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan, and Josh Freeman are having good years, they may not be as good as you think. And Matt Cassel’s year was miserable enough before saying he’s had a soft schedule.

This is only one bit of information, but it’s needed information if the goal is to have a good grasp of just how well each quarterback is performing this year.

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