NFL Media researcher Brandon Mendoza identifies several of the biggest overreactions from each week’s set of games. The storylines below are bound to play out because, after all, numbers never lie. Right?
Murray and Hopkins = the NFL’s most exciting duo
In journalism school, they tell you to lead with the best stuff — so we’ll begin this file with the 43-yard game-winning Hail Murray to DeAndre Hopkins that put the Cardinals over the Bills on Sunday.
Per Next Gen Stats, Kyler Murray scrambled for 30.2 yards prior to the pass, then threw a ball that covered 51.7 yards of air distance to Hopkins, who was blanketed by three defenders. It was the third-most improbable completion of Murray’s career at 16.9 percent. Not surprisingly, No. 1 on that list is the 45-yard dime he connected with Hopkins on in Week 5 this season against the Jets, which had a completion probability of 10.6 percent.
Murray’s flare for the dramatic made him the first player in NFL history to collect at least two rushing TDs in a game in which he also threw the winning TD pass in the last five seconds of the fourth quarter. Murray earned his fifth career game-winning drive after marching the Cardinals 75 yards in an incredible 32 seconds.
And Hopkins has contributed far more than just one spectacular catch this season; his five games of 100 or more receiving yards are the most in the NFL.
The other Hopkins high to take note of is his 7.4 receptions per game, which would not only be a career mark but also set a Cardinals single-season record.
The Steelers can win without running AT ALL
The Steelers improved to 9-0 Sunday — and the interesting thing about their 26-point drubbing of the Bengals is that they also rushed for a mere 44 yards, which, though it was their season low, was not an outlier for them in 2020. Teams typically run the ball a lot in winning situations, leading to inflated rushing-yard totals in their victories. However, Pittsburgh has rushed for fewer than 50 yards in three straight games, all wins. Consider that other NFL teams are 3-14-1 this season when rushing for less than 50 yards in a game. The Steelers, meanwhile, are the only team since 1940 to win three games in a row while rushing for less than 50 yards in each game.
Despite undergoing offseason elbow surgery, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is slinging it, registering season highs in passing yards (333) and passing TDs (4) behind 46 pass attempts in Sunday’s win … which, I remind you again, was a blowout.
And here is the riddle that no Steelers opponent has been able to solve yet: Who do you cover? In Week 10, the team was led by different players in three key receiving categories: JuJu Smith-Schuster led in receptions with nine, Diontae Johnson led in receiving yards with 116 and Chase Claypool led in receiving TDs with two.
The scariest thought is that the best of the bunch might be the rookie Claypool, whose nine total TDs are already tied with Willie Asbury (1966) for the third-most by a Steelers rookie in a full season. With seven games to go, Claypool sits behind only Franco Harris (11, 1972) and Louis Lipps (11, 1984).
Nick Chubb is the most important Brown — period
Running back Nick Chubb returned to the Browns for the first time since suffering a knee injury in Week 4 and hung 126 rushing yards and a TD on the Texans in Sunday’s win. Sure, the Texans have the worst rushing defense in the NFL (167.4 yards allowed per game), but you cannot argue with these numbers:
- In four games without Chubb this season, the Browns did not score a single rushing TD and averaged 95.5 rushing yards per game.
- In five games with Chubb, the Browns have scored nine rushing TD and are averaging 209.8 rushing yards per game.
For those counting at home, Cleveland is rushing for 114.3 yards more per game with Chubb!
Now, pass rusher Myles Garrett might have something to say after reading this headline, since he is, after all, leading the NFL with 9.5 sacks through 10 weeks. However, Chubb’s presence has elevated not just the offense but the team as a whole.
Consider these figures with and without Chubb:
The 2020 rookie QB class is the best since 1983
The first round of the 1983 NFL Draft featured three QBs who went on to the Pro Football Hall of Fame: John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino. So they set the bar for QB classes incredibly high. Yet, the numbers show that the first-round QBs from the 2020 NFL Draft class stack up well against anyone — even the all-time greats.
This year’s group, led by the Bengals’ Joe Burrow, the Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa and the Chargers’ Justin Herbert, boasts a 65.8 percent completion rate, 266.9 passing yards per game, 36 TDs against 11 INTs and a 96.5 passer rating. Every single one of those metrics is the best among first-round rookie QB draft classes that also included a starter in the common-draft era (since 1967).
Burrow, who was drafted first overall, has the most 300-yard passing games (five) by a rookie QB in his first nine starts since 1950. Tagovailoa, the fifth overall pick, is undefeated at 3-0, with five TD passes and zero interceptions. He joins Carson Wentz as the only rookie QBs to win their first three starts and throw zero interceptions in the Super Bowl era. Meanwhile, Herbert, the sixth overall pick, is the first rookie QB in NFL history with at least two touchdown passes in six consecutive games.
I’d say the future is bright.
Jon Gruden is doing the best job of his career
Jon Gruden won Super Bowl XXXVII and made five playoff appearances in his 13 previous seasons as a head coach. The 2020 Raiders aren’t even leading the AFC West — so how can this be the best job of his career?
Let’s start with maximizing talent. This is the seventh season in which Gruden has at least six wins through nine games, but every team prior featured at least one first-team All Pro, one future Hall of Famer or multiple Pro Bowlers. Since Gruden took over the Raiders in 2018, just three of his charges have made a Pro Bowl: Trent Brown, Rodney Hudson and Jared Cook (who is now playing for the Saints).
This year, Gruden is coaxing quarterback Derek Carr into producing the most efficient season of his career, behind a personal best 107.4 passer rating and a 16:2 TD-to-INT ratio. Running back Josh Jacobs, meanwhile, notched his seventh career 100-yard rushing game on Sunday (he had 112 rushing yards and 2 TDs against the Broncos), the most by any Raiders player in his first two seasons. Keep in mind this is a franchise that has also featured Hall of Famer Marcus Allen and a young Bo Jackson.
The defense is starting to figure things out; Las Vegas has allowed just 14.7 points per game since Week 8, third-fewest in the NFL. Combine that with five takeaways in the victory over Denver, and you end up with just the second three-game winning streak of Gruden’s current tenure with the Raiders.
Ultimately, it all comes down to wins and losses. And at 6-3, the Raiders are one win shy of tying their entire total from the 2019 season (7-9). More importantly, the Silver and Black is undefeated against their division (3-0) and the only team in the NFL to defeat the reigning Super Bowl-champion Chiefs this season.
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