C.J. Stroud had, in terms of turnovers, by far his worst game as a pro. He also had, in terms of expected points added and total yardage, a decent day.
Stroud threw for 336 yards, a pair of touchdowns and earned a 21-16 win. He also threw three interceptions, all of which came inside the Arizona Cardinals’ 20-yard line or deeper. Each cost him a chance to shut the door on a frisky Cardinals team with an upset on its mind.
All things considered, Houston Texans fans are probably happy to trade off a few uncharacteristic interceptions for another big winning performance from their new franchise cornerstone. For now, and for the first time this season, he lands on the gross quarterbacks list. Was he the worst signal caller of Week 11?
Fortunately, we’ve got tools to better understand just how damaging these underwhelming performances were. Using the advanced stat expected points added (EPA) can gauge how much a quarterback brings to the table compared to a typical player.
By comparing each passer’s Week 11 EPA against their 2023 adjusted average, we get a better picture of just how frustrating their days were. And we can find both of those thanks to The Athletic’s Ben Baldwin and his incredibly useful stats sites RBSDM.com and HabitatRing.com. So let’s take a look at who disappointed the most in the 11th Sunday of the 2023 season — and since we don’t have enough data on him, we’ll leave Dorian Thompson-Robinson off the list … for now.
2023 expected points added (EPA) per game: -1.4
Week 11 EPA: -0.1
Difference: 1.3 points better
Levis made his mark with four touchdown passes in his NFL debut back in Week 8. He went nearly 11 full quarters before throwing his fifth. By the time he hit DeAndre Hopkins for a 43-yard score in the final minute of the third quarter Sunday, he’d chalked up -10.5 points of expected value in a game the Jacksonville Jaguars led 27-0.
The rookie took advantage of an only moderately interested Jaguars defense in garbage time to build some empty hype. He finished his day with 158 passing yards and two touchdowns; 107 of those yards and both trips to the end zone came in the final 20 minutes of the game after falling behind by four possessions.
He completed both his deep balls, but only attempted each well after this game was locked up. He didn’t complete a single pass in the intermediate range against a vulnerable Jacksonville defense.
Opposing defenses are building a tape library on Levis and learning how to stop him. Without a reliable rush offense — Derrick Henry gained only 38 yards on 10 carries — it’s simple enough to slow the rookie quarterback and cruise to a win. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers did it last week; now it was the Jaguars’ turn.
2023 expected points added (EPA) per game: -8.3
Week 11 EPA: -8.8
Difference: 0.5 points worse
Wilson is so, so bad it takes a Herculean effort to drill past the bedrock of our expectations for him. In terms of digging, Week 11 was Bruce Willis, leading a team through space dementia and into the bowels of an asteroid. Consider, all these things actually happened:
- Wilson didn’t complete a single pass that counted to his wide receivers
- Wilson had a worse passer rating than his punter (and only 33 more net passing yards)
- Wilson was replaced by a backup quarterback who had a 12:26 touchdown:interception ratio in college … at Connecticut and Eastern Kentucky
- Wilson was dropped to the turf by the simple task of walking backwards
- Wilson was dropped to the turf by his own dang head coach.
things to have taken down Zach Wilson today:
the Bills defense (often)
a rough patch of turf
his own head coach pic.twitter.com/1JqyACk6aA
— Christian D’Andrea (@TrainIsland) November 19, 2023
The only way this could have been worse is if he ran into his own lineman’s butt and fumbled.
2023 expected points added (EPA) per game: 7.5
Week 11 EPA: 3.8
Difference: 3.7 points worse
Stroud threw three interceptions that actively took points off the board for Houston and still finished with a positive EPA. That’s a testament to how good he was elsewhere.
WHAT A THROW WHAT A CATCH!!!! pic.twitter.com/kypBLtytSx
— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) November 19, 2023
Even so, it’s alarming how a player who’d been consistent and risk averse beyond his years as a rookie suddenly began making bad reads and throwing back foot lobs into coverage. Stroud threw two interceptions his first nine games in the NFL. He had three Sunday.
Ham getting us the ball back! pic.twitter.com/DRdZU5REW6
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) November 19, 2023
It’s easy to chalk this up to growing pains. Stroud wasn’t great against a bad opponent but still won, leaving the biggest complaint on the table. Still, that’s five interceptions in his last five games. He’ll have plenty of game tape to study this week.
2023 expected points added (EPA) per game: 7.1
Week 11 EPA: 0.6
Difference: 6.5 points worse
Here’s how the Lions started their day:
Woof. Fortunately for Goff, his two interceptions were balanced off by a punt and fumble, leading to zero points off turnovers from a Chicago Bears team that plays each game with the foresight and care of a teenager buying Craigslist subwoofers for his used Honda. That wasn’t the case with his third; a tipped-pick that set the Bears up for a 20-yard drive into field goal range that gave Chicago a two-possession lead in the fourth quarter.
.@maine_savage23 gets in on the fun 😈
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) November 19, 2023
The Lions overcame that deficit, in part because of a solid defensive effort and in part because it behooves a hopeless Chicago team to lose games. Goff, to his credit, completed 10 of 12 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown to turn a 26-14 deficit into a 31-26 win.
Even so, it was a frustrating turn for a quarterback who’d spent the first half of 2023 building the case he could lead the Lions to a Super Bowl. Beating the Bears and beating the San Francisco 49ers or Philadelphia Eagles are very different asks. Goff course corrected in time to avoid disaster in Week 11, but also had the perfect opponent to enable him. That won’t be the case in the postseason.
2023 expected points added (EPA) per game: -2.2
Week 11 EPA: -10.3
Difference: 8.1 points worse
Kardiac Kenny had a specific routine for the Steelers this year. His EPA/play in quarters one through three this season? Minus-0.065, second-worst in the NFL. That number in the fourth quarter jumps to 0.208, 10th-best among starters.
So when the Steelers and Cleveland Browns hit the halfway mark of the final frame tied at 10-all, it seemed like Pickett had Cleveland right where he wanted. Instead, he completed two of six passes for 14 total yards, two punts and generally baffling placement and communication with his wideouts.
Steelers-Browns is a game between two 6-3 teams pic.twitter.com/t4kS6XzbfM
— Christian D’Andrea (@TrainIsland) November 19, 2023
The reason Pickett couldn’t level up? Uh, would you believe it’s because he had no idea the Browns would defer to zone coverage and was completely unable to adjust once Cleveland got his goat?
Kenny Pickett admits the Browns gameplan fooled the Steelers. #Steelers
“We were expecting them to come in and play man. We gotta adjust better.”https://t.co/BvQ2pV6svZ
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) November 19, 2023
Yeesh. Pickett needed 28 passes to throw for 106 yards. The fact the Steelers are still 6-4 is a testament to Mike Tomlin’s brilliance.
2023 expected points added (EPA) per game: 6.3
Week 11 EPA: -5.3
Difference: 11.6 points worse
Mayfield has outplayed expectations this season, even as the Buccaneers have been forgettably mediocre. That’s an upgrade from their preseason prognosis of “unwatchably terrible,” which is nice.
But Week 11 certainly leaned toward the latter. The San Francisco 49ers led this one by double digits for the bulk of the game. Mayfield had an opportunity to pull close late in this one, but wasted prime territory with a turnover on downs and an interception that handed the ball back to the Niners twice in their own red zone.
While the veteran threw for 246 yards, he needed 45 attempts to get there.
2023 expected points added (EPA) per game: -5.0
Week 11 EPA: -18.8
Difference: 13.3 points worse
Well, this is all very embarrassing for the Panthers. Carolina traded away D.J. Moore AND a haul of draft picks for the opportunity to draft Young first overall. But taking away the team’s best wideout and replacing him with an aging core of complementary receivers was a mistake. And without upper echelon draft considerations to beef up the offensive line, anyone taking snaps this season was going to be in real trouble in Charlotte.
Young, however, looks significantly worse considering both the investment he required and how bad he’s been. In Week 11 he needed 36 dropbacks for 77 net passing yards. He was sacked seven times. His lone touchdown was on a screen pass; he threw just as many TDs to the Cowboys on Sunday.
— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) November 19, 2023
There’s plenty of time to turn this around. The only thing left to do in 2023 is create some silver linings that can give fans something to cheer for — and a little cold comfort when what promises to be a top three draft pick (currently first overall) slides to the Chicago Bears as the next payment for Young comes due.