Elite QBs/Bad Teams (11/04/14)

By John Ewing Director of Research and Analytics @johnewing
How would bad teams fare with elite quarterbacks under center?

Note: We were asked by CBS and That Other Pregame Show to run these simulations. CBS then used these projections during their NFL boardcast and on social media.

All teams in the NFL are technically still alive for a playoff spot. While no team has been eliminated from the postseason yet, teams like the New York Jets, Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are all raging dumpster fires.

Even Chicago, a team that started the season 2-1 with playoff aspirations, has dropped four of their past five outings. The Bears entered the season with a supposedly high-powered offense but quarterback Jay Cutler has 12 turnovers in eight games.

The NFL is a quarterback driven league. As such, it is no surprise that the Jets, Raiders, Buccaneers and Bears have a collective record of 5-28 with a combination of Geno Smith, Michael Vick, Mike Glennon, Josh McCown, Derek Carr and Jay Cutler starting under center.

Ineffective quarterback play has limited all four of these teams.

How would the Jets, Raiders, Buccaneers and Bears fare with some elite quarterbacks under center?

To find out we simulated each team's season 50,000 times with Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Andrew Luck and Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback.

For perspective on the projected records below, here is our in-depth analysis before the season started with projected records for all teams. After 50,000 simulations before the season started the Patriots were projected to finish 10-6 and the Colts were projected to finish 9-7. Those win totals might not seem impressive, but both records were good enough to win the team's division.

As one might imagine, in every simulation adding an elite quarterback dramatically improved a team's record. In nearly every simulation the addition of one of the league's best quarterbacks put the team in playoff contention.

Peyton Manning, the quarterback with the highest impact score, is the best fit for all four teams. With better quarterbacks the Jets and Bears could be playoff teams, however, even with elite signal callers the Raiders and Buccaneers are still not talented enough to reach the postseason.

Below are the records for each team with Manning, Brady, Luck and Roethlisberger starting the full season.

Team Record Proj. Record With Manning With Brady With Luck With Roethlisberger
Jets 1-8 4-12 10-6 9-7 9-7 9-7
Raiders 0-8 2-14 8-8 7-9 7-9 7-9
Buccaneers 1-7 4-12 8-8 7-9 8-8 8-8
Bears 3-5 7-9 10-6 8-8 9-7 9-7

Ben Roethlisberger

Speaking of one of the league's elite quarterbacks, the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger is having one of his best seasons on the field and in fantasy football in his career. Roethlisberger became the first quarterback to throw 12 touchdowns total in consecutive games. Big Ben set the record for the most fantasy points (79 points, per ESPN fantasy) by a quarterback in back-to-back games since 1960.

What kind of production can we expect from Roethlisberger the rest of the season? After two monster games, what is his highest projected fantasy total in one game going forward?

Using our Rest of Season fantasy projections, Roethlisberger is projected to throw for 2,007.6 yards, 17.9 touchdowns and 5.2 interceptions. This output would rank him sixth among fantasy quarterbacks with Andrew Luck having the best rest of the season. Roethlisberger's full season is projected to be 4,726.6 passing yards, 39.9 touchdowns and 8.2 interceptions.

Roethlisberger is unlikely to throw six touchdowns again this season. However, he does average between two and three passing touchdowns over the Steelers last seven games.

Roethlisberger's best remaining fantasy game comes Week 13 against the Saints. Big Ben is projected to throw for 323 yards and three touchdowns.