We've talked in the past how Ryan Fitzpatrick feasts on poor pass defenses. The pass defense the Jets will face in Cleveland is a very poor pass defense. The Browns rank 31st in the NFL in passer rating allowed, at a rate of 107. Let's quantify just how Ryan Fitzpatrick does against such defenses.
Over the four year period from 2012 through 2015 Ryan Fitzpatrick played 13 games against pass defenses ranked in the bottom quartile (25th through 32nd) of the NFL in terms of passer rating allowed. Are you ready for it? Here comes the stat of the week. In those 13 games Ryan Fitzpatrick posted a passer rating of 107.3.
Fleshing that out just a bit, in those 13 games Ryan Fitzpatrick posted a 10-3 record. He tossed 27 touchdowns and threw only four interceptions. The offenses he ran in those games averaged 28.6 points per game. In short, against bottom quartile pass defenses Ryan Fitzpatrick has turned into Peyton Manning or Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers or whomever your favorite Hall of Fame quarterback might be.
Now, there have been suggestions that the loss of Eric Decker will change all that, that Fitzpatrick was only able to feast against subpar pass defenses in 2015 because he had both Marshall and Decker. Perhaps. That certainly didn't hurt. The 2014 season may support such a theory, as Fitzpatrick had a similar dynamic duo with the Texans in DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Johnson. However, in 2013 Fitzpatrick was with the Tennessee Titans and in 2012 he was with the Buffalo Bills. Neither of those teams had receivers anywhere close to the guys Fitzpatrick had the last two years, yet Fitzpatrick cleaned up against bad pass defenses just as much in 2013 and 2014, posting a passer rating of 109 or better in four of five such games and throwing 10 touchdown passes with just two interceptions.
You might think what's the big deal, every quarterback dominates against bad pass defenses, that's why they're bad pass defenses. Well, yes, but it's not quite that simple. You see, Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn't just do well against bad pass defenses. His performance improves against these defenses at roughly twice the rate of the average NFL quarterback. The average NFL quarterback sees a roughly 10-12 point boost in their passer rating against these defenses. That's roughly enough for a quarterback to go from average to borderline Pro Bowl level. Ryan Fitzpatrick's passer rating against these pass defenses increases roughly 20-25 points, or enough to go from average quarterback to all time great quarterback.
Maybe Fitzpatrick will break the pattern on Sunday. Maybe he is in permanent decline. Maybe the loss of Decker really does make all the difference in the world. Maybe. But if I were a betting man, barring terrible weather conditions, I think I'd place my bet on seeing the excellent version of Fitzpatrick on Sunday. If we don't see Fitzmagic on Sunday, perhaps his bag of tricks has finally been permanently emptied.