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Fitzpatrick On The Flip Side: Expecting Creampuffs

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What can we expect Ryan Fitzpatrick to produce against the weaker pass defenses on the schedule?

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier in the week we took a look at what we might expect from Ryan Fitzpatrick against the murderer's row of pass defenses, as measured by passer rating allowed in 2015, the Jets will face in the first six games of the season.  It wasn't pretty.  But there's a flip side.  After those first six games the Jets face only one top 10 pass defense the rest of the way, the Buffalo Bills in the season finale.  Although there is no creampuff row of games bunched together, the Jets will face a total of five bottom 10 pass defenses over the last 10 games.  Those bottom dwelling pass defenses are the Baltimore Ravens, the Cleveland Browns, the Miami Dolphins (twice) and the San Francisco 49ers.  What might we expect from Fitzpatrick against the creampuff pass defenses?

Let's try to answer that with the same methodology we used to analyze expectations against the early schedule. First we'll model our expectations based on a simple adjustment for level of difficulty.  We'll take Fitzpatrick's passer rating of 88 from 2015 and adjust it for the low level of difficulty in the 2016 creampuff pass defenses.  This is somewhat problematic in that we do not know precisely how these defenses will perform in 2016.  It is possible the creampuffs will play out easier or more difficult than the 2015 performances of these defenses would suggest.  Nonetheless, acknowledging the problems with using 2015 numbers to make 2016 predictions, let's assume that these defenses as a group will play at approximately the same level in 2016.  In that case the five creampuff games of the 2016 schedule represent defenses with an aggregate 98.76 passer rating allowed.  In 2015 Fitzpatrick faced defenses with an aggregate passer rating allowed of 92.4.  Making the requisite adjustments for the decreased level of difficulty in the 2016 creampuff defenses, we multiply Fitzpatrick's 2015 passer rating of 88 by the fraction (98.76/92.4), resulting in an expected passer rating for Fitzpatrick of 94.1 against the 2016 creampuffs.

That looks promising for success against these opponents.  A 94.1 passer rating would have placed Fitzpatrick as the 12th rated passer for 2015, slotted in between Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers.  One might expect to emerge with at worst three, and more likely four or five victories in the five games against creampuffs with this level of QB performance, depending on how well the defense does its job.

Continuing with the methodology we used in the murderer's row analysis, we'll build a few more models of expected performance against the creampuffs.  The five creampuff pass defenses Fitzpatrick will face in 2016 were all ranked in the bottom 10 in terms of passer rating allowed in 2015.  Going back over the last four years of Fitzpatrick's career he has faced bottom 10 pass defenses a total of 17 times.  In those 17 games Fitzpatrick has posted a passer rating of 101.4, with 34 TDs and 6 INTs, with a record of 14-3.   Against the creampuffs Fitzpatrick has significantly outperformed expectations, morphing into an elite quarterback.  Of course all quarterbacks do better against the weakest pass defenses, but Fitzpatrick has done better by a much greater margin than the average quarterback does.

A chart of Fitzpatrick's cumulative passer rating against bottom 10 pass defenses over the last four years looks like this:

Cumulative

Years

Total

Number

Of Games

Cumulative

Passer

Rating

.

Last Year

5

101.3

Two Years

11

105.8

Three Years

15

102.1

Four Years

17

101.4

That is a very nice looking chart.  It paints a picture of a Fitzpatrick consistently cleaning up against poor pass defenses.  This should not be underestimated.  Just as Fitzpatrick's poor recent performance against top pass defenses is a cause for concern, his outstanding performance against creampuffs, better than can be explained just by the lower quality of the defenses faced, is cause for optimism.  An underrated element of success in the NFL is taking care of business and beating the teams you're "supposed" to beat.   Taking care of business against weaker opponents banks crucial victories against the inevitable struggles you will face against top opponents.  The way many teams blow their playoff chances is often by suffering losses against teams they take for granted.  Fitzpatrick doesn't do that much.  He takes care of business in the most winnable games.  It is a valuable trait to have.

Given the lack of any discernible trend in the above chart, this model would suggest Fitzpatrick will post something like a 101 passer rating against poor pass defenses in 2016.  If that played out as predicted the Jets would likely lose no more than one game, and quite possibly zero games, out of the five creampuff opponents.

Going back further in time, Fitzpatrick actually began his starting career with a pretty mediocre record against poor pass defenses.  In 2010 and 2011, in the years that Fitzpatrick was theoretically at his peak as per NFL averages, Fitzpatrick played six games against bottom 10 pass defenses.  His teams only posted a 3-3 record in those six games.  Fitzpatrick posted a passer rating over 100 in only two of those six games, and had a total of 7 TDs and 6 INTs with an aggregate passer rating of only 79.5.  That's a rather poor record against such bad pass defenses earlier in his career.  Fitzpatrick was definitely not taking care of business in 2011 and 2012.   Those early two years with the Bills drag down Fitzpatrick's aggregate passer rating against bottom 10 pass defenses over the last six years to 95.7. His record against bottom 10 pass defenses over that six year stretch is 17-6.

We now have a number of models of what to expect from Fitzpatrick in the creampuff games.  These are the games the Jets will likely need to take care of business in to offset the difficulty of the early schedule.  Let's take a look at how all these models stack up in a chart.  Ranging from most optimistic to least optimistic, we have Fitzpatrick's results against bottom 10 pass defenses for the last four years (Four Year Model),  his results against bottom 10 pass defenses for the last six years (Six Year Model), his 2015 results adjusted for the worse defenses to be faced in 2016 (Adjusted 2015 Model), and his results against bottom ten pass defenses from 2010 and 2011 (Earliest Model).  All of these models have flaws of one kind or another.  With some the sample is too small; with others some or all of the results are too distant in time; others are too simplistic.  However, perhaps in the aggregate they may capture a fairly accurate picture of both the range of likely outcomes as well as a best guess as to the general neighborhood of what we can reasonably expect from Fitzpatrick in the games against poor pass defenses.

Model

Expected 2016

Passer Rating

Against Poor

Pass Defenses

.

Four Year

101.3

Six Year

95.7

Adjusted 2015

94.1

Earliest

79.5

.

Aggregate

92.7

Here then is what our models indicate.  The best and maybe the most likely outcome we might reasonably expect would be for Fitzpatrick to continue cleaning up against poor pass defenses like has for the last four years to the tune of a 100+ passer rating.  This would likely produce a 5-0 or at worst 4-1 record against the poor pass defense teams, a result that would go a long way toward making up for any early season difficulties.  The worst outcome we might reasonably expect would be a reversion to his early form in Buffalo, where he was erratic and not particularly effective against bottom dwelling defenses.  A passer rating of around 80 against these teams would be extremely damaging to the Jets' playoff hopes, and would likely produce at least two or three losses against the teams the Jets really need to take care of business against.  Fortunately for the Jets this seems like an unlikely outcome given how long it's been since Fitzpatrick performed poorly against poor pass defenses.  Taking a simple unweighted average of all the models (admittedly overly simplistic, but there are limits to what we can undertake here), would give Fitzpatrick a passer rating hovering around 93 for the creampuff games.  This would be a good, but not great, outcome, and would likely produce a record of 4-1 or 3-2.