After just one participant tested positive for COVID-19 inside the latest spherical of monitoring, the NFL season will kick off on schedule Thursday night with the Houston Texans on the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs. The game is a rematch of January’s AFC divisional playoff — one in all many additional thrilling video video games of the latest season. A quick refresher for a lot of who’ve forgotten: Houston jumped out to a commanding 24-0 second-quarter lead at Arrowhead Stadium, solely to lose 51-31 in what might be the largest comeback in Chiefs franchise history.
Inside the months since — and no matter a pandemic that threatens to slash the NFL salary cap for the first time since 2011 — Kansas Metropolis’s Patrick Mahomes and Houston’s Deshaun Watson signed massive, multi-year contract extensions that made them the two highest-paid players in the league. The two quarterbacks have been taken inside two picks of each other inside the 2017 draft. Mahomes, who was drafted barely ahead of Watson, has gained a league MVP award and a Great Bowl, and primarily based on Skilled Soccer Focus has a 21.4 percent shot to win a second MVP as a result of the season begins.
However no matter Mahomes’s unbelievable early success, Watson’s regular-season passing manufacturing is surprisingly akin to that of the 2018 MVP. Mahomes has achieved 65.9 p.c of his passes, averaging 8.6 yards per attempt, and tossed 76 touchdowns so far in his career. Watson sports activities actions a 66.8 career completion proportion, 8.1 yards per try to 71 touchdown passes. If we escape each passer’s effectivity by the form of safety they confronted, their performances proceed to align often in most measures. Mahomes seems to be larger than Watson in direction of Cowl 4 zone safety, nonetheless it’s one in all many additional sometimes used defenses inside the NFL, so our sample is small.
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The notable exception to the relative parity of Watson and Mahomes is their sack value. Some have argued that Watson’s bigger career sack entire is proof of a more challenging team environment, nevertheless evaluation strongly signifies that sacks are one factor over which a QB has the most control. If Watson takes additional sacks, it isn’t basically proof that his offensive line does a worse job of defending him. In 2019, the Chiefs’ and Texans’ offensive strains earned nearly related cross blocking grades from Skilled Soccer Focus, however Watson took higher than twice as many sacks as Mahomes did. If we’re trying to find a differentiator in crew setting, considerably for remaining season, we must always at all times most certainly look elsewhere. Luckily, we don’t ought to look too far.
There’s sturdy proof that Mahomes does revenue from a higher crew setting than Watson in a single very important method: coach Andy Reid’s genius in designing show display performs. With Reid creating and calling performs, 9 of Mahomes’s 76 career touchdowns have come on screens. This compares with merely three touchdowns for Watson and accounts for the whole differential inside the two QBs’ career TD totals.
We should always at all times most certainly anticipate a show display or two Thursday night. Reid considerably likes dialing them up inside the crimson zone. Take, for example, a show display he known as remaining yr in Week 6 in direction of the Texans on the 14-yard line. On the play, which went for a touchdown, three receivers lined as a lot because the left with tight end Travis Kelce on the correct side of the formation. The first and second receivers pressured the safety to maneuver to the left, away from the design of the play. Within the meantime, the third receiver ran instantly on the only extreme safety to try to occupy him. Lastly, Kelce (No. 87) runs his route in direction of an house of the sphere that locations him in place to decide on the safety if the safety is able to make a play on the working once more catching the show display cross.
Along with good endurance by Mahomes in delivering the ball and superb execution by the offensive line, the play design gave working once more Damien Williams a big amount of open grass in a part of the sphere the place space is unusual.
Reid moreover signed a reported six-year contract extension inside the offseason, defending Mahomes and Reid collectively for the foreseeable future. Possibly higher than another difficulty, it’s their partnership that has the Chiefs favored by 9 components in Thursday night’s rematch, and Kansas Metropolis a favorite to return the Super Bowl.
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