Best and worst QBs of Week 1: Arms race in New Orleans

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Does Fitzpatrick have fantasy relevance? (1:41)

Field Yates and Matthew Berry answer whether Ryan Fitzpatrick will continue to make noise in fantasy. (1:41)

Any given Sunday ... every quarterback has a shot to sit atop the Total QBR leaderboard. While QBs are most often judged by wins and losses or touchdowns and interceptions, we like to rank them every week by the stat that measures their per-play contribution to their team's cause.

An explainer of QBR can be found here, but the main idea is to capture more elements of a quarterback's play than traditional methods usually consider. QBR includes the value (or lack thereof) of quarterback rushing, sacks, fumbles, relevant penalties and -- crucially -- the down and distance of every play. QBR works on a 0-to-100 scale where 50 is roughly average and 75 is about Pro Bowl-caliber play.

Each Tuesday in this space we'll highlight the best and worst QBR performances from the NFL weekend, and break down what made each quarterback perform at either extreme.

Which quarterbacks were the best and worst of Week 1?


Top 3

1. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Total QBR: 97.5

Amazingly, this was only the third-best QBR game of Fitz-magic's career, falling behind a 45-21 victory over the Tennessee Titans when he was with the Houston Texans and a 34-20 win over Washington when he was a member of the New York Jets. But still, there was something special about Fitzpatrick taking down what was widely considered to be one of the best teams in football.

One of FPI's more contrarian predictions was that the Saints defense was going to be terrible in 2018, and it sure was on Sunday. But that doesn't really take away from what Fitzpatrick did against New Orleans, making the most of the opportunity handed to him. He has never been afraid to take chances and chuck it deep. Here's a look at what Fitzpatrick did on passes thrown 20-plus yards in the air:

That's the kind of strategy that meshes well with a receiver like DeSean Jackson, with whom Fitzpatrick connected on two long touchdowns downfield.


2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Total QBR: 91.8

You had to figure if Brees posted a Total QBR in the 90s on Sunday, a victory over Tampa Bay was assured. But that's why they play the games (so we can crank out some fancy metrics and then tell you why they are crazy, obviously).

This is a particularly impressive number for Brees because it's so hard to put up a strong QBR in a comeback situation. Because QBR downplays garbage time, some of Brees' plays -- like his 7-yard touchdown pass to Alvin Kamara with 3 minutes, 31 seconds left in the game -- aren't considered as important because the Saints were quite unlikely to win at that point.

The Saints offense was at its best Sunday when Brees targeted Michael Thomas, his No. 1 receiver. Those numbers, for fantasy or otherwise, were ridiculous:


3. Sam Darnold, New York Jets

Total QBR: 84.2

Darnold made quite the opening impression. He entered the history books as only the third player to throw a pick-six on his first pass attempt, joining Brett Favre and (1991) and Jameis Winston (2015).

Favre rebounded from that first pass and, at least for a game, so did Darnold. The rookie helped lead the Jets to a 48-point outburst in their win over the Detroit Lions. He wasn't asked to throw a ton: Alex Smith, for example, added more total value than Darnold in Week 1, but QBR is a rate stat. But Darnold often found his intended target.

The USC product was particularly effective when throwing out of shotgun:


Bottom 3

1. Nathan Peterman, Buffalo Bills

Total QBR: 0.9

If only there were a sign that this was coming.

Like maybe in Week 11 last season or something, just to throw a random game out there. That's when the Bills benched Tyrod Taylor for Peterman, who promptly threw up a 0.6 QBR game (technically non-qualifying for our leaderboard because of too few plays). This Week 1 embarrassment was actually an improvement from that debut, but it was also the 12th-worst Total QBR game in the history of the statistic, which dates back to 2006.

While Peterman's line is crazy bad no matter how you break it down, his stat line on third down was next-level abysmal:

Good news now, Bills fans: Peterman's old nemesis (the Los Angeles Chargers, not his own receivers) is on the slate for Week 2. Whether he'll get the chance to actually play again remains to be seen after his poor performance in Week 1.


2. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

Total QBR: 8.8

On Monday night against the Jets, it was Stafford who looked like the rookie.

He appeared out of sorts and became the first Lions quarterback to throw four picks in a season opener, per the Elias Sports Bureau. Perhaps it was because he was banged up in the game or perhaps it was because the Jets knew his signals and were anticipating playcalls.

Ironically, it was the pick that Detroit got back (Trumaine Johnson fumbled after a Jets interception) that was Stafford's most costly play of the day. QBR doesn't give the quarterback any bonus points if his team recovers a fumble off one of his interceptions, because the signal-caller only played a role in losing the ball, not getting it back.


3. Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders

Total QBR: 10.7

Generally, a quarterback is going to need to find his receivers now and again in order to have success.

Carr did not do the former, and therefore didn't have the latter. The Raiders quarterback, starting his first game under new head coach Jon Gruden, completed only five passes on seven targets to his wideouts for 43 yards, including zero completions and an interception in the second half:

Carr wasn't particularly great in the first half -- although the Raiders did lead at halftime -- but it went downhill from there, as he threw two fourth-quarter picks.