Now that this week’s NFL action is over, it’s time for some NFL Week 7 analysis using the PFN OSM (Offensive Share Metric). Among the highlights from this week’s entries, is another disappointing day for Melvin Gordon, whose season seems to get worse with each passing week, and a brilliant performance from Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay Packers team that looks to be a legitimate threat to win their division.
PFN’s OSM analyzes player performances using the NFL’s Next Gen Stats – advanced metrics recorded by the NFL for the purpose of in-depth analysis. More specifically, it examines how much of their statistical production a player was responsible for. For example, a running back that faced a higher number of defenders in the box more often will grade higher than one that didn’t, because they needed to work harder to produce their statistics.
The metric can also help illuminate how much that player contributed to the overall offense. Consider the scenario as a series of percentages. A player’s statistical production will equate to a certain percentage of their overall offense. And the OSM shows us what percentage of that production that the player was responsible for. So, by combining those percentages, we can roughly determine what effect a player had on their offense.
As a side note, before we get into the meat of the article, I’d like to mention something for those who have read my previous articles. No, I’m not writing about Kirk Cousins again. Not because he performed badly, but because at a certain point, calling his performances a surprise kind of feels like cheating. So, even though I want to include him, I won’t.
However, there were plenty of other performances from the past week that produced interesting OSM grades. Before I get sidetracked further, here are three of the most surprising grades of Week 7, along with three of the most disappointing*.
*The Monday night game was not included
NFL Week 7 disappointments
Melvin Gordon: 8.52
A nightmare season continues for Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon. Last week he avoided a place in my article because he did not have enough carries to qualify for an OSM grade. This week, he returns after yet another dismal performance. Not only did he fumble on the goal line, costing his team a chance to win the game, but he once again had a poor showing according to the OSM. His grade of 8.52 was an improvement over the 5.81 he received in Week 5, but not by much.
On his 16 attempts, Gordon ran for just 32 yards, an average of just two yards per carry, the second-worst mark of any qualifying running back. That lack of success was primarily the result of a lack of efficiency. The NFL gives each qualifying running back an efficiency rating, which measures how far a player ran in yards, relative to the number of yards they gained statistically. So, the higher the rating, the less efficient the player. Using that metric, Gordon was the second-least efficient running back in NFL Week 7, with a rating of 6.92.
Gordon’s failings have coincided with a lack of success by his team overall. The Chargers may not value him enough to give him a new contract, but it is quickly becoming clear just how crucial he is to their success. If they want to get their season back on the right track in the AFC South, they need him to play better. Frankly, they need to improve in many other areas as well, but Gordon returning to the level of an elite running back would be a good start.
Mitchell Trubisky: 14.01
With Kirk Cousins’ recent success, Mitchell Trubisky has become the least popular quarterback in the NFC North. Many people gave up on Trubisky after his rookie year, so his failings this season probably seem to be a sign that things are going exactly as they expected. However, to Trubisky’s credit, he actually played quite well last season, receiving an overall grade of 26.66, placing him in the top ten . He was more responsible for his own production than better-regarded quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Patrick Mahomes. Unfortunately for the Bears, Trubisky appears to have regressed this season. This week was no exception, with Trubisky receiving his second-worst grade of the year at 14.01.
Trubisky’s conventional statistics don’t look that terrible. He had 251 yards, two touchdowns, and a 63% completion percentage. But when you look at how he gained those yards, it becomes clear why his grade was so low. Trubisky averaged just 6.7 air yards across his 54 attempts and 3.3 air yards on his completions. Those averages were second and third-worst, respectively, among qualifying quarterbacks in Week 7. The implication of those statistics is that, despite losing for most of the game, Trubisky rarely pushed the ball downfield. He had almost no impact on his own statistics.
Head coach Matt Nagy needs to help get Trubisky back on track. He doesn’t have much time either. The Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings might both make the playoffs, and even the Detroit Lions have looked more dangerous than the Bears at times. Trubisky needs to start playing better now before the Bears season falls apart completely.
Joe Mixon: -86.28
I have spent more time working with the OSM than almost anyone. It’s rare that I see a grade that truly leaves me speechless. Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon accomplished that on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, receiving an almost improbably poor grade of -86.28. No, there is nothing wrong with your eyes. Mixon’s NFL Week 7 grade is the worst I have ever seen, and it’s not even close. A grade that poor implies that, any time Mixon carried the ball, he completely ruined that play. And the results make this fact fairly clear: Mixon ran for just two yards on ten attempts, an average of 0.2 yards per attempt. That is terrible by any standard, but on its own wouldn’t cause a grade as low as Mixon’s.
The primary reason Mixon graded so poorly was how inefficient he was. Most weeks, the highest efficiency ratings end up somewhere around 10.0, but on rare occasions, you see much worse grades. Since they started using the metric in 2016, the highest rating recorded by the NFL was produced by Detroit Lions running back Dwayne Washington, who had an efficiency rating of 31.64 in Week 11 of the 2016 season. Mixon’s rating in Week 7 was 72.18, blowing Washington’s record out of the water. What that number means is that Mixon ran a total of 144.36 yards on his ten attempts, and all that work only resulted in two total yards gained. It was easily the least efficient running back performance of the last several seasons, and I can’t imagine we will see one like it for a long while.
Unfortunately, while this grade clearly represents a low point for Mixon, there isn’t much reason for optimism for the Cincinnati running back. He has already had another negative grade this season, and his highest grade of the year was just 14.10. So, while things might look better for Mixon in the coming weeks relative to this week’s debacle, I wouldn’t expect a massive improvement.
NFL Week 7 surprises
Geronimo Allison: 48.28
This was only the third time this season that Geronimo Allison received enough targets to qualify for an OSM grade. In Weeks 5 and 6, he performed relatively well, receiving grades in the low 20s, but in Week 7, he had easily his best performance of the season with a grade of 48.28. That grade was not only the highest among qualifying receivers, but it was also the highest grade received by any player graded so far in Week 7.
A number of factors were involved in Allison’s massive increase in grade. To start with, he averaged 5.7 yards of separation on each of his five targets, the highest average of any qualifying receiver or tight end so far in Week 7 by a full yard. Put another way, Allison got more open than any other wide receiver this past week. He also saw a massive increase in his catch percentage. Across Weeks 5 and 6, Allison caught just five out his 13 targets, a catch percentage of 38.5%. But in Week 7, he had a catch percentage of 80%. That increase in the number of passes caught can make a huge difference in a game.
Allison is just one weapon in the arsenal of quarterback Aaron Rodgers and new head coach Matt LaFleur, and he played a relatively minor role in the Packers complete dismantling of the Oakland Raiders. But if he continues to make the most of his minor opportunities, he might end up receiving more opportunities even after Davante Adams returns from injury. At the very worst, Green Bay will know that their young receiver can be relied upon.
Aaron Rodgers: 37.7
It might surprise you that Aaron Rodgers receiving a high grade surprises me. After all, he is often regarded as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, and he had an incredible game against the Oakland Raiders. But despite his accolades, Rodgers has generally not performed well according to the OSM. Last season, he had an average grade of 21.0, 30th out of the 39 qualifying quarterbacks. Although he has performed significantly better so far this season, for a number of reasons, he still hasn’t been able to produce a grade over 26. But in Week 7 against the Oakland Raiders, he had a grade of 37.7, the third-highest quarterback grade so far this week.
Rodgers had the highest completion percentage of the week, at 80.6%. Based on the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, he should have completed just 66.8% of his passes, a difference of 13.9%. That differential was the second-highest of the week. For comparison, in Week 6 against the Detroit Lions, Rodgers completed just 61.5% of his passes, 0.6% less than expected. Of course, Green Bay won both of those games, but they certainly had a much easier time against the Raiders.
As has been the case for most of his career, as Rodgers goes, so do the Packers. In 2018, thanks to injury and coaching problems, he struggled, and Green Bay ended up with nine loses and a new head coach. Now he appears to be back at the top of his game, and the Packers are leading the division with a six-and-one record. If Rodgers continues to play as well as he did against Oakland, the rest of the NFL should be worried.
Ryan Tannehill: 47.07
In last week’s article, I discussed Marcus Mariota, and how the Tennessee Titans made the correct choice in benching him for Ryan Tannehill based on their respective OSM grades. Well, at least for this week, Tannehill has proved me right. He had the highest grade of any quarterback in Week 7 so far, at 47.07. This grade not only shows Tannehill to be a marked improvement over Marcus Mariota, whose average OSM for the season was 20.51, it also represents a significant jump from his own performance last year. In 2018, while playing with the Miami Dolphins, Tannehill received an overall grade of 20.72, 32nd out of 39 qualifying quarterbacks.
The primary factor increasing Tannehill’s grade was his completion percentage. At 79.3%, it was the second-highest of the week, and, even more impressively, was 22.1% higher than expected based on the NFL’s Next Gen Stats. That differential was the best among qualifying quarterbacks in NFL Week 7 by more than seven percent.
Tannehill’s high completion percentage wasn’t the result of throwing easy passes either; he was the second most aggressive quarterback this week, throwing passes into tight coverage on 24.4% of his attempts. So, he completed more of his passes than most quarterbacks in the NFL in Week 7, while also attempting more challenging passes than anyone else.
This performance might have been a fluke. Maybe Tannehill felt inspired by winning the starting job and played unusually well. Or maybe the change of scenery caused a change in Tannehill as well, and we will see him play more games at this level in the future. If that is the case, he might actually be able to turn his career around and live up to the potential that many fans saw in him in Miami.