Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton ranked 24th last season in Total QBR (45.7) against base defenses. He ranked 14th with a 61.1 QBR score when defenses subbed out front-seven players for additional defensive backs.
Newton ranked among the NFL's top 10 in both categories, including No. 6 against smaller personnel, over his final six games.
Who cares? Well, the Seattle Seahawks do, because they're facing Newton's Panthers in Week 1, and their nickel defense struggled to close out games last season. Seattle added Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Antoine Winfield to address those problems.
The chart shows opponents' QBR scores against base and small NFC West defenses. Note that the defenses for Seattle and the San Francisco 49ers are mirror images. The 49ers' small defense fared better than its base defense fared; the gap wasn't all that problematic because the 49ers spent relatively little time in their base defense.
Fifty represents an average QBR score. One hundred is the maximum. MVP candidates tend to finish a full season with a score in the 70s.
Arizona's defense led the NFC West and ranked fourth in the NFL with a 40.0 QBR scored allowed last season. Seattle was 11th (52.4), San Francisco 15th (54.1) and St. Louis 17th (55.3). Denver led the league at 24.5 allowed. Jacksonville was last at 71.1.