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Tale of the Tape: Dalton-Yates

ESPN Stats & Information

Which QB has the advantage? Analyze a variety of statistics to find out.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, when Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates square off on Saturday, it will be the first time in NFL history two rookie quarterbacks have started the same playoff game.

So which rookie QB has the edge in this AFC Wild Card Playoff matchup? Let’s take a closer look.

Passes of 15+ yards

Andy Dalton

DaltonAndy Dalton has thrived this season when throwing deep. Dalton ranks eighth in the league in yards per attempt (13.3), eighth in plays of 30-plus yards (17) and 10th in total EPA (Expected Points Added) with 34.6. He’s one of only seven quarterbacks (Brady, Brees, Rivers, Rodgers, Romo, Stafford) this season to rank in the top 10 in all three categories.

T.J. Yates, however, has struggled when attempting deep passes. Of the 44 quarterbacks to attempt at least 25 passes of at least 15 yards this season, Yates’ 82.3 QBR ranks 28th (nine points lower than the NFL average of 91.5) and his 10.3 yards per attempt ranks 27th.

Yates also has only one 30+ yard pass play on throws of 15 yards or more. To put that into perspective, the only other quarterbacks this season to attempt at least 25 passes of that distance and record one such play were Caleb Hanie (81.8 QBR ranks 29th) and Tyler Palko (69.4 QBR ranks 34th).

Statistical advantage: Dalton

Handling pressure

Dalton’s dropbacks per sack balloons from one every 37.9 dropbacks against four or fewer pass rushers to one every 13.2 when the defense sends five or more defenders. He also averages only 6.6 yards per attempt, which is tied for 27th among quarterbacks with at least 50 dropbacks this season.

T.J. Yates

YatesYates appears to handle added pressure better, as his 8.9 yards per attempt is fourth among quarterbacks with at least 50 chances against five or more pass rushers. He still takes too many sacks (one every 6.3 dropbacks), but his 68.3 completion percentage against such pressure was the best in the NFL and he has yet to throw an interception in that situation.

Statistical advantage: Yates

Pocket presence

Dalton has no problem escaping the pocket, as only 88 percent of his pass attempts this season came from inside the tackle box (24th in NFL among qualified quarterbacks). Dalton averages a sack every 26.6 dropbacks while inside the pocket (fifth-best among qualified quarterbacks) and still manages to look downfield, as his 17 pass plays of 30+ yards ranks 11th in the NFL.

Yates was sacked every 11 dropbacks within the pocket, tied for the ninth-highest rate in the NFL (min. 50 dropbacks), despite what is widely regarded as one of the best offensive lines in football. Of the 17 offensive line combinations to play 500 or more snaps together this season, the Texans primary five (Duane Brown, Wade Smith, Chris Myers, Mike Brisiel and Eric Winston) allowed the fourth-lowest sack percentage (5.6).

For context, Matt Schaub was sacked once every 18.1 drops within the pocket behind that same offensive line.

Statistical advantage: Dalton