QBR battle between Peyton and Matt Ryan

(This is the first installment of a weekly NFL discussion that takes a closer look at one of the week’s hot topics. Today’s discussion centers around Total QBR and two quarterbacks who have posted among the best rating since 2008 – Matt Ryan and Peyton Manning. Ryan and Manning will face each other in Monday Night Football, 8 ET on ESPN.)

Peyton Manning

ManningPeyton Manning’s 77.8 Total QBR is the best among all quarterbacks with at least 1,000 action plays since 2008. It’s almost nine points higher than the fifth-ranked quarterback, Matt Ryan.

Manning proved his health in Week 1, completing 73.1 percent of his passes and averaging a throw length of 8.3 yards downfield. That’s the same distance he averaged from 2008-10.

On longer throws, such as ones outside the painted field numbers, Manning was even better, completing 11-of-14 attempts.

Highest Total QBR
Last 5 Seasons

Also working in Manning’s favor is the no-huddle offense. In the rarified air of Denver, keeping a defense from substituting adds an even bigger advantage. This was especially true in Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Manning went 4-of-7 for 44 yards and posted a 29.1 Total QBR on his first three drives, all of which used a huddle-based offense. Denver’s next four drives (not including kneel downs), Manning went 15-of-19 for 209 yards and two touchdowns, good for a 98.3 Total QBR. All of this against a Steelers defense that allowed the fewest points per game in 2011.

As long as Manning’s health remains a non-factor, he should continue to stay ahead of Ryan in the Total QBR rankings. -- John McTigue

• • • •

Not so fast, John.

The case for Matt Ryan boils down to three main factors: easier schedule, more pass-happy offense and age.

Matt Ryan

RyanOn average, the Falcons remaining opponents allowed a Total QBR of 56.4 last season, more than four points better than the cumulative average of the Broncos remaining opponents. In layman's terms, Atlanta's opponents were more prone in 2011 to giving up big performances by quarterbacks.

Ryan also faces just one more defense which ranked in the top 10 in opponent QBR last season. Manning has four more such games and nine of his final 15 coming against teams which ranked in the top 15. (Ryan has just four remaining top-15 opponents.)

Also working in Ryan’s favor is Atlanta’s transition to a pass-heavy offense. With their Week 1 game against the Chiefs within two scores (canceling out clock-killing play calling with the game out of reach), the Falcons called for a pass on 72 percent of their plays. Over the last three seasons, Atlanta called for passes 58 percent of the time in that same scenario. By contrast, the Broncos called for passes on 53 percent of their plays in Week 1.

Therefore, Ryan should have more opportunities to make game-changing (and QBR-boosting) plays.

Falcons Pct of Called Pass Plays
2-Possession Games

Last, but certainly not least, is the age factor. Ryan is 27, nine years younger than Manning.

From 2008-10 when Manning’s 77.2 Total QBR led the NFL, he averaged 30 touchdowns and 4,400 passing yards. The only quarterback in NFL history to hit those numbers after turning 36? Kurt Warner in 2008 (69.8 Total QBR).

In 2010 – the last season Ryan and Manning both played – the Falcons signal caller had a higher Total QBR (69.4 to 68.6). Two years later, why wouldn’t we expect more of the same? -– Micah Adams