NFL QB postseason EPA rankings: Patrick Mahomes flips a switch; Can Brock Purdy thrive?


Each of the four starting quarterbacks remaining in the NFL postseason took differing production paths to reach the same moment: conference championship weekend.

One quarterback produced historically amazing numbers on the same level as peak Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, only to slip a bit the last couple of weeks.

Another quarterback maintained steady production, even through peaks and valleys.

A third QB has pulled himself up this postseason after the worst regular-season numbers of his storied career.

And the fourth is on his way to his second MVP award and squarely in the prime of his 2023 season.

In a continuation of my weekly quarterback outlooks, let’s take a glimpse at how every postseason quarterback stands using traditional statistics like passer rating, along with advanced metrics like Expected Points Added (EPA) per dropback, via TruMedia, to provide a number-based outlook of the state of the position.

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NFL QB EPA rankings: Which routes are most effective for remaining quarterbacks?

I’ve added total QB EPA and offensive team EPA per play to this week’s study. I’ve also broken down four aspects for these final four QBs:

  • Overall production
  • Production when blitzed
  • Production on third down
  • Production in the red zone

(Regular-season rankings are among 30 passer-rating-qualified QBs; postseason rankings are among 14 playoff QBs)

Overall production

Regular season

player EPA/DB Psr Rt Total QB EPA Off EPA/Play

0.26 (1)

113.0 (1)

132.8 (1)

0.29 (1)

0.11 (7)

97.9 (9)

59.9 (6)

0.09 (6)

0.07 (10)

92.6 (14)

35.2 (11)

0.01 (14)

0.07 (13)

102.7 (4)

35.6 (10)

0.09 (7)

Postseason

player EPA/DB Psr Rt Total QB EPA Off EPA/Play

0.28 (3)

111.8 (3)

20.2 (2)

0.28 (5)

0.28 (4)

100.8 (9)

18.5 (4)

0.23 (6)

0.27 (5)

121.8 (1)

15.7 (7)

0.38 (3)

0.12 (9)

86.7 (11)

5.0 (9)

0.20 (7)

I guess Lamar Jackson can’t be perfect forever! The Baltimore Ravens QB only unleashed outstanding rates against the Houston Texans in the AFC divisional round, rather than a perfect passer rating like in his last regular-season start in Week 17. In his last three games (at San Francisco 49ers, vs. Miami Dolphins, vs. Houston), Jackson has amassed a 0.41 EPA rate and 140.2 passer rating.

Uh, that’s going to beat just about any NFL team to ever play. The Chiefs defense, meanwhile, has compiled a 0.08 EPA-per-dropback rate this season, ranking fourth in the league.

It’s as if Patrick Mahomes simply needed to find the postseason to watch his EPA rates rise from the career low he posted during the regular season. Now, the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback only completed 17 passes on a judicious 23 passes against the Buffalo Bills in the divisional round. But he really moved the ball, accounting for his 131.6 passer rating — a season high — in last weekend’s win. He’s also yielded consecutive weeks of 0.29 and 0.26 EPA rates, respectively. The Ravens defense is no joke, though, with a 0.14 EPA rate, second behind only the Cleveland Browns.

Jared Goff “cooled off” to a 0.17 EPA rate and 103.5 passer rating in the Detroit Lions’ divisional win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But if that’s cooling off, then he can stay cool, because Goff has been outstanding the last three weeks. He’s produced a 0.29 EPA rate and 115.8 passer rating from Week 18 until now. The Niners defense ranks sixth in EPA rate (0.04).

The pressure is on Brock Purdy. Yes, the wet conditions weren’t very conducive for the Niners quarterback in the divisional round against the Green Bay Packers. Still, his last two games against viable opponents (the Ravens and Packers; sorry, not you, Washington Commanders) yielded a combined -0.18 EPA rate and 61.2 passer rating. But the Lions defense only carries a -0.13 EPA rate, 30th in the NFL.

Production when blitzed

Regular season

player EPA/DB Psr Rt Total QB EPA Off EPA/Play

0.35 (3)

128.4 (1)

53.1 (1)

0.37 (3)

0.16 (7)

94.7 (16)

21.1 (8)

0.24 (5)

0.14 (10)

99.6 (12)

30.6 (5)

0.16 (11)

0.03 (17)

102.5 (9)

4.5 (16)

0.05 (17)

Postseason

player EPA/DB Psr Rt Total QB EPA Off EPA/Play

0.35 (6)

110.6 (8)

10.9 (3)

0.33 (7)

0.23 (7)

105.5 (9)

2.5 (8)

0.23 (8)

0.15 (9)

127.1 (5)

3.2 (7)

0.15 (9)

-0.00 (10)

71.2 (12)

-0.1 (10)

0.08 (10)

The Lions had better hope for Aidan Hutchinson and company to provide pressure on Purdy, because there’s no way of talking yourself into thinking the 49ers quarterback isn’t a stud against the blitz. Purdy still tallied good rates against the Packers last week, even in a sluggish overall outing.

A glaring issue for Mahomes comes in the last two weeks against the blitz. And within those numbers, there’s a very stark contrast from the wild-game game to the divisional round. The Chiefs passer uncorked a 0.61 EPA rate against the Bills but dragged to a -0.03 EPA rate against the Dolphins. It helps when the conditions aren’t Arctic cold like the wild-card round in Kansas City.

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Production on third down

Regular season

player EPA/DB Psr Rt Total QB EPA Off EPA/Play

0.30 (3)

100.1 (10)

36.2 (4)

0.27 (4)

0.17 (7)

112.6 (2)

30.2 (7)

0.19 (8)

0.04 (12)

99.5 (11)

8.2 (11)

0.08 (13)

0.01 (15)

102.5 (7)

-2.0 (17)

0.14 (10)

Postseason

player EPA/DB Psr Rt Total QB EPA Off EPA/Play

0.46 (1)

132.1 (1)

6.4 (2)

0.73 (2)

0.25 (4)

114.1 (3)

5.0 (4)

0.06 (6)

0.04 (9)

71.3 (9)

0.3 (9)

-0.05 (9)

0.01 (10)

60.4 (12)

0.1 (10)

-0.06 (10)

So, what you’re saying is: Don’t blitz Purdy or Goff, and don’t let either of them get to third down? Got it!

This is another example of Purdy playing big in the biggest situations. And it’s another example of him playing clutch even through an uneven performance like last week’s. For Goff, he’s elevated his good regular-season numbers on third down to great rates in the playoffs.

You can’t blame the conditions this time for Mahomes’ awful third-down rates against the Bills: -0.51 EPA rate, 42.4 passer rating. That goes against the grain of Mahomes’ regular season.

But if there’s kryptonite for Jackson, it’s when teams blitz him on third down. He’s produced a -0.61 EPA rate in those situations (regular season and postseason). That’s 30th out of the 30 QBs who’ve attempted enough passes to be ranked. For perspective, the Dallas Cowboys’ Dak Prescott led the league with a 0.74 EPA rate. Jackson’s one drawback against Houston came on the blitz on third down (-0.22 EPA rate).

Production in the red zone

Regular season

player EPA/DB Psr Rt Total QB EPA Off EPA/Play

0.25 (2)

106.8 (4)

19.7 (4)

0.29 (4)

0.20 (6)

109.6 (1)

19.8 (3)

0.36 (2)

0.07 (11)

101.2 (8)

7.1 (8)

0.29 (5)

0.04 (13)

98.9 (11)

-4.6 (19)

-0.04 (17)

Postseason

player EPA/DB Psr Rt Total QB EPA Off EPA/Play

1.09 (1)

122.2 (3)

9.1 (2)

1.24 (2)

0.53 (4)

116.0 (4)

6.3 (3)

0.71 (4)

0.09 (8)

79.2 (11)

0.2 (8)

1.77 (1)

-0.37 (11)

100.0 (6)

-7.0 (14)

-0.58 (11)

Might as well throw in “don’t let Purdy and Goff get into the red zone” as a caution to both NFC defenses this Sunday, too. The Niners only had one red-zone possession against the Packers, with Christian McCaffrey punching in the touchdown, so Purdy’s passer rating didn’t hinder San Francisco.

The Ravens hit touchdowns on four of their five possessions against the Texans last weekend. Jackson had his hand in every one of those TDs, accounting for his monstrous red-zone EPA rate. Meanwhile, the Chiefs have a 40-percent TD rate in the red zone this postseason, bettering only the Dolphins and Los Angeles Rams. Mahomes’ rates would have jumped, though, if his scoring pass to Travis Kelce went for 20 yards instead of 22. Still, it’s not like Mahomes’ rates were off the charts in the regular season, either.

(Photo of Patrick Mahomes: Al Bello / Getty Images) 





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