Stafford's woes against good teams

Has it been the QB, or a lot of back luck?

Updated: August 30, 2013, 12:12 PM ET
By Scott Kacsmar | Football Outsiders

Matthew Stafford AP Photo/Duane BurlesonMatthew Stafford has not had great results playing against teams with a winning record.

Two seasons ago, quarterback Matthew Stafford was the savior Detroit Lions fans had been waiting for since Bobby Layne manned the position in the 1950s. He was certainly prolific, with 5,038 yards and 41 touchdown passes. He was also clutch, with four game-winning drives. He led the Lions to the postseason just three years removed from an 0-16 campaign in 2008.

But after a 4-12 record in 2012 and just 20 touchdown passes, Stafford's three-year extension for $53 million has some questioning if 2009's No. 1 overall pick is the right guy to lead the Lions to glory.

Some of that stems from this concerning fact: Stafford is 1-23 (.042) against teams who finished the season with a winning record.

It took Andrew Luck four professional starts to notch a second win over a winning team. Joe Flacco had seven such wins in 2012, including four straight in the postseason. A total of 22 teams won multiple games against teams with winning records in 2012 (playoffs included).

It gets worse.

Scott Mitchell, an infamous Detroit disappointment, led the Lions to three wins against winning teams in his first season with the team and he only started nine games. Even JaMarcus Russell went 3-9 against winning teams for Oakland. Something seems off here.

Stafford's 1-23 record includes the 2011 NFC wild-card loss in New Orleans. His 90.9 QBR in that 45-28 loss is the highest by any losing quarterback in the playoffs since 2008. Clearly not all of the losses were Stafford's fault. Adjusting for circumstances like blown leads, midgame injuries and missed field goals, you could argue Stafford had the Lions in position to go (at best) 8-16 in these games. That's still not good, but it looks much better than the eyesore that is 1-23 with the only win coming narrowly over Seattle in Week 8 last season. Stafford started 0-16 against this level of competition before that first win.

How can a team expect to beat three or four playoff teams on its way to a Super Bowl if it cannot beat more than one such team in four years? It could be called an even more problematic question when you consider that the NFC is currently the deeper conference.

So is it really the QB? When dealing with a record that sits so far on one extreme -- pure dumb luck alone should produce a better record than 1-23 in any sample of two dozen NFL games -- we must dig a little deeper.


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Scott Kacsmar

Football Outsiders
Scott Kacsmar is an Assistant Editor at Football Outsiders.