Finally: It’s the battle of young quarterbacks NFL fans have been waiting for when Sam Darnold and the New York Jets visit Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills Sunday (CBS, 1 p.m. ET)
This is the second 2018 meeting between the two AFC East rivals. But both quarterbacks missed a 41-10 Buffalo victory at MetLife stadium on November 11 with injuries.
Which young QB is having the better season? Stats that only focus on passing give a slight edge to Darnold…
Futures Up in the Air
Passer Rating: Darnold 68.3, Allen 66.3
Completion Pct: Darnold 55%, Allen 52.9%
TD/INT Ratio: Darnold 11/14, Allen 5/7
Frankly, those are horrible stats. Both rank near the bottom of the NFL amongst starters. Only rookies get a chance to be that bad when they’re learning the ropes. The league median for passer rating is around 96. This is a high-scoring season with quarterbacks lighting up the scoreboard. Darnold and Allen lack aerial electricity.
Allen grades out as the superior 2018 quarterback when you include his legs. ESPN’s “Total QBR” factors in rushing production. It’s on a different scale than passer rating. League median is around 60.
Rush to Judgment?
ESPN’s Total QBR: Allen 53.0, Darnold 31.5
Rushing Yards: Allen 389, Darnold 61
Rushing TDs: Allen 4, Darnold 1
Here, Allen is just a bit below average (roughly equivalent to Marcos Mariota and Dak Prescott). Darnold badly trails the bulk of the league, only leading rookie Josh Rosen of Arizona (30.7).
Granting struggles for both, Allen is the slightly more dynamic threat right now. That’s a big reason why Buffalo will probably be laying more than the standard value of home field advantage Sunday. The line is expected to close around Buffalo -3.5, or -3 with added vigorish on the favorite. Buffalo is 4-2-1 against the spread in the seven games Allen started, NYJ just 3-6 ATS in the nine games Darnold started.
Does this early start mean Allen is more likely to have the superior career? Recent history says you should be skeptical about that. Young quarterbacks that NEED their legs to move the ball have trouble sustaining success. They eventually suffer the knee or ankle injury that slows them down. Defenses learn their scrambling tendencies and adjust. Vince Young won rookie of the year…led his team to the playoffs in his second season…then disappeared. Tim Tebow won a playoff game! The aforementioned Mariota and Prescott aren’t developing as hoped.
When you start thinking about Regular Season Win Totals for the 2019 season, or even AFC East futures prices as Tom Brady’s career winds down, remember that Darnold is a year younger than Allen (21 vs. 22), and might benefit in the future from a head coaching change that better advances his talent. Jared Goff looked awful under Jeff Fisher. Now he’s a shining star at age 24.