Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson were university rivals. Now they take it to the pros.

In recent times, Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson are widely recognized as two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. But on their return to college, they were tied up during the 2016 Heisman Trophy race – during which they finished 1-2 on the results of the vote. Jackson brought the equipment home, although Watson disagreed with this result at the time.

"I'm the best player in the country," said Watson a week after the Heisman ceremony. "That's how I think. That's how I feel. "

Watson supported his speech at his university final by leading Clemson to a historic championship game thwarted by an Alabama team that was one of the best of all time, as Jackson lost his last two appearances in the bowl. . But many things also fell in the years that followed – each QB participating in the first round of the NFL draft, Watson's return to injury with the Texans and Jackson's rapid development with the Ravens in this second professional campaign.

This week, rivals will be on the field, each preparing their own MVP campaign. So who has the best case this time … and why?

There is no doubt that the two quarter-finals are almost at the top of the NFL hierarchy. According to our QB Elo rankings, which judge callers based on the sliding average of their (time-adjusted) performance, Watson is the league's second-best quarterback behind Patrick Mahomes of Kansas City, while Jackson slips to fourth place behind Dak Prescott of Dallas:

Watson vs Jackson is an elite clash

Current NFL quarterback ranking according to FiveThirtyEight's QB Elo ratings, until November 11, 2019

2019 Season
Rank Strategist Team departures Average start * Elo rating (vs average)
1 Patrick Mahomes KC 8 +144 +101
2 Deshaun Watson HOU 9 99 78
3 Dak Prescott DAL 9 118 73
4 Lamar Jackson BALL 9 135 70
5 Russell Wilson SEA ten +101 67
6 Matt Ryan ATL 8 58 56
seven Aaron Rodgers GB ten 55 47
8 Tom Brady BORN 9 51 45
9 Drew Brees NO 4 20 45
ten Kirk Cousins MIN ten 41 41

* Average QB Elo performance per game, compared to the NFL average for starting quarters.

Source: ESPN

Watson's highest rating is due in large part to his play in the first half of the year – but also because he entered the season with one of QB Elo's top scores. (He was crushed between Tom Brady and Carson Wentz in last year's final standings, which will continue for most of the next season.) Watson has been doing this for a while since he's exploded on the scene as a rookie in 2017 with the fifth-best segment of six career debut at any quarter since 1950.

As for Jackson, his average starting Elo performance In fact, he has been better than Watson (or whoever has not been named "Mahomes") so far this season, even if he is slightly behind Watson in terms of ranking. This is because Jackson started the season with an extremely low score – 40 Elo points below average – which placed 29th out of the 32 starting quarters of the first day. Jackson, however, far exceeded those expectations. According to Elo, its 2019 years are among the first and most improved parts of the season since 1950, according to any QB:

Lamar Jackson is one of the most improved QB of all time

Strongest improvement in the Elo quarter (compared to league average) starting with quarterbacks in the first nine games of a season, 1950-2019

QB Elo vs. Avg.
Season Strategist Team Preseason Through 9 starts Change
1999 Kurt Warner STL -87 54 142
2018 Patrick Mahomes KC -49 82 +131
1962 Len Dawson KC -76 54 +130
2007 Tom Brady BORN 40 +167 +127
1971 Roger Staubach DAL -43 76 +120
2016 Dak Prescott DAL -96 22 118
2007 Derek Anderson KEY -94 23 117
2017 Jared Goff LAR -124 -ten +115
1993 Boomer Esiason NYJ -70 43 +113
2019 Lamar Jackson BALL -40 70 +111

Sources: ESPN,

Because of Watson's steady power and Jackson's rapid improvement, the two quarter-finals are playing at essentially the same high level, just in time to face the best quarter-over-quarter game, if not the entire season.

When we broke the original Watson-Jackson-Heisman debate, we concluded that the difference between the two was essentially a matter of preference: do you want the most regular smuggler (Watson) or the most threatening runner (Jackson) ? Not surprisingly, the same goes for this year's comparison.

According to ESPN's Total Quarterback Rating data, Watson ranks second behind Russell Wilson in Seattle in terms of expected passing points (EPA) this season, while Jackson ranks 15th out of 32 qualifiers. Watson has the highest percentage of achievement against expectations (according to the new generation NFL statistics), the best percentage of achievement in the "tight windows" of coverage, the lower rate of untargeted throws and a rate of Intercepts slightly lower. While Jackson averages slightly more yards per shot, statistics generally suggest that Watson remains the most sophisticated passer at this point.

The history of the quartet elite band

2019 NFL ranks in various quarterback categories for Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson

NFL grades
Player EPA Pass Air Yds / Pass On target% Comp% vs Exp. Tight Comp% Bag% Rush EPA
Watson 2nd 10th 9th 8th 4th 20th 2nd
Jackson 15th 8th 19th 13th 20th 18th 1

Ranks are among the skilled passers – those with at least 14 pass attempts per team match.

Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group

But at the same time, Jackson essentially made up the difference with his ability to rush, leading all EPA QBs on the field with 60% more value-added than Watson's, the next QB's most fast in the standings. That's why Jackson has a slightly better QBR total than Watson so far this season, despite the fact that he is ahead of production.

But the slim margin between the two – whether in QBR or Elo – brings us back to their starting point, in 2016, when they were rivals in college. At the time, Jackson won the Heisman, but Watson won the only duel battle between the two. Now they'll have to face the pros again, in another clash of quarterback styles – and another chance to figure out who's really the best.

Looking to the future: week 11

Best match: No. 1 New England (-2) at No. 10 Philadelphia, 4:25 pm and Sunday

In terms of pure match quality, Sunday afternoon patriotsEagles tilt – a rematch of the Super Bowl LII – is the best of the week. The Patriots recently lost 37-20 to Jackson and the Ravens before last weekend. it was the first time the offensive had been a QB and a really all season offensive. It also raises the question of how much New England dominance at the beginning of the season was the product of a light-filled schedule that gets very hard over the next four weeks. Nevertheless, the Pats have the most effective defense in the league (with adjustment to the calendar), and they still have Tom Brady to face a team of Eagles who come and go and who was not impressed when she has been instructed to remove good QBs this season. Philly pulled out of the crisis in October with two consecutive wins and has a great opportunity to start defeating Dallas against Minnesota and consolidate NFC East's chances of winning here. Despite everything, despite the game played at The Linc – where the Philly Special is immortalized as a statue outside the stadium – we give the Eagles only 43% of the chances of replicating the Super Bowl win and Shoot down the pats here.

What should you watch during the 11th week of the NFL?

NFL games for Week 11, ranked by various factors

Matchup ranking
Favorite Underdog Prob of victory of your favorite Quality Uniformity Importance QBs
17 Colts against 14 jaguars 52.7% 6 3 1 6
4 The Chiefs at 18 Chargers 67.9 3 9 3 2
13 Steelers at 22 Browns 50.3 seven 1 2 9
1 patriots at ten Eagles 57.4 1 4 8 3
2 crows against seven Texans 62.4 2 6 seven 1
19 invoices at 28 dolphins 60.6 12 5 4 seven
12 rams against 15 Bear 65.3 4 8 5 8
5 saints at 24 buccaneers 68.8 5 ten ten 4
20 panthers against 23 falcons 63.2 ten seven 9 12
11 Cowboys at 30 the Lions 76.3 11 11 6 13
25 Jets at 31 Redskins 51.2 14 2 14 ten
6 49ers against 26 cardinals 84.9 9 13 13 5
3 The Vikings against 27 Broncos 84.6 8 12 12 14
21 Raiders against 32 Bengals 85.7 13 14 11 11

Game Quality is based on the Elo ratings of both teams. Uniformity is based on the proximity of the game to 50-50 pre-game chances. A game importance is based on how much he balances the playoff chances of the teams involved. A game quarterbacks are judged on the QB Elo notes of the two starters.

The biggest implications of the playoffs: Number 17 Indianapolis (-1) vs number 14 Jacksonville, 1 pm ET Sunday

Potential change in the playoff probabilities: 30.9 percentage points in total

The AFC South has basically owned this section of the column this year, and the 11th week is no exception. This time, the crucial battle sees the jaguars traveling to Indy to face the Colts in a game that could break the loser's entire season. Indianapolis went from a great 5-2 record three weeks ago to a team whose chances of playing in the playoffs are seriously at risk – and whose starting quarterback (Jacoby Brissett) has an uncertain status for the 11th week. In the meantime, the Jags are potentially dangerous – despite Nick Foles is back after a collarbone injury that kept him away since the first week. We all loved the magic of Minshew Mania on the mustache, but Elo's quarterback thinks Foles will make Jacksonville more competitive. from now on, provided that there is not too much of the residual effects of his injury. Regarding the stakes of this game, neither team can increase its chances to play in the playoffs with a victory over 48%, but the loser will lose his chances of moving away: if Indy fall , its probability of participating in the playoffs will be only 15%. , while the Jacksonville number would drop to 7% with a loss.

Best QB duels: No. 2 Deshaun Watson (HOU) vs. No. 4 Lamar Jackson (BAL); Patrick Mahomes (KC) # 1 vs. Philip Rivers (BAC) # 17; # 8 Tom Brady (NS) vs. # 13 Carson Wentz (PHI)

FiveThirtyEight against readers

Like every week at FiveThirtyEight, we look at the results achieved by our Elo model compared to all those who made choices in our prediction game. (If you sign up, you can get into our rankings here, I'm currently in 407th place!) Here are the games in which Elo did his best – and worst – predictions against the field last week:

The stupidest (and most intelligent) choices of Elo of the week 10

Average difference between points earned by readers and by Elo in the matches of the 10th week of the FiveThirtyEight prediction game

SF 68% SF 59% MER 27, SF 24 8.6

DAL 54 DAL 51 MIN 28, DAL 24 0.9

BALL 86 BALL 89 BAL 49, CIN 13 -0.8

NO 88 NO 89 ATL 26, NO 9 -3.3

OAK 51 LAKE 51 OAK 26, LAC 24 -3.4

GB 71 GB 69 GB 24, CAR 16 -3.6

LAR 60 LAR 62 PIT 17, LAR 12 -4.3


KC 64 KC 68 TEN 35, KC 32 -6.9

TB 64 TB 57 TB 30, ARI 27 -7.6

KEY 50 BUF 56 KEY 19, 16 BUF -8.0

NYJ 63 NYG 53 NYJ 34, NYG 27 -16.5

CHI 81 CHI 53 CHI 20, DET 13 -21.6

Home teams are in bold.

Since the scoring system is non-linear, the average number of points of the readers does not necessarily correspond to the number of points attributed to the average prediction of the readers.

Comparing our Elo algorithm, it was a difficult week for readers. The only big win against the computer was a smart hedge against the 49ers, who lost to Seattle in a classic battle Monday night. Otherwise, there were many more games like Jets-Giants and Browns-Bills, in which readers paid to disagree with the model. And there was a bit of bad luck too – Elo was able to crush the ground knowing Sunday morning that Matthew Stafford would miss the Detroit game against the Bears. (It is assumed that many readers have not been able to go back and change their choices.) Overall, Elo won by an average margin of 71.4 points – a peak in the season favorable to the sixth consecutive week of victories of the model.

Congratulations, however, to Benjamin Thornton, who led all the readers of the 10th week with 51.5 points – it was a remarkably bad week, thanks to so many strange results – and to Aaron DiGenova, who once again led the contest. the season with 674.7 points. Thanks to all who played – and if not, do not miss the action! You can make your choice now and try your luck against Elo, even if you missed the 10th week.

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