Will the Redskins have an advantage at quarterback going into their wild card playoff game against the Packers on Sunday?
Two months ago, even a few weeks ago, it would have preposterous to suggest that Kirk Cousins could be considered the better player at quarterback in a postseason game than Aaron Rodgers. The Packers quarterback has a Super Bowl ring and is a two-time MVP. Kirk Cousins was expected to spend this season on the bench and after six games he had six touchdown passes and eight interceptions and it looked like he was running out of rope.
But as we sit here today, neither quarterback has followed expectations. Rodgers is having one of his worst statistical years. He is down from his career averages in nearly every major statistical category including completion percentage (60.7 in 2015, 65.1 career), net yards per pass attempt (5.7 in 2015, 7.0 career) and passer rating (92.7 in 2015, 104.1 career).
Cousins, meanwhile, posted some solid numbers, including the best completion percentage in the NFL (69.8) and top 10 performances in passer rating (101.6, fifth) and net yards per attempt (7.0, sixth).
Here are their numbers for the season:
Clearly, Cousins had a better season. But the difference between the two becomes even more pronounced in the “what have to done lately” department. After six games the Redskins were 2-4 and Cousins was struggling as noted above. The Packers were rolling at 6-0. Rodgers was completing 68.1 percent of his passes with 15 touchdowns and two interceptions with a rating of 115.9.
But since then, Cousins has been better, much better. Here are the stats for the two QB’s from games seven through 16:
It’s clearly and advantage to Cousins when we’re talking about the body of work in 2015 and the more recent games this year. But Rodgers does have an edge when it comes to postseason experience. He has started 11 playoff games and the Packers have won six of them. Cousins’ only postseason experience came in mop up duty after Robert Griffin III was injured against the Seahawks in 2012.
How much of an advantage is it for your quarterback to have more playoff experience than your opponent’s? Last year the team with the more playoff-experienced quarterback went 7-3 in the playoffs (in one game the two QB’s had played an equal number of playoff games going in). But in 2013 the more experienced quarterback was on the losing side in six of the 11 games.
What all of this boils down to is that it’s one game. If you did 50,000 computer simulations of the game, Cousins would probably come out having a better day than Rodgers most of the time. But they will play it once and you certainly can't rule out Rodgers catching fire for a game and pushing the Packers past the Redskins.