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Top Quarterback Performances in Week 18: Trevor Lawrence, Jalen Hurts, and Baker Mayfield Stand Out

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The final weekend of the 2023 NFL regular season kicked off with a rainstorm and two backup quarterbacks. In the end, Mason Rudolph led the Pittsburgh Steelers into playoff position by toppling Tyler Huntley’s Baltimore Ravens. It’s been that kind of year in the NFL; one defined by unexpected gunslingers occasionally thriving but mostly struggling behind center. 2023 will be the year that guys like Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Tommy DeVito, Tyson Bagent, C.J. Beathard, Bailey Zappe and Jaren Hall all earned starts.

Injuries and ineffectiveness helped bring scoring to a five-year low, down nearly six points per game from 2020. This left the capacity for entirely too many awful quarterback performances. But most of them were uninteresting slogs from players from whom we’d come to expect nothing. What this weekly column has dived into is the quarterbacks who were supposed to be great — or at least passably good or even unremarkable but consistent — and then fell flat on their faces for one game. Friends, there have been a lot of them. 2023 saw stars like Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow and Josh Allen all drop stinkers in the middle of flawed seasons. And it didn’t matter all that much in the long run, because everyone was at least kinda-sorta lowkey flawed this fall. Week 18, despite its lack of big names amongst a field of meaningless games, added a final chapter to that lore.

So who was Week 18’s grossest quarterback? Fortunately, we’ve got tools to better understand just how damaging each underwhelming underwhelming performances was. Using the advanced stat expected points added (EPA) can gauge how much a quarterback brings to the table compared to a typical player. By comparing each passer’s Week 18 EPA against their 2023 adjusted average, we get a better picture of just how frustrating their days were.

And we can find both of those thanks to The Athletic’s Ben Baldwin and his incredibly useful stats sites RBSDM.com and HabitatRing.com. So let’s take a look at who disappointed the most in the final weekend of the 2023 season.

Syndication: The Tennessean 2023 expected points added (EPA) per game: 5.7 Week 18 EPA: 0.3 Difference: 5.4 points worse Lawrence clearly hasn’t been the same quarterback over the final third of the 2023 season as he was to begin the year. He was roughly a top-10 passer over his first dozen games, but injuries sapped his effectiveness late in the year and kept him out of Week 17’s win over the Carolina Panthers. That win gave Jacksonville the chance to punch their playoff ticket and claim the AFC South crown with a victory over a 5-11 Tennessee Titans team they’d beaten 34-14 earlier in the season. This is not what happened. the final offensive snap of the Jaguars 2023 season pic.twitter.com/PQZbOjVhEgChristian D’Andrea ( January 7, 2024 ) January 7, 2024 Lawrence had some solid moments and shined with some intermediate and downfield throws. But he also missed open targets and failed to seize the opportunities the Titans’ offered in an aborted comeback, going 0-3 on fourth down in a loss that ensured the Jaguars wouldn’t be able to follow up on last year’s playoff appearance.

SMB INT! 📺: Watch #JAXvsTEN on @NFLonCBS pic.twitter.com/1NXYQpJHw9Tennessee Titans ( January 7, 2024 ) January 7, 2024 Lawrence threw as many interceptions as touchdowns and, more importantly, just missed the throws that could have stamped his name among the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. the Titans are leading by 8 with 2 minutes to play and their safeties have decided it’s totally cool to let Calvin Ridley run free behind them pic.twitter.com/nvRGfMlQMaChristian D’Andrea ( January 7, 2024 ) January 7, 2024 That’ll give him plenty to think about this offseason. Lawrence looked like he was ready to make the leap midway through his third season in the NFL. But his finish left too many unanswered questions to place him inside the circle of trust.

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports 2023 expected points added (EPA) per game: 6.3 Week 18 EPA: -7.2 Difference: 13.5 points worse Mayfield came into Week 18 nursing a rib injury and appeared to suffer a minor right leg injury early against a solid Carolina Panthers pass rush. Baker Mayfield injury – Good catch here on a possible right ankle/foot injury. He had dealt with a prior right ankle sprain earlier this season too. He’s tough and still in the game, playing through it. https://t.co/lTmA2kaSVRJeff Mueller, PT, DPT ( January 7, 2024 ) January 7, 2024 This all led to the least convincing division-clinching win of the modern era. Mayfield was entirely inconsequential to the Bucs’ efforts, averaging only 3.3 yards per dropback on a day where he attempted eight passes that traveled more than 11 yards downfield and failed to complete a single one. He only completed three passes that traveled more than five yards downfield. Behold, a mess: via rbsdm.com This was the Mayfield we saw in 2022 — the same guy who was that season’s worst regular starting quarterback. But this wasn’t all bad. He protected the ball and avoided the kinds of short fields Carolina could have turned into points. Instead, the Panthers wasted their lone scoring opportunity when D.J. Chark fumbled the ball out the back of the end zone and finished their season with back-to-back shutout losses.

Syndication: The Record 2023 expected points added (EPA) per game: 8.1 Week 18 EPA: -10.5 Difference: 18.6 points worse OK, well there’s a chance Hurts’ terrible Week 18 performance was a result of his throwing hand suddenly having extra corners: pic.twitter.com/TT7Ha4hT99Warren Sharp ( January 7, 2024 ) January 7, 2024 Hurts wasn’t very good even before suffering a dislocated finger, in part because A.J. Brown left the game early due to a leg injury and DeVonta Smith didn’t play. Without his top-two wideouts or the run support of D’Andre Swift, the fourth-year quarterback was a disaster. He completed just seven of 16 passes for only 55 yards, was sacked twice and threw an interception without finding the end zone in any of his six drives. THAT’S A PICK 🔥 📺: @NFLonCBS pic.com/zFstaa4oqcNew York Giants ( January 7, 2024 ) January 7, 2024 Six of his seven completions came within eight yards of the line of scrimmage: via rbsdm.com This is all very worrisome for an Eagles team backing into the playoffs. Six weeks ago the Eagles had the best record in the NFL and Hurts was an MVP candidate. Since then they’re 1-5 and have been exposed by the Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants in consecutive weeks. In that stretch Hurts has as many touchdown passes (five) as interceptions and a 77.6 passer rating — 0.4 points better than Zach Wilson in 2023. Bet on the Eagles this postseason at your own peril. David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports 2023 expected points added (EPA) per game: -6.9 Week 18 EPA: -30.2 Difference: 23.3 points worse Zappe is a horrible starting quarterback. Coming into Week 18, his average start resulted in a touchdown’s worth of negative expected points. This makes it very difficult for him to be disappointing enough to qualify for this list. A performance worth NEGATIVE-30 points of value, however, will do the trick. .@mcarter2nd with the PBU, @Iwill_suceed20 with the pick 🤝#NYJvsNE on nFL pic.com/Hp24oZUlybNew York Jets ( January 7, 2024 ) January 7, 2024 A snowy day and depleted receiving corps didn’t help, but Zappe was a disaster in the best possible way for the Patriots — losing to the Jets guarantees New England a top-three draft pick. The former fourth-round draft pick, playing ahead of an inactive Mac Jones, attempted 15 passes that traveled more than six yards downfield. He tossed more interceptions than completions on these throws. via nextgenstats.nfl.com This was the backdrop for the fifth game of the season in which the Patriots failed to find the end zone. 2023 was an unmitigated disaster for New England, albeit one that puts the team in position to draft a quarterback who *won’t* chalk up four touchdown worth of negative value in a single game.

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