If you only look at the statistics of both Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco and Houston Texans QB T.J. Yates over their past five games, you will see two very similar sets of numbers. Yates only played in the last six games of the regular season, and started the final five. Meanwhile, his counterpart in Sunday's Divisional Round Playoff Game, played in all sixteen games of the 2011 season and has not missed a single start in his entire four-year NFL career, a span covering 64 regular season games plus seven road playoff contests.
Their stats are strangely similar, yet they are nothing alike and the numbers should not mislead fans to think there is any comparison between the two. However, in order to humor those blindly loyal Texans fans who think that T.J. Yates is as good or better than starter Matt Schaub, much less the Ravens' QB, let's look at the basic stats that can fool most uninformed fans.
Over their past five games of the regular season, Yates is 82 for 134 (61.2%) while Flacco is 82 for 131(62.5%). Yates has thrown for 949 yards, with 3-TD's, 3-INT's and a QB Rating of 80.7. Flacco has thrown for 873 yards, with 7-TD's, 4-INT's and a QBR of 80.9.
These stats, if looked at in a vacuum alone by themselves, might lead the casual fan to think these two QB's are virtually mirror images of each other. However, this could not be further from the truth.
Even Houston Texans fans continue to debate the merits of their own two QB's, Matt Schaub and T.J. Yates. Many seem to forget that Yates was actually the Texans third-string QB, and only got his chance after Schaub's backup, Matt Leinart, injured his shoulder in his very first game replacing Schaub, leading to the "T.J. Yates era." Had Leinart stayed healthy and was successful, no one, including Texans fans, would have heard a peep from T.J. Yates.
Yates is reputed to have a stronger arm than Schaub, but that does not necessarily translate into a "better" arm, as what good is a cannon arm without the accuracy? Matt Schaub has a full resume on how good he is, as does Flacco, while five games is nearly not enough to get a grip on any player's value or true abilities, especially an NFL quarterback.
While this comparison just looked at Joe Flacco's past five games, looking at his full season gives us a better view for comparison purposes regardless of the obvious difference in opportunities and a full set of stats. Flacco had nine game with over 200 yards of passing this season, and four 300+ yard games. In Yates' five starts, he had only two 200- yards games, one of them the 300 yard one he had in the win at the Cincinnati Bengals in the regular season.
As mentioned in the previous story comparing Yates and Schaub, I mentioned that TJ had only one regular season completion of over 20 yards and was one of ten throwing at that distance or longer. The absence of WR Andre Johnson probably had an effect on that but his recent return has not given us enough to believe that despite a long TD pass to AJ in the Texans playoff win over the Bengals, that that will significantly change.
On the other hand, here is a huge disparity in the comparison between Yates and Flacco. Joe had 44 completions of over 20 yards in the regular season, more than any other season in his four-year NFL career. The addition of rookie WR Torrey Smith, who is averaging over 20 yards a reception, is a huge reason for this dramatic increase. Of those 44 completions, seven of them were over 40 yards, proving the Ravens are far from a run-only offense and that, as opposed to past years, are definitely not afraid of going deep on a regular basis with decent succes.
At the comfortable confines of Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium, Flacco is more efficient than on the road, with23 completions over 20 yards. The fact that the team is 8-0 at home this year and one of the toughest places in theNFL to win over the past decade is no casual stat to overlook. With seven playoff games under his belt, all on the road, a home playoff game will have "Joe Cool" proving his nickname is well earned.
Yates has never played as critical a game in this environment and while a solid game at home against a lesser opponent than he will be facing on Sunday, much less one he already has beaten, is virtually irrelevant, seems t be lost among most Texans fans. From a Ravens perspective, we do, however, understand and appreciate how well a rookie QB can do on the road in the post season, as Flacco and the Ravens did just that in his rookie year. However, he had a full 16-game season under his belt at that point, a huge difference than just five regular season games.
Statistics tell only a part of the story. Much of it are intangibles that are obvious to the well-informed fan. The rest will be written after the game on Sunday.