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NFL Week 11 QB Review: Derek Carr unleashes the best PFF grade of the season, Justin Herbert bounces back and more

Nov 22, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) attempts a pass during the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Every week throughout the 2020 NFL season, we'll revisit the biggest storylines around the NFL's quarterback play and try to add proper context to PFF grading and traditional stats.

Before we start, here are a few disclaimers to aid in the understanding of the PFF system and its interaction with box score stats.

  • There's no doubt that quarterback play is the biggest driver of passing production, and most people are conditioned to have a picture of how well a quarterback played based on the five basic box score stats — completions, attempts, yards, touchdowns and interceptions.
  • The reality is that the best quarterbacks will rise to the top, or close to it, statistically over time, but in one-game samples or even full seasons, there are other forces at play that heavily influence those numbers.
  • The PFF grade is here to isolate the quarterback's play away from his playmakers, playcaller, opposing defense and anything else that could influence his statistics. We give credit for good throws regardless of the result, and we do the same for bad throws. The PFF passing grade has proven to be one of the most stable passing metrics available, and we believe adding proper context to every play is crucial for long-term player evaluation.

Week 11 is in the books, so here's a look at some of the top stories from the latest slate of NFL games.

[Editor's Note: PFF's advanced statistics and player grades are powered by AWS machine learning capabilities.]

Derek Carr with the best passing grade of the season

Until his game-ending interception, Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr played one of the cleanest games you’ll see from a quarterback. His 96.0 passing grade for the game is the second-best in the NFL since 2016 among quarterbacks with at least 30 dropbacks. Carr finished 23-for-31 for 275 yards, three touchdowns and the interception. But of his eight incompletions, four were drops and two were throwaways.

Carr tied for the league lead with five big-time throws this week; he also had the highest accuracy percentage on 10-plus-yard throws, while the short game was efficient, as well. It’s unfortunate that Carr was going head-to-head with Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, or we’d be talking about his incredible game in a key division matchup.

Deshaun Watson is having a career year

It’s gone under the radar, given the Houston Texans’ 3-7 record, but Watson is playing the best football of his career. In past seasons, Watson’s peaks put him among the league’s best, but he always had a few poor games that ranked among the worst in the league. Since 2017, Watson has 10 games in which he’s posted a PFF game grade below 60.0, but this season his lowest graded game is 66.9.

Perhaps most impressive is how well he is taking care of the ball, as he has just seven turnover-worthy plays after having 23 last year and 19 in 2018. Considering how often the Texans have been playing from behind, Watson has avoided turnovers while maintaining his high-end playmaking that was on display against the New England Patriots this weekend. He peppered the field with five big-time throws on his way to a career-high 93.5 passing grade. Watson’s step forward is a great sign for the future head coach in Houston.

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