AFC South Advanced Stat of the Week: Jacksonville Jaguars

Nate DunlevyGuest ColumnistApril 18, 2012

Blaine Gabbert's play will determine the Jags' fate in 2012.
Blaine Gabbert's play will determine the Jags' fate in 2012.Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

The Advanced Stat of the Week this week is Passer Rating Differential.

Passer rating has scores of critics. The most common complaints are that it overvalues completion percentage, it has no opponent adjustment, it has no way of adjusting for game situation, it doesn't value running at all, it doesn't account for sacks or fumbles, it is ridiculously hard to calculate and it was scaled in the 1970s, making it notoriously useless for comparing quarterbacks of different eras.

Other than that, it's great!

Actually, I have always had a soft spot in my heart for passer rating. Aside from the fact that it correlates well with winning, it always seemed like the stat that Joe Montana led the league in, and that has to count for something, right?

I realize that I'm being uncharacteristically kindhearted to the deeply flawed and possibly useless number, but passer rating is here to stay, and is still infinitely more useful than ranking teams and players by yards. Passer rating is so painfully mainstream that addressing it as an "advanced stat" would make a mockery of the holy name of advanced stats.

So, this week I'm going to tip my hat to our dear, lame old friend and address Passer Rating Differential.

Passer Rating Differential (PRD) essentially compares offensive and defensive passer ratings. One of the reasons I enjoy it so much is that the top eight teams in PRD all made the playoffs in 2011. It covers the gamut of teams from the Packers and Saints (great offensive passer ratings, mediocre defensive ones) to the Ravens and 49ers, who posted outstanding defensive numbers.

PRD shows us that it doesn't matter what combination you use to get the job done, stopping the pass and passing the ball is the key to winning in the NFL.

Up next is the Jacksonville Jaguars, and my guess is that fans don't want to read me questioning Blaine Gabbert again.

Don't worry, I'm not going to. I've said enough about what I think about Gabbert to choke a camel.

Still, when it comes to PRD, the Jaguars ranked 29th in the NFL with a minus-21.5 score. They were 15th in defensive passer rating, but dead last in offensive passer rating.

You cannot win in the NFL if you have the worst passing game in football. It is impossible.

I've answered the question before, but what if Gabbert drastically improves in 2012? How good can the Jaguars be?

Assuming everything else stays the same, if Gabbert pulls his passer rating up near league average, he'd add roughly 15 points to the Jags' PRD. That would give them a score around minus-six. That's in a class with the Bengals, Bears, Chiefs and Eagles from 2011. They'd be a roughly .500 team, and with some breaks could think about the playoffs.

Jags fans would take that in a heartbeat.

Of course, if Gabbert's improvement corresponds with a defensive improvement from the middle of the pack to the top 10 in the league, the Jags could be better than that. The defense has room to improve in pass defense, and a good draft pick could move them up a few points.

If there is any bright spot for the Jags, it's that the passing game can't possibly be any worse in 2012 than it was in 2011. Even if Gabbert completely implodes, he'll be replaced by Chad Henne, and that will improve the pass offense.

No matter how you slice it, the Jags should see more wins in 2012.