If the Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers had met under the bright lights of Monday Night Football around this time last year, the scene would have been electric. Robert Griffin III was catching fire and Colin Kaepernick was just starting his run as the Niners starter, making waves in the process.
This season, however, the pair are mired in their own slumps, and as they go, so too do the hopes and dreams of their respective teams.
But who has the edge?
From a purely statistical standpoint, Griffin has a leg up in almost every category. He is eighth in the NFL with 2,714 passing yards and 271 passing yards per game and ninth in the NFL averaging 7.3 yards per attempt.
Griffin, however has thrown 10 interceptions already this season, which is twice as many as he threw as a rookie.
Kaepernick has been average in the passing game and has struggled throughout this season. He ranks 23rd in the NFL with 1,802 passing yards, 32nd in the NFL with 180 passing yards per game, and 15th in the NFL averaging 7.18 yards per attempt.
One big change for both quarterbacks from last season is their efficiency. Griffin's completion percentage for the season is 59.7, a precipitous drop from the 65.6 percent he finished 2012 with.
Kaepernick has seen his completion percentage dip from 62.4 percent last season to 56.2 this season.
What caused the drop in completion percentage? More passing. Opposing defenses have had a year to adjust to the read-option and the pistol formation.
It remains effective, but now that defenses are dedicating a man to putting a hit on the quarterback, there are fewer openings to run, and thus Griffin and Kaepernick have had to throw more.
Griffin rushed for seven touchdowns last season, but has none this season. Kaepernick had five rushing touchdowns in 13 games played last season and has just three this season.
Meanwhile, Kaepernick has already attempted 251 passes this season compared to 218 last season, and Griffin has attempted 372 passes compared to 393 last season, and he's on pace for 595 attempts for 2013.
For comparison, Peyton Manning has thrown 590 or more passes in a season twice in his career.
Numbers alone don't tell the whole tale, or give a clear edge to either Griffin or Kaepernick. As ho-hum as Kaepernick has been, he has made fewer game-altering mistakes than Griffin.
Griffin has a capable group of receivers, but has missed on a number of easy throws and threw an unnecessary game-ending interception against the Philadelphia Eagles in the midst of what might have been a season-saving comeback.
Kaepernick has been unreliable, and a combination of trying to find primary targets as well as missing key playmakers has left him floundering in the passing game.
If he can't keep defenses honest with consistent completions, he won't find room to run.
A high pressure situation demands response, and Griffin has shown on multiple occasions that he can do wonderful things, but will often try to do too much with the game on the line.
The biggest advantage for the Niners is Kyle Shanahan's horrible offensive balance, which has made the Redskins predictable and stagnant.
As matchups go, Griffin vs. Kaepernick should be a great show, but the pressure to meet the expectations has left both players needing a big win to silence the critics.
Griffin may have the statistical advantage, but Kaepernick has the better environment and will outshine him on Monday.
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