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Chad Pemberton: Quarterback predictions for the 2013 NFL season

Jul. 21, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

In the next month and a half, I'm going to be unpacking some of my predictions for the 2013 NFL season. They will range from player projections to who's in and out of the playoffs to (ultimately) a Super Bowl prediction.

In this first installment, I'm offering some of my predictions on quarterback performances for the upcoming season. I'll start with what I consider to be fairly reasonable and then work my way to something rather bold.

Matthew Stafford's workload will decrease

Last season Stafford attempted 727 passes for the Detroit Lions, becoming the first quarterback in the history of the NFL to exceed 700. This was not a good thing.

Stafford only mustered 20 touchdown passes, which, yeah, everyone recognizes as pretty pedestrian on the surface, but it's even worse when you dig deeper and take into account how low of a touchdown percentage that yields when factoring in his absurd passing volume. The only things stopping Stafford's TD percentage of 2.8 from being the basement of the league were three rookies -- Brandon Weeden (2.7 percent), Ryan Tannehill (2.5), Nike Foles (2.3) -- and Matt Cassel (2.2).

I suspect that Stafford's total pass attempts will decrease by about 10 percent. Barring injury, he will finish in the Top 10 or Top 5 in total pass attempts -- this is bound to happen when your best offensive player is the best receiver on the planet -- but I'd say there's a less than one percent chance he surpasses the 700-mark again this season.

Signing Reggie Bush, who proved to be a serviceable running back during two years in Miami, and some better luck on the defensive side of the ball (Detroit only recovered six fumbles last season) should decrease the workload for Stafford's arm.

Matt Ryan will lead the league in touchdown passes

People want to give Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons a bunch of grief over his 1-4 post season record, yet none of these people mention the part where those four losses came at the hand of that season's NFC Super Bowl representative -- Arizona (2008), Green Bay (2010), N.Y. Giants (2011), San Francisco 49ers (2012) -- two of which went on to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. All this to say: Don't let the foolish, simple-minded, anti-clutch narrative fool you. Ryan is a very good quarterback.

He has gotten better with each season. He had career highs pretty much across the board in 2012: completions (422), attempts (615), completion percentage (68.6), passing yards (4,719), passing touchdowns (32) and QBR (74.5).

With another season under his belt with Julio Jones, an electric wide receiver, Ryan's completion percentage on throws of more than 15 yards should improve. Ryan only completed 18.4 percent of such throws in 2012. This is not atypical for good quarterbacks.

Tom Brady won't throw more than 30 touchdown passes

Last season the New England Patriots passer had 403 completions, 4,827 yards and 34 touchdowns. The players responsible for 75 percent of those completions (301), 71 percent of those yards (3,414), and 56 percent of those touchdowns (19) are no longer on the roster. Suffice it to say the cabinets in New England are bare -- like really, really bare.

What's more, New England's best two receiving options, Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola, have gigantic question marks about whether they can stay on the field. Gronkowski had five surgeries in the past year. Amendola only played in 12 games in the past two seasons.

If Gisele Bundchen, Brady's wife, thought New England's receivers were bad during their last Super Bowl.("My husband cannot. ... throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time," she said), wait until she gets a load of this year's offense. Something tells me we're going to be seeing a lot of Stevan Ridley and that seventh-ranked rush offense.

Chad Pemberton is a Marshall University graduate who follows the NFL and is writing about it for The Herald-Dispatch. Email him at pemberton@herald-dispatch.com.

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