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Splitsville: The Geno Project

Let’s start Splitsville again this week with a look at the defenses who you want to matchup with or avoid in Week 6.

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Geno Smith's early-season success is unlikely to be a fluke. (Getty)

Most average passing points allowed per game to quarterbacks (and thus most friendly to receivers, too): Cowboys (31.1), Vikings (27.8), Broncos (27.8), Eagles (27.5), Redskins (27.4), Falcons (26.9), Packers (26.9), Giants (26.3), Chargers (26) and Rams (24.8).

Fewest passing points allowed per game: Browns (11.2), Chiefs (11.9) Panthers (12), Colts (12.1), Seahawks (12.9), 49ers (13), Patriots (13.8), Texans (14.3), Saints (15.5) and Titans (15.7).

Worst rushing defenses (points per game): Steelers (21.3), Jaguars (20.9), Redskins (20.2), Browns (19), Giants (18.6), Rams (18.6), 49ers (18.6), Lions (18.5), Colts (17.7) and Texans (17.4).

Best rushing defenses: Cardinals (9.1), Buccaneers (9.4), Ravens (10.2), Cowboys (10.7), Jets (11.2), Bengals (12), Falcons (12.1), Panthers (12.2), Broncos (13) and Packers (13.1).

I have to choose between Eddie Lacy and Le'Veon Bell in a deep home league this week (flex is taken) and am leaning Lacy because I throw these rushing defense numbers out the window when a team is primarily concerned with the pass, as the Ravens surely will be.

Geno Smith had the second-best road passer rating in NFL history on Monday night. After five games, he’s also fourth-best among rookies in history (post-1960) in yards per pass attempt. And his 80.3 overall rating is the fifth-best rookie passer rating through Week 5 among active quarterbacks. We’re including Bruce Gradkowski, who only played four games and had 81 attempts in 2006 (83.8 rating). Smith has 156 attempts, the seventh most. Note for future reference when trying to gauge how well rookies are playing that average rookie years for active QBs through Week 5 is 71.5 and these quarterbacks are 37-64 in games.

While it’s only one game, no rookie quarterback has randomly played near Smith’s Monday night level in a road game and ended up being a stiff. As I noted in the Wall Street Journal:

[Watch: Archie Manning breaks down the Manning brothers]

"(Ben) Roethlisberger is a two-time Super Bowl winner. Norm Snead was an All-Pro four times (including once as a Giant). Matt Ryan, Smith’s nemesis on Monday, is 57-26 as a starter. Former Raider Daryle Lamonica, the AFL’s “Mad Bomber,” was a two-time league MVP. Last season Robert Griffin III had the highest full-season rating ever for a rookie QB (102.4). And if Greg Cook hadn’t suffered a career-ending shoulder injury as a rookie, his coach, Hall of Famer Bill Walsh, maintained he could have been an all-time great."

Here are the best passer ratings for receivers on all passes thrown their way. So, Peyton Manning has a 141.3 passer rating on all throws to Demaryius Thomas, according to ProFootballFocus.com. (Note that PFF does not assign a target on every throw, as many do. But there are a lot of throwaways that should not be assigned to “nearest receiver.”)

Okay, Thomas is No. 1. Then, Dez Bryant (134.5), Wes Welker (134.4), Antonio Brown (127.8), Austin Pettis (122.4), DeSean Jackson (122.1), Anquan Boldin (113.9), Denarius Moore (113.7), Randall Cobb (113.7) and Julian Edelman (109.2).

The bottom: Vincent Jackson (26.7), Greg Little (31.9), Emmanual Sanders (39.4 and shockingly bad compared to Brown, who I clearly have underrated), Rueben Randle (50.2), Cecil Shorts (50.6), Michael Floyd (50.8), Jerome Simpson (57), Hakeem Nicks (57.5), Steve Smith (59.8), Mike Wallace (60.3) and Robert Woods (60.3). I apologize to all those I’ve told to either get or hold Jackson out of habit. Always follow the data.

Look at Eli Manning’s rating to his other receivers compared to Victor Cruz (99.3) -- that’s how good Cruz is.

PFF grades tight ends on yards gains per route run. In this stat, Greg Olsen actually beats Jordan Cameron. If Cam Newton rallies starting about now as he did last year, Olsen will be a primary beneficiary.

The kickers are out of control. They’re making 85 percent of kicks. In 2000, it was 79.7 percent. In 1990, when fantasy football was really just starting, it was 74.4 percent. In 1980 -- 63.6 percent. Field goals used to be a lot more exciting.

[Watch: Is Alshon Jeffery the next big fantasy star?]

But even more startling, consider that kickers are making 50-plus yard field goals at a rate of 62.8 percent this year. Yes, that’s pretty much the rate they made ALL field goals in 1980. So a 50-plus yarder today is just your generic field goal attempt in 1980. In other words, no big deal. The Jets were happy to set up for a 50-yard field goal on Monday night (though the Falcons simply would not allow that). In 1980, teams made 29 percent of 50-plus yarders. By 1990, it was 35.6 percent and then 55.9 percent in 2000, and now look at it.

Why hasn’t the target changed? Make the goal posts more narrow. Rotate it at varying speeds depending on distance -- 78 RPMs for extra points! Yes, I want to make a mockery of field goals. Many of them, as the Seahawks found out in Week 5, merely get you three points closer to losing. Plus, they are boring.

And, seriously, we can change our field goal scoring or simply eliminate it altogether. They’ve become glorified extra points when it comes to degree of difficulty.
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