Matthew Stafford has gotten by for most of his Lions career without the luxury of a running game to complement his elite skillset. This season, the team is dead last in rush yards per game (76.3) and near the bottom in rushing yards per attempt.

With such a putrid rushing attack to play off of, it comes as a surprise that Stafford is the highest-rated passer in the NFL on play-action passes in 2017. According to ESPN, Stafford’s 126.6 quarterback rating leads the league, just ahead of Kirk Cousins and Drew Brees. Check out the top ten graph below from NFL Matchup on ESPN.

Stafford has been very good this season, despite some of Detroit’s defensive struggles and a revolving door at offensive line for much of the year. His 3,683 passing yards rank third in the league, behind Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger. Stafford is tied for fifth in touchdown passes, with 23 and his passer rating of 97.9 is good for fifth among active quarterbacks.

The Lions are 7-6 and are going to need some help if they are going to make the playoffs for back-to-back seasons for the first time in the new millennium. Atlanta, Seattle and Carolina are each ahead of them in the wild-card race. Atlanta and Carolina play each other, which helps but Detroit only has about a 15% chance of making the playoffs at this point according to most metrics.

The Lions are only going as far as Matthew Stafford can take them, which has been the case for the majority of his time in Detroit. When you rank last in rushing but first in a stat that’s usually predicated off of your team’s success rushing the ball, it’s easy to see why Stafford is the highest-paid player in the league.

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