The preseason hype for the dynamic duo in Detroit of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson was more than justified. With Johnson hauling in 81 of Stafford's 356 completions for an NFC-leading 1,335 yards and 14 touchdowns, the fantasy numbers are there. The advanced numbers agree: through 14 games, Johnson ranks second among receivers in win probability added at 2.52 and ninth in expected points added at 51.4.
The duo's best performance to date came in Sunday's matchup against the Oakland Raiders. The 28-27 victory out west moved the Lions to 9-5 on the season and but one more victory away from clinching a playoff berth (or a couple of timely losses from NFC foes). As usual, it was the Stafford-Johnson affinity which accounted for much of the Lions' victory. On a whopping 18 targets, Stafford hit Johnson nine times for 214 yards and two touchdowns, as summarized visually below the jump:
Two of Johnson's catches converted third downs. Two more scored touchdowns. One more converted a first-and-20. One went for 48 yards on a first down with 93 seconds remaining. Even three of the so-called incompletions according to our data resulted in big positives, as the Lions drew one defensive holding call and two pass interference calls on balls directed at Johnson. One of these penalties turned a would-be fourth down into a first down prior to the Lions' first touchdown; another resulted in a 17-yard gain with just 53 seconds to play.
The results were a stunning 1.17 WPA and 17.1 EPA for Johnson and a 0.87 WPA and 28.0 EPA, all four totals representing season highs. Thanks to the heroic performance from the leaders of the offense, the Lions now control their own destiny in the playoffs. With tough games remaining against San Diego and Green Bay, the Lions needed this victory over Oakland. Now, even losing out still leaves the Lions with a 54% chance of making the playoffs (according to nfl-forecast.com), making Sunday's victory one of the biggest in recent franchise history.