Breaking Down the Statistics Behind the NFL Wild Card Matchups

Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Breaking Down the Statistics Behind the NFL Wild Card Matchups

Football

Breaking Down the Statistics Behind the NFL Wild Card Matchups

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Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As the NFL regular season comes to a close, the playoff teams and wild card matchups are set. Each team entering the playoffs has a shot to reach the Super Bowl but only one can claim the ultimate prize of a championship at the end. Looking at the different relationships of statistical categories for the playoff teams may point to some advantages within the matchups that fall beneath the surface. Every team in the playoffs has their strengths and weaknesses and below, it is shown how they stack up against one another:

Running Game

Rushing Yards per Game

AFC

  1. Tennessee Titans – 149.4 
  2. Buffalo Bills – 129.9
  3. New England Patriots – 126.5
  4. Kansas City Chiefs – 115.0
  5. Cincinnati Bengals – 102.5
  6. Las Vegas Raiders – 95.1
  7. Pittsburgh Steelers – 93.1

NFC

  1. Philadelphia Eagles – 159.7
  2. San Francisco 49ers – 127.4 
  3. Dallas Cowboys – 124.6
  4. Arizona Cardinals – 122.1 
  5. Green Bay Packers – 111.8
  6. Los Angeles Rams – 99.0
  7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 98.4

Yards per Rush Attempt

AFC

  1. Buffalo Bills – 4.8
  2. Kansas City Chiefs – 4.5
  3. New England Patriots – 4.4
  4. Tennessee Titans – 4.4
  5. Cincinnati Bengals – 4.0
  6. Las Vegas Raiders – 3.9
  7. Pittsburgh Steelers – 3.9

NFC

  1. Philadelphia Eagles – 4.9
  2. Dallas Cowboys – 4.5
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 4.3
  4. San Francisco 49ers – 4.3
  5. Green Bay Packers – 4.3
  6. Arizona Cardinals – 4.2
  7. Los Angeles Rams – 4.0

Of all the playoff teams this year, the Philadelphia Eagles have the most effective running game based off these statistics. Looking at the different wild card matchups, these rushing stats favor the Bills over the Patriots, the Chiefs over the Steelers, and the Bengals over the Raiders in the wild card round for the AFC. For the NFC, it favors the Philadelphia Eagles over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Arizona Cardinals over the Los Angeles Rams in all categories against their respective opponents.. San Francisco and Dallas split in these categories, making for a very interesting first round matchup on the ground. 

According to Football Outsiders DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), this is how this year’s playoff teams’ rushing attacks stack up.

AFC

  1. Buffalo Bills – 4.2%
  2. New England Patriots – 2.3%
  3. Kansas City Chiefs – 0.2%
  4. Tennessee Titans – -5.5%
  5. Cincinnati Bengals – -12.5%
  6. Pittsburgh Steelers – -13.6%
  7. Las Vegas Raiders – -14.4%

NFC

  1. Philadelphia Eagles – 7.0%
  2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 6.3%
  3. San Francisco 49ers – 5.6%
  4. Green Bay Packers – 3.2%
  5. Los Angeles Rams – -1.8%
  6. Dallas Cowboys – -6.7%
  7. Arizona Cardinals – -12.8%

After looking at the adjusted ratings and rankings, you can see that there is some evidence of changes. DVOA does in fact favor the 49ers over the Cowboys in the rushing attack. The Buccaneers heavy dose of a passing game skews their numbers, but their rushing attack is better than advertised. DVOA likes the Rams more than the Cardinals despite Arizona having stronger averages. One interesting part is that the top three NFC teams have better ratings than the entire AFC.

Run Defense

Opponent Rushing Yards per Game

AFC

  1. Tennessee Titans – 84.6
  2. Cincinnati Bengals – 102.5
  3. Buffalo Bills – 109.8
  4. Las Vegas Raiders – 114.3
  5. Kansas City Chiefs – 117.6
  6. New England Patriots – 123.7
  7. Pittsburgh Steelers – 146.1

NFC

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 92.5
  2. Los Angeles Rams – 103.2
  3. San Francisco 49ers – 103.5
  4. Philadelphia Eagles – 107.9
  5. Green Bay Packers – 109.1
  6. Dallas Cowboys – 112.8
  7. Arizona Cardinals – 114.8

Opponent Yards per Rush Attempt

AFC

  1. Tennessee Titans – 3.9
  2. Las Vegas Raiders – 4.2
  3. Buffalo Bills – 4.2
  4. Cincinnati Bengals – 4.3
  5. New England Patriots – 4.5
  6. Kansas City Chiefs – 4.8
  7. Pittsburgh Steelers – 5.0

NFC

  1. Los Angeles Rams – 4.0
  2. Philadelphia Eagles – 4.0
  3. San Francisco 49ers – 4.0
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 4.3
  5. Dallas Cowboys – 4.5
  6. Arizona Cardinals – 4.6
  7. Green Bay Packers – 4.7

Based off these stats, the Tennessee Titans have the most stout run defense among NFL playoff teams. Of the matchups in the wild card round, these defensive stats favor the Buffalo Bills over the New England Patriots in both statistical categories, as well as the Kansas City Chiefs over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC. The Bengals hold their opponents to less yards per game than the Raiders, but Cincinnati gives up more yards per attempt than Vegas. For the NFC, the statistics favor San Francisco over Dallas and the Los Angeles Rams over the Arizona Cardinals when it comes to run defense. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hold their opponents to less yards per game than the Eagles, but have a worse opponent rushing yard per attempt average than Philadelphia. 

According to Football Outsiders DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), this is how this year’s playoff teams’ rushing defenses stack up.

AFC

  1. New England Patriots – -16.0%
  2. Las Vegas Raiders – -12.9%
  3. Cincinnati Bengals – -12.1%
  4. Tennessee Titans – -9.9%
  5. Buffalo Bills – -9.9%
  6. Kansas City Chiefs – -6.4%
  7. Pittsburgh Steelers – -1.3%

NFC

  1. San Francisco 49ers – -22.7%
  2. Los Angeles Rams – -19.7%
  3. Arizona Cardinals – -18.9%
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – -11.0%
  5. Philadelphia Eagles – -9.5%
  6. Dallas Cowboys – -7.5%
  7. Green Bay Packers – -0.02%

The FootballOutsiders DVOA rankings end up favoring Las Vegas over Cincinnati when it comes to rush defense. It also gives the edge to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the Philadelphia Eagles. The DVOA model also likes the Patriots run defense more than the stats give it credit for. Once again, DVOA gives three NFC teams a better ranking than any of the AFC playoff teams. 

Passing Game

Passing Yards per Game

AFC

  1. Kansas City Chiefs – 281.8
  2. Las Vegas Raiders – 268.6
  3. Cincinnati Bengals – 259.0
  4. Buffalo Bills – 252.0
  5. New England Patriots – 226.9
  6. Pittsburgh Steelers – 222.2
  7. Tennessee Titans – 201.1

NFC

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 307.6
  2. Dallas Cowboys – 282.4 
  3. Los Angeles Rams – 273.1
  4. Green Bay Packers – 253.8
  5. Arizona Cardinals – 251.5
  6. San Francisco 49ers – 248.3
  7. Philadelphia Eagles – 200.2

According to Football Outsiders DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), this is how this year’s playoff teams’ passing attacks stack up.

AFC

  1. Kansas City Chiefs – 33.0%
  2. New England Patriots – 25.1%
  3. Buffalo Bills – 21.6%
  4. Cincinnati Bengals – 18.5%
  5. Las Vegas Raiders – 14.7%
  6. Tennessee Titans – 0.4%
  7. Pittsburgh Steelers – -0.2%

NFC

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 42.2%
  2. Green Bay Packers – 42.0%
  3. San Francisco 49ers – 32.6%
  4. Arizona Cardinals – 28.6%
  5. Dallas Cowboys – 28.1%
  6. Los Angeles Rams – 26.0%
  7. Philadelphia Eagles – 18.4%

The Tampa Bay pass attack has been the most dominant in almost every statistical passing category not only among playoff teams, but in the NFL.  The Chiefs passing attack is heavily favored in both DVOA and passing yards per game compared to the Pittsburgh Steelers.  The FootballOutsiders DVOA model gives the Bengals an edge over the Raiders, but Las Vegas has edged out more passing yards per game than Cincinnati.  This is similar to how DVOA treats the Bills and Patriots, where despite Buffalo having more yards per game, the DVOA model credits New England over Buffalo.  When you look at the NFC matchups, it is a large mismatch for the Eagles who have the worst yards per game average and DVOA rank in the NFC. The San Francisco 49ers are higher ranked by the DVOA model but have less yards per game than the Dallas Cowboys. Finally, looking at the Arizona Cardinals, who are graded better by FootballOutsiders DVOA but have less passing yards per game than the Los Angeles Rams. 

Pass Defense

Opponent Passing Yards per Game

AFC

  1. Buffalo Bills – 163.0
  2. New England Patriots – 187.1
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers – 215.1
  4. Las Vegas Raiders – 222.9
  5. Tennessee Titans – 245.2
  6. Cincinnati Bengals – 248.4
  7. Kansas City Chiefs – 251.4

NFC

  1. San Francisco – 206.5
  2. Arizona Cardinals – 214.4
  3. Green Bay Packers – 219.1
  4. Philadelphia Eagles – 220.9
  5. Dallas Cowboys – 238.2
  6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 238.9
  7. Los Angeles Rams – 241.7

According to Football Outsiders DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), this is how this year’s playoff teams’ passing defense stack up.

AFC

  1. Buffalo Bills – -23.0%
  2. New England Patriots – -20.5%
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers – -0.4%
  4. Tennessee Titans – 1.8%
  5. Las Vegas Raiders – 10.3%
  6. Kansas City Chiefs – 11.3%
  7. Cincinnati Bengals – 11.6%

NFC

  1. Dallas Cowboys – -20.5%
  2. Arizona Cardinals – -6.1%
  3. Los Angeles Rams – -1.0%
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 0.7%
  5. Green Bay Packers – 5.8%
  6. San Francisco 49ers – 5.8%
  7. Philadelphia Eagles – 13.1%

The pass defense averages compared to the FootballOutsiders DVOA rankings showcase quite a difference, especially in the NFC.  It is a little bit more fluid among the AFC, where Kansas City and Cincinnati rank among the worst pass defenses amongst their conference in either category.  These statistics favor the Bills over the Patriots, both of whom have a solid pass defense according to the categories.  It favors the Raiders pass defense over the Bengals in both categories as well. Both the opponent yards per game average and DVOA model favors the Pittsburgh Steelers pass defense over Kansas City. The NFC gets a little wild when you look at everything as the 49ers have the best opponents passing yards per game average yet are amongst the worst in the NFC. The Buccaneers have a worse average passing yards allowed to opponents than the Philadelphia Eagles, but are higher ranked by DVOA.  The Cardinals are more favorably ranked than the Rams in both categories, giving Arizona a statistical edge over Los Angeles. 

In order to really breakdown the wild card games for this weekend, it is important to look at the statistics to see how the teams will matchup, at least on paper. The games still need to be played and while these are just averages we can look at, it can tell the potential story of what we can expect as these teams start their quest towards the Super Bowl.

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