With the NFL Playoffs starting on Saturday, I wanted to do a similar post to my College Football Playoff Preview, but of course with the NFL Playoffs.
I’ll be looking at 3 offensive and 2 defensive comparisons in this post. All of the stats are from this NFL season only. In the graphics, this year’s playoff teams are colored from yellow to red, yellow being the one seeds and red being the six seeds. Teams that did not qualify for the playoffs are in grey.
This season’s playoff teams and bracket is:
The first graphic looks at the team’s expected points contributed by all offensive players.
All of the playoff teams had positive expected points. 10 of the 22 teams with positive expected points did not make the playoffs. Most notably are the Dallas Cowboys who ranked second in this measure, only behind the Baltimore Ravens.
The Buffalo Bills made the playoffs as a 5 seed and were the worst positively ranked expected points team. This certainly goes to show that advanced metrics don’t always tell the full story.
The next two graphics are essentially different sides to the same coin. The first looks at offensive net yards gained per pass and yards gained after the catch. The second looks at defensive net yards allowed per pass and yards allowed after the pass.
The most notable playoff teams are the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs; both have some of the largest yards gained per pass attempt and yards after the catch.
The Tennessee Titans, Minnesota Vikings, Baltimore Ravens, and New Orleans Saints are also fairly high in this measure. However, even though the Baltimore Ravens are known for their incredible offense, they sit behind two six seeds and a three seed in these offensive throwing statistics.
Some of the top defensive teams by these measures are the San Francisco 49ers, Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots, and the Minnesota Vikings. Most of the other playoff teams seem to be clustered around the middle, except for the Houston Texans which is the worst defensive playoff team by these measures.
These could be an important part of the game especially in the Vikings vs. Saints game. Both teams were ranked highly in these offensive measures, but the Vikings seem to have the advantage in the defensive measures.
The next graphic looks at defense’s total yards allowed per game and their missed tackles per game (note that both axises are reversed). The average lines for both measures are added as well.
Teams are separated into four groups: good defense, bad defense, disciplined defense, and undisciplined defense. Disciplined defenses are teams that miss less tackles than average, but allow more yards. The thought is that if they are making tackles, but are allowing more yards than average then it really is the defensive scheme and not the missed tackles that are allowing yards. Undisciplined defenses are teams that miss more tackles than average, but allow less yards.
It’s very clear that the New England Patriots are the best defense by these measures. Only the Minnesota Vikings miss less tackles, but they allow almost 60 more yards per game.
The Buffalo Bills and the San Francisco 49ers are the only playoff teams in the undisciplined defense section. The Buffalo Bills miss the most tackles for any playoff team.
The three playoff teams in the bad defense section are the Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans, and Seattle Seahawks. They have seeds of four, six, and five, respectively. It goes to show that good a defense can go a long way in winning games.
All the teams in the disciplined defense section are fairly close to the meeting of the averages. Both playoff teams, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Green Bay Packers, are basically on the average lines of good defense and bad defense, respectively.
The final graphic is looking at a team’s rushing offense, specifically rushing yards before contact and rushing yards after contact.
Again, the teams are divided into four sections based on where they fell compared to the average: good runners, bad runners, tough runners, and less tough runners. Tough running teams are those that have higher rushing yards after contact, but less rushing yards before contact.
The teams that really stick out are the Baltimore Ravens and the Tennessee Titans. The Baltimore Ravens have more rushing yards before contact than any other team in the NFL and still are above average in yards after contact.
It’s not surprise the Tennessee Titans are in the tough runners category considering they have Derrick Henry as their running back. They average more yards after contact than they do before.