10 Things to Know About Each Divisional Round Matchup
I have no idea how you're handling the NFL playoffs. During the regular season, I know the majority of you reading content on this site are doing so because you're a fantasy football addict and you need season-long and daily fantasy information. Now? Now, I don't really know.
Whatever the case may be -- maybe you've got a fantasy football playoff competition, or perhaps you're trying to get some action over on FanDuel -- here are 10 things you should know about each matchup this weekend.
Falcons at Eagles
1. Over the Falcons' last six contests, they've surrendered 16.33 points per game. Four of the five team's they faced during this stretch -- Minnesota, New Orleans (twice), Tampa Bay, and Los Angeles -- ranked in the top-10 in yards per drive this season, while the five squads (those four teams plus Carolina) averaged closed to 25 points per game.
2. Atlanta's allowed the 10th-fewest yards per drive in the league over this six-game stretch. They had allowed the 12th-most during the first 12 weeks of the season. They've also allowed a score (touchdown or field goal) on 28.3% of their drives, which is the same rate as the Jacksonville Jaguars during this time.
3. Meanwhile, with a healthy Carson Wentz (Weeks 1 through 14) this year, the Eagles offense averaged 33.5 yards per drive (sixth-best in the NFL), scored a touchdown or field goal on 44.4% of their drives (fourth), and tallied a touchdown on 28.1% of their drives (first). Without him, Philly's averaging 19.7 yards, a 23.7% scoring rate, and a 13.2% touchdown scoring rate per drive. Had they maintained those numbers across the entire season, they would've finished last in yards per drive, third from the bottom in scoring rate, and last in touchdown scoring rate.
4. Falcons running backs finished the year with 12 rushing touchdowns, tied for sixth-most in the league. The Eagles haven't allowed a rushing touchdown at home all season long.
5. Jay Ajayi's carried the ball 12-plus times in each of his last three games (he was inactive for Week 17), totaling 41 carries in the three contests. That was good for a 51.25% rushing attempt share in the Philadelphia backfield. During his first four games with the Eagles -- the other four that he's been active with the team -- Ajayi had just 29 carries for a 22.48% attempt share.
6. Ajayi has also scored just one touchdown on the ground this year despite having 873 rushing yards. Using data from the last five years, a running back with that yardage total has typically scored about five times. That difference between actual and expected scores -- four touchdowns -- is the largest discrepancy of any running back in the NFL this year. Unfortunately, only two teams allowed fewer running back rushing touchdowns than the Falcons during the regular season.
7. The Eagles faced the highest pass-to-rush attempt ratio in the league this year, and no team faced fewer overall rush attempts against. But a lot of that had to do with game script when the team was rolling under Wentz. Only four running backs had 15 or more carries against Philadelphia this year, yet two of those instances came during the team's three games played without Wentz.
8. Though the Eagles faced over 600 passes this year -- one of two teams to hit that mark -- they allowed the second-fewest deep ball (15-plus air yard throws) completions. Only the Los Angeles Chargers gave up fewer deep ball plays. Matt Ryan ranked 11th out of the 35 quarterbacks this year with 200 or more passes in percentage of attempts that traveled 15 or more yards through the air.
9. Zach Ertz has played significant snaps in two of the three Wentz-less Eagles games. In those games, he tallied a 30.26% target share (23 targets), a higher share than what he saw with Wentz under center. His yards per target dropped from 7.80 to 5.96, though.
10. As mentioned last week, the Falcons allowed the most running back receptions this year for a second straight season. The Eagles, though, ended 2017 with the third-fewest running back receptions and the second-fewest receiving yards.
Titans at Patriots
1. The Titans are the only team that scored more rushing touchdowns than passing touchdowns this season (18 versus 14). The Patriots, despite allowing the second-highest yards per carry average in the league this year, allowed the second-fewest rushing touchdowns. The team to allow fewer rushing scores than New England this year? Tennessee.
2. 46.88% of Tom Brady's touchdowns came within the opponent's 5-yard line in 2017, which was the highest rate in the NFL among relevant quarterbacks. Only four teams allowed more passing touchdowns from that area of the field than the Titans this season.
3. The Titans also faced 605 pass attempts this season, which was more than any other squad in the league. Tom Brady led the NFL with 581 pass attempts.
4. And Tennessee saw 1,045 plays run against them, the sixth-most in football. New England ranked fourth in offensive plays run this season.
5. Tennessee gave up the seventh-most air yards during the regular season, per AirYards.com. Of the 29 quarterbacks with 300 or more attempts this year, Tom Brady ranked sixth in percentage of yards coming via the air. Brandin Cooks, among the 112 wide receivers with 30 or more targets, was fifth in air yards per catch.
6. In games where Chris Hogan was sidelined this year, Brandin Cooks had a 22.55% target share in the New England offense. When Hogan was healthy and playing, that target share fell to 17.33%. That drop in share seemed to only really impact Cooks' touchdowns, though. With Hogan out, Cooks averaged 4.33 receptions, 67 yards, and 0.50 touchdowns per game. With Hogan active, he saw an average line of 3.78 receptions, 66.78 yards, and 0.33 touchdowns. Hogan is expected to play this weekend.
7. No team allowed more receiving yards to running backs than Tennessee this year. Only the Saints had more running back receiving yards than the Patriots during the regular season.
9. From last week, but still applicable: Tennessee allowed the 10th-most receiving yards to tight ends during the regular season despite having just three matchups against tight ends who ranked in the top-15 in receiving yards (Jack Doyle twice, Jared Cook once). Travis Kelce played one half against them last weekend and had 4 catches for 66 yards and a touchdown. Rob Gronkowski is next.
10. Since Corey Davis returned from injury in Week 8, he's averaged 5.9 targets per game (includes last week's game). When Rishard Matthews has been healthy during this stretch, Davis has out-targeted Matthews 49 to 39, or by 1.43 targets per contest.
Jaguars at Steelers
1. When the Steelers and Jaguars faced off in Week 5, Leonard Fournette rushed for a season-high 181 yards. He actually had a below-average 32.14% Success Rate (the percentage of positive expected point runs according to our Net Expected Points metric), though, as his numbers were skewed by a 90-yard touchdown run late in the game.
2. Fournette ran the ball 28 times in that Week 5 contest, the highest attempt total a running back saw versus the Steelers this year. Pittsburgh actually faced the ninth-fewest running back rushing attempts this season.
3. Pittsburgh linebacker Ryan Shazier suffered a gruesome season-ending injury towards the beginning of their Week 13 contest against the Bengals. Prior to that game, the team was allowing 24.6 yards per drive, the fourth-best rate in the league. From Weeks 13 through 17, they allowed 33.3 yards per drive, the fourth-worst in the NFL during that stretch. Teams the Steelers faced over their final five games: Cincinnati, Baltimore, New England, Houston, and Cleveland. Only New England was a top-half offense this year according to our numbers among that group.
4. And most importantly for Jacksonville -- the most run-heavy team in the NFL this season -- during this Shazier-less stretch, Pittsburgh's allowed running backs to rush for 4.96 yards per carry. With Shazier, that number was 4.19. And if you remove Week 17's contest against Cleveland (one where the Steelers rested a lot of offensive starters), without Shazier, they've allowed 5.67 yards per carry to opposing running backs.
5. The Steelers threw the ball deep on 22.20% of their passes this year, which was the fourth-highest rate in the league. Jacksonville's top-ranked secondary surrendered the fourth-fewest 15-plus yard plays on deep passes this year.
6. Pittsburgh also allowed the fourth-most 15-plus yard plays on deep passes this season. However, 43.75% of those plays (21 of 48) came in five games when the Steelers were without cornerback Joe Haden.
7. During Ben Roethlisberger's first nine games of the season, he averaged 255.33 passing yards, 1.33 touchdowns, 1.11 interceptions, and a 7.51 yards per attempt rate per game. Over Big Ben's final six games of the regular season, he's averaged 325.50 yards, 2.67 touchdowns, 0.67 interceptions, and a 7.66 yards per attempt rate per contest.
8. Le'Veon Bell hasn't had fewer than 80 total yards from scrimmage in a game since Week 1.
10. Jacksonville allowed 17 passing touchdowns this season, tied for the third-fewest in the NFL. Nearly 36% of their touchdowns were caught in the middle of the field, the fifth-highest rate in the NFL.
Saints at Vikings
1. During the regular season, Mark Ingram saw 16 rushes from within the opponent's 5-yard line, which was third-most in the NFL. Teammate Alvin Kamara had just 5. Last weekend against the Panthers, though, Kamara had two goal-line carries to Ingram's zero. Kamara's now handled four of the last six running back carries from the goal line for New Orleans.
2. Saints running backs scored the most rushing touchdowns in the NFL this year. Minnesota was an above-average team at limiting ground touchdowns during the regular season, but they ranked fourth-lowest in the NFL with a 1.30 passing-to-rushing touchdown surrendered ratio. In other words, when teams scored on the Vikings, they did it via the rush at a high rate.
3. Minnesota allowed the fewest passing touchdowns in football this season. They're one of three teams that didn't allow three or more passing touchdowns in a game.
4. The Saints scored a touchdown on 26.6% of their drives this season, good for second-best in the league. The Vikings allowed a touchdown on just 12.7% of drives, the best rate in the league. Minnesota, though, ranked in the middle of the pack in field goals allowed per drive.
5. A huge reason for the Vikings' defensive success this year has been due to a historic 25.25% opposition third-down conversion rate. And as good as New Orleans' offense is, they actually ranked 19th in third-down conversion rate on offense this season.
6. Despite a strong secondary (the second-best one in the league according to our schedule-adjusted metrics), Minnesota surrendered the eighth-most air yards this season. On throws that traveled 15 or more yards during the regular season, Drew Brees had the best completion percentage in the league.
7. According to Pro Football Focus, Adam Thielen ran 51.1% of his routes from the slot this season, though that number dropped to a little over 46% across the final five games. Saints rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore allowed the third-lowest passer rating among all cornerbacks this year, but he played just 23 snaps in the slot.
8. The Vikings ranked 25th in pace (seconds per play run) this year, while the Saints were 29th. When the game was neutral -- that is, when the game had a six-point margin or less -- Minnesota's pace jumped to 9th, while New Orleans stayed at a slow 25th.
9. This one is from my colleague, Jim Sannes: With Alex Okafor, the Saints had a 7.58% sack rate, which is a fringe top-five rate in the league. Without him, their sack rate has fallen to 6.67%.
10. No team allowed fewer tight end receptions this year than the Saints, but New Orleans allowed a tight end touchdown for every 8.83 receptions, the ninth-highest rate in the NFL.