5 NFL Facts to Know for Week 16
Do you smell it in the air? No, not the cold weather or fires burning for Christmas -- I’m talking about the NFL playoffs.
Two weeks are left in the season, and things couldn’t be much crazier. The NFC has only one playoff spot claimed and face the possibility of seeing a 10- or even 11-win team miss the playoffs while a 6- or 7-win team will get to host a playoff game.
The AFC already boasts three division winners, but the rest of the playoff picture is a mess. Let’s start there, in the muddled AFC playoff hunt, for this week’s five facts.
With three playoff spots locked up -- the Colts, Broncos, and Patriots all won their division -- there are still three spots that nine teams are battling for. That is not a misprint -- nine teams still have a mathematical shot.
Two divisions have a shot at seeing three teams represent their division in the AFC playoffs. The AFC North could boast the Steelers, Ravens, and Bengals. The AFC West could boast the Chiefs and Chargers to go along with the Broncos.
But we can’t forget about Buffalo, Houston, Miami, and Cleveland. Cleveland has a 0% chance to make it according to our algorithms, so we can knock them off the list. Houston and Miami would have to win out and get a lot of help as well; our algorithms don’t like Miami either and give Houston only a 0.7% chance. The Bills have a one-game lead on the other three teams and still have a 14.1% chance to make it to the second season.
As of right now, the Steelers have the best shot at winning their division. The Bengals and Ravens also have over a 74% chance to make the playoffs and take the wildcard spots.
But wouldn’t it be wild to see eight teams finish with a 9-7 record?
The Colts may have won their division -- again -- but recently it's despite Andrew Luck and not thanks to Andrew Luck. Being a top option in fantasy football doesn't always translate to real football.
Luck has thrown 12 touchdowns and 1,407 yards since his Week 10 bye. Respectable numbers over a five game stretch, right? But five of those touchdowns came against the Redskins, and his second-best game, according to our Passing Net Expected Points (NEP), was the Week 11 loss to the Patriots.
In these same five games, Luck also has four interceptions and five fumbles. That is where the damage has been done for Luck, as he hasn't taken care of the ball like he should. He has cost the Colts 35.12 points the last two weeks and an overall loss of 16.51 points the last five games. Luck and the Colts may get to host a playoff game, but if they have to go up against a defense from the AFC North, Luck could see a quick exit from the playoffs.
Swiss City Defense?
Luck may be having a rough stretch of games right now, but he was one of the many quarterbacks that put up big numbers against the Pittsburgh Steelers this season and the last four weeks have been a haven for quarterbacks.
The past four weeks the Steelers have faced Zach Mettenberger, Drew Brees, Andy Dalton, and Matt Ryan. All four quarterbacks have had their ups and downs throughout the 2014 season, but they each put up a top-10 Passing NEP the week they got to face the Steelers passing defense.
The Steelers' pass defense ranked 19th after Week 10 according to our Adjusted (for strength of schedule) Defensive Passing NEP and now rank 25th. If the Steelers want to survive the AFC North and make the playoffs, they can't allow Alex Smith and Dalton (again) to look like All-Pros.
New Legion of Boom?
If the Steelers passing defense is one that quarterbacks would love to face over the last four weeks, the Buffalo Bills defense is one that quarterbacks don't want to face -- just ask Aaron Rodgers. The Buffalo Bills have been climbing the rankings as one of the best pass defenses in recent weeks according to our Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP.
If we track the Bills passing defense over the season, there have been only three weeks they have not been listed among the top 10 in passing defense the whole season. The Bills haven't dropped out of the top six defenses against the pass since Week 10. Of course they looked good against the passing attack of the Jets and Browns. but they also faced two top quarterbacks in check the last two weeks.
In Week 14 they picked off Peyton Manning twice and held him to under 200 yards passing. In Week 15 the Bills picked off Aaron Rodgers twice as well and Rodgers only had 12 more passing yards than Manning did. Week 14 saw Manning lose 2.07 points to the Bills, making him the 15th-worst quarterback that week. Rodgers' Passing NEP was even worse at -12.21, the fifth-worst mark of Week 15.
The Bills could be the 2014 version of the Legion of Boom. And if they actually make the playoffs, they could create havoc among the conference's elite.
Sammy Watkins may have been the first receiver taken in the 2014 draft, but thanks to the outstanding play of Mike Evans and Odell Beckham, the Bills might regret trading in half the farm for Watkins at the moment. Beckham has the most multi-touchdown games on the season (three) and currently leads all rookie receivers in receiving yards. Oh, and he didn't play in the Giants' first four games.
With his three-touchdown performance in Week 15, Beckham became just the 18th rookie receiver to catch three touchdowns in a game. He was also the first rookie receiver since Torrey Smith in 2011 to have over 140 yards receiving and 3 touchdowns in a game.
Beckham could finish with one of the best rookie seasons ever from a receiver. He is only one touchdown reception away from becoming just the 14th rookie receiver since the merger to have double-digit touchdowns in a rookie campaign and just 28 yards from becoming the 16th receiver to catch 1,000 yards in a rookie season.