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The Stats That Will Define the N.F.L.’s Wild Card Weekend

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Within the N.F.L. playoffs, teams are as evenly matched as they are going to have been all season.

With opponents searching for whatever scant advantage exists, there are several statistical trends value monitoring. Dropped passes, penalty yards, field-position differentials and fourth-quarter surges can all have a serious impact on the outcomes of this weekend’s elimination games.

Brady’s patented comebacks are still big. It’s the remainder of his game that has grown smaller.

His Buccaneers (8-9) overcame fourth-quarter deficits in 4 of their victories. Tampa Bay beat back a 13-6 fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Los Angeles Rams, 16-13, in Week 9. Brady overcame a 16-3 deficit to beat the Latest Orleans Saints, 17-16, in Week 13. Brady also led the Buccaneers back from trailing by 16-6 to beat the Arizona Cardinals, 19-16, in extra time in Week 16, after which the following week they trailed by 21-10 before defeating the Carolina Panthers, 30-24, to clinch the N.F.C. South.

In those comebacks, the Buccaneers trailed by a combined 66-22 rating within the fourth quarter, against opponents who ended the season with losing records. That doesn’t exactly encourage confidence.

Across the primary, second and third quarters of regular-season games, Brady threw just 12 touchdowns, fewer than the Bears’ Justin Fields and the Texans’ Davis Mills (13 each), beleaguered young quarterbacks whose teams combined for a 6-27-1 record and earned the best to the highest two picks within the 2023 draft. Brady then threw 13 fourth-quarter touchdowns, seven of them while trailing in the ultimate 4 minutes, sometimes (though not all the time) during heroic comebacks.

Brady’s sorcery will probably not be enough to advance the Buccaneers through the playoffs, but his knack for fourth-quarter touchdowns is reason for opponents not to provide the ball back in the event that they can avoid it.

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott tied for the league lead with 15 interceptions and had the worst interception rate (3.8 percent) of any starter through the regular season. In each of his last seven games, he has thrown a minimum of one interception and three of them have been returned for touchdowns.

Prescott has been a wonderful quarterback other than the interceptions, which is just not quite like claiming that Sunday dinner was delicious apart from the salmonella. Prescott finished the season tied for fourth within the N.F.L. in touchdown rate (5.8 percent). He often Houdinis his way out of the predicaments he helps cause, leading comeback victories against Houston in Week 14 and the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 16.

Prescott also isn’t getting much support from teammates; his extra time interception against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 15, for instance, was tipped within the air by his own receiver.

A high interception rate doesn’t preclude a Super Bowl victory: Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford tied for the N.F.L. lead with 17 interceptions in 2021, then threw three more within the postseason. Still, the Cowboys have an extended and hilarious history of postseason pratfalls and will probably be significantly better off in the event that they don’t hand their opponent any easy opportunities. Especially since their opponent on Monday night is led by Tom Brady.

Saturday’s game between the Chargers and Jaguars guarantees to be a showdown of Justin Herbert and Trevor Lawrence, two of the N.F.L.’s most promising young star quarterbacks. It could turn right into a frustrating blooper reel, nevertheless: The Jaguars led the league with 41 dropped passes, in accordance with Pro Football Reference, while the Chargers ranked second with 40 drops.

Zay Jones led the Jaguars with 13 drops, while Christian Kirk dropped seven passes; Marvin Jones and the previous Giants tight end Evan Engram added five each. Running back Austin Ekeler and tight end Gerald Everett led the Chargers with nine drops each, while the highest receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, who were injured for much of the 12 months, combined to drop three passes. Herbert due to this fact holds the advantage: He has two reliable targets at his disposal, while Lawrence has none.

The 49ers begin their average offensive drive at their very own 30.9-yard line, the most effective starting field position within the N.F.L., in accordance with Football Outsiders. Their opponents, in contrast, are stuck starting their drives at their very own 25.6-yard line, the worst starting field position within the league. The 49ers due to this fact net a league-high 5.24 yards per series, essentially tilting the sphere of their favor and muscling opponents back toward their very own goal line.

The 49ers also led the N.F.L. in turnover differential, with 13 more takeaways than giveaways. Their defense often gives the rookie quarterback Brock Purdy and his many playmakers the ball inside easy striking distance of the tip zone.

The 49ers scored touchdowns on short drives after turnovers in each of their two regular-season victories over the Seattle Seahawks, a division rival they’ll face again on Saturday. Even when the Seahawks manage to play turnover-free football, nevertheless, they could find themselves climbing uphill all afternoon.

The Minnesota Vikings committed 88 penalties for just 689 yards within the regular season, in accordance with nflpenalties.com. Their opponents committed 111 penalties for 926 yards. Their +237-yard penalty differential was the best figure within the N.F.L., and it contributed to the sense that the customarily unimpressive Vikings were winning lots of their games based though sheer luck.

Among the Vikings’ penalty edge stemmed from the team’s strengths. For instance, opponents committed 11 defensive pass interference penalties for 158 yards of their desperate effort to cover receivers Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. Among the advantage could have come from experience and sound coaching: The Vikings committed just 12 offensive holding penalties, the second-lowest figure within the N.F.L.

The remaining of the differential may indeed have been the results of the team’s purported probability-warping superpowers: Opponents were flagged a league-high six times for ineligible downfield receivers, a really random infraction.

The Giants must minimize their penalties against the Vikings on Sunday, especially since they can not count on their passing game to bail them out of trouble.

The Giants rely heavily on short passing. Slightly too heavily. Daniel Jones’s average depth of goal of 6.4 yards tied for thirty first amongst starting quarterbacks, in accordance with Pro Football Reference. For comparison’s sake, the Bills’ Josh Allen averaged 9.2 air yards per goal, and Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins — not exactly renowned as a mad bomber — averaged 7.5.

In consequence of all their micro-passing, the Giants generated just 28 passing plays of 20 or more yards within the regular season, the bottom total within the league.

Despite the shortage of huge plays, Jones managed to guide the Giants on 4 fourth-quarter comebacks, the identical number as Brady and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes. Unfortunately, Cousins led the Vikings on eight fourth-quarter comebacks, tying the trendy record.

So the Giants cannot depend on late-game magic. As a substitute, they and other teams hope that some statistical trends will begin to reverse themselves this weekend.

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