The best week of the NFL season is here with four excellent Divisional Round matchups. After watching the Steelers get crushed and the Cardinals flop in the final two Wild Card games – we should be treated to close games and great ball this weekend. All four of these games have spreads of -6 or fewer points with the game of the year (Bills at Chiefs) trending towards a Pick ‘Em.
Here are all of the stats you need to know…
Tom Brolley pulled this stat, but it bears repeating: All 12 of the Bills wins this year have come by double-digit margins.
That includes their 18-point victory over the Chiefs from Week 5.
The Bills built a 24-13 lead at the half in that game and then salted it away with a pick six of Patrick Mahomes in the third quarter.
Josh Allen posted his second-best individual passer rating (139.1) against the Chiefs in Week 5 and is coming off a near perfect game against the Patriots (157.6 rating).
I think the Bills are a much better team now than they were when they met the Chiefs earlier and it’s largely because they can actually run the ball consistently…
Devin Singletary has 80 or more yards rushing in four of his last 6 games since taking on this new bell-cow role and he is averaging 4.4 YPC in this stretch.
Singletary played on 86% of the snaps in the Wild Card round.
Singletary has also taken over as the Bills' goal-line back with seven TDs over his last 5 games.
Singletary has a whopping 16 carries from inside of the opponents’ 10 yard line over his last five games in this new role while Josh Allen has just 3.
Their new-found ground game has also allowed OC Brian Daboll to call way more designed runs for Allen. He’s averaging 8.8 carries per game over his last 6 contests after getting 6.1 carries per game in his previous 12.
Bills RB / WR / TE total routes run last week vs. Patriots: Knox (29), Singletary (25), Diggs (24), Davis (20), Sanders (17), McKenzie (12), and Beasley (9).
Cole Beasley has now played fewer than 52% of the snaps in four-straight games.
Not enough is being made about how amazing the Bills secondary has remained without All-Pro CB Tre White…
Since Week 13, the Bills have allowed a 54.5% completion rate for 6.0 YPA, 6 TDs to 5 INTs, and -0.14 EPA per pass play.
Buffalo’s secondary has been particularly stingy on early-downs, allowing just 4.4 yards per play (best) and -0.20 EPA (third-best) without Tre White.
Joe Brrrr has been unbelievable in his last five games. The numbers are eye-popping – 74.9% completion rate, 9.8 YPA, 13 TDs, 0 INT, and a 130.2 passer rating.
Keep in mind, that’s against excellent competition, too. Three of his last 5 opponents were playoff teams (49ers, Chiefs, Raiders) and the other two were against competitive teams in the AFC (Ravens, Broncos).
The matchup for Joe Burrow and his WRs really couldn’t get much better here – the Titans were diced up by wideouts all year long. They gave up the second-most receptions and yards to opposing WRs.
The key for the Bengals this week is not becoming obsessed with “balance” since Joe Burrow is playing like an MVP. I thought the Bengals could have (should have) buried the Raiders last week if they kept their foot on the gas. Instead, HC Zac Taylor and OC Brian Callahan went 58% pass | 42% run on early-downs despite those 1st and 2nd down runs gaining a putrid 3.1 YPC.
The good news? Joe Mixon was a true bell-cow last week as he got 17 carries, 5 targets, played on 77% of the total snaps, and was highly involved in the passing game as he ran a route on 67% of the Bengals pass plays.
Mixon ran a route on just 47.5% of passing downs during the regular season.
The bad news? Mixon has been held at or under 3.8 YPC in six-straight games. Opposing RBs have averaged 3.9 YPC (seventh-fewest) and 70.1 yards per game (second-best) against the Titans this season.
Green Bay Packers
Over their final 8 games of the season, the Packers scored a TD on 35% of their possessions (third-most), averaged 38.6 yards gained per drive (second-best), and burned 3:18 in time of possession per drive (best).
Aaron Rodgers over his final eight games: 70.7% completion rate for 8.1 YPA, 277.6 YPG, 20 TDs to 1 INT, and a 117.8 passer rating.
Davante Adams has absolutely owned the 49ers in his last three meetings with 10/173/1 (12 targets), 9/138 (11 targets), and 12/132/1 (18 targets). All of those games have come in the last two seasons.
With AJ Dillon coming on as of late, it’s allowed Aaron Jones to work in more of a rotational role and the results have been excellent. Jones is averaging 6.1 YPC over his last four games after averaging a sub-par (for his standards) 4.2 YPC in his previous 11 games.
Meanwhile, the sample is large enough to now say for sure: Dillon is the goal-line back. He has 10 goal-line carries (inside-the-5) while Jones has just four in their last 8 games played together.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs don’t really have a bad loss on their ledger this season despite their ups and downs. All five of their losses came by AFC teams that either made the playoffs or were competing for the postseason (Ravens, Chargers, Titans, Bills, and Bengals).
Patrick Mahomes is absolutely rolling right now. Over his last six games, Mahomes has completed 71.7% of his passes for 8.5 YPA, he’s averaging 309.8 YPG, has a 17:2 TD-to-INT ratio, and a stellar 119.3 passer rating.
Mahomes struggled in his previous meeting with the Bills this season (33-of-54, 272 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs) – but he lit them up on their way to the Super Bowl in the playoffs last year (29-of-38, 325 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs).
One key I’ll be watching for: The Bills used quarters coverage (Cover 4) on 43% of Mahomes’ dropbacks in their Week 5 win over the Chiefs. That is more than double their use of Cover 4 in their AFC Championship loss last year (20%).
If Mahomes is going to beat the Bills again, he’s going to have to do it with Tyreek Hill playing at less than 100% health…
Hill has been held under 60 yards in four-straight games and has five or fewer targets in 3-of-4.
Hill has just one catch on a pass from Mahomes more than 20 yards downfield over his last four games.
I think Travis Kelce is the key this week for KC…
Kelce has found a ton of success in his three previous meetings against the Bills with Mahomes under center, tallying 5/65/2 (2020 regular season), 13/118/2 (2020 postseason), and 6/57/1 (2021 regular season).
Chiefs RB / WR / TE total routes run last week vs. Steelers: Kelce (37), Hill (35), McKinnon (35), Robinson (30), Pringle (29), and Hardman (25).
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams went a whopping 73% run-heavy on early-downs last week as they completely reversed course from their pass-heavy tendencies.
Will they take the same plan this week against Tampa? I’d bet not…
With Shaq Barrett and Lavonte Davis on the field, the Bucs’ are allowing just 4.0 YPC this season.
When Barrett and Davis are off the field, the Bucs’ allow 5.6 YPC (per SIS).
Arizona committed a cardinal sin last week and blitzed Matthew Stafford, which is something we’ve been talking about in this space all year. It didn’t work well for them…
This is a trend — Matthew Stafford has been amazing against the blitz.— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) January 18, 2022
Finished the season 7th in YPA, 3rd in completion rate, and 1st in fantasy points per attempt vs. the blitz.
Opponents picked up on it and blitzed LAR a league-low 17% of the time. Except the Cardinals… https://t.co/E0L7JkDTNi
I think Bucs’ DC Todd Bowles is sharp enough to not send a ton of blitzes and let Stafford feast against them. However, no team blitzed more often this season than Tampa as they sent an extra rusher on 40.8% of their opponents pass plays.
When Bucs-Rams met back in Week 3, Tampa blitzed Stafford on 34.2% of his dropbacks (fourth-highest rate that week).
Amazingly, Cam Akers took over as the Rams lead back last week over Sony Michel with 17/55 on the ground and 1/40 through the air. Akers’ day could have been much bigger, too, as he had two chunk gains called back to penalty and a bad drop on a wheel route where he never saw the ball. (I thought Akers looked great – his burst was incredible).
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers are 8-2 over their last 10 games with their only blemishes being one-score losses to the Seahawks and Titans in this span.
They’ve scored (FG or TD) on a strong 44.4% of their possessions over their last 10 games, which is better than two of the other 3 NFC finalists in the Bucs (43%) and Rams (42%) in this span.
Deebo Samuel has 415 rushing yards over his last nine games, which is more than Ezekiel Elliott (411) had in his final 10 games.
Brandon Aiyuk is starting to come on as of late with 4/40/1, 4/94, 6/107, and 5/66 over his last four games.
Aiyuk has seen 26%, 22%, and 24% of the team’s targets over his last three games.
Meanwhile, George Kittle has disappeared from this offense and has been held under 30 yards in four-straight games.
Kittle is pass-blocking a bit more than usual, but he’s still second on the team in routes behind Aiyuk over his cold streak (last four games).
- I thought this note from stat lord Rich Hribar perfectly summed up the Titans offense this season:
Just 10.9% of Ryan Tannehill's dropbacks this season came with all of D. Henry, Arthur Juan, and Julio on the field. He averaged 9.4 Y/A on those plays.— Rich Hribar (@LordReebs) January 18, 2022
24.6% of dropbacks without all three: 5.2 Y/A
31.3% without both AJ and Julio: 5.5 Y/A
30.4% with both AJ and Julio: 8.2 Y/A
HC Mike Vrabel has done such a phenomenal job keeping this team together despite all of their injuries…
Three of the Titans 5 losses came against playoff teams and they only have two bad losses on their ledger (Week 4 vs. Jets, Week 11 vs. Texans).
The Titans beat the Bills and Chiefs in back-to-back games in Weeks 6-7.
If there is one receiver I wish I had a crystal ball for, it’d be AJ Brown. This year, Brown has three games of 27 or more FP and six games of 10 or fewer FP.
Julio Jones ran a route on 83% of the Titans pass plays in Week 18 and got a season-high nine targets.
Geoff Swaim (13 targets, 66 routes) and Anthony Firkser (15 targets, 69 routes) split the passing down work nearly right down the middle over the final five games of the season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady has been nothing short of stellar over the last three weeks without three of his 5 main weapons (Godwin, Fournette, Brown). Brady has completed 74.2% of his passes for 8.1 YPA, 8 TDs, 1 INT, and a 115.8 passer rating.
Penalties killed the Bucs’ in their Week 4 meeting with the Rams where they lost 34-24. Tampa took 5 offensive penalties in that game, which was the most they had on offense in a game all season.
We’ll see if playoff Lenny can make it back this week, but the Bucs went with a two-man rotation last week as Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Gio Bernard split carries (17 to 13, in favor of Vaughn) and passing down snaps (22 to 17, in favor of Bernard).
Mike Evans has stepped up to the plate with 19 receptions, 253 yards, and 4 TDs over his last three games with Godwin, AB, and Fournette all out.
Evans went for 8/106 in this matchup earlier this year and had 5/49/1 in their 2020 meeting with L.A.
Evans (40) and Rob Gronkowski (36) led the Bucs’ in routes last week followed by Johnson (35), Perriman (26), Brate (11), Miller (8), and Howard (5).