Playoff Preview: One Takeaway for Every Team

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With our Playoff Preview now available, we thought it might be helpful to focus on one takeaway for each of the 14 playoff teams.

NFC

1. San Francisco 49ers

The Weapons Create a Matchup Nightmare: Both Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel rank top 15 in yards per route run at wide receiver, George Kittle ranks 1st in total EPA when targeted among tight ends, and Christian McCaffrey ranks 4th in yards per carry and 6th in yards after contact among running backs. Even if you manage to take one or two weapons away, they’ll have someone else who can beat you. 

2. Dallas Cowboys

The Pressure Will Be On: Dan Quinn’s defense has the highest pressure rate generated in the league and has done a great job of mixing up the amount of pass rushers they send. They rush 5 at the 2nd highest rate in the league and get pressure on 39.5% of those plays (8th highest rate). 

3. Detroit Lions

A Thunder & Lightning Backfield: The Lions have the lowest pass rate over expected (PROE) of any team in the playoffs and it’s justified with David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs in the backfield. Both running backs are in the top 10 in EPA/rush. Montgomery has the higher success rate while Gibbs has the higher explosive run rate. 

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

A Baker’s Dozen: Baker Mayfield is 13th in EPA/play on the season and has shown improvement in multiple areas. He has lowered his sack rate from 9.6% in 2022 to 6.5% in 2023 and has a pressure to sack rate that is the 21st best in the NFL – much better than what it was in previous seasons. 

5. Philadelphia Eagles

Late Down Passing Can Help Them Soar: The Eagles have the best Expected Points Added (EPA) per pass on late downs in the league this season. Jalen Hurts has done well in expected pass situations and A.J. Brown can take over against man coverage in these situations. 

6. Los Angeles Rams

Sean McVay’s “I’m Back” Run Game: The Rams passing game has been great this year, but the Rams EPA/rush has improved from 21st in 2021 to 15th in 2022 to 7th this season. The Rams are using motion at the 2nd highest rate in the league and Kyren Williams ranks 3rd in EPA/rush and 3rd in success rate among running backs. 

7. Green Bay Packers

Passing the Fountain of Youth: The Packers entered this season with a first-year starter at quarterback and a pass catcher room that was full of rookie and second-year players. The result has been Jordan Love ranking 6th in EPA/play while Jayden Reed and Dontayvion Wicks both rank in the top 35 in yards per route run.

AFC

1. Baltimore Ravens

We Have MacDonald’s at Home: The Ravens rank 2nd in EPA/play and have the 2nd best pass defense in the NFL. They have the 4th highest sack rate in the NFL with Justin Madubuike, Jadeveon Clowney, and Kyle Van Noy as their leading pass rushers. Roquan Smith and Kyle Hamilton have played at high levels. It is an all-around sound defense. 

2. Buffalo Bills

Throw it ‘Wide Right’: Josh Allen’s passing map shows that the Bills pass offense is much more productive when targeting the right side of the field than the left side. This is mostly because of where Stefon Diggs lines up but also could be Allen’s preference. 

3. Kansas City Chiefs

Chris Jones – I Knew You Were Trouble: Chris Jones has led a Chiefs defensive line that currently ranks 1st in sack rate in the entire league as he himself is 1st in pressure rate and 5th in tackle for loss rate amongst all interior defensive linemen. 

4. Houston Texans

Houston, We Have an Answer: C.J. Stroud has put together one of the most impressive rookie Quarterback campaigns in recent NFL history. The Texans were 10th in EPA/pass on early downs as Stroud himself ranked 10th in EPA/play and 3rd in yards per attempt.

5. Cleveland Browns

Cleveland, This Defense is For You: The Browns rank 1st in EPA/play allowed including the best pass defense and a large improvement in their run defense. They have the best EPA allowed when sending 4 pass rushers and the 3rd best when blitzing 5 or 6 pass rushers. There is no coverage they rank outside of the top 6 in. 

6. Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins Designer Run Game: While Mike McDaniel is wearing designer shoes on the sideline, the Dolphins run game on the field has been very good this season. They rank 4th in EPA/rush with Raheem Mostert ranking 4th in EPA/rush and De’Von Achane ranking 1st (out of 60 running backs). 

7. Pittsburgh Steelers

Slim Pickens at Pass Catcher No More: The Steelers pass catching unit is in a big spot headed into the playoffs, headlined by George Pickens who ranks 18th in yards per route run this season. Both Diontae Johnson and Jaylen Warren have done well with their opportunities as well. 

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