Welcome back to another edition of the SumerSports Weekend Review!
Every week, we will have a full recap of the weekend games including a postgame excitement index, game reviews, the top performers of the week at Quarterback, Wide Receiver, and Running Back, plus updated playoff probabilities.
Based on win probability swings, scoring, and other factors, we will have a postgame excitement index for each game of the NFL season. Here are Week 17’s excitement scores:
The weekend of football started off strong with the Lions and the Cowboys trading the lead in the 2nd half before the game came down to a two point conversion attempt that fell in the Cowboys favor.
The early slate on Sunday also had some big ramifications for the NFC playoff picture as the Giants had a chance to upset the Rams before missing a 54 yard field goal at the same time that the Cardinals were completing their comeback from down 21-6 to win 35-31.
In the afternoon slate, Steelers-Seahawks and Bengals-Chiefs were also decided in the 4th quarter.
Notable Games of the Week
Let’s dive into some of the games of the week determined by a combination of excitement, notability, and other factors.
Detroit Lions (19) @ Dallas Cowboys (20)
Although the game ended with officiating controversy, there were a lot of takeaways from Lions-Cowboys. The Cowboys again leaned on their pass game and had success doing so, while not having much success running the ball. Dallas had a +8.5% pass rate over expected while having a 60th percentile EPA/pass and only a 9th percentile EPA/rush. Dak Prescott finished with 13.3 total EPA while CeeDee Lamb had 5.0 total EPA when targeted.
The biggest play of the game happened when Prescott avoided taking a sack in the endzone and found Lamb 41 yards down the field as Lamb finished the play with a 92 yard touchdown – which was worth 8.88 EPA. It was the most EPA generated on a single play for the Cowboys offense since at least 1999. While the Cowboys struggled on early downs and weren’t able to establish the run, the Prescott to Lamb connection was good enough to give them the 20 points needed to walk out with a win.
The Lions offense lived on the extremes with an 89th percentile explosive play rate and a 3rd percentile negative play rate. When the Lions did find success passing, it was over the middle of the field as they had a 72.7% success rate when passing over the middle compared to a 42.9% success rate when passing in the right or left side. Both of Jared Goff’s interceptions were to the left side as well. The Lions run game found success when they ran outside as they had a 50% success rate when doing so but only an 18.2% success rate when running up the middle. It should be noted that the Lions used an extra offensive lineman on 2 snaps before the two-point conversion attempt but had a -0.32 EPA/play on those plays.
Miami Dolphins (19) @ Baltimore Ravens (56)
It was almost poetic that in 2019 Lamar Jackson opened his MVP campaign against the Miami Dolphins with 29.0 total EPA as the Ravens scored 59 points while this time Lamar Jackson likely closed his MVP campaign against the Miami Dolphins with 26.6 total EPA as the Ravens scored 56 points. Jackson led an offensive attack that produced a 100th percentile EPA/play as 20.8% of the plays were explosives. Baltimore did a great job of spreading out their 15+ yard completions as Justice Hill had 3, Zay Flowers had 2 and Charlie Kolar, Isaiah Likely, Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman all had 1 each. The Ravens continued to show how much this offense has evolved under Todd Monken having a 51st percentile EPA/rush but still being up to put up 56 points because of how high level the passing attack was.
The Dolphins started the game off just as strong as the Ravens, scoring on their first two possessions and having a 0.38 EPA/play in the 1st quarter before having a -0.24 EPA/play the rest of the game. Tyreek Hill only had 50% of his targets completed – the lowest rate he had the entire season. Although De’Von Achane averaged 7.6 yards per carry, the Dolphins run game had an 18th percentile performance as it wasn’t consistent on a down to down basis. Miami will now have to beat the Buffalo Bills on Sunday night to win the AFC East.
Top Performers of the Week
Using total EPA to determine the best performances, this week featured a mix of players we expect to see at the top and some surprises.
As expected, the likely 2023 NFL MVP Lamar Jackson finished with roughly twice as much EPA as 3rd place on the week completing 18 of his 21 passes for 321 yards and 26.6 total EPA.
Brock Purdy and Jordan Love also had really good days as their teams cruised to wins.
Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts had a great quarterback duel with Murray utilizing a low ADoT to take advantage of the Eagles’ defense.
James Conner – who has been having an underrated season – rushed 26 times for a 0.24 EPA/carry and 6.2 total EPA while his counterpart Michael Carter also had 2.7 total EPA.
The Steelers run game also got their two running backs in the top 10 with Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren both having a 0.15 EPA/carry or better.
D.J. Moore continued to exceed expectations in his first year in Chicago having a 43.3% target share and catching 9 of his 13 targets for a 10.4 total EPA.
The Ravens have two skill position players on the list as Justice Hill and Zay Flowers had a 100% catch rate when targeted and had 7.8 total EPA each.
Young receivers like Jayden Reed and Rashee Rice continued to step up for their teams as well.
Updated Playoff Probability Graph
The Rams were the biggest winners of Week 17 as they went from a coin flip to make the playoffs to clinching a spot because of a win and a Seahawks loss. Conversely, the Seahawks were the biggest losers as they dropped from a roughly 3/4 chance to make it to now a little less than 1/4 by losing to the Steelers and having the Packers win.
In the AFC, the Jaguars took care of business and put themselves in a good spot to win the division as the Colts will play the Texans for a playoff spot. The Steelers chance to make the playoffs is greater than what the simulation shows as it doesn’t account for the Ravens resting players in Week 18.
That is all for the SumerSports Weekend Review. It was a great week of football that gave us a lot of interesting data points to look over as we start to get ready for the next set of games. As always, be sure to check out stats on SumerSports.com, articles at The Zone, the SumerSports podcast feed, and follow us on Twitter @SumerSports to dive even deeper for the rest of this season.