There are many litmus assessments to separate the Super Bowl contenders from the pretenders, however one of many extra dependable strategies focuses on groups that carry out higher than others in particular conditions. The best approach to measure that is via anticipated factors added (EPA), which calculates what number of factors a crew scores in contrast with a median crew whereas working a play below the identical circumstances — i.e. the identical down, distance and subject place. The greater the EPA, the extra seemingly that crew is to succeed.
Entering final season’s playoffs — and going again to 2002, when the NFL expanded to 32 franchises — the crew ranked greater in anticipated factors added per sport on the finish of the common season received 61 % of playoff video games, with the largest benefit occurring within the divisional spherical (.671). Teams that ranked within the prime 10 for each offensive and defensive anticipated factors added in the course of the common season received 76 % of their playoff video games and went 6-2 within the Super Bowl. Those that ranked within the prime 5 in both offensive or defensive anticipated factors added received 74 % of their postseason matchups, though they posted solely a 3-5 document within the championship sport. Those that certified in neither of these classes have been 18-64, reaching the Super Bowl 4 occasions and going 0-4.
The NFL playoffs are set. Here’s what it is advisable know.
There are outlier seasons, nevertheless. Last 12 months, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys every ranked within the prime 10 of each offensive and defensive EPA coming into the playoffs, however none of them reached even the convention championship video games. The Bucs, seeded second within the NFC, beat the Philadelphia Eagles within the first spherical earlier than dropping to the Los Angeles Rams within the second spherical. The Bills, No. 3 within the AFC, clobbered the New England Patriots within the first spherical however misplaced to the Kansas City Chiefs within the division spherical. And the Cowboys, the NFC’s No. 3 seed, misplaced at house to the 49ers within the first spherical.
Neither of final 12 months’s Super Bowl contributors — the Rams and Bengals — ranked within the prime 10 of each offensive and defensive EPA coming into the playoffs. Los Angeles was fifth and eleventh, whereas Cincinnati was thirteenth and tenth.
So the metric, whereas invaluable, isn’t infallible. Still, utilizing EPA, listed here are the highest contenders to achieve this 12 months’s Super Bowl, grouped from most to least seemingly.
The prime candidates (Top 10 in offensive and defensive EPA)
NFC No. 1 seed: Philadelphia Eagles
Fourth in offensive EPA, sixth in defensive EPA
Two of the Eagles’ three losses got here with out quarterback Jalen Hurts within the lineup, however he’s again for the playoffs. Defensively, Philadelphia grew to become the primary crew because the 1989 Vikings to document a minimum of 70 sacks and is the primary crew ever to have 4 gamers with a minimum of 10 sacks.
NFC No. 2 seed: San Francisco 49ers
Fifth in offensive EPA, first in defensive EPA
Rookie Brock Purdy, the final participant chosen within the 2022 draft, grew to become the primary quarterback since a minimum of 1950 to win the primary 5 begins of his profession. San Francisco’s protection leads the NFL in factors allowed per drive (1.48).
AFC No. 2 seed: Buffalo Bills
Second in offensive EPA, tenth in defensive EPA
The Bills’ offense ranked second behind the Chiefs in factors per drive (2.66), and Buffalo’s protection ranked fourth at 1.68 factors allowed per drive. Buffalo received seven straight to finish the season, however solely a kind of victories was towards a playoff crew (and it was towards the Dolphins, who barely squeaked into the postseason).
AFC No. 3 seed: Cincinnati Bengals
Sixth in offensive EPA, ninth in defensive EPA
The Bengals began 4-4 however haven’t misplaced since Halloween evening. Cincinnati started the season with an offensive line that had been nearly totally revamped, and quarterback Joe Burrow was sacked 30 occasions over the season’s first eight video games. The second half of the season was a special story — Burrow was sacked solely 16 occasions over the ultimate eight video games — however beginning proper sort out La’el Collins suffered a season-ending harm final month and beginning proper guard Alex Cappa will most likely miss the playoff opener after injuring his ankle on Sunday.
NFC No. 5 seed: Dallas Cowboys
Seventh in offensive EPA, third in defensive EPA
The Cowboys received six of eight to shut the common season and rank fifth in each factors scored and allowed per drive, however their final 4 wins got here towards two terrible groups (the Colts and Texans) and two groups lacking their beginning quarterbacks (the Eagles and Titans). Still, Dallas grew to become the primary crew since Pittsburgh’s Steel Curtain groups of the Nineteen Seventies to steer the NFL in takeaways in back-to-back seasons.
The subsequent tier (Top 5 in offensive or defensive EPA)
AFC No. 1 seed: Kansas City Chiefs
First in offensive EPA, 18th in defensive EPA
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes had 5,614 offensive yards (passing, dashing, receiving) in the course of the common season, breaking Drew Brees’s 2011 document, and his 5,250 passing yards have been the fourth-most in NFL historical past. Kansas City went 6-2 towards groups that made the playoffs this season, and the 2 losses got here by seven mixed factors.
The next-next tier (Top 10 in offensive or defensive EPA)
AFC No. 4 seed: Jacksonville Jaguars
tenth in offensive EPA, thirteenth in defensive EPA
The Jaguars rebounded from a 3-7 begin to make the playoffs, although they wanted Josh Allen’s fourth-quarter fumble return for a landing towards the Tennessee Titans on Saturday to safe the berth. Jacksonville has one of many worst go defenses within the league, rating thirtieth in pass-defense DVOA.
AFC No. 7 seed: Miami Dolphins
Ninth in offensive EPA, twenty third in defensive EPA
Miami’s possibilities most likely hinge on whether or not quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is cleared to play after struggling his second identified concussion of the season on Christmas. The protection is a matter, too: The Dolphins allowed 2.25 factors per drive, the worst of any playoff crew.
NFC No. 4 seed: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
twenty second in offensive EPA, eighth in defensive EPA
The Bucs confirmed indicators of life down the stretch, beating the Cardinals and Panthers to safe the NFC South title and a house playoff sport. But the go protection is terrible (opposing quarterbacks have thrown 20 landing passes towards solely 4 interceptions vs. Tampa Bay since Week 6) and the working sport is nonexistent (the Bucs rank final within the NFL in dashing EPA per play).
History suggests the percentages are stacked towards these squads.
AFC No. 5 seed: Los Angeles Chargers
14th in offensive EPA, twenty sixth in defensive EPA
AFC No. 6 seed: Baltimore Ravens
nineteenth in offensive EPA, 14th in defensive EPA
NFC No. 3 seed: Minnesota Vikings
thirteenth in offensive EPA, twenty first in defensive EPA
NFC No. 6 seed: New York Giants
eleventh in offensive EPA, twenty eighth in defensive EPA
NFC No. 7 seed: Seattle Seahawks
fifteenth in offensive EPA, twenty fifth in defensive EPA