NFL Playoffs: Key Metrics

by Power Sports

Here are some metrics that I consider when examining the NFL playoff field. It's not an "end all, be all," but this article should provide some perspective on the 14 teams still playing professional football.

Point Differential

  1. Buffalo +194
  2. Dallas +172
  3. New England +159
  4. Tampa Bay +158
  5. Kansas City +116
  6. LA Rams +88
  7. Cincinnati +84
  8. Arizona +83
  9. Green Bay +79
  10. Tennessee +65
  11. San Francisco +62
  12. Philadelphia +59
  13. Pittsburgh -55
  14. Las Vegas -65

Commentary: The top 12 teams in point differential all made the playoffs. But what obviously sticks out here is the two bottom teams. Not only have the Steelers and Raiders allowed more points than they’ve scored this year, the differential is rather significant. They ranked 22nd and 23rd, respectively, when it came to regular season point differential! Also of note is that the two top seeds (Green Bay & Tennessee) are both “middle of the pack” in point differential. 

Yards Per Play Differential

  1. Buffalo +1.0
  2. San Francisco +0.9
  3. Tampa Bay +0.8
  4. LA Rams +0.7
  5. New England +0.6
  6. Philadelphia +0.6
  7. Dallas +0.5
  8. Las Vegas +0.5
  9. Green Bay +0.4
  10. Cincinnati +0.4
  11. Arizona +0.1
  12. Kansas City 0.0
  13. Tennessee -0.2 
  14. Pittsburgh -0.8

Commentary: This metric, which obviously measures the number of yards a team gains vs. what it allows, on a per play basis, tends to have predictive value for who will win the Super Bowl. That’s good news for Buffalo, who is also the #1 team in point differential, and maybe even San Francisco. Again, the top seeds in each conference don’t fare too well here. Kansas City is a surprise down at #12.  Pittsburgh again appears to be very lucky to have made the playoffs.

Records in One-Score Games

  1. Tampa Bay 6-0
  2. Pittsburgh 8-2-1 
  3. Las Vegas 7-2 (4-0 in OT games!)
  4. Tennessee 6-2 
  5. Dallas 5-2 
  6. Green Bay 6-3
  7. LA Rams 4-2
  8. Kansas City 5-3
  9. San Francisco 5-5
  10. New England 3-3
  11. Cincinnati 4-5
  12. Arizona 3-4
  13. Philadelphia 2-4
  14. Buffalo 0-5 

Commentary: I define “one-score games” as those decided by eight points or less. Reigning Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay was exceptionally lucky in this regard during 2021-22. That kind of luck seems unsustainable, so a close loss in the playoffs would not surprise me. You can now see how Pittsburgh and Las Vegas made the playoffs, despite both having subpar point differentials. The Raiders’ overtime record is particularly egregious. Playing four overtime games in one season is uncommon, winning them ALL is downright ridiculous! Again, note those two top seeds, who definitely seem to be a bit lucky to have Wild Card Weekend off. Not lucky was Buffalo, which is how they ended up 11-6 despite having the top point differential in the league. Might the Bills be “due” to win a close game (or two) over the next several weeks?  

ATS records 

  1. Dallas 13-4 (8-1 on the road)
  2. Green Bay 12-5 (7-1 at home)
  3. Buffalo 10-6-1
  4. Arizona 10-7 (8-1 on the road)
  5. Cincinnati 10-7
  6. Tennessee 10-7
  7. New England 10-7
  8. San Francisco 9-8
  9. Tampa Bay 9-8
  10. Philadelphia 8-8-1
  11. Pittsburgh 8-9
  12. Kansas City 8-9
  13. LA Rams 8-9
  14. Las Vegas 8-9

Commentary: Not really much to discern here. Obviously, the Cowboys and Packers have been the best teams to bet on this season. Green Bay is obviously very happy to have home field advantage in the NFC as not only did they go 7-1 ATS, but they are a perfect 8-0 straight up at Lambeau. Maybe Arizona is happy to be a non-division winner as it’s unlikely they’ll have any home games the rest of the way. 

Records vs. Fellow Playoff Teams

  1. Green Bay 5-1
  2. Tampa Bay 4-1
  3. Arizona 5-2 
  4. Kansas City 6-3
  5. Cincinnati 4-2
  6. Tennessee 4-3 
  7. San Francisco 4-4
  8. Las Vegas 3-3
  9. Dallas 3-4
  10. New England 2-3
  11. Buffalo 2-4
  12. LA Rams 2-5
  13. Pittsburgh 2-5 
  14. Philadelphia 0-6

Commentary: Here, the Packers fare quite well and justify their top seed status. The one loss came to Kansas City when Aaron Rodgers was out. However, four of GB’s five wins over fellow playoff teams did come by one score. Three of those were by three points or less. It’s a similar story down in Tampa where all four wins over fellow playoff teams were close. With nine games against other playoff entrants, Kansas City certainly seems like the most "battle-tested" playoff team of the bunch. Philadelphia's record raises question marks about their future prospects. 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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