2020 NFL playoff picture: Four postseason contenders with difficult final stretches

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NFL establishments use contextualized information to make upper hands. To understand an edge, groups need to utilize the correct information in the correct manner at the ideal time. This implies refining, deciphering and applying just the most persuasive information in a structure that represents staff, adversaries and developing game circumstances. I will likely be your investigation division. Every week this season, I need to work for you by giving you a look into which numbers banner in my models as the most significant … or then again the most misjudged.

Heading into the last quarter of the 2020 customary season, with four games left on everybody’s timetable, I’d prefer to highlight four season finisher fighting groups with one thing in like manner: an intense record down the stretch. In the event that these groups wind up punching a postseason ticket, they’ll have procured it.

Also, I’m investigating where the Pittsburgh Steelers remain after their first loss of the period. Truly, they actually hold the AFC’s top season finisher seed, yet how secure is their grasp? Also, more strangely, what amount do they need the gathering’s solitary first-round bye?

As usual, let me know whether your eye test is getting on something fascinating, or if there’s a detail/pattern you’d like me to investigate. You can hit me on Twitter @CFrelund. Likewise with any extraordinary examination office, the more synergistic this is, the more worth we can make.

Four groups with misleading ways to the end of the season games

Indianapolis Colts
Indianapolis Colts
8-4 · AFC No. 7 seed
Remaining schedule: at Raiders, vs. Texans, at Steelers, vs. Jaguars

Indianapolis reaches the playoffs in 69.6 percent of my simulations — the sixth-highest figure in the AFC — with a projected win total of 10.3 games. The Colts’ season averages look kinda above average, but not elite — as in, they rank between No. 7 and No. 15 in almost every position group when looking at win shares by unit. Digging into the game-by-game data, it’s easy to see how crucial a factor the trenches play in Indianapolis’ success (… or failure). When the Colts’ O-line is healthy — specifically, when LT Anthony Castonzo is playing — Indy’s win-share contributions in both run and pass blocking increase by about 30 percent. When DT DeForest Buckner is playing, the defense sees a similar bump. Generating rushing success (or approximating it with shorter passes that really function as a run game would) unlocks the Colts’ ability to win, as their defense typically keeps them from having to score quickly. But if the Colts have to play catch-up? Yeah, that’s where the problem lies. Philip Rivers is averaging 7.1 air yards per attempt this season — that’s the ninth-lowest mark in the NFL, per Next Gen Stats (min. 150 passing attempts). On passes intended to travel 10-plus air yards, Rivers has an insufficient touchdown-to-interception ratio of 7:6. If the Colts get into more obvious passing situations, the potential for turnovers increases significantly.

Los Angeles Rams

Los Angeles Rams

8-4 · NFC No. 3 seed

Remaining timetable: versus Nationalists (Thursday), versus Planes, at Seahawks, versus Cardinals

The Rams make the end of the season games in 90% of reproductions – and win the division in 32.3 percent – with an extended season win complete of 9.6 (fourth-most noteworthy NFC mark). NFC West groups gauge to pound each other a chomped down the stretch. The most troublesome division in football is a long way from chose – and it’s the most probable, everything being equal, to contribute three groups to the 2020 postseason. I don’t have to advise you that Aaron Donald is first class, yet it’s actually very exceptional how much consideration he orders from restricting offenses. Donald is twofold/triple-joined more than some other protector in the game: 30.3 percent of pass plays, 22.9 percent of runs. Thus, the Rams have a critical favorable position in the numbers game, which permits them to handle a more productive all-around safeguard. The Rams have utilized light boxes on 71 percent of run plays this season – the most noteworthy rate in the NFL, per Next Gen Stats. Los Angeles’ normal number of protectors in the container on run plays is 6.2, the least figure in the group. You’d think this would be one of those “twist don’t break” details where a group deliberately gives up a huge load of hurrying yards, however the inverse is occurring. While conveying light boxes, the Rams are yielding simply 4.6 yards per surge – the 6th most reduced number in the NFL, per NGS. Part of the explanation behind this is the capacity of the whole front seven to close down the run. All things considered, space matters – and offenses are compelled to change their shape when representing Donald. The potential Achilles’ heel for the Rams? Hostile turnovers. Jared Goff simply hasn’t been extremely reliable this season, especially when he can’t quickly dispose of the football. On breathes easy to toss is 2.5-in addition to seconds, Goff sports a disappointing TD-to-INT proportion of 9:7 (NGS).

Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins

8-4 · AFC No. 6 seed

Remaining timetable: versus Bosses, versus Nationalists, at Raiders (Saturday), at Bills

Miami makes the end of the season games in 56.8 percent of recreations as the seventh and last expansion to the end of the season games with 9.4 all out successes anticipated. The Dolphins have the most un-positive timetable of any group inside striking distance of the postseason. In the following a month, they’ll face a pretty overwhelming gathering of quarterbacks: Patrick Mahomes, Cam Newton, Derek Carr and Josh Allen. The uplifting news: Miami makes restricting sign guests work, because of tacky inclusion. Utilizing eight periods of passing information, I prepared a model to recognize when a quarterback’s initially perused isn’t accessible. Applying this to the 2020 season’s yield, the Fins’ safeguard – and especially the cornerbacks – makes contradicting QBs skirt the primary read and experience their movements at the fifth-most elevated rate in the group. Additionally, Next Gen Stats show that Miami permits simply a 35.8 fulfillment rate on passes to wide collectors of 10 or more air yards, the second-most minimal rate in the NFL. To net the two more normal season wins that appear to be important for a season finisher offer, freshman QB Tua Tagovailoa should remain proficient utilizing brisk passes (under 2.5 seconds), something he does on 55.9 percent of endeavors. His normal opportunity to toss is 2.54 seconds. He’s additionally must remain effective against the barrage, a region where he’s finished 23 of his 42 tosses for 210 yards and two scores.

New York Giants
5-7 · NFC No. 4 seed
Remaining schedule: vs. Cardinals, vs. Browns (Sunday night), at Ravens, vs. Cowboys

After serving as a league laughingstock for much of this season, the NFC East pulled off a pair of massive upsets in Week 13, with New York winning in Seattle on Sunday and Washington ending Pittsburgh’s perfect run on Monday night. Suddenly, the Giants and Football Team — two frisky groups playing their best football at the right time — are locked in a very interesting battle for the division’s playoff bid. Washington currently edges out New York in my models, taking the East crown in 41.3 percent of simulations, as compared to 40.2 for New York. My model doesn’t have the G-Men favored in a game until the season finale against Dallas, but this week’s meeting with the Cardinals is close to a coin flip, as Arizona wins in 54.1 percent of results. The Giants are currently projected for 6.6 wins (Washington: 6.7). Big Blue’s defense — specifically free-agent acquisitions Blake Martinez and James Bradberry — creates problems for opposing offenses trying to work between the numbers on intermediate or deeper passes. The Giants also hinder the opponent’s ability to effectively run into Martinez’s area. So, why does Washington edge out New York? The Football Team has a more effective defense, led by the pressure-generating front, and Alex Smith has been able to navigate pressure better than his New York counterpart. Daniel Jones has been under pressure on a league-high 40.6 percent of dropbacks. Under duress, Jones has thrown three touchdown passes against five interceptions with a 53.1 percent completion percentage — good for a 65.4 passer rating. If the Giants QB can be more consistent under pressure — or just under pressure less — this very well could give New York the edge in the division.

No. 1 or bust? A team that could REALLY use the bye
Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers
11-1 · AFC No. 1 seed
Remaining schedule: at Bills (Sunday night), at Bengals (Monday), vs. Colts, at Browns

With the expanded playoff field, only one team per conference gets a bye in the postseason. At the moment, the Steelers earn that bye in 42.3 percent of simulations. How essential is this for Pittsburgh? Maybe more than you’d think. I ran 50,000 simulations to see who’d benefit more from a first-round bye — the Steelers or Chiefs — and the results surprised me. Obviously, every team is going to have a higher percentage chance of reaching the Super Bowl if you eliminate an entire round of the playoffs from the docket. But what happens when you take that bye away? The odds will decrease, sure, but by how much? That’s where I found a surprising discrepancy between Kansas City and Pittsburgh. According to my simulations, when the Chiefs don’t get a first-round bye, their chances of reaching the Super Bowl drop 11 percent. But when the Steelers don’t get the bye, their chances plummet 23 percent — more than double K.C.’s drop-off! Why? Obviously, Pittsburgh’s defense isn’t the problem. The blitz-happy Steelers boast the NFL’s highest pressure rate this season at 39.6 percent. Even in non-blitzing situations, Pittsburgh still paces the league with a pressure rate of 33.8. Not to mention, the Steelers rank first in scoring defense and turnovers. So, what gives? Why does Pittsburgh appear to need the bye so much more than Kansas City? Well, the modern NFL is typically defined by offensive football. And on that front, my model points to Pittsburgh’s depleted offensive line. With key pieces missing up front, the Steelers have been forced to tweak their strategy. With the O-line unable to routinely create viable rushing lanes, Pittsburgh has leaned more on the short passing game. Next Gen Stats show that Ben Roethlisberger has attempted passes of fewer than 10 air yards on 72.1 percent of passes this season. That’s the third-highest rate in the NFL. But the effectiveness of this quick pass strike has waned of late. On passes of fewer than 10 air yards during Weeks 1-10, Big Ben posted robust figures in yards per attempt (5.8) and passer rating (100.7). Over the past two weeks, though, those numbers have dropped to 4.4 and 88.2. Now that defenses are keen to Pittsburgh’s quick-passing desires, they are adjusting. The Chiefs are less impacted by not earning a bye than the Steelers because the range of plays they have effectively executed (both run and pass) is greater than that of the Steelers’ offense.


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