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Mark Craig ranks the NFL playoff teams

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG
  • Star Tribune
  • January 3, 2014 - 10:03 PM

PASS OR FAIL? RANKING THE PLAYOFF TEAMS

We came up with 13 categories that help weigh the two most important elements of 21st century NFL football: Passing the ball and stopping the pass. We took the regular-season statistics and ranked each conference’s six teams from 1 to 6 in the following categories: yards per pass attempt, yards allowed per pass attempt, the current starting quarterback’s passer rating, overall passer rating allowed, passer rating differential, interception differential, turnover differential, red-zone offense, red-zone defense, third-down offense, third-down defense, sacks per pass play and sacks allowed per pass play. Here’s how each conference stacked up (the lower the point total, the better):

AFC

1. Broncos (35 points)

Best stat: The NFL’s best red-zone offense with a 76.1 touchdown percentage.

Worst stat: No. 5 among AFC playoff teams in turnover differential (even).

Thing that could mess up all this number crunching: In 12 trips to the playoffs, Peyton Manning has gone one-and-done eight times, including five times at home.

2. Bengals (36)

Best stat: No. 1 among AFC playoff teams and second in the NFL in third-down defense (32.9 percent).

Worst stat: Ranks tied for last among AFC playoff teams in interception differential (even, 20-20).

Thing that could mess up all this number crunching: In playoff games, Andy Dalton is 0-2 with no touchdowns, four interceptions and a 48.6 passer rating.

3. Chiefs (40)

Best stat: Ranks first among AFC playoff teams in interception differential (plus-14) and turnover differential (plus-18).

Worst stat: Ranks last among AFC playoff teams in third-down offense and sacks allowed per pass play.

Thing that could mess up all this number crunching: The Chiefs went 0-5 against this year’s AFC playoff teams.

4. Patriots (47)

Best stat: Ranks first among AFC playoff teams and seventh in the NFL in defensive sacks per pass play.

Worst stat: Ranks last among AFC playoff teams in third-down defense (42.2).

Thing that could mess up all this number crunching: Experience, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick make fourth-place ranking feel low.

5. Colts (53)

Best stat: No. 2 among AFC playoff teams in turnover differential (plus-13).

Worst stat: Last among AFC playoff teams in passer rating differential (plus-2.4).

Thing that could mess up all this number crunching: The Colts have beaten the 49ers, Seahawks, Broncos and Chiefs this year.

6. Chargers (59)

Best stat: No. 1 in the NFL in third-down offense (49.0).

Worst stat: Last among all playoff teams in turnover differential (minus-4).

Thing that could mess up all this number crunching: Riding a four-game winning streak, best among AFC playoff teams.

NFC

1. SEAHAWKS (33 points)

Best stat: The NFL’s best passer rating differential (plus-37.8).

Worst stat: Last in the NFL in sacks allowed per pass play.

Thing that could mess up all this number crunching: Finished 2-2 with a loss to Arizona at home.

2. Saints (43)

Best stat: No. 1 among NFC playoff teams in third-down offense (43.9).

Worst stat: Last among NFC playoff teams in interception differential (even).

Thing that could mess up all this number crunching: The Saints won’t play a home game. They are 3-5 away from the Superdome.

3. Panthers (45)

Best stat: No. 1 among NFC playoff teams in red-zone offense (58.0).

Worst stat: Last among NFC playoff teams in passer rating differential (plus-7.4).

Thing that could mess up all this number crunching: Third-year quarterback Cam Newton will be making his postseason debut.

3 (tie). Eagles (45)

Best stat: Second among all NFL teams behind Seattle in interception differential (plus-17).

Worst stat: Second-worst among all playoff teams behind Patriots in third-down defense (40.3).

Thing that could mess up all this number crunching: Quarterback Nick Foles will be making his playoff debut.

5. 49ers (47)

Best stat: No. 1 among NFC playoff teams and No. 2 among all playoff teams in third-down defense (34.1).

Worst stat: Worst among NFC playoff teams in third-down offense (36.5).

Thing that could mess up all this number crunching: They’ve won an NFL-best six straight, including a victory over Seattle.

6. Packers (58)

Best stat: Aaron Rodgers’ 104.9 passer rating is No. 2 among NFC playoff teams behind the Eagles’ Foles (119.2).

Worst stat: Opponents passer rating (95.9) second-highest among all playoff teams behind San Diego (96.4).

Thing that could mess up all this number crunching: Aaron Rodgers is back, so anything is possible.

MARK CRAIG

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