Wildcard Weekend Saturday Games

Today I look at the first two playoff games scheduled on this Saturday. i highlight two of the best players on each team and give a little data on each team overall.

Bills At Texans

Saturday, 1/4 at 4:35 ET

Bills CB  Tre’Davious White

  • Six interceptions is in three way tie for most interceptions in 2019
  • Passer rating of 44.5 when targeted is ninth best in league
  • Completion percent of 49.5% is twelfth best in league
  • Among players with zero touchdowns allowed White had 2nd most targets

Bills DT Jordan Phillips

  • His 9.5 sacks are the second most sacks by a defensive tackle
  • Since 1982  his 9.5 sacks are the second most sacks in a season by a player weighing 330 lbs or more
  • On a negative note his 20.5% missed tackles is worst among defensive tackles.

The Bills have a strong defense second to the Patriots in the first four statistics listed here. The Bills are:

  • 2nd in Points allowed,
  • 2nd in Percentage of opponent drives ending in offensive score,
  • 2nd in Opponent Adjusted Yards per pass attempt¹
  • 2nd in Opponent Touchdown percent
  • 3rd in Opponent Passer Rating allowed,
  • 4th in Opponent yards per offensive play (tie),
  • 6th in Total passing 1st downs allowed (tie),
  • 7th in Opponent 3rd down conversion percent
  • 7th in Rushing Yards Margin
  • 9th in Total Yards Margin
  • 9th in Total yards after the catch allowed,
  • 10th in Passing Yards Margin
  • 10th in Opponent Interception percent
  • 10th in Turnover Margin

Texans QB Deshaun Watson

  • Watson is in a three way tie for the most game winning drives this season with five. Interesting that the opposing quarterback, Josh Allen, is one of the other two.
  • Mostly due to injury his rookie season Watson has only started 37 games his first three seasons. Watson ranks sixth among all quarterbacks in number of games with a 100+ passer rating in their first 37 starts with 19 games. The top quarterback is Tony Romo in 2006-2008 with 22.

Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins

  • Hopkins is one of ten players to have 5+ games of 100+ receiving yards this season.
  • Hopkins drop percentage of 2.7% is eighth best among players with 100+ targets this season.
  • Hopkins’ sixty-eight 1st down receptions in 2019 is third most in the league.

The Bills and Texans played last year and the Texans won 20-13. The keys to the game for the Texans were turnovers, a good game from DeAndre Hopkins, special teams play and the toughness of DeShaun Watson.

Houston ranks higher than Buffalo in almost all offensive statistics. However as shown above Buffalo has a dominating defense.

Houston’s special teams gives them a third rank defensive starting field position. That compares to a Buffalo special teams that gives a 14th ranked field position of 2 yards more on average. A 2011 study attributed for every 3 yards closer to their opponent’s end zone, a team will add 2 wins on average.

In turnover margin Buffalo has a plus 4 to Houston’s zero for the season. In the 2018 Texans-Bills game there were 3 turnovers by each team and a total six points off turnovers by each team.

DeAndre Hopkins is coming off an illness but should be okay to play. In two of his last three games he has had 100+ yards receiving. DeShaun Watson has been bothered by a back injury but also should be good to go. He is one tough quarterback.

Update: In going solely by points scored and allowed the game pits an exceptional Bills defense against a slightly above average Houston offense. Also you have a below average Bills offense against an slightly below average Houston defense. Coupled with this is a Hopkins and Watson that may not be full strength. Look for the Bills defense to take over and the Bills pull the upset victory.

Pick to win: Bills

Titans At Patriots

Saturday, 1/4 at 8:15 PM ET last

Titan RB Derrick Henry

  • Henry’s 1,540 rushing yards this season is tops in the league.
  • Henry’s 16 rushing touchdowns is tie with Aaron Jones for most in the league.
  • Henry’s 5.1 yards per rush attempt is tie for fifth in the league.
  • Henry’s 3.2 yards after contact per attempt is second in the league

Titan QB Ryan Tannehill

  • Ryan Tannehill started 10 games after replacing Marcus Mariotta. He is the only quarterback to have 9.5+ yards per pass attempt and a passer rating of 115+.
  • Tannehill’s pass yards after the catch per completion of 6.2 is tie for second in the league.
  • Tannehill’s completed air yards per pass attempt of 5.2 yards is tie for second in the league.

The Titans have a balanced, efficient offense. Since Ryan Tannehill started in week seven no team has a better passer rating than the Titans. They are the third most balanced team in play selection of run/pass (47/53). The Titans  are tie for third in yards per play with an average of 6.1 yards. Their 5.0 yards per rush attempt is tie for second. Since Tannehill started in week seven the Titans are first in net yards per pass attempt. The Titans have the highest touchdown percentage in the red zone with 75.6%. They are tied for third in number of all touchdowns.

Patriot CB Stephon Gilmore

  • Six interceptions is in three way tie for most interceptions in 2019
  • Twenty passes defended is first in the league
  • Passer rating of 43.4 when targeted is eighth in the league
  • Gilmore has scored 2 touchdowns off interceptions and allowed zero reception touchdowns.

Patriot ST Matthew Slater

  • The unsung hero of the Patriots is special teamer Mathew Slater. He has played special teams for his 12 year career on the Patriots. He has made 8 Pro-Bowls. He has been named a Pro Football Writer’s All Pro four times, one more time than Tom Brady.
  • In 2019 Slater scored his 1st touchdown on an 11 yard blocked punt return and also blocked a punt which led to an offensive Patriot touchdown.
  • Slater is a gunner on kicks which means he runs down the field very fast to be  the first players to make a tackle.

The Patriots have a smothering, stingy defense. They  rank first in

  • Defensive starting field position,
  • Points allowed,
  • Total passing 1st downs allowed (tie),
  • Total yards after the catch allowed,
  • Percentage of opponent drives ending in offensive score,
  • Opponent yards per offensive play (tie),
  • Opponent Passer Rating allowed,
  • Opponent Adjusted Yards per pass attempt¹
  • Opponent Touchdown percent
  • Opponent Interception percent
  • Turnover Margin
  • Opponent 3rd down conversion percent

¹ (Passing Yards + 20 * Passing TD – 45 * Interceptions) / (Passes Attempted)

Just a note that Belichick is big on special teams having started coaching in that area. Besides first in defensive starting field position the Patriots are also first in Offensive starting field position.

Update: I highlighted the strengths of both teams. In some way this is a classic battle of strong offense against a strong defense. However both teams are good on the opposite side of the ball also. The Patriots have the second ranked team in terms of combination of points scored and points allowed ranking seventh and first in those respectively. That combination should be too much for a Titans team that is in the top 34% of the league. Going by points scores and allowed the Patriots would fall in the top 12% of the league.

Pick to win: Patriots

Enjoy the Games!

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