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  • Dallas poses a major challenge in running the ball against the Rams and in the ability to stop Todd Gurley and L.A. Plus, what the numbers say about Colts-Chiefs, Chargers-Patriots and Eagles-Saints.
By Robert Klemko
January 11, 2019

During the NFL postseason, The MMQB will be teaming with sports analytics provider Sports Info Solutions for insights into the weekend’s games. Subscribe to the SIS DataHub here.

The Rams should be very afraid of the Cowboys. If there’s one divisional round draw that could have derailed Sean McVay’s second consecutive trip to the playoffs with another postseason-opening loss, it’s this one.

At first glance, Dallas isn’t so scary. The Cowboys offense ranks 22nd in yards per passing attempt ant 14th in yards per rushing attempt. Two weeks ago their top-10 defense gave up 441 yards to the 5-11 Giants.

Yet the Cowboys provide unique challenges to the No. 2 seed in the NFC when it comes to the ground game, on both sides of the ball. According to Sports Info Solutions, the Rams use shotgun less than any team (38% of snaps), and they’re virtually guaranteed to throw the ball out of shotgun, at a rate of 96%. And when Jared Goff is under center? The Rams run the ball 96% of the time.

The Cowboys’ defense, led by standout linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, ranks second in the NFL against run plays from under center, giving up 3.3 yards per carry, compared to 4.2 yards per carry against runs out of shotgun.

Furthermore, Rams back Todd Gurley has been least effective against a seven-man box (as opposed to a light six-man box or a heavy eight-man box), averaging 4.0 yards per carry, 34th in the NFL. Dallas employs a seven-man box on 36% of its defensive snaps, more than all but four teams.

Todd Gurley vs. different numbers of defender in the box (min. 25 carries vs. each):

 

Carries

Y/Carry

Rk

Light Box

144

5.4

19

7 Man Box

87

4.0

34

Heavy Box

25

4.8

3

On the other side of the ball, Ezekiel Elliott has led the NFL in 2018 in rushing yards after contact, while the Rams defense has allowed the fifth-most yards after contact per attempt this season.

Is an upset in the offing? The story on the ground could decide it.

• DIVISIONAL ROUND PREVIEWS: Colts-Chiefs | Cowboys-Rams | Chargers-Patriots | Eagles-Saints 


Colts at Chiefs

Indy should handle whatever Kansas City’s defense throws at them.

Andrew Luck has performed better under pressure since Indy’s 1-5 start:

Luck Under Pressure

IQR

Y/A

Comp%

On-Target %

Weeks 1-6

67

5.1

50

63

Weeks 7-17

91

6.8

59

71

Along with this, the Colts O-Line has done a better job at protecting Luck later in the season. During the first six games Luck averaged 13.3 pass attempts under pressure a game; since then he's averaged just 9.2. (This number drops another pass per game down to 8.1 if you exclude their game against the Giants when Luck threw 19 passes under pressure, which was a season high.)


Chargers at Patriots

Count on a new and improved Philip Rivers with Hunter Henry on the field.

Hunter Henry’s 2017 ranks among TEs (min 50 targets):

• 48.3 Y/G (5th)
• 123 receiver rating (2nd)
• 
9.3 y/tgt (3rd)

• 90% On-Target catch percentage (5th)

Last season Rivers threw the ball 126 times when two TEs were on the field, but that number has dropped to 68 this season. However, in that limited sample, Rivers has 10.2 yards per attempt and an IQR of 133 which is second best for QBs with that personnel, behind just Russell Wilson (138).


Eagles at Saints

Nick Foles may be forced to carry Eagles offense.

● The Eagles struggle to run the ball, as they rank 27th in yards per carry on called runs (excludes scrambles). The Saints defense ranks second, allowing only 3.3 yards per carry on called runs. The one place where Philly could see some success is on inside runs, where the Eagles rank 12th with 3.6 yards per carry, and the Saints defense ranks 13th, allowing 3.4 yards per carry. However, overall the Eagles will likely have to rely on the passing game against the Saints defense.

Team

Run Direction

Y/Carry

Rk

Eagles

Outside Runs

3.9

26

Eagles

Off Tackle Runs

4.1

27

Eagles

Inside Runs

3.6

12

 

Team

Run Direction

Y/Carry Allowed

Rk

Saints

Outside Runs

2.8

1

Saints

Off Tackle Runs

3.4

3

Saints

Inside Runs

3.4

13

Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.

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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
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Double Bogey (+2)