Wild Card week preview
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New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks
When the Seahawks traveled to the Big Easy in Week 11 and lost, 34-19, it wasn't that they couldn't move the ball - Seattle had five different drives that went to at least the New Orleans 25-yard line. But on those drives, the Seahawks managed just one touchdown and four field goals, The Saints turned their first four drives inside the Seattle 25 into touchdowns, then came up with a missed field goal and two interceptions on the final three.
In addition, according to FO's game charting, Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL against the "big blitz" (six or more pass rushers), and the Saints send six or more on blitzes more than any defense in the league.
Having Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory out of the picture (both backs went on IR recently) sets things up quite nicely for the Seahawks. Ivory finished the season ranked ninth among qualifying running backs in Football Outsiders' cumulative efficiency metrics, and sixth in play-by-play production.
New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts
No team has set up in more three-wide, single-back looks over the last decade than the Colts, but Peyton Manning hasn't been as efficient in the formation as in previous years. He finished the 2010 season seventh in passer rating with three receivers (94.3), just behind brother Eli. Indy's opponents were quite a bit more successful through the air - the Colts have the league's highest completion percentage against (67.4).
The Colts rank sixth in DVOA (team efficiency) on offense, and the Jets rank sixth on defense. But the vulnerabilities for New York come in the red zone, where Indy is second in total Offense DVOA, and the best passing team in the league. The Jets counter with a fundamental difference between Peyton Manning and Mark Sanchez; they rank 28th in red zone passing DVOA, but second on the ground. Many things have changed about the Jets' personnel this season, but their excellent power zone run game is still brutally effective.
Baltimore Colts at Kansas City Chiefs
If you get the Baltimore Ravens in a hole on third down, don't expect quarterback Joe Flacco to lay down - Flacco has the third-best conversion rate on third-and-8 or more. On 70 attempts, he's converted 27 passes into first downs, and that 38.6 conversion rate is bettered by only Ben Roethlisberger and Michael Vick.
But the real spotlight on this game has to be trained on the Kansas City rushing attack -- specifically, the zone stretch play that they run with halfback Jamaal Charles. Because of this play's effectiveness, the Chiefs rank second in Adjusted Line Yards around right edge (5.47 per carry), and they run the ball around that edge 13 percent of the time, which also ranks near the highest in the NFL.
Conversely, the Ravens' run defense is not what it used to be - they give up the second-most Adjusted Line Yards to that same edge (4.98 ALY per carry). They also give up 4.76 ALY per carry to the right tackle (29th in the league), and the Chiefs are going to beat them to death with outside zone until the Ravens make them stop.
Green Bay Packers at Philadelphia Eagles
The Packers rank 11th in Football Outsiders' rushing offense efficiency metrics, but the production is a bit of a mirage. The team hasn't had a 100-yard rusher in a game since Brandon Jackson in Week 5 against the Redskins, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers has led the team in rushing yards in three of the last six games. Only Michael Vick ranks higher in rushing efficiency among quarterbacks.
And speaking of that rushing efficiency - one way in which the Eagles can counter Green Bay's furious pass rush and excellent coverage is to force Dom Capers' defense to watch the run. Vick has 27 runs of 10 or more yards, and halfback LeSean McCoy has 28. This is an offense that, at its best, stretches enemy defenses to the breaking point. The Packers are 20th in Adjusted Line Yards allowed, but they're pretty solid when asked to tackle in the open field. Only three teams are more efficient at stopping runs of 10 yards or more.
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Posted by: ohwell1 | January 7, 2011 11:21 AM