The NFL conference championships are upon us and there are some tantalizing storylines and matchups on deck on the road to Super Bowl 58 in Las Vegas. As the great philosopher Sean “Jay-Z” Carter famously said on The Blueprint 3, “Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t.”
When it comes to prognosticating and evaluating the NFL, a few key numbers tell a greater story. Whether it’s your playoff wagers, confidence pool, fantasy choices or bragging rights at your NFL watch party and group chats, I’ll provide those numbers on a weekly basis in this space.
Here are 10 stats that will tell the story of the NFL postseason.
1. All we do is win
If any team should be trusted to beat the other elite teams left standing, it is the Baltimore Ravens. They now have the most wins versus teams with a winning record with 11. The 2023 Ravens are alone in first surpassing the 1979 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2003 New England Patriots and 2004 Patriots, who all had 10. Each of those teams went on to win the Super Bowl. Baltimore is just two wins away.
2. New year, new Lamar
Lamar Jackson’s postseason career has been scrutinized and for good reason. In his first four playoff games, he had a 42 total QBR, 56 completion percentage, three TDs, five interceptions, off target 21 per cent and one rushing TD.
In the divisional round, Jackson proved he turned a new leaf with 94 total QBR, 63 per cent completion, two TDs, no interceptions, 14 per cent off target rate, and two rushing TDs. He’ll need to replicate that on Sunday.
3. Blitz Lamar
Against Houston last week, Jackson was blitzed 69 per cent of the time — a career high. The team’s ability to adapt to and eventually beat the blitz was the difference in the game. In the first half, Jackson was 5 for 9, for 42 yards and three sacks against the blitz. In the second half, Jackson was 7 for 8, for 64 yards and no sacks.
Steve Spagnuolo, the defensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs, is known to blitz early and often, so once again the way Jackson handles it will be the difference in the game.
Even if the Chiefs get pressure, it may not matter. In games when Jackson is pressured on at least 40 per cent of his drop backs, he’s won 62 per cent of those games. The average for a quarterback is 36 per cent. Pressuring him isn’t the sole answer like it is most players.
4. No INT in Pat
Big games generally come down to turnovers. One thing Patrick Mahomes doesn’t do is turn the ball over in big games. He really has no negative plays at all in big games.
In his last three playoff starts, Mahomes has no interceptions, no sacks, 27 points and two TDs vs. the Buffalo Bills; no interceptions, no sacks, 26 points and one TD vs. the Miami Dolphins; and zero interceptions, zero sacks, 38 points and three TDs vs. Philadelphia Eagles.
Mahomes is the first QB since the merger with zero interceptions and zero sacks in three straight playoff games. The Ravens defence led the league in sacks and turnovers, so it will be tough but vital to continue that trend.
5. Playoff Pat goes streaking
By the time it’s all said and done, Mahomes might hold all the playoff records. Mahomes already has the most consecutive seasons with two-plus playoff wins. Mahomes is sitting on five from 2019-23. That’s ahead of Tom Brady (2016-18), Brett Favre (1995-97) and Bart Starr (1965-67) who all have three consecutive years with multiple playoff wins to their name.
6. Patrick vs. Lamar
Mahomes’ four games vs. the Ravens have been some of his best performances, in fact, he’s never passed for less than 300 yards against them.
In 2018, he put up 377 passing yards and two TDs. In 2019, he went off for 374 passing yards and three TDs. In 2020, he increased it to 385 passing yards and five TDs. Most recently in 2021, his stat line was 343 passing yards and three TDs.
The numbers skew even heavier in Mahomes’ favour when you compare him against Jackson in head-to-head competition. Mahomes has three wins, 84.6 total QBR, 71.8 completion percentage, 369.8 passing yards per game, 13 total TDs and 8.8 rush yards per game versus Jackson.
Jackson, in comparison, has one win, 56.1 Total QBR, 187.5 pass yards per game, seven total TDs and 75.6 rush yards per game.
7. Lions are going for it
The Detroit Lions and Dan Campbell have gambled all year long and it continues to pay off. The Lions have the most points on drives with a fourth down conversion this season with 99. That trend has continued in the playoffs with an NFL-high 14 this postseason. With nothing to lose as a massive underdog, don’t be surprised if the Lions risk it all on fourth down again against the San Francisco 49ers.
8. Goff goes outside
Jared Goff and the Lions have only played one true “outdoor” game on grass since November. It’s not just an odd schedule quirk, it’s a big reason they ended the season playing so well. Goff historically has struggled when not playing in a dome. In their last outdoor game, the Lions offence put up only 13 points in a loss to Chicago on Dec. 10, while Goff threw for only 161 yards. Every other game since was in a dome. Indoors (11 games) Goff has a 69 completion percentage, 2,981 yds, 23 TDs and eight interceptions and sacked 15 times. Outdoors (six games) Goff has a 64.5 completion percentage, 1,594, seven TDs, four interceptions and sacked 15 times.
9. New QB, no problem
Jared Goff is in some elite company in how well he’s played in the postseason with a new team. Only Jared Goff, Matthew Stafford, Tom Brady, Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes have matched the 550 pass yards, and zero interceptions Goff has accumulated in his first two playoff games with a team.
10. Deebo or no Deebo
Deebo Samuel will play for the 49ers after suffering a shoulder injury. That is certainly good news as their offence is better with Samuel. The 49ers are 1-3 without Samuel in the lien up this year.
But if Samuel is injured again and must leave the game it’s not the end of the world for San Francisco. It’s a misnomer they can’t move the ball without him. With Samuel and Brock Purdy on the field, the 49ers offence has a 50.9 success rate, which is the best in the NFL. When Samuel hasn’t been on the field they have a 47.3 success rate, which would still be the best in the league. Their offence on an efficiency per down basis without Samuel is still a handful because they’re so deep.