The 2017 NFL Playoffs: A Look Inside Offenses Dominating the League
Starting on January 7th at 4:35 p.m., the Houston Texans will take on the Oakland Raiders at NRG Stadium to start the 2017 NFL Playoffs. The playoffs will conclude on February 5th at 6:30 p.m. as the AFC Champions will take on the NFC Champions in Houston, Texas.
But how did each team get here?
The Texans are a team that have had limited success in the NFL since their inception in 2002, going a measly 2-3 in the playoffs. However, they have won the AFC South in back-to-back seasons with head coach Bill O’Brien (27-21 coaching record), who was brought in after leading the Penn State Nittany Lions to back-to-back winning seasons after suffering crippling sanctions from the NCAA. Defense was the key to the Texans this year, giving up the least number of total yards in the league, second in passing yards and 12th in rushing yards. The opposite, however, holds true to their offense. Posting the 29th ranked offense, 29th in passing yards and eighth in rushing, their offense has been their downfall all year.
The Raiders have been the opposite to the Texans in respect to where their offense and defense ranks. They have been an explosive team this year while led by third year starter Derek Carr, finishing the season with the sixth ranked offense, 13th in passing and sixth in rushing. However, with the loss of Carr in Week 16, and back-up Matt McGloin in Week 17, the offense is a huge question mark heading into their game against the Texans. Unfortunately, their defense has not played well enough for us to believe they can help third string rookie quarterback Connor Cook, giving up the 26th most yards in the league, 24th in passing yards and 23rd in rushing.
In game two on January 7th at 8:15 p.m., the Seattle Seahawks will welcome the Detroit Lions to CenturyLink Field.
The Seahawks have been one of the strongest teams in the league in recent years, with this year being a slightly down year by their standards. After struggling down the stretch of the season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Green Bay Packers, and Arizona Cardinals, the Seahawks look to continue recent playoff success against the Lions. After losing running back Thomas Rawls early, Russell Wilson footed the load by leading the team to a 12th ranked offense, 10th in passing yards and 25th in rushing yards. The defense, however, continued its overall strong play by giving up the fifth least number of yard in the league, ranking eighth in passing yards and seventh in rushing yards allowed.
The Lions offensively shined through their passing game, led by Matthew Stafford, Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, and the 11th ranked passing game, but broke down in the running game while piling up the 30th ranked rushing attack, giving them the 21st overall ranked offense in the league. The defense was mediocre itself, giving up the 18th most yards in the league, 19th in passing yards and 18th in rushing yards.
The following day, on January 8th at 1:05 p.m., the Pittsburgh Steelers welcome the Miami Dolphins to Heinz Field.
The Steelers look to continue their offensive explosion with their three headed beast in quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell, and wide receiver Antonio Brown. Led by the seventh ranked offense in the league, Big Ben and Brown look to put on a show with the fifth ranked passing attack, while Bell, who missed the first three games of the season due to a suspension for missing a drug test, leads the 14th ranked rushing attack in the league. With an average defense ranking 12th in the league, they ranked in the middle of the pack in passing yards against with the 16th ranked pass defense, but picked up the pace slightly in the rushing attack by pulling in the 13th ranked rushing defense.
The Dolphins overcame a weak start to the season, finishing 9-2 after starting 1-4, thanks in part to the emergence of running back Jay Ajayi and the 9th ranked rushing attack in the league. The offense and defense did not play well as a whole, however. The offense ranked 24th in the league, finishing with the 26th ranked passing offense. The defense played like one of the worst, finishing 29th in the league in yards, finishing in the middle of the pack with the 15th ranked passing defense and near the bottom with the 30th ranked rushing defense. Game two on January 8th takes place on Lambeau Field, with the Packers welcoming the New York Giants.
After a four game losing streak that put their season in serious jeopardy, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers rolled off six straight wins to knock the Minnesota Vikings out of the playoff race, and take the NFC North crown over the Lions in the final week of the season. Thanks to Rodgers and the seventh ranked passing attack, the Packers’ offense finished ranked eighth in the league despite the 20th ranked rushing attack in the league. Their rushing struggles came prior to the emergence of their new star wide receiver-turned-running back Ty Montgomery. The defense, however, continued its recent struggles by giving up the 31st most passing yards in the league, but allowed just the eighth most rushing yards in the league, giving them the 22nd overall defense in the league.
The Giants have been led by their rushing defense, while the offense struggled mightily this year. Eli Manning headed the 25th ranked offense, leading them to a 17th ranked passing attack while the rushing attacked finished a measly 29th. The defense overall stepped up big, bringing in the 10th ranked defense. However, their passing defense finished 23rd, while their rushing defense came in tied for third, forcing teams to pass the ball more.
With those four games slated for Wild Card weekend, the following weekend brings the Divisional round with four teams, the Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs, and Dallas Cowboys, sitting comfortably with a bye week.
The Falcons, headed by MVP-candidate Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Devonta Freeman, lead the number two overall offense into the game which will be against either Seattle, Green Bay, or New York. With Ryan leading the helm, the Falcons bring the third ranked passing attack, and behind a rejuvenated offensive line and Freeman, they bring in the fifth ranked rushing attack. However, defense has been their major weakness as they bring in the 25th ranked defense, giving up the 28th most passing yards and the 17th most rushing yards.
The Patriots, also headed by an MVP-candidate in Tom Brady, bring in the fourth ranked offense and eighth ranked defense as they take on Houston, Oakland, or Miami. Brady leads the fourth ranked passing attack, with LeGarrette Blount leading the seventh ranked rushing attack in the league. The defense, led by the 12th ranked passing defense and third ranked rushing defense, have been a force in the league all year.
The Chiefs come into the playoffs with a weak offense, ranking 20th overall in the league. Alex Smith led the team to a 19th ranked passing attack, while a mixture of running backs has led them to a 15th ranked rushing offense. The defense has been worse, much worse than recent years, bringing in the 24th ranked defense. Giving up the 18th most passing yards in the league, and 16th most rushing yards in the league, the Chiefs are lucky to have a first-round bye as they prepare for either Pittsburgh, Houston, or Oakland.
The Cowboys, headed by rookies Dak Prescott and MVP-candidate Ezekiel Elliot, bring in the fifth ranked offense in the league, with the 23rd ranked passing attack, and the 2nd ranked rushing attack. The defense has been mediocre, bringing in the 14th ranked defense, giving up the 26th most passing yards, and the least amount of rushing yards in the league. They will use their bye week to prepare for either Green Bay, New York, or Detroit.
Overall, six of the top ten defenses missed out on making the playoffs this year, while six of the top ten offenses have made the playoffs.