NFL Divisional Round: By the Numbers

Geoffrey Dean, Chief Data Editor

The second weekend of the NFL playoffs went largely as planned, save Derrick Henry literally running through a top-ranked defense for the second game in a row and eliminating the heavily favored Baltimore Ravens. Henry’s Tennessee Titans will head west to face off against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, who rallied from an early 24-0 deficit to beat the Texans this past weekend. In the NFC, the San Francisco 49ers crushed the Minnesota Viking’s hopes at a Cinderella playoff run thanks to a stout defense and effective rushing performance. San Francisco will face the Green Bay Packers in the NFC title game, the latter of whom held off a late Seattle rally to advance. Take a look at some of the intriguing numbers from this past weekend’s games.

1.19- Average number of wild card teams who advanced to the conference championship in the last twenty years: For all intents and purposes, this number can be a clean 1 team per year, so this season was not an irregular occurrence. This year, that team was the Tennessee Titans, who entered the playoffs as a lowly six seed. Since the 1999-2000 season, there have only been four instances where no wild card teams advanced to the conference round, two of which have occurred in the last five seasons, in 2018-19 and 2015-16.

8.5- Difference in the margin of victory from the wild card to the divisional round: Over the past twenty years, the aggregate margin of victory from the wild card to the divisional round has been the exact same, with teams winning by an average of 12 points both rounds. This year, teams won their wild card matchup by an average of 6 points, but in the divisional round, games were decided by an average of 14.5 points. The only team to win by less than this margin was the Green Bay Packers, who withstood a late Seattle rally to clinch the 28-23 win. The 8.5 point margin of victory change was the largest scoring increase in the last twenty years. The largest overall net change occurred in 2003 when games got closer by an average of 10 points. That season, all four divisional-round games were decided by seven or fewer points.

9- Years since a number six seed made the conference championship game: On Saturday night, the Tennessee Titans upset the Baltimore Ravens to reach the AFC championship game. The last time this happened was the 2010 season when both six seeds qualified for their respective championship games. The New York Jets beat Peyton Manning’s Colts and Tom Brady’s Patriots en route to an AFC championship game berth against the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the NFC, the Green Bay Packers knocked off the Philadelphia Eagles and the Atlanta Falcons before traveling to Soldier Field to play the Chicago Bears. Ultimately, the Jets fell in a tough game at Pittsburgh, but the Packers topped the rival Bears and advanced to the Super Bowl, where they took home the Lombardi trophy. Tennessee will hope to recreate that magic in the coming weekend.

41- Points in a row scored by Kansas City: The Houston Texans came storming out of the gate and scored two touchdowns in the first 4:47 of play and added another touchdown before the end of the first quarter. After a field goal early in the second quarter, the Texans had a comfortable 24-0 lead with 10:58 to play. Over the next twenty-five and a half minutes, the Chiefs would outscore the Texans 41-0, and go from being routed to doing the routing in a 51-31 victory.

100- Win percentage of the teams with more sacks in the divisional round: All four teams advancing to the conference championship kept their quarterbacks relatively clean during the game, while their defense made life miserable for the opposing quarterback. The 49ers logged an eye-popping six sacks, the Titans and Chiefs notched four apiece, and the Packers got to Russell Wilson five times. Through this playoffs, the team with more sacks has won 71% of the time.

230- The difference in yardage between the Ravens and Titans: Despite coming into the Divisional round as heavy favorites to win the Super Bowl and outgaining the Tennessee Titans by 230 yards, the Baltimore Ravens fell to the white-hot Titans. In a game in which the MVP front-runner, Lamar Jackson, gained more yards alone than the entire Tennessee offense, Baltimore’s defense could not contain Derrick Henry and the Ravens lost 28-12.

For eye-popping numbers from Wild Card Weekend, click here.

Conference championship round schedule:
Tennessee Titans (AFC 6 seed) at Kansas City Chiefs (AFC 2 seed), Sunday, January 19, 3:05 PM, CBS.
Green Bay Packers (NFC 2 seed) at San Francisco 49ers (NFC 1 seed), Sunday, January 19, 6:40 PM, FOX.