How can the underdogs get the upset in round two of the NFL playoffs?
Create havoc in the backfield.
More specifically, create havoc upon the opposing quarterback.
If the Houston Texans let Tom Brady have plenty of time, we all know what will happen. New England will beat the brakes off them, and it will be an ugly affair.
And honestly, that’s what most people expect to happen in that one. The other games look to be much more competitive. But there is hope for even the Osweiler led Texans.
Don’t get it twisted. Don’t expect Brock Osweiler to outplay Tom Brady. It would Bill O’Brien’s defense that would create an epic upset.
It’s a big task, yet the playoffs have been witness to many a great quarterback being unable to do their normal damage when they are assaulted on every other drop-back.
So here’s how the remaining eight teams rank in terms of getting after the opposing QB’s ass. The list shows the top two defenders from each team with the most quarterback hurries in 2016.
1. Atlanta – 48 combined QB hurries (Vic Beasley and Dwight Freeney)
1a. New England- 48 combined QB hurries (Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard)
2. Houston – 41 combined QB hurries (Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus)
2a. K.C. – 41 combined QB hurries (Tamba Hali and Dee Ford)
3. Green Bay – 37 combined QB hurries (Mike Daniels and Nick Perry)
3a. Seattle – 37 combined QB hurries (Frank Clark and Cliff Avril)
4. Dallas – 36 combined QB hurries (Tyrone Crawford and David Irving)
5. Pittsburgh – 27 combined QB hurries (Stephon Tuitt and James Harrison)
Just hurrying the passer won’t be enough in the playoffs, though. Defenses must lay hands on the quarterback in order to have him rattled enough to make big mistakes.
Here’s how the eight defenses in the divisional round rank in sack percentage according to Sporting Charts.com (Sacks on opponents’ quarterback for every passing play the opponent attempts).
1. Seattle 7.3%
2. Green Bay 6.5%
3. Pittsburgh 6.1%
4. Houston 5.6%
5. Dallas 5.4%
5a. New England 5.4 %
6. Atlanta 4.9%
7. K.C. 4.5%
Now, if you’re thinking those small differences in percentages won’t matter in these upcoming games, then you don’t know football.
It’s the tiniest details that can determine a contest between two evenly matched teams. Dallas getting to Aaron Rodgers .42 seconds sooner than he’s used to can make the difference between him throwing four touchdowns and just two.
Atlanta making Russell Wilson uncomfortable on half his dropbacks instead of just a quarter of them will help ensure none of his playoff magic happens in the Georgia Dome.
The formula for winning in the playoffs is simple. Every player has to step their game up. And do their job, as Bill Belichick would say.
The job at hand for all eight defenses this weekend is to make life hell for the passer on the other side of the ball. Whichever defenses make that hell a reality will advance to the Conference Title Games.