It's time for the playoffs to begin and (insert Luke Skywalker voice) it's time for the 2017 NFL regular season to end. But before we officially move on to the next phase of the NFL calendar, let's just acknowledge the stranger than usual nature of the regular season we just witnessed. Look no further than this weekend's upcoming playoff matchups as evidence.
The Bills, who haven't made the playoffs since 1999, are facing the Jaguars, who haven't made the playoffs since 2007. The Titans survived until January, where they'll face the Chiefs, even though their quarterback threw more interceptions than touchdowns. The former of the Rams is actually hosting a playoff game against the Falcons, the defending NFC champs. The Saints will somehow trot out a defense that's just as good as the Panthers'. The group of quarterbacks playing this weekend includes Blake freakin' Bortles.
You get the point. It's been a weird year, and we haven't even addressed all of the protests, the ongoing Colin Kaepernick saga, and the fact that the Bears willingly chose to start Mike Glennon over Mitchell Trubisky -- that last thing seriously happened!
Without further ado, to provide further evidence of the strangeness of the regular season, here are the 15 craziest statistics that define it:
- Rams running back Todd Gurley accumulated one more carry in 2017 than he did in 2016, but he totaled 420 more rushing yards in 2017 than he did in 2016, as ESPN's Alden Gonzalez pointed out. Related: The Rams won the NFC West.
- The Seahawks rushed for zero yards inside the 10-yard line, according to Field Gulls. Finally, they have an excuse to always throw goal-line slants. Related: The Seahawks missed the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
- Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is 40 years old, but he finished as Football Outsiders' best quarterback, led the NFL in passing yards, and finished third in touchdown passes and passer rating. Maybe avocado ice cream really does work. Related: He's
- Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles finished with one more passing touchdown than reigning MVP Matt Ryan and two fewer than future Hall of Famer Drew Brees.
- Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith led the NFL in passer rating (104.7), but nobody really cares because as Football Perspective's Chase Stuart pointed out, it was the lowest league-leading passer rating in 11 years. Smith also posted the league's best passer rating (131.4) on passes thrown at least 20 yards downfield, according to Pro Football Focus. That part matters.
- Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill, who barely knew how to play receiver when he entered the league, finished with the best WR rating in football, according to PFF. WR rating is the quarterback's passer rating when a receiver is targeted.
- The Browns' -28 turnover differential was the worst (tied with the 2000 Chargers) in the NFL history, according to Chase Stuart. Related: The Browns went 0-16 and were outscored by 176 points over the course of the season.
- Despite missing the final three games, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz finished one touchdown pass behind Russell Wilson for the most in football.
- Raiders quarterback Derek Carr's passer rating under pressure was 40.8, according to PFF. Only Brett Hundley, Trevor Siemian, and DeShone Kizer were worse. Related: The Raiders finished 6-10 and
- Saints running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara became the first running back duo to both reach 1,500 yards from scrimmage in a single season, according The New Orleans Advocate. Related: The Saints are playoff bound.
- Jaguars cornerback A.J. Bouye posted the league's lowest passer rating (31.6) in coverage among qualified cornerbacks, according to PFF. Related: The Jaguars' defense finished the year ranked first in DVOA.
- The 49ers went 5-0 with Jimmy Garoppolo under center. As Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith pointed out, the 49ers are 3-24 in the past two seasons when anyone other than Garoppolo is their starter.
- Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell finished with more receptions than receivers like Demaryius Thomas, A.J. Green, Mike Evans, Dez Bryant, and Brandin Cooks (and a whole lot more).
- Steelers receiver Antonio Brown led the NFL in receiving yards despite missing two full games.
- There were 1,121 offensive touchdowns this season -- the lowest total since 2007, according to ESPN's Mike Clay.
Crazy year. Now, let's turn the page and move onto the playoffs. Read on for five stats to know for Wild-Card Weekend.
1. Tyrod Taylor vs. Jaguars D
The Bills are finally back in the playoffs as the sixth seed and they drew one of the best matchups in the history of sixth seeds. On Sunday, the Bills will face the Jaguars, and they'll enter the game with the better of the two quarterbacks, though Tyrod Taylor's task will undoubtedly be more difficult than Blake Bortles'.
For one, Taylor LeSean McCoy. And two, he's going up against the league's best defense. The Jaguars enter the playoffs ranked first in defensive DVOA, second in yards allowed, second in points allowed, second in sacks, second in interceptions, and tied for third in forced fumbles. Let's focus on the takeaways, because it's going to be the most intriguing aspect of the game.running back
The Jaguars have picked off opposing quarterbacks 21 times and forced 17 fumbles. But they might be hard-pressed to force any turnovers against the Bills. If there's one area Taylor is truly elite in, it's limiting back-breaking mistakes. Since 2016, he's thrown 10 picks.
If the Bills can limit their turnovers against an aggressive defense, they'll have a chance to win the game, because on the other side of the field will be Bortles, who has thrown an NFL-high 64 interceptions since his rookie year (2014). The Bills are the worse overall team, but turnovers can bridge the gap. The Bills' defense ranks in the top-eight in both interceptions and forced fumbles.
That's how the Bills can pull off the upset: Take care of the ball and let Bortles Bortle the game away. It's not an impossible recipe to follow.
2. Drew Brees vs. Carolina's blitz
The Panthers have a problem. They're going up against the Saints for a third time this season and they lost their previous two meetings by a combined 31 points.
Their problem is that they love blitzing and Saints quarterback Drew Brees is deadly against the blitz. According to PFF, the Panthers used the blitz 44.7 percent of the time in the regular season (league average was 29.4 percent). Brees' numbers against the blitz? A 70.5 completion percentage, 8.3 YPA, six touchdowns, three picks, and a 101.4 passer rating.
The truth is, there just isn't a good way to attack Brees. And that's probably why the Panthers will come up short. The Saints have the better quarterback, running game, and receivers. And, they're at home.
3. Derrick Henry creates big plays
The Titans are nine-point underdogs against the Chiefs, so they'll need a few bounce to go their way to pull off the upset. Something that could help: Derrick Henry's knack for making big plays.
And the Chiefs' defense is susceptible. They're ranked third to last in defensive DVOA.
4. Freeman and Gurley on one field is magic
There are a ton of reasons to be excited about the Falcons-Rams matchup. Can the young, inexperienced, but better Rams handle the pressure of the playoffs against a team that's been here before? Can Matt Ryan and the Falcons' offense finally hit their potential? Will Matt Bryant?doom them considering the Falcons have the reliable
Among those reasons: We shouldn't forget how lucky we are to be able to watch Devonta Freeman and Todd Gurley on the same field.
5. The last time
The last time the Rams hosted a playoff game, it was 1986. Rams coach Sean McVay wasn't even alive at the time.
In 1986, "Top Gun" was the top movie. So yeah, it's been a while.