NFL Next Gen Stats: Super Bowl LIII Edition
Advanced NFL Next Gen Stats For Super Bowl LIII
Super Bowl LIII will kick off on February 3rd and here on our NFL365 platform, we will be bringing you daily analysis all the way until the game starts. Over the next week, you will get picks against the spread, player props, and in-depth matchup analysis. To begin our coverage, I will be returning to a lens of analysis that we have used throughout the playoffs: The Next Gen Stats engine. Through looking at passing, rushing and receiving advanced Next Gen Stats metrics, we will arrive at some of the key points that will determine the direction of the Super Bowl.
Lack Of Aggressive Throws
Both Tom Brady and Jared Goff ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in their percentage of aggressive throws during the regular season. This is defined by NFL Next Gen stats as the amount of passing attempts a quarterback makes that are into tight coverage, where there is a defender within one yard or less of the receiver at the time of completion or incompletion. AGG is shown as a percentage of attempts into tight windows over all passing attempts. Jared Goff attempted only 13.2% of his throws into tight windows in 2018 and Tom Brady attempted only 13.9% of his throws into tight windows. Comparatively, Drew Brees made over 15% of his throws into tight windows and both Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterbacks had over 20% of their throws into tight windows.
In order to win this game, both quarterbacks are going to need to be outside of their comfort zones. The Rams possess strong cornerbacks in Aqib Talib and Nickell Roby-Coleman that will be able to stick closer to Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan than the Chiefs cornerbacks did in the AFC Championship game. If the Patriots trail in this game, James White might end up breaking the single-game reception record for running backs in the Super Bowl for a second time. Realistically, whichever team ends up trailing in this game will need throws to be made in tight windows while playing catch-up whether it is Goff or Brady throwing those passes.
Rushes Vs Eight Or More Men In The Box
At this point, it has almost become a meme: The Rams never run into boxes with eight or more men. If Jared Goff surveys the field and sees that the box is stacked, he checks into a Jet Motion play where Robert Woods or Brandin Cooks runs across the formation and the team runs a play-action pass. This happens on an overwhelming majority of the Rams snaps. However, Bill Belichick and the Patriots will be well aware of this tendency. Per Next Gen Stats, Todd Gurley ran into eight or more men in the box on only 8.2% of his rushing attempts in the 2018 regular season.
James White only ran into eight or more men in the box on 11% of his carries, while Sony Michel had much tougher sledding. Michel was forced to run into eight or more men in the box on 26% of his carries in 2018. If the Patriots insist on running Michel on first down and second and long, they are going to have a tough day at the office. This Rams defense is strong on the interior in a way that the Chiefs was not and therefore, I am expecting a much different game plan from the Patriots during the Super Bowl. My assumption is that this is going to be a very pass-heavy Super Bowl with more James White than Sony Michel and more play-action than straight Todd Gurley runs
Average Cushion For Rams Wide Receivers
No wide receiver gets more Average Cushion before the snap than Josh Reynolds, who is basically a full-time player for the Rams now. Cushion is defined by NFL Next Gen Stats as the distance (in yards) measured between a WR/TE and the defender they’re lined up against at the time of snap on all targets. Reynolds gets, on average, 7.5 yards of cushion before the snap of the ball. That is an absurd amount of space and if the Patriots do not do something about that during the Super Bowl, I would expect McVay and the Rams to exploit it. Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods get 5.7 and 6.4 yards of cushion, respectively. I credit this extreme amount of cushion to how intelligent McVay is in using Jet Motion to get his wide receivers open. It makes them extremely hard to defense pre-snap.
All of the Patriots wide receivers get less than 6.2 yards of Average Cushion per snap. Chris Hogan and Rob Gronkowski are not tough covers due to their athleticism or agility but their ability to create catches in contested space. The Rams are likely to run a decent amount of zone coverage vs. the Patriots to try and stop Tom Brady getting free yards underneath and in the flats, which should actually leave more cushion for the wide receivers playing on the boundary. My biggest takeaway here is that the Patriots need to have a plan to eliminate Josh Reynolds from getting free releases, especially in the end zone.
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