Graphic Statistical Sex For 2013 NFL Playoff Contenders

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jan 04, 2014

The NFL is all about the passing game, and it’s always been all about the passing game.

Teams win when they dominate the battle of passing efficiency, and the 2013 playoffs provide yet another textbook example: the teams that dominated the battle of passing efficiency dominated the season and dominate the field of 12 postseason contenders.  

The best way to represent that relationship between victory on the field and victory on the stat sheet is with Passer Rating Differential, the Mother of All Stats.

We outline that relationship below with line graphs showing the game-by-game correlation between final score and Passer Rating Differential for every playoff contender all season long.

These line graphs show in visually striking form the profound statistical impact Nick Foles provided in Philly, or the loss of Aaron Rodgers provided in Green Bay.

Eight of the 12 playoff teams went undefeated when they won the battle of passing efficiency. Overall, the 12 playoff teams in 2013 went:

  • 133-58-1 (.696) in all games played this year
  • 114-7 (.942) when they won the battle of Passer Rating Differential
  • 19-51-1 (.271) when they lost the battle of Passer Rating Differential

The playoff teams outperformed the general NFL, as you might imagine. Teams that won the battle of PRD went 205-50-1 (.804) in 2013, including 40-8 (.833) over the final three weeks.

And, of course, the teams that dominated the battle of Passer Rating Differential dominate the playoff field. The Top 7 teams in PRD, and 10 of the Top 12, all reached the playoffs.

2013 Playoff Contenders with league-wide rank in PRD



Off PR

Def PR













New Orleans










San Francisco










Kansas City





San Diego










New England










Green Bay





Only one of 12 playoff teams finished under water in PRD and that team, Green Bay, played half the season without all-world QB Aaron Rodgers and squeaked into the playoffs with the worst record (8-7-1) of any postseason contender.

It’s as if all it all works in nearly perfect clock-like synchronization.


AFC Playoff Contenders

Denver Broncos (13-3; No. 1 seed AFC)
12-0 when plus Passer Rating Differential
1-3 when minus Passer Rating Differential

Denver was one of three teams to win at least 12 games in Passer Rating Differential, and the only one to go undefeated in those 12+ games.

All three Broncos losses came in games in which they lost the battle of passing efficiency: Indy, New England and San Diego.


New England Patriots (12-4; No. 2 seed AFC)
8-0 when plus Passer Rating Differential
4-4 when minus Passer Rating Differential

The Patriots have a reputation for finding ways to win. And their point and Passer Rating Differential trends bear out visually and statistically what we think we see on the field.

No team in football this year won more games (four) when losing the battle of Passer Rating Differential. Some of the differences were fairly dramatic, too. The Patriots lost the PRD battle badly in Game 1 (-29.04), Game 13 (-25.09) and Game 16 (-26.64). Those were bookend wins over Buffalo 23-21 and 34-20, and a dramatic 27-26 win over Cleveland when the Patriots scored two TDs in the final 64 seconds.

Good franchises find ways to win; bad franchises find ways to lose. And those three games proved it.  

Cincinnati Bengals (11-5; No. 3 seed AFC)
11-1 when plus Passer Rating Differential
0-4 when minus Passer Rating Differential       

The statistically powerful Bengals (No. 2 in our Quality Stats Power Rankings) join the short list of three teams that won at least 12 battles of Passer Rating Differential.

They let one of those games slip away, however: they enjoyed a narrow 3.98 PRD advantage over the Bears in Week 1, but lost 24-21 after blowing a 21-10 third-quarter lead. The Bengals lost the turnover battle that day, 3-1.

Cincinnati did not win a single game when losing the battle of PRD – a reality they may have to overcome at some point in the playoffs.


Indianapolis Colts (11-5; No. 4 seed AFC)
9-0 when plus Passer Rating Differential
2-5 when minus Passer Rating Differential

Pump up the Eye of the Tiger. The Colts are The Survivor of the 2013 playoff field.

They hit a huge statistical trough in the soft underbelly of the 2013 season, underwater in PRD almost every game from Game 6 through Game 13, and the few statistical victories they did have were extraordinarily narrow.

But Indy survived the worst statistical stretch by any playoff team this year, eking out at 27-24 win over the Texans despite getting crushed -30.59 in PRD. It was one of those examples this year, like we saw out of the Patriots, of a good time finding a way to win and a bad team finding a way to lose.

The Colts were upside down -29.43 against the Titans two weeks later, but again pulled out a three-point win (30-27).


Kansas City Chiefs (11-5; No. 5 seed AFC)
8-0 when plus Passer Rating Differential
3-5 when minus Passer Rating Differential 

The Chiefs join the Patriots as teams that “found a way to win” in 2013, with just eight PRD victories, while pulling out three scoreboard victories despite losing the PRD battle.

The trajectory for Kansas City is not good: they lost 7 of 10 PRD battles in their final 10 games.

Still, three wins when upside down in PRD speaks of a team that won with guile – No. 1 on the Intelligence Index in 2013.


San Diego Chargers (9-7; No. 6 seed AFC)
9-2 when plus Passer Rating Differential
0-5 when minus Passer Rating Differential

The problems for the statistically proficient Chargers are quite obvious. They lost two games a better, more well-coached team would have won. And their porous defense, No. 28 in Defensive Passer Rating, ruined too many high-powered performances by Philip Rivers and the offense, which finished No. 2 in Offensive Passer Rating.

The Chargers won the battle of PRD in Games 3 (+15.93) and Games 10 (+6.09), but lost both contests where it counts, on the scoreboard: 20-17 at Tennessee and 20-16 at Miami.


NFC Playoff Contenders

Seattle Seahawks (13-3; No. 1 seed NFC)
11-2 when plus Passer Rating Differential
2-1 when minus Passer Rating Differential

The Seahawks dominated Passer Rating Differential in 2013 with a league-best mark of +38.97, nearly 10 points higher than the No. 2 Broncos.

They also won a league-high 13 games this year in PRD. However, if there is a chink in the statistical armor, it’s the fact that Seattle lost two of those 13 games, tied for the most losses among playoff contenders when winning the battle of Passer Rating Differential.

Seattle earned a +14.46 victory in PRD at San Francisco in Game 13, but lose by two where it counted, 19-17. Two weeks later they eked out a narrow +0.78 PRD victory against Arizona but lost, 17-10, at home.

On the other end of the spectrum, Seattle was the only team in football with a winning record when they lost the battle of PRD, beating the Texans 23-20 in OT despite a -31.86 performance, and beating the Buccaneers, also in OT, 27-24, despite getting statistically crushed 42.33.

The trend, in other words, continued in the NFC: smart teams found ways to win when they didn’t have their A game; bad teams found ways to lose


Carolina Panthers (12-4; No. 2 seed NFC)
9-0 when plus Passer Rating Differential
3-4 when minus Passer Rating Differential 

There’s a clear area of concern for the Panthers visible on this graph: they were a very volatile team over the second half of the season.

In fact, they lost the battle of PRD three times in their final six games, with huge, inconsistent swings week to week.

Earlier in the season, Carolina’s two statistical biggest blowouts work in near perfect synchronicity with their two biggest scoreboard blowouts: the Panthers beat the Giants 38-0 in Game 3 (+69.14) and two games later beat the Vikings, 35-10 (+69.28).

Carolina was clearly far less dominant over the second half of the season, even as they ripped off an 11-1 record after a 1-3 start.


Philadelphia Eagles (10-6; No. 3 seed NFC)
10-0 when plus Passer Rating Differential
0-6 when minus Passer Rating Differential

The Eagles were the only team in the playoffs this year that worked in perfect statistical lockstep with the scoreboard: 10 when they won the battle of passing efficiency, 0-6 when they did not.

In other words, thank God for Nick Foles if you’re a Philly fan.

The correlation is impossible to miss: the Eagles won the battle of Passer Rating Differential in nine of 10 games with Foles running the offense (he started nine of those games and came off the bench to do the bulk of the work in the Game 5 win over the Giants).

Foles and the Eagles lost the battle of PRD only once: in their shocking 48-30 loss at Minnesota in Game 14. They were -13.13 in that game.

Green Bay (8-7-1; No. 4 seed NFC)
6-0 when plus Passer Rating Differential
2-7-1 when minus Passer Rating Differential


This Packers graph – along with the Eagles graph – provides textbook examples of the singular importance of one player and one player only in pro football: the quarterback.

Green Bay all-world QB Aaron Rodgers went down early against the Bears in Game 8 after throwing only two passes.

His loss, of course, had a material impact on Green Bay’s ability to dominate the passing game, and therefore on its ability to win games. The Packers simply fell apart statistically at that moment.

In fact, they finished upside in Passer Rating Differential in five straight games without Rodgers, with a record of 0-4-1 in those five games.

They recovered just in time to save the season, eking out a 22-21 (+14.2) win over the Falcons and a 37-36 win over the Cowboys (+33.05). Green Bay emergency QB Matt Flynn, facing terrible defenses, outplayed Matt Ryan and Tony Romo in both those games.

Yes, that’s right. Matt Flynn saved the season, after being re-signed by the Packers on November 12.

Aaron Rodgers returned in time for Green Bay’s do-or-die 33-28 finale win over the Bears. But once again the Packers survived: they were -18.62 in that game.

Rodgers needs to return to his world-class form to give the Packers a fighting chance this postseason.


San Francisco 49ers (12-4; No. 5 seed NFC)
11-0 when plus Passer Rating Differential
1-4 when minus Passer Rating Differential 

San Francisco peaked on the scoreboard on Game 5, a 34-3 win over the Texans in which they were +52.78, their third best game of the year in Passer Rating Differential.

San Francisco actually peaked statistically in Game 11, a 27-6 win at Washington during which the 49ers were +78.3 in PRD. It was the 11thh best performance by any team in 2013, according to our PRD Big Board at CHFF Insider.

The 49ers struggled badly out of the gate, with its two worst performances of the year on the scoreboard and on the stat sheet: a 29-3 Game 2 loss at Seattle (-43.8) and a 27-7 Game 3 loss vs. Indianapolis (-32.1).

Overall, San Francisco’s season followed a fairly predictable statistical pattern. They went 11-0 when they were the more efficient passing team. All four losses came when they lost the battle of PRD.

More interestingly, their biggest wins generally moved in lockstep with their biggest blowouts in Passer Rating Differential.


New Orleans Saints (11-5; No. 6 seed NFC)
10-2 when plus Passer Rating Differential
1-3 when minus Passer Rating Differential

The story of the Saints this year was that they were two different teams home and away. They went 8-0 at home, scoring 34.0 PPG; they went 3-5 on the road, scoring just 17.8 PPG.

Naturally, it was wins and losses in the battle of passing efficiency that proved the difference. The Saints were 8-0 in Passer Rating Differential at home this year; 3-5 in PRD on the road. In fact, they were upside in PRD in their final three road games this year.

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