Numbers Don’t Lie: Predicting the First Round of the NFL Playoffs

Grant Mitchell

The calling card of Cold Hard Football Facts’ unique metrics is the Quality Stats Power Rankings, which orders teams by a summation of the most important statistics on the board. Nine of this year’s top-10 finishers made the playoffs, and nearly every Super Bowl winner finishes the regular season in the top-five.

Football is not a perfect game, and this is not a perfect world, but if it were, these quality stats would detail exactly what the upcoming path to the Lombardi Trophy would look like.

Here is a glance at what, according to CHFF’s quality stats, is in store for the 2021 NFL playoffs, starting this Saturday.

Las Vegas Raiders L, Cincinnati Bengals W

Coming in at ninth in the Quality Stats Power Rankings, Cinci is ten spots ahead of the Raiders, who needed a last-second field goal in overtime to cement their place in the playoffs.

The Bengals lack important pieces of their roster, such as a competent offensive line, but they enter the postseason as hot as nearly any team and with a young group of playmakers that give them supreme boom-or-bust potential.

New England Patriots L, Buffalo Bills W

The two top-ranked teams in the AFC are set to renew their battle for the AFC East in the first day of playoff action, one which the Bills are expected to narrowly win.

Their second-highest mark in the power rankings gives them a small edge over the fourth-place Patriots, who, before a calamitous end to their campaign, had won seven games in a row.

Philadelphia Eagles L, Tampa Bay Buccaneers W

The Eagles stormed into the playoffs with a run-heavy style that boosted them to the top of the chart in Offensive Rusher Rating; the Buccaneers, meanwhile, narrowly avoided a shock defeat to the New York Jets and are without major players on both sides of the football.

However, being that Tampa Bay is the highest-rated team in the power rankings and they are steadily getting healthier, the numbers indicate that Tom Brady’s crew will at least be back for the second weekend of playoff football.

San Francisco 49ers L, Dallas Cowboys W

San Fran has become the most popular upset pick ahead of their impending clash with the Cowboys, though their 11th-place finish in the power rankings is a fair margin behind Dallas’ third-place standing.

Both teams will significantly boost their chances of advancing if they can take care of the football, although a fleeting running game means that Dak Prescott is likely to be burdened more than Jimmy Garoppolo and the dynamic Niners offense.

Pittsburgh Steelers L, Kansas City Chiefs W

Not only are the Steelers the lowest-rated team to make the playoffs, but the gap between them (22nd) and the Chiefs (seventh) is the largest disparity in first-round matchups.

Pittsburgh’s biggest problem is an offense stuck operating in the underneath with very little vertical threat and an immobile quarterback. Kansas City, meanwhile, has a defense that had been firing on all cylinders before being lit up by Joe Burrow and the Bengals two weeks ago.

Arizona Cardinals W, Los Angeles Rams L

According to the Quality Stats Power Rankings, Arizona will be the only team to win on the road in the first round of the playoffs. Checking in as the fifth-strongest team in the league, the Cardinals are only one spot ahead of their rival Rams, with who they split outcomes with during the regular season.

Both quarterbacks are prone to the big play, so whichever one of them can operate more efficiently will likely guide their team into the second round.