Joe Burrow got sacked nine times against Tennessee. At times, it seemed like he was trying to finish a Ph.D. thesis before getting rid of the ball.
Burrow had a sack rate of 9.8% this season, second worst in the NFL. Even though Cincinnati has an explosive offense with its young receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, the sacks have lowered the efficiency of the offense. They rank 11th in my pass offense metrics by adjusted success rate.
How will sacks impact the Super Bowl? Let’s look at the pressure rates (the sum of sacks, hits and hurries divided by pass rush snaps) for the Los Angeles Rams.
It’s worth looking at a defensive player’s pressure rate because of its predictability. Based on data from PFF this season, I looked at the correlation of pressure rate from the first nine weeks with pressure rate from the remainder of the season. Based on a sample of 179 players that had at least 80 pass rush snaps in both periods, I found an R-squared value of 38.7%.
To put this in perspective, let’s look at the R-squared values of two other quantities.
- NFL quarterback’s completion percentage from one season to the next: 28%.
- Yards per route for pass catchers from early to late season: 23.3%.
A defensive player’s pressure rate is one of the more predictive NFL metrics.
For the Rams regulars, these ranks are based on NFL players with at least 100 pass rush snaps, with an NFL average is 9.6%.
- Von Miller, 15.0%, 9th (essentially the same rate with the both Broncos and Rams).
- Aaron Donald, 13.2%, 28th.
- Leonard Floyd, 11.5%, 57th.
This doesn’t include back up DE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, who has an excellent 14.4% rate but only 146 pass rush snaps. Miller and Donald have higher rates than any pass rusher on Tennessee’s defense, a unit that sacked Burrow nine times.
Overall, the Rams have the 11th best pass defense by my adjusted success rate. This rank has improved from 19th at the end of the regular season.
Stafford and the Rams have excelled through the air, as the pass offense ranks 2nd in my adjusted success rate. WR Cooper Kupp has averaged an incredible 3.17 yards per route, as only Deebo Samuel (2.93) and Davante Adams (2.81) are remotely close to this level of production.
Cincinnati has an average pass defense (15th by my adjusted success rate). While they did play well after halftime against Kansas City in the AFC Conference Championship game, the Chiefs had a 55.8% passing success rate for the game (44.0% NFL average).
Bengals DE Trey Hendrickson has the highest pressure rate of any defensive player in the Super Bowl (16.5%, 7th in the NFL).
Overall, my model has the Rams by 5.0 points over the Bengals. However, it makes the most sense to look at two specific parts of this prediction:
- Rams by 5.2, market model that takes closing spreads and adjusts for opponents.
- Rams by 3.2, data from the current season (success rate, yards per pass attempt, points)
The average of these two metrics suggest the Rams are about four points better than the Bengals. I bet Rams -3.5 when it opened, and Caesars still has that spread as of Thursday, February 10.
Football betting with a PhD edge
This article was sent to The Power Rank’s email newsletter on Thursday, February 10. This newsletter is a free service that strives to be:
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