Analysis

Red Zone Efficiency Rankings for Every NFL Divisional Round Team

Super Wild Card weekend certainly lived up to its name, as four of the six games ended within a one-score margin. Even the Seahawks, who closed as 9.5-point underdogs, kept the game interesting heading into the fourth quarter against the 49ers.

The Seahawks were in the red zone and about to take the lead at the end of the third quarter, but Geno Smith was sacked, lost the ball and gave it back to the 49ers. They proceeded to score the next 17 points, and the game was effectively over.

A red zone turnover virtually ended the Seahawks’ season, shining the light on the importance of converting these opportunities when given. The running lanes and passing windows get smaller, while the pressure and magnitude grow larger when in the red zone, and the offense needs to be clicking on all cylinders to get the job done.

Moving forward in the postseason – with the high-powered offenses that remain – it will be imperative to capitalize on any scoring chance that a team gets in the red zone if it hopes to move onto the next round. With that in mind, we take a look at the season red zone efficiency rankings of the teams remaining in the playoffs and break down why the leaders are successful and what the trailers need to improve.

Red Zone Efficiency Rankings of Remaining Playoff Teams

Team Red Zone Efficiency (EPA/Play) Overall NFL Rank
Dallas Cowboys 0.20 1st
New York Giants 0.13 2nd
Kansas City Chiefs 0.11 3rd
Philadelphia Eagles 0.09 5th
Cincinnati Bengals 0.03 7th
Jacksonville Jaguars -0.02 13th
San Francisco 49ers -0.09 19th
Buffalo Bills -0.13 28th

Top Tier Teams

1. Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys’ offense has all-around competence, leading the charge through the air and on the ground. 

Dak Prescott is arguably the best quarterback in the league in the red zone. He is first in SIS’ Independent Quarterback Rating (IQR) and positive pass percentage among quarterbacks with at least 20 attempts (the latter being the percentage of pass plays with a positive Expected Points Added). When it comes to accuracy in the red zone, Prescott boasts the third-highest on-target percentage at 85 and the highest completion percentage at 72.

On the ground, Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott lead a backfield that has the highest EPA per attempt and positive run percentage in the red zone. Elliott, even with relinquishing more of his workload this season to Pollard, still ranks third in touchdowns and fifth in positive run rate among RBs in the red zone this season (that stat is the percentage of runs with a positive EPA).

The high-powered Cowboys offense will face a tough test against the 49ers’ defense, which is third in EPA per play in the red zone on defense. This is certainly a strength-on-strength matchup to watch.

2. New York Giants

The Giants have been a positive surprise all season. Part of that success comes from what they have done in the red zone as the second-most efficient offense. 

On the ground, the Giants are fifth in EPA per rush and fourth in red zone rushing touchdowns. Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones are 10th in their respective positions in positive run rate and are both in the top 20 in red zone rushing touchdowns (Barkley with nine, Jones with six).

The success from the ground game has opened up the passing game. The Giants are tied for 11th in play-action pass attempts in the red zone, and Jones has been successful in those opportunities. He ranks second in both passing EPA and IQR among QBs with at least five play-action attempts in the red zone.

The Eagles rank 25th in positive play percentage allowed in the red zone, so the Giants might find success in this area if they can get down there often.

Bottom Tier Teams

19. San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers coming in as the second-lowest team on the list could surprise some given they’ve scored at least 35 points in their past four games.

Ever since Brock Purdy took over in Week 13, the 49ers have been a better passing team than rushing team in the red zone. They rank 13th in passing EPA and 26th in rushing EPA. Christian McCaffrey has -3 rushing Total Points during this timespan in the red zone. This ranks 156th out of 166 players who had a carry in the red zone since Week 13. Outside of the red zone, McCaffrey ranks fifth with 12 Rushing Total Points.

Purdy has been solid in the red zone, ranking fourth in IQR and tied for fifth in positive pass percentage among QBs with at least 10 attempts since Week 13. He also ranks second in on-target percentage and fourth in completion percentage, showing he can be accurate when it matters most.

The Cowboys allow the fifth most rushing yards per attempt in the red zone, so the 49ers have an opportunity to take advantage of this even if this is one of their weaknesses.

28. Buffalo Bills

Saying the Bills being last is surprising is a massive understatement. How can one of the top Super Bowl favorites have the worst red zone offense in terms of efficiency? The answer is turnovers.

Josh Allen has six interceptions in the red zone this season, which is three more than Patrick Mahomes and Trevor Lawrence, who rank second. Turnovers in the red zone result in major swings in EPA, so lapping the field in that category is detrimental.

Additionally, Allen ranks 19th in on-target percentage and is tied for 26th in completion percentage among 38 quarterbacks with 20 attempts in the red zone. This is not even comparable to his counterparts further up the list.

When it comes to rushing, the Bills rank only 19th in positive run percentage and have the ninth highest stuff percentage. 

This might be the biggest weak spot the Bills have, and it’s a tough matchup against a Bengals defense that allows the third-lowest positive play percentage in the red zone. 

>> Read: Something Is Up With Josh Allen

James Weaver contributed this report. 

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