Mark Simon and Stephen Polacheck contributed to this article

Sports Info Solutions has a lot of tools at its disposal with which it can evaluate football performance. The comprehensiveness of our Video Scout work and the diligence of our R&D team gives us the chance to look at the game in many different ways.  

If you’ve read our work before, you probably realize that. But regardless of whether you have or you haven’t, we thought we would show some examples of what we can do using this weekend’s Conference Championship Games. 

Analyzing Team Strengths by Unit

In the AFC, it’s interesting to see how close the Bengals and Chiefs teams are in the offensive categories. We can use a summary of our player value stat, Total Points to do that. 

The Bengals rank seventh in Passing Points Earned Per Play, 15th in Rushing Points Earned Per Play, and second in Receiving Points Earned Per Play. 

The Chiefs rank fifth, 16th, and third, respectively. 

Where Kansas City holds a notable advantage in the game is:  

a) on the offensive line, where it ranks 11th in Blocking Points Earned Per Play to Cincinnati’s 21st and  

b) in pass defense, where it ranks fifth in Pass Rush Points Earned Per Play and 12th in Pass Coverage Points Per Play to the Bengals’ 18th and 20th. respectively. 

A couple of weeks ago we explored SIS’s Pressures Above Expectation metric, which puts a pass rusher’s pressure generation into context with where he aligns and situational factors that might affect his production. This year, the Chiefs generated nine Pressures Above Expectation, compared to the Bengals generating six Pressures Below Expectation. 

Simply put: Patrick Mahomes should have an easier time throwing than Joe Burrow. 

In the NFC, the Rams rank No. 4 in Passing Points Earned and No. 5 in Receiving Points Earned. The question is whether that will be negated by the 49ers’ No. 1-ranked pass rush or whether it will overwhelm San Francisco’s No. 31-ranked pass coverage unit.

The Rams and 49ers are among the league leaders in Pressures Above Expectation, with 19 and 16 respectively. 

Knowing San Francisco’s rush comes quickly, Matthew Stafford will have to release the ball sooner, which he has been effective enough at doing that it shouldn’t hurt the Rams. He’s completed 73% of passes thrown within 2.5 seconds after the snap, which ranks middle-of-the-pack in the league. 

The ‘Our Guy vs Your Guy’ Debate

In the NFC title game, the thought that Cooper Kupp is the most valuable wide receiver on the field on Sunday isn’t necessarily true. 

By Total Points, Kupp edged out Deebo Samuel, 63-60 in the regular season, as the two ranked 1-2 in that stat. But on a per 60-snaps basis, Samuel had the edge, 4.5 to 3.8. 

Here’s how they’ve fared at pass catching when the two teams have gone head-to-head this season. 

CategorySamuel vs RamsKupp vs 49ers
Receiving Yards184240
Receiving TD21
Broken + Missed Tackles83
Yards After Catch112106
Receiving Total Points6.77.5

The edge for Samuel comes with what he’s done on the ground, with 13 rushes for 81 yards, two touchdowns, and 3.8 more Total Points. 

Injury Impact

Earlier this week, the Chiefs’ Tyrann Mathieu said “I got this” with regards to clearing concussion protocol so that he could play this weekend.  

We know Mathieu’s presence is important, but just how vital is it? 

Kansas City played 53 snaps in the regular season in situations in which the score was within 16 points and Mathieu was not on the field. 

On those 53 plays, the Chiefs allowed a rate of 15 EPA per 60 snaps. 

When he was on the field in those situations, the Chiefs allowed 1 EPA per 60 snaps. 

That’s a two-touchdown difference over the course of a regular game. 

The Chiefs were able to survive without Mathieu against Buffalo, though they did allow a 51% Positive Percentage to the Bills when Mathieu was out. With Mathieu on the field in those instances this season, opponents had a positive EPA 45% of the time. 

Also important is the return of 40-year-old tackle Andrew Whitworth for the Rams. Whitworth, who missed the Divisional Round against the Buccaneers with an injured knee and ankle, was replaced by Joe Noteboom last week, who filled in ably, but he’s banged up as well with a chest injury. 

Whitworth has been off the field for 163 plays in which the score differential was 16 points either way (including the playoffs). When he’s on the field, the Rams play at a rate of 4 EPA per 60 snaps. When he’s off, they drop to -6 per 60 snaps. 

Also worth noting: Whitworth has proved very strong against the 49ers this season, with only 1 credited blown block in 120 snaps. 

Offensive Alignments and Tendencies

When we look at how the teams play, here are some things we found: 

The Chiefs use shotgun the most and they have the highest Positive Percentage in the league when using it. 

The Bengals’ pass rush ranked 23rd in the NFL in generating pressure against an offense lined up in shotgun and their pass defense ranks 21st in Points Saved Per Play against shotgun.  

Kansas City’s offense also ranks second in motion usage and first in Positive Percentage when using motion, two things that the Bengals are below average in defending. The Bengals allowed the highest completion percentage on plays with motion in the regular season (72%) and ranked 26th in Pass Defense Points Saved Per Play against motion. 

The Bengals rank first in the NFL in short dropback usage and ninth in Positive Percentage when doing so. When they played the Chiefs in Week 17, Joe Burrow was 29-of-37 for 438 yards and four touchdowns on short dropbacks. The Chiefs were one of the league’s elite teams against short dropbacks versus their previous eight opponents, who combined for 0.8 Passing Points Earned on short dropbacks. 

The 49ers rank sixth in short dropback usage and used it successfully in the two prior meetings with the Rams, netting 14 Passing Points Earned on 40 plays. They averaged more Passing Points Earned per play in those two games combined than any of the Rams’ other opponents in 2021. The short dropback was a part of their win in the Week 18 meeting. During their fourth quarter comeback, Garoppolo went 7-of-10 for 126 yards and a touchdown on short dropbacks. 

The Rams offense can counter that with their own scheme advantage. They lead the NFL in 11 personnel usage. The 49ers pass defense ranks last in the NFL in Points Saved Per Play against 11 personnel. 

The Deep Ball

If one team gets in a situation similar to last week in which a deep throw is much needed, who has been most reliable with it this season? 

Bengals QB Joe Burrow threw 61 passes more than 20 yards downfield during the regular season and though only 26 were caught, 46 of them were charted as catchable by our Video Scouts.  

Burrow’s 75% catchable pass percentage on deep balls was the fourth-highest rate in the NFL in 2021 (minimum 20 attempts) and is easily the highest of the four remaining starting quarterbacks. 

On the other end of the spectrum, Jimmy Garoppolo’s 50% catchable pass percentage on these throws was the second-lowest in the league. The 49ers are more likely to rely on a shorter pass with big yardage after the catch. They ranked tied for eighth in the NFL in pass plays of at least 30 yards this season.   

Matthew Stafford’s 61% rate ranked 19th among 35 qualifiers. Patrick Mahomes ranked 22nd. Stafford completed 3-of-4 deep passes in the Divisional Round including the clutch one to Cooper Kupp that set up Matt Gay’s game-winning field goal against the Buccaneers. The Rams rank second in the NFL in pass plays of at least 30 yards. 


The officiating crews for the conference championship games are opposites. 

 In the AFC, referee Bill Vinovich’s crew calls an average of just under 11 penalties per game and calls them on just under 7% of plays. Both of those numbers rank lowest among NFL officiating crews. 

In the NFC, referee Carl Cheffers’ crew calls an average of 16.5 penalties per game and calls them on close to 10% of plays. 

This may negate an advantage that the Bengals and Rams had going into the game. The Bengals were the second-least penalized team in the NFL in the regular season, committing 72 penalties to their opponents’ 116. The Rams were tied for third with 76 penalties.  

Penalties Committed in Regular Season 

TeamPenaltiesOpponents Penalties