After going through several years of less-than-stellar matchups in the final week of the NFL regular season, we finally have a Week 17 in which not many teams will be resting their starters. Four playoff spots are up for grabs, and only Kansas City is locked into its postseason seed.
Let's take a look at some of the matchups and trends that will play a role in this weekend's four biggest games, using Football Outsiders' advanced statistics. Much of our analysis is based on defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA), which takes every play during the season and compares it to the league average based on situation and opponent. DVOA and Football Outsiders' other advanced stats are explained here. A number of other stats below are based on game charting from both Football Outsiders and ESPN Stats & Information.
Here's a preview of four key Week 17 matchups: Baltimore-Cincinnati, San Francisco-Arizona, Green Bay-Chicago and Philadelphia-Dallas.
Our advanced stats heavily favor Cincinnati, in part because the Ravens' performance broken down by play by play doesn't match the team's 8-7 record. The Bengals rank ninth in the league in DVOA, while the Ravens are just 23rd. Both teams have good defenses. And while the Bengals' offense has been average, the Ravens' has been horrific. Only Jacksonville has a lower offensive DVOA this season, and the Ravens will end up with one of the 10 poorest-rated running games in the 25 years for which we have play-by-play breakdowns.