powered bybetstamp

NFL Week 17 takeaways: Vikings make history, how dangerous are the Chargers, and more

Justin Herbert.jpg

How dangerous are the Chargers going into the playoffs?

The Los Angeles Chargers have won five of their last six games, with the only loss coming against the Raiders (20-27). Before that, they had close losses against the 49ers and Chiefs. It needs to be said that the Bolts did not play a demanding schedule recently. Their five wins came against the Cardinals, Dolphins, Titans, Colts, and Rams. Only the Titans and Dolphins are still playoff contenders – at least on paper – and the Titans lost Ryan Tannehill in the first quarter against the Chargers.

The Chargers don’t blow anyone away statistically – they will rank in the high teens in DVOA after Week 17. In schedule-adjusted EPA/play, they rank 14th. However, they are entering their Week 18 matchup against the Broncos as favorites to finish the season at 11-6 and will likely face the then 9-8 Jaguars on Wild Card Weekend. When we analyze the Chargers’ season, we need to apply a lot of context.

Until Week 14, the Chargers offense had their best two wide receivers, Mike Williams and Keenan Allen, on the field for only 28 passing snaps. Allen was dealing with a hamstring injury that kept him sidelined until Week 11, and Williams missed around five matchups with an ankle sprain. Starting center Corey Linsley missed three games, and so did right tackle Trey Pipkins. Stud left tackle Rashawn Slater has been out since Week 3. There’s a chance that Slater (torn biceps) could be back for the playoffs – he’s the only guy separating the Bolts from having a healthy offense right now. And then there’s still that guy named Justin Herbert, who can take over a game any time. 



The biggest concern surrounding the Chargers offense has always been offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi. It’s a boring offense that relies heavily on short passes and doesn’t feature too many “clever” route concepts. On third down, you’ll often see Herbert try to hit isolated routes down the field where receivers need to win their battles instead of scheming guys open. Since Mike Williams is back in the formation, the Chargers offense ranks 15th in EPA/play and 12th in success rate over the past four games. Their average target depth – again, with Mike Williams on the field – over that stretch is 6.7, the sixth-lowest number in the league. This offense somehow takes away some of the unique skillsets Herbert has, downfield passing, and replaced it with a forced quick game. But the talent is undeniably there.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Chargers have performed significantly below all the preseason expectations. When you asked experts to rank their top-five defenses going into the season, the Bolts were in there. Their season-long metrics rank around league average – they ranked 14th in weighted DVOA going into Week 17 and 17th in schedule-adjusted EPA/play. But they have been improving. Since Week 10, which includes matchups against the 49ers and Chiefs, the Chargers pass defense ranks fourth in EPA/play and third in success rate. When listening to guys who study the tape, who are much smarter than me when it comes to X's & O’s, it seems like Brandon Staley is coming up with unique gameplans every week to take away some of the opposing strengths. He also opens the gates of hell on third down, throwing a variety of complex blitzes at opposing signal callers. Against the Rams, All-Pro pass rusher Joey Bosa came back after tearing his groin in Week 3. He’s just ramping up for the playoffs. It’s an improving defense with a guy who understands how to gameplan that will have a tandem with Khalil Mack and Bosa entering the playoffs.


A great quarterback, an almost healthy supporting cast, and an improving defense that can rush the passer: the Chargers have all the ingredients for a deep playoff run. However, as much as I want to make a case, it’s still the Chargers. They will likely find a way to “Charger” themselves out. With the upcoming away game at Denver, they would also spend four consecutive weeks on the road en route to a potential Super Bowl.

A blessing in disguise for the Carolina Panthers

The Panthers had a great shot at winning the NFC South. They were up 14-0 and 21-7 at Tampa Bay, blowing both leads in the fourth quarter. Panthers bettors lived through the whole Sam Darnold experience: some good plays off play-action, in structure, to keep drives alive, and a few absolute darts into the end zone – splash plays that have always been in his arsenal. But he also showed the weaknesses that have always been part of his game, like having zero sense for arriving pressure. That eventually cost the Panthers the game when he got strip-sacked with 2:26 to play.



Entering Week 17, Carolina was 3-1 in games with Darnold and had the second-best offense in EPA/play. Two breakout games against the Seahawks and Lions defenses paved the way for the grand finale at Tampa Bay. Darnold played well. The run game was dominant at times. But it was a small sample size that can fool NFL executives into thinking there’s more signal than noise. If the Panthers made the playoffs at 8-9 on the back of a solid offensive finish and hosted a wild-card home game, they could have tricked themselves into thinking Darnold might be a real option. And their first-round draft pick would have been in the low 20s. There’s no reason to overreact to their most recent stretch, and they currently hold the ninth overall pick. That’s a massive difference when it comes to drafting a quarterback. 

Losing 30-24 to the Bucs was a poor outcome for Panthers bettors, but a blessing in disguise for the franchise's future.

Witnessing history with the Minnesota Vikings

We are witnessing historic things regarding the Minnesota Vikings (or Fraudkings?). Whether the Vikings finish the season with 12 or 13 wins, it will be the most significant difference between record and actual performance in the history of the NFL – or, let’s say, for as long as our data goes back. But I’m pretty sure it’s a record. We’ve never seen something like this.

Minnesota is sitting at 12-4 – the tied for the fourth-best record in the NFL - with a point differential of -19. They rank 28th in overall DVOA, 20th on offense, and 25th on defense. They rank 29th in weighted DVOA, putting a little more value on recent performances and downweighing games early in the season. Based on their down-to-down efficiency, they should have a losing record. They are 11-0 in one-score games where they needed some of the flukiest stuff happening to survive.



Every season, one or two teams vastly outperform their underlying metrics, for example, by winning one-score games in some fluky fashion. Last season, the Tennessee Titans got the No. 1 seed with a record of 12-5 in the AFC despite not playing very well on either side. They finished 20th in DVOA at -3.0%. Minnesota is at -14.1% right now. The 2019 Green Bay Packers were the second-worst 13-3 team in the history of DVOA at 7.7%. That team was still almost 22 percentage points better than the 2022 Vikings.