Tej Seth.

It’s the most glorious time of the year. The NFL playoffs start this weekend, and there are several fascinating matchups. To gain more insight, we thought it would be a great time to catch up with football analytics guru Tej Seth. The Michigan native and University of Michigan graduate is a data scientist for SumerSports.

We spoke to Seth about stats and this weekend’s games.

Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Awful Announcing: What matchup intrigues you the most?

Tej Seth: “I think that Rams-Lions is the most intriguing matchup of the weekend. Not only do you have Matthew Stafford returning to Detroit, it was a pretty ugly divorce between Sean McVay and Jared Goff. Now you have a situation where Jared Goff probably wants to prove to Sean McVay that he is still capable of (playing well). I think there’s going to be a lot of offense in that game. When you look at how the Lions matchup against the Rams, the Lions will probably run the ball a lot, and the Rams’ run defense, especially on the edge, is not that good. On the other side ball, the Rams’ offense, especially the passing game, is playing at such a high level right now. And the Lions have had a lot of struggles stopping the pass.”

Is there a statistic that would surprise most people?

“The Cleveland Browns have the 25th-ranked offense using expected points added per play, which is by far the lowest of any team in the playoffs. Twelve of the 14 teams ranked above average in offensive production. The Steelers are slightly below average, and the Browns are 25th. I think that just shows it has been an impressive year from the Browns defense and how many different quarterbacks they’ve had.”

It is crazy to think that the Kansas City Chiefs could reach the AFC Championship OR lose this weekend to the Miami Dolphins?

“Not at all. I think the range of outcomes for the Chiefs in the playoffs is so wide because they basically had a de facto bye week last week where they didn’t play many of their starters, which will increase the variance on this week’s game. And when you have a Patrick Mahomes-Andy Reid-led offense, the floor is always supposed to be high because of what we’ve seen from them in the past. But this year, receiver corps has weighed down some of the priors we went into the season with.”

What’s a number that reflects how bad the Chiefs receivers have been?

“Mahomes has the most passes that were charted as catchable and resulted in incompletions in the league. He’s first in that metric. Josh Allen is second. So when you look at Mahomes throwing to receivers, and even with the step back that Travis Kelce has taken this year, Mahomes still throws catchable balls at a pretty high rate. They’ve just become incompletions more often than the average passing game this year.”


Which of these playoff coaches has gotten the most out of the least?

“I would go with Mike Tomlin. Though, I think that it depends on how much of the blame you want to assign for him changing offensive coordinators and quarterbacks midseason. But when you look at the Pittsburgh Steelers roster, especially in their division where every team in the AFC North finished with a winning record, I think it’s so impressive that he got to 10 wins and made the playoffs.

“DeMeco Ryans is also another option. It’s not like the Houston Texans aren’t talented, but he took over a team that picked No.2 overall last year. He has done a great job with hiring the right offensive coordinator (Bobby Slowik) and transitioning all these young players — C.J. Stroud, Tank Dell, Nico Collins— into a good spot where they’ve been able to play well.”

How much of an outlier is C.J. Stroud?

“C.J. Stroud is having one of the best rookie seasons in recent NFL history. It’s probably at a higher level than Justin Herbert’s rookie season. C.J. Stroud ranks 10th in the league in expected points added per play among all quarterbacks. That’s one of the highest rankings for a rookie in the last couple of years.”

Could this be the year that the Dallas Cowboys return to the Super Bowl?

“I do think so because the Dak Prescott-CeeDee Lamb connection is at such a high level. CeeDee Lamb has been one of the most productive receivers in the league this year. For total EPA when targeted, he leads the entire league in that metric. That connection, like we saw a couple of weeks ago against the Lions, can take over any game. Having to travel to San Francisco, if it comes to that, will be a tough challenge for Dallas, like we saw earlier in the season. But I could definitely see Dallas reaching the NFC title game.”

What’s wrong with the Philadelphia Eagles?

“The spine of their defense is in a pretty bad spot right now. That starts with the linebacker corps. They had some pretty big injuries there, especially with Nakobe Dean and Zach Cunningham, who has been in and out. They’ve been ravaged on defense, particularly in the back end. Safety Kevin Byard was brought in midseason and hasn’t been probably as good as they wanted them to be. Teams have been able to attack the middle of the field against them.

“I still think their offense is fine, as long as they’re healthy. They’ll be able to put up points. But I think that making the defensive coordinator switch midseason and downgrading as a defensive playcaller from Sean Desai to Matt Patricia, coupled with the talent level in the back seven has made it pretty tough for them.”

The Buffalo Bills are 6-1 since replacing Ken Dorsey with Joe Brady as offensive coordinator. Is the offense actually better?

“I think the Bills have just been winning more. They’ve dropped from second to fourth in EPA per play since making the offensive coordinator switch, but the one-game score luck has reversed. So, it does look better for Joe Brady. I think that there are some things that Joe Brady is doing better than Ken Dorsey. But there are also some things that he’s doing worse. So it just comes down to a matter of preference.”

Do your friends accuse you of having an unfair advantage in fantasy football?

“I had a four-year streak of making the championship in my hometown league. Over the last two years, I haven’t done as well, mostly because we do an auction draft where they know who I’m bidding on. I have to think more about fake bidding on players to make people think I’m interested in them. So I’ve lost a little bit of my edge for sure. But I’m going to think about how to get it back.”

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant.