Divisional Round: One under-the-radar storyline for each team

The eight remaining teams are set as we head into the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs. While many of the top storylines surrounding each organization in this stage of the postseason have reverberated throughout league circles all season, certain players and interesting facts have slipped through the cracks. When you sit down this weekend to find out who will advance to the NFC and AFC Championship Games, remember the following eight under-the-radar stories, which relate to the teams, their players or how they're deploying their talent.

Teams below are listed according to their playoff seeding. All the advanced metrics used in this article come from Pro Football Focus' wealth of data.


PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (No. 1 seed): Nick Foles really struggles under pressure. The current Eagles starter -- pressed into service by virtue of Carson Wentz's Week 14 knee injury -- is the quintessential example of a statuesque pocket passer from days gone by in the NFL. Philadelphia's offense looked like a ghost of its once-dominant self to close out the regular season under Foles. Wentz showed so often that he could thrive outside of structure, but Foles lacks that ability: Foles' passer rating falls from 107.8 when kept clean to 23.8 when under pressure. The Eagles' pass protection will need to be pristine in the postseason.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS (No. 2): Case Keenum excels in play-action. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur's work with Keenum is part of the reason he's taking head-coaching interviews again. NFL offenses don't make enough use of play-action, but Keenum threw 28.7 percent of his passes out of play-action during the regular season. Only Deshaun Watson (30.3 percent) and Jared Goff (29.1 percent) checked in with higher play-action rates among quarterbacks who took at least 25 percent of their team's dropbacks. Keenum's passer rating jumps from 92.8 to 111.8 when he throws out of play-action.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (No. 4): Their offensive line is the best in the NFL.Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram both made the Pro Bowl, but not a single Saints offensive lineman cracked the initial NFC roster. You'd think plowing the way for one of the NFL's most dynamic rushing attacks would be enough to earn at least one of the players along the front five a spot. The snub becomes more egregious when you consider New Orleans' pass-protection prowess. The Saints led the NFL in Pro Football Focus' pass blocking efficiency metric (with an 84.7 score) and allowed a league-low 68 hurries. Terron Armstead, Senio Kelemete (in line to replace Andrus Peat, who suffered a broken fibula in the Wild Card Round), Max Unger, Larry Warford and Ryan Ramczyk are names you should know.

ATLANTA FALCONS (No. 6): The defensive tackles can bring pressure. The Falcons signed 346-pound nose tackle Dontari Poe away from the Chiefs to help beef up the efforts of their front seven against the ground game. While Poe and his 19 run stops helped Atlanta field a top-10 rush defense, it's more surprising that he's been a big asset as a pass rusher. Dan Quinn and Co. have cut Poe loose, teaming him with Grady Jarrett to form one of the best interior duos in the game. Both Jarrett (39) and Poe (36) rank inside the top 10 among defensive tackles in total pressures this year.


NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (No. 1 seed): Tom Brady thrives despite drops. The Patriots' pass-catchers have dropped 30 targets from Brady this season. Brady and Matt Ryan are the only two quarterbacks who saw their teammates drop at least 30 of their throws and still made the playoffs. Brady has lost 264 yards through the air due to receivers dropping passes this year. As if Brady needed any help to boost his resume, it's wild to think the MVP candidate could have stuffed the stat sheet even more than he did, had his receivers squeezed a few throws here or there just a bit tighter.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS (No. 2): JuJu Smith-Schuster's among the best slot receivers in the NFL. Smith-Schuster's story quickly drew national attention, but you might not know that the rookie was arguably the best slot receiver in the NFL this season. The USC product led all wide receivers in yards per route run (2.15) from the slot in 2017, and he didn't drop a single one of his targets from the slot. However, Smith-Schuster isn't just limited to the short areas, as some traditional slots are. The rookie caught 54.5 percent of his deep targets this year, best among wideouts who saw at least 25 percent of their team's deep passes. Pittsburgh snagged a special one in the second round.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (No. 3): Blake Bortles is benefiting from easier routes. Bortles threw to his pass-catchers on crossing routes (22 percent) and "halfback non-screen" routes (18 percent) more than he did on any other patterns this season. That represents a shift from last season, when the go route (16 percent) was his most-targeted route. It's clear that Jacksonville's coaching staff wanted to eliminate some of those low-percentage throws from Bortles' plate. His playmakers have totaled a combined 865 yards after the catch on crossing and halfback non-screen routes this season, making Bortles more of a point guard than he's been in previous years.

TENNESSEE TITANS (No. 5): Derrick Henry is more elusive than you might think. The Titans' offense looked more exciting than it had in months during Tennessee's win over the Chiefs in the Wild Card Round. To the surprise of few, it came with Henry leading the charge. The second-year back has quietly been one of the best at his position all season in limited action. Henry ranked ninth in Pro Football Focus' elusiveness rating among backs with at least 25 percent of their team's rush attempts. What's striking about this is that the massive Henry weighs 247 pounds, while all the other backs in the top 11 (scores above 55) weigh an average of 209.6 pounds.

Follow Matt Harmon on Twitter @MattHarmon_BYB.

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