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Lee: Examining which NFL teams are playing the best situational football in 2021

Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) calls a play in the second quarter against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

As we approach the midseason point of the 2021 NFL season, I want to take this week to step back from scheme- and technique-specific analysis and focus on some situational data.

The sample sizes are starting to grow enough to take a snapshot of how teams are performing along the margins that decide winning and losing, highlighting the best in the NFL. 

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2 Minute Offense

Top 3 Offenses in 2-Minute EPA/Play (Min 25 Snaps)
EPA/Play Offensive Grade
Cincinnati Bengals .512 78.0
San Francisco 49ers .340 71.0
Buffalo Bills .282 75.9

When the clock is dwindling down to end halves and games, call sheets trim down and key players are called on to step up.

For the Cincinnati Bengals — the NFL’s best two-minute offense at this point in the season — Joe Burrow’s connection with college teammate Ja'Marr Chase is amplified, with Chase leading all Bengals in touches and offensive grade (93.2). The common theme in Cincy’s successful two-minute drives is getting into “shot range” — between the 40s, where defenses are more likely to play man or pressure to deny field goal range. That's where they've been able to take vertical shots to Chase outside the numbers.

Chase has a ridiculous 33-yard per reception average inside of two minutes, with three touchdowns and five of his seven touches gaining 20 or more yards.

The San Francisco 49ers aren’t nearly as explosive, but the offense’s go-to player is Deebo Samuel, averaging 17 yards per reception on his seven touches inside of two minutes. For as effective as he’s been for the offense, the quarterbacks are leaving yards and plays on the field, targeting Samuel 14 times and only converting half into receptions. When the ball does get into his hands, he’s been the guy to convert first downs, with five of his seven catches moving the chains.

For the Buffalo Bills, who rank third in two-minute EPA/play, Stefon Diggs is the man Josh Allen wants to find. Through the first seven weeks, four of his six receptions in two-minute situations have gone for first downs. Buffalo, expecting soft zone coverage late in the clock, loves to give Diggs route conversions on the sideline. You’ll often see him sell a vertical route, then sit down ahead of the sticks for easy conversions.

4 Minute Defense

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