Tyreek Hill has been on a tear so far in the NFL playoffs. As a result, the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense has looked like an unstoppable force through the first two games. Let’s take a look at the advanced metrics to see why the receiver has played so well, and whether that will continue against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Tyreek Hill has been key to the Chiefs’ playoff run
In the first two weekends of the playoffs, Hill put together a pair of impressive, though very different, performances. Kansas City didn’t exactly need him against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who put up about as much of a fight as I would have on defense. Still, Hill added a tidy 57 yards and 1 touchdown in the easy victory.
Then, the veteran wide receiver stepped up in an absolute barnburner of a game against the Buffalo Bills. Hill totaled 150 yards and a critical touchdown that came in the final minutes of regulation to help earn Kansas City an overtime win and their third straight AFC Championship berth. Without Hill’s spectacular performance in that game, the Chiefs would likely be watching the AFC Championship from home.
Examining Hill’s advanced metrics
Hill isn’t just performing at an elite level statistically these playoffs; he is also earning excellent advanced metrics. To prove it, let’s turn to the Offensive Value Metric (OVM). The OVM is a grading system created by the (Bx) Movement to measure how much of a player’s statistical production they were actually responsible for.
Hill performed reasonably well on this metric during the regular season, earning a grade of 34.27. That ranked 16th among the 98 qualifying wide receivers. I wouldn’t call that grade elite, but Hill was still one of the most effective wide receivers in the NFL this season.
However, his grades in these playoffs have been on an entirely different level.
At 42.02 in the Wild Card round and 49.74 last weekend, they ranked fifth and second, respectively, among all players regardless of position in their respective weeks. Through the first two weekends of the playoffs, Hill has been one of the best players to take the field.
Tyreek Hill has been consistent this season
To help conceptualize just how much Hill has stepped up his game during the NFL playoffs, let’s look at his weekly grades. In the chart below, you can see Hill’s grades from each of the Chiefs’ games this season, marked by the black dots.
For comparison, the regular-season average OVM grade for wide receivers is represented by the yellow line.
Across the season, Hill has been relatively consistent, with most of his grades coming in above the league average. It’s worth noting that one of the few games in which Hill didn’t reach that mark was in Week 17. In that game, the Chiefs lost to the team Hill will face on Sunday night, the Cincinnati Bengals. Hill didn’t play particularly well, earning his second-lowest grade of the season, at 28.34.
In fact, late in the season, Hill often didn’t qualify for grades at all. But now that the playoffs have arrived, Kansas City is turning to Hill once again. And he has rewarded them with two of his four highest grades of the season.
That matches a pattern we saw last year, when Hill played a crucial role in getting Kansas City to the Super Bowl. He earned grades above 40 points in all three of their playoff games. The veteran gets better when the lights shine brightest.
The advanced metrics behind Hill’s grades
To understand why Hill’s grades have improved in the NFL playoffs, we need to look at the advanced metrics involved in calculating them. Let’s start with his regular-season performance overall.
Most of his metrics from the regular season are actually relatively mediocre. Hill ranked around the middle of the pack in catch percentage, at 69.81%, and — perhaps surprisingly — yards after the catch, at 4.1 yards on average, 0.3 yards higher than expected.
However, he did excel in one area. Hill was among the best in the NFL at creating separation. He averaged 3.6 yards of distance between himself and the nearest defender when targeted, tied for ninth in the NFL.
In the playoffs, Hill has outperformed his regular-season averages in numerous areas. To start with, his catch percentages have improved dramatically. He caught all 5 of his targets in the opening week and 11 of 13 last weekend. Against the Bills, he was elite after the catch as well. He averaged 8.6 yards after the catch, 3.7 yards higher than expected, blowing his regular-season numbers out of the water.
Will Tyreek Hill stay in form?
If Hill continues his form from the first two playoff games, the Chiefs’ offense will be virtually unstoppable. And while Cincinnati’s offense has plenty of their own firepower, they also have serious concerns along their offensive line.
The unit tied an NFL playoff record by allowing 9 sacks in their win over the Tennessee Titans, which will make it difficult to keep up with a fully operational Kansas City offense.
If the Bengals can find a way to contain Hill, or at least slow him down as they did in Week 17, they might be able to earn the same result they did during the regular season. Of course, that’s easier said than done.
It seems more likely that the veteran wide receiver will continue his recent run of dominance, and the Chiefs will reach their third Super Bowl in a row.