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Author Topic: Finny's 2010 playoff guide  (Read 3562 times)
Finnegans Wake
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« on: Jan 03, 2011 at 15:25 »

The season is over for 20 NFL teams, and here’s a snapshot of the Wild Card weekend games, and projections all the way to the Super Bowl.  But first, a few regular season awards.

The Hot Tub Award.  In the Seinfeld episode where marathon runner Jean-Paul Jean-Paul has already missed an Olympics race, Jerry sets out to ensure that he does not oversleep the NY City Marathon, only to have Kramer’s industrial strength hot tub short out the power in the building, resulting in Jean-Paul again missing his race.  The 2010 Hot Tub Award winner is the San Diego Chargers, who overslept the season.  A 13-28 loss to Oakland on December 5 almost scuttled the season, but losing 20-34 to the Bengals on December 26 did them in.  Nice job, you nutless bastards.

The Jason Priestley Figure Skating Award.  Another TV reference, this time to Priestley’s ill-fated Olympic skater on Saturday Night Live, who splatters out on the ice an absurd and embarrassing number of times.  This award goes to the St. Louis Rams, who were leading division rival Seattle by a game heading into last night.  It bears repeating that Seattle is fucking awful: there’s no way in hell they deserve a spot in the playoffs, not merely by their losing record, but rather because of the manner they lost: all 9 losses were by more than 14 points.  So in the game last night the Rams, who had beaten the Seahawks 20-3 back on October 3, didn’t look like they could shit in a toilet without getting at least half a dook on the floor.  Receivers dropped balls, Bradford had a bad game, officials were obviously drunk, Coach Spags forgot his challenge hankie.  It was just brutal.  They hit the ice again, and again, and again…

The Tyrone Biggums Award.  Biggums is the crackhead character from the former Dave Chappelle Show (“Is crack baaaaaaad…?”).  The Giants were a team that were up and down, but certainly were in the driver’s seat, tied with the Eagles for the division lead with three weeks to go and a menacing 31-10 lead with 12 and change left in the fourth quarter.  Then, apparently, the entire team went into full crackhead mode, in perhaps the most inexplicable meltdown since Chernobyl, and followed that up with a crack crack crackity Jones 17-45 loss at the Green Bay Packers.  It’s not just that they lost to two eventual playoff teams, but the amazing crackhead style they did it with that wins the Giants this honor.

The Keep Choppin’ Wood Award.  In 2003, Jack Del Rio placed a stump and an ax in the locker room to remind players to keep choppin’ wood.  Punter Chris Hanson wound up on the IR after chopping a foot with the ax.  The point here is not the Law of Unintended Consequences, but rather an assertion I have made all season long: Jack Del Rio is dumb as a stump.  Del Rio can’t eat beans and fart at the same time, much less figure out how to win a Super Bowl.  He’s the ultimate in mediocrity, after briefly leading the staggering Colts down the stretch in the division race, only to blow it (predictably) in the final games.  This was predicted as the most likely outcome for weeks, due to Del Rio’s stumpish ineptitude.  Del Rio now has a 65-63 record, which is about what one would expect of a fucking stump.  

Before I move on to the Wild Card teams, here is a quick look at the top seeded teams that earned byes.  I’m going to touch on a few stats that could be meaningful in examining the playoff teams, and as I have previously I’ll use the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings rather than pure yardage metrics.  First of all is Point Differential (PD), the difference between points scored and points allowed.  It’s actually a pretty good shorthand for ranking teams, although it doesn’t tell the whole story.  Next up is Turnover Differential (TD).   Turnovers are flaky, and there’s no guarantee that teams with solid TD will continue to trend that way, but it does point to an aggressive defense combined with an offense that’s not playing loosey goosey with the ball.  

Brian Billick recently talked about the “toxic differential” on the NFL network, which combined the TD stat with the big-play (20+ yards) differential, and which is supposed to be an indicator of playoff success.  I don’t have any way to sort out those big plays, but it may be instructive to look at which teams have the best combination of PD and TD as a sort of shorthand.

Next, we all know that teams winning the Super Bowl without an elite QB are the exception that makes the rule (see 2000 Ravens), so I’m listing the QB passer ratings (QB).

DVOA, or Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average, analyzes play-by-play success of each unit on the team, adjusted for strength of schedule.  They’ve weighted earlier season games less than more recent ones.  The same über-geeks that came up with this crazy metric have also simulated billions and billions of playoff scenarios.  Or at least thousands of them.  Anyway, I’ve listed total DVOA, Offensive and Defensive DVOA (ODVOA and DDVOA), Special Teams DVOA (STDVOA), and projected Super Bowl odds (SB).  I’m using the last DVOA rankings available as of Monday, 1/3, which is fine because week 17 is essentially worthless anyway.

In parenthesis behind each stat is the overall NFL rank.Where these various data points fall outside the top 12 (since we have 12 playoff teams), they appear in red highlight as being warning flags.  Teams in the top 6 in any category (top half of the 12 playoff teams) appear in green highlight as elite in those categories.  
« Last Edit: Jan 05, 2011 at 14:28 by Finnegans Wake » Logged

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Finnegans Wake
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« Reply #1 on: Jan 03, 2011 at 15:37 »

The top seeds.

New England Patriots (14-2). PD: +205 (1).  TD: +28 (1).  QB:  111.0 (1).  DVOA:  48.3 (1).  ODVOA:  46.0 (1).  DDVOA:  6.2 (20).  STDVOA: 2.7 (10).  SB: 29.2% (1).

Appear to be even stronger offensively than the 2007 version.  Going to be tough to slow.

Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4).  PD: +143 (3).  TD: +17 (2).  QB: 97.0 (5).  DVOA: 34.2 (2).  ODVOA: 15.6 (7).  DDVOA: -17.0 (1).   STDVOA: 0.9 (15).   SB: 25.8% (2).

Steelers could be getting healthy and adding new wrinkles at the right time.

Atlanta Falcons (13-3).  PD: +126 (4).  TD: +14 (3).   QB: 91.0 (11).  DVOA: 14.3 (9).  ODVOA: 12.0 (10).  DDVOA: 0.3 (12).  STDVOA: 4.5 (7).  SB: 13.7% (3).

Super-consistent, but not lighting the world on fire.

Chicago Bears (11-5).  PD: +48 (10).  TD: +4 (11).  QB: 86.3 (16).  DVOA: 10.8 (10).  ODVOA: -11.4 (28).   DDVOA: -6.8 (6).  STDVOA: 7.3 (1).  SB: 9.4% (4).

Stifling defense, so-so offense.  May not even be the best team in their division.

And on to the Wild Card games…

New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks.  Line: Saints by 10.5.  Total: 45.5.
Saturday, 4:30 ET


New Orleans Saints (11-5).  PD: +77 (7).  TD: -6 (23).   QB: 90.9 (9).  DVOA: 19.7 (7).  ODVOA: 12.9 ( 8 ).  DDVOA: -2.5 (10).  STDVOA: -1.1 (20).   SB: 2.9% ( 8 ).

Seattle Seahawks (7-9).  PD: -97 (28).  TD: -9 (28).  QB: 73.2 (28).  DVOA: -38.3 (32).  ODVOA: -15.9 (30).  DDVOA: 17.6 (29).  STDVOA: 5.8 (2).   SB: 0.1% (12).


I’ve been saying all along that the Saints have not been playing as well as they did last year.  I’ve also said that the Seahawks are complete turds.  Vegas has the Saints by double digits on the road, and frankly, that line will probably move up as the week goes on.  There’s nothing in the stats or by the eyeball test that says the Seahawks can win this thing.  I know, every year some scrangly dog pulls an upset in the Wild Card, but this ain’t it, especially if Charlie “Manson” Whitehurst (65.5 QB rating) gets the call.

Saints 34-10.

New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts.  Line: Colts by 3. Total: 44.5.
Saturday, 8:00 ET

New York Jets (11-5).  PD: +63 ( 8 ).  TD: +9 (5).   QB: 75.3 (27).   DVOA: 4.4 (13).  ODVOA: 5.5 (17).   DDVOA: -2.6 (9).  STDVOA: 5.1 (4).   SB: 2.5% (9).

Indianapolis Colts (10-6).  PD: +47 (11). TD: -4 (19).   QB: 91.9 (10).  DVOA: -0.3 (19).   ODVOA: 16.1 (6).   DDVOA: 7.7 (24).  STDVOA: -5.6 (31).   SB: 1.3% (10).


Two maddeningly inconsistent teams.  Over weeks 12-16, the Jets were 2-3 and the Colts 3-2.  The Colts have battled a lot of injuries while the Jets seem to have problems with the QB and mental preparation.  If the Jets can turn on their defense and control the clock with the running game, they win.  If they try to let Sanchez win the game, I think they lose.  This is not a game I’d want to bet on, but I suspect the Colts are over-rated in most people’s minds based on the Manning Mystique and previous season performance.  This looks like the AFC upset, but it’s a tepid call.  

Jets 20-17.

Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs.  Line: Ravens by 2.5. Total: 41.
Sunday, 1:00 ET

Baltimore Ravens (12-4).  PD: +87 (6).   TD: +7 (9).  QB: 93.6 (7).  DVOA: 30.9 (3).   ODVOA: 11.2 (12).  DDVOA: -7.5 (4).  STDVOA: 5.7 (3).  SB: 6.9% (5).

Kansas City Chiefs (10-6).  PD: +40 (12).  TD: +9 (5).   QB: 93.0 ( 8 ).  DVOA: -5.3 (21).  ODVOA: 11.0 (13).  DDVOA: 5.1 (17).  STDVOA: -1.9 (26).   SB: 0.4% (11).


The Chiefs rely on a strong running game from Jamaal Charles, which the Ravens can neutralize, and they are a one-dimensional pass attack (Cassell to Bowe), which the Ravens can also neutralize.  The Chiefs looked really, really bad in week 17 loss to Raiders, and OC Charlie Weis is leaving for a college OC job, which strikes me as odd.  He also is back in some cart like that Wendellfears dude, which I don’t know what that might mean.  Maybe he ate a lineman and popped that bypass surgery the hell open.  Chiefs have no playoff experience, Ravens have tons.
 
Ravens 27-10

Green Bay Packers at Philadelphia Eagles.  Line: Eagles by 2.5. Total: 46.5.
Sunday, 4:30 ET

Green Bay Packers (10-6).  PD: +148 (2).  TD: +10 (4).  QB: 101.2 (3).  DVOA: 23.9 (5).  ODVOA: 18.5 (5).  DDVOA: -10.0 (2).  STDVOA: -2.7 (29).  SB: 3.4% (7).

Philadelphia Eagles (10-6).  PD: +62 (9).  TD: +9 (5).  QB: 100.2 (4).  DVOA: 24.5 (4).  ODVOA: 25.7 (2).   DDVOA: 2.8 (15).  STDVOA: 1.3 (14).  SB: 4.5% (6).


All the talk in this game is going to be about fireworks: Mike Vick, DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin… But give me those scary defenses in the postseason any day.  The Packers D is really playing well, and their point differential and turnover differential bear that out.  Hell, they stayed toe-to-toe with the Patriots with Matt Flynn under center.  The Eagles are too boom or bust, and teams have gotten to Vick lately.  One AFC and one NFC upset in this round seems about right, and late Vick heroics won’t catch the Packers napping.
 
Packers 34-24
« Last Edit: Jan 10, 2011 at 08:38 by Finnegans Wake » Logged

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Finnegans Wake
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« Reply #2 on: Jan 03, 2011 at 15:44 »

Admittedly, I think the Jets-Colts and Packers-Eagles could go either way, but I think the Colts have too many flags, and I think the Packers are a team that could get hot and go all the way to the Super Bowl.  They are more balanced than the Eagles and more potent than the Falcons.

In the Divisional Playoffs, this outcome would find the following matchups:

Sat., Jan. 15, 4:30 PM ET CBS

#5 Baltimore Ravens @ #2 Pittsburgh Steelers.
  I’m getting sick of playing these Ravens in the post-season, and if my heart explodes somebody’s getting sued.  Just sort of a hunch, the Steelers are trending up while the Ravens are trending down.  You think this will be another 3-point win for one of these teams, but I sense the Steelers come out strong.

Steelers 28-17.


Sat., Jan. 15, 8:00 PM ET FOX

#6 GB Packers @ #1 Atlanta Falcons.
  Packers lost in Atlanta 17-20 on November 28, allowing Michael Turner to rush for 110 yards.  I doubt that happens again, so look for another close game that comes down to which QB can get it done late in the game.  This time, I think the result is reversed.

Packers 23-20.


Sun., Jan. 16, 1:00 PM ET FOX

#5 NO Saints @ #2 Chicago Bears.
  I’ve been down on the Bears all year, because their offense isn’t very good, and Cutler can be rattled.  But the defense has shown they can take over games, and I don’t see New Orleans going into cold Soldier Field and overcoming a somewhat lackluster overall season.  A low-scoring defensive game that knocks the former champs out.

Bears 17-14.


Sun., Jan. 16, 4:30 PM ET CBS

#6 NYJ @ #1 NE Patriots.
  The Patriots won 45-3 on December 6, avenging their 14-28 loss from September 19.  The Patriots still match up well against the Jets, but expect an outcome somewhere between those two extremes.

Patriots 33-20.


I’ll stretch this out to the Conference Championships.  I like the Steelers and Patriots in the AFC, and I think the Bears, Packers, and Falcons all have a solid crack in the NFC.  But I’ll reserve judgment on the Super Bowl for now.

Sun., Jan. 23, 3:00 PM ET FOX

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears.
  The Packers split with the Bears, 17-20 and 10-3, and this is another one of those tough, ugly, and mean division rivalry playoff games.  I like how the Packers can get after Cutler, but they need to give Rodgers something of a running game.  In the end, I just think the Chicago offense is too weak.

Packers 20-16


Sun., Jan. 23, 6:30 PM ET CBS

Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots.
  Patriots have matched up well against the Steelers, but what special surprises will LeBeau cook up to rattle Brady’s cage?  Could be a real shootout.

Patriots 38-35.
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« Reply #3 on: Jan 05, 2011 at 14:08 »

Incredible write up, man.

Fuckin' site is back to being blocked at work so I haven't had a chance to post much.  I'm actually posting this from my phone...major PIA.

Anyway, haven't looked that closely yet at playoff matchups.  I will say though that at first glance, the only pick I agree with ATM is the Packers (+2.5).  I like the Colts (-3), Chiefs (+3) and Seahawks (+10.5).

Maybe as the weekend draws near, I'll change my outlook.  In the meantime, here's to two AFC OT slobber knockers.
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« Reply #4 on: Jan 05, 2011 at 14:53 »

Interesting to me that even though the Patriots have some kind of otherworldy DVOA and look like unstoppable beasts, Football Outsiders gives them <4% better chance of winning the SB, 29.2% to 25.8%. 

IMO, the Colts are really getting over-fucking hyped.  Yeah yeah yeah, Peyton and the boys are whatever it is, 7-0?, against Rex as HC and DC.  But that was when the Colts had a full complement of healthy offensive players.  They played like lukewarm puke against a Titans team with precious little motivation.  FFS, Kerry Collins threw for 300+ against them.  I understand Dirty Sanchez has a hurty arm, but I think the Jets win on D and the running game.

Not sure why everyone loves the Chiefs.  They've played in a ridiculously bad division, getting that top rushing yardage honor going up against cupcakes, which the Ravens D most certainly ain't.  They're going to bugger that running game, and scramble Matt Cassell's brains.  I'm not as impressed with the Ravens as with Ravens teams of years past -- their offense is underachieving, especially given the addition of Boldin -- but their playoff experience will be the key here.  Plus I sense not all is well in Todd Haleyworld; Charlie Weis is the proverbial canary in the coal mine there.  If he's got an internal revolt among coordinators and coaches, how long before the shit hits it? 

As for the Seahawks line, yeah, Colston is hurt, Ivory is on IR, it's an outdoor game, 12th man noise, blabbity blabbity blah blah blah.  Go peddle crazy somefuckingwhere else.  It's interesting to me that Peyton and Brees came in 2nd and 3rd, respectively for most pass attempts in a season this year, and that both passers were plagued by more INTs, a less potent offense, etc.  Problem is, the Seahawk D that made the Rams look silly isn't playing the Rams: the Saints are at least competent.  And the Seahawks O ain't going up against the Rams D: the Saints D is actually pretty good.  Charlie Whitehurst?  Fuck my ass.  Even Matty Hasselbeck is playing kinda shitty (check the QB rating).  Seahawks can't run it: Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett are their leading rushers, with 573 and 523 yards.  That's fucking pathetic.  Mendenhall us underused and he beats their combined total, and then some.  Their leading receivers are heartwarming reclamation project Mike Williams, with 753 receiving yards, and then nobody else over 400.  That ain't gettin' it done, sorry.  Saints will shut down Williams, and just keep wearing them down with what they do.  Everyone talks about how close the Seabitches kept that NO game back in November.  Really?  15 point loss is close?  K then.  Also, they had Chris Ivory, but the reason was that Reggie Bush was out injured.  Guess who's back.  Guess which team has a gazillion other receivers besides Colston, all of whom Brees likes to target.  Guess who's gonna smack they bish with the heavy rings.  First half, when the crowd will make a difference, 10.5 is gonna look waaaay too big.  Second half, the Saints will be looking in the rearview at the Seahawks and everyone will shake their heads and murmur, "Good Lawd, how did these buffoons even get into the playoffs?"  Oh, and it will be revealed that Pete Carroll is a transvestite in the postgame news conference.
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« Reply #5 on: Jan 05, 2011 at 15:07 »

Oh, and it will be revealed that Pete Carroll is a transvestite in the postgame news conference.

Now that's quality infotainment!
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« Reply #6 on: Jan 05, 2011 at 15:35 »

Oh, and it will be revealed that Pete Carroll is a transvestite in the postgame news conference.

Now that's quality infotainment!

We should have guessed it a long time ago.  Carroll's Wiki page shows he was from Transexual, Transylvania.
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« Reply #7 on: Jan 05, 2011 at 21:10 »

Interestingly, the Seahawks have the 3rd worst DVOA of any playoff team, all time.  The other two?  '04 Rams and '98 Cards.  FWIW, both won their wildcard matchup.*

*According to Aaron Schatz on the BS Report.

Now, not saying that the Hags are going to pull this one off.  IMO, something of that magnitude would take a perfect storm of epic, biblical proportions, BUT a cover is another story.  This one just looks too easy for me.  Everybody is going to roll chalk here.  That's why I'm second guessing it.

A dome team that's been handling the rock like it's been marinating in boric acid, traveling way the fuck up to British Columbia, on a short week, to play in the outdoors against a team they should absolutely trounce.  Oh, and as I type this, I think they just added somebody else to the IR list.

Just feels like a tarp game, but I wouldn't put any money on it.

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« Reply #8 on: Jan 06, 2011 at 09:59 »

In the interest of context, that '04 Rams squad beat a 9-7 Seahawks team it had twice beaten already in the regular season.  It's a familiar enough squad, being the team our Steelers then beat in XL the very next season.  A lovely team, really.  But the 8-8 Rams were still running off the glory of being the Greatassed Show in Turf, Bulger guiding Faulk, Holt and Bruce and the rest of the cast familiar from the successes of years just preceding.  In short: the Seahawks were OK, they finished 2005 13-3 and were sort of that year's version of this year's Falcons (consistent but not dominant, good home team).  But the Rams still had the guns to pull an upset, even with shoddy DVOA from the regular season.

I just don't see much of anything from this team on offense -- who are the playmakers?  And their defense has some vets of note (Lawyer Milloy [now 50 years old], Tatupu, Trufant), some young guys (Earl Thomas having a nice rookie season, Aaron Curry), but they've also given up 30+ points in 8 games, 6 of which came over the second half of the season.

As for the context of the other low-DVOA team, that would be the Jake "The Snack" Plummer-led Cards, with luminaries including Frank Sanders and Rob Moore as leading receivers, Adrian Murrell the top HB, and some decent defenders including Aeneas Williams, Simeon Rice, and the late Pat Tillman.  They managed to go 9-7 and beat a 10-6 Cowboys team with the fading glory that was Aikman, Emmitt, Irvin, Deion, and so on.  The next year would be Aikman's last, and they would sink to 8-8.  BTW, Jason Garrett was Aikman's backup back then, FWTFIW.

Just sayin', those low-DVOA teams beat teams that were beatable.  I think the differential between the 2010 Seahawks and Saints is greater.
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« Reply #9 on: Jan 10, 2011 at 08:43 »

Interesting bit on Turnover Differential.  Of the 3 teams that had a negative TD (New Orleans, Seattle, Indy), two played one another (Saints at Seahawks), so it was inevitable one would have lost.  The other (Indy) did lose.  Bodes not well for the Seahawks, among many other iso stats.

What stands out for me is Billick's toxic differential, combining TD and 20+ yard play differential: Saints D sucked it big time on those big plays.  Hasselbeck kept testing deep, Saints could not or would not adjust.

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