Wild Card Round RecapSaints at Seahawks
Finny predicted: Saints 34-10.
Actual: Seahawks 41-36.
Comment: Crazy-assed game. Logic in betting the Seahawks, taking the points; only the Lord of Misrule would have thought the Seahawks would win outright. Epic fail by the Saints defense, as the chirren say.Jets at Colts
Finny predicted: Jets 20-17.
Actual: Jets 17-16.
Comment: Close to the way I thought this would play out. Caldwell's time management was a gift to Folk, and Sanchez was even worse than I expected. Ravens at Chiefs
Finny projected: Ravens 27-10.
Comment: Pretty much as expected.Packers at Eagles.
Finny projected: Packers 34-24.
Comment: Packers need better killer instinct, as Vick had chance to pull upset until final INT.
So on to the Division Round, and some re-jiggered prognostications. The WC picks were pretty decent, Saints-Seahawks being a game that tripped darned near everyone up, so how does the second weekend go?Baltimore Ravens (13-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4). Line: Steelers by 3. Total: 37.
January 3 prediction: Steelers 28-17.
Everyone knows the story here. Ravens-Steelers pretty much follow a standard script, so it's logical to see the outcome as being decided by around 3 points. So what's different about this game than other recent slobberknockers? Even putting aside variables such as games Ben was out due to injury or suspension, these teams have been evenly matched. I have the Steelers trending up because of some small but significant changes to the offense, namely more quick-hitter passes that involve the rookies Sanders and Brown more. And I have the Ravens trending down because their OL has been dinged and consequently the BRO has not been as potent as expected. Also, as noted in the BAL @ KC
game thread, the BRD has eroded gradually, whereas the PSD has reverted toward a steadier norm.
Some stats. Previously noted Billick's Toxic Differential, but didn't have the numbers to really flesh the concept out. At NFL Fanhouse,
there is an interesting examination of the 20+ yard offensive plays, as an old Bill Walsh metric. Worth a read, BTW. Billick takes that metric and combines Turnover Differential, and voila! A new metric. Steelers Big Play Differential: +37. Steelers TD: +17. Steelers Toxic Differential: +54.
Ravens Big Play Differential: -7. Ravens TD: +7. Ravens Toxic Differential: 0.
Bottom line? Steelers can force more turnovers AND
hot more big plays. That seems to spell doom to the 3-point win scenario.
Also, if we do allow Football Outsiders DVOA adjustments since week 16, including final game of the season and the WC numbers factored in, we see a few adjustments to the DVOA I had previously highlighted. Steelers see a bump in offensive DVOA (from 15.6, 7th, to 23.9, or 3rd) and overall DVOA (34.2 to 40.6, both second behind Patriots). The Steelers defensive DVOA and all Baltimore numbers are not substantially different. That would seem to bolster the notion that the Steelers offense is trending upward, though I'm still wary of saying the Steelers have the third best offense until the rushing game is more assertive.
Finally, Pro Football Reference
includes a blog that looks at the statistical implications of teams meeting in the playoffs after meeting in the regular season. Their analyst gives the Steelers a 70.2% chance of winning
, in what I'll refer to as the Rematch Odds
I still like the overall contour of my original prediction, but it seems the Steelers will have to go for a FG at some point, rather than get 4 TDs. 3 TDs and 2 FGs seems to fit, then.Steelers 27-17.Green Bay Packers (11-6) at Atlanta Falcons (13-3). Line: Falcons by 2.5. Total: 44.
January 3 prediction: Packers 23-20.
Really not budging from this. Packers seem to be pulling it together at the right time, and the Falcons have the smell of one of those teams that assembles a nice, respectable season, only to get upset by a team with a hot hand. Can the Falcons win? Sure. But if you look at the green, black, and red in the numbers above, it would favor the Pack. The Packers got warmed up not against some chumps like the Chiefs, but a legit NFCC contender in Philly.
The Toxic Differential gives a slight edge to Atlanta, but I'm considering this to be close enough to be a draw:Packers Big Play Differential: +3. Packers TD: +10. Packers Toxic Differential: +13.
Falcons Big Play Differential: +2. Falcons TD: +14. Falcons Toxic Differential: +16.
DVOA trends see the Falcons stable overall, but down in offense (from 12.0, 10th, to 8.5, 13th), offset by much better STs play (4.5, 7th, to 11.1, 1st). STs gains seem to be a shaky basis for improvement, and the slight dimunition of the offensive metric seems to indicate a downward trend of more importance.
Meanwhile, the Packers are showing trends that might surprise. Overall DVOA is up (23.9, 5th, to 27.9, 4th), but not because of Rodgers and the offense. Sure, that's what the talking heads love to play up, but the ODVOA dropped over this span from 18.5, 5th, to 13.4, or 8th. Meanwhile, the defense has surged, from -10.0, 2nd, to -14.8, an even better 2nd. Basically, the Packers are more balanced now.
The Rematch Odds
for Green Bay are 57.0%, and combined with a close Toxic Differential and an edge in DVOA, I think the original 23-20 call seems pretty safe. Packers 23-20.Seattle Seahawks (8-9) at Chicago Bears (11-5). Line: Bears by 10. Total: 41.
Obviously no 1/3 pick as I had the Saints winning in WC Weekend.
I keep hearing how greatly improved the Seahawks are, and how they've already beaten the Bears once this season. Seahawks are getting a lot of love from the media, but not Vegas. Bears won by more than a TD 4 times this year (@ Carolina, @ Buffalo, and both Minnesota games), so does that abysmal LOC mean 10 is way big a number? Possibly. But let's regain some sanity about the Seahawks.
First of all, their numbers are just awful. Sure, the upset over the Saints was a fun game, but this team is historically bad among playoff teams. All-time bad. Numbers catch up with you sooner or later. Even teams that get hot at the right time like the '08 Cards (middle of the pack statistically speaking) aren't trying to overcome an entire season of atrocious stats. And the Seahawks closed the season at home against a young Rams team that isn't exactly competition to boast of, and against a Saints team that shat the bed defensively, and then shat it and shat it again. I mean, holy fuck, how many times can you shit the bed in one night before grabbing some fucking Immodium?
OK, numbers:Seahawks Big Play Differential: -26. Seahawks TD: -9. Seahawks Toxic Differential: -35.
Bears Big Play Differential: -5. Bears TD: +4. Bears Toxic Differential: -1.
In short: a deep run looks unlikely for the Bears. It looks impossible for the Seahawks.
I'm not even going to bother with the exact DVOA movements for the Seahawks. Yeah, they went up. From 32nd to 31st overall. That's like saying your dick is a quarter inch longer on the remeasure. WTF ever.
The Rematch Odds
have the Bears favored by 90.4%. That's fucking hardcore.
So, the only question to my mind is the margin. I can see this going both ways, a shootout like the 38-34 win over the Jets, or a blowout like the 40-14 win over the Vikes. I don't think the Seahawks can stop any team, so the Bears will get theirs. The Seahawks blitzed Cutler and sacked the crap out of him earlier in the season, and while he's still taking sacks ye olde genius Mike Martz is getting more 3-step drops in the mix, so they should be able to keep drives alive. In my previous analysis, I was less than thrilled by the Seattle offense, in particular the lack of playmakers. While Marshawn Lynch and Mike Williams are the subject of slackjawed adoration this week, it's an anomaly, folks. I really, really, really want to take the underdog Seahawks with the spread that juicy, but they're not playing at home, reality will bite them in the ass, and I suspect that once reality bites it will start taking bigger and bigger chunks, and you'll see this team deflate like the Chiefs in the 2H of that Ravens game.Bears 38-20.New York Jets (12-5) at New England Patriots (14-2). Line: Patriots by 8.5. Total: 44.5.
January 3 prediction: Patriots 33-20.
Mark Sanchez must be on drugs. One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small? Whatever he was on against Indy, he saw his receivers as giants. He is not playing well, and to think he'll turn it around here is wishful at best. And then Antonio Cromartie had to open his flapper, and we all know what a petty and vindictive bitch Tom Brady is, so right there the whole game outlook changes.Patriots Big Play Differential: +1. Patriots TD: +28. Patriots Toxic Differential: +29.
Jets Big Play Differential: +2. Jets TD: +9. Jets Toxic Differential: +11.
Of note: Patriots' methodical offense and a porous defense keep that Big Play Differential almost even. But they're getting turnovers like a pack of stoners after the Pillsbury Doughboy. Interesting that the Patriots have a very good Toxic Differential number, but it's nowhere near as good as the Steelers. Let's hope Billick is onto something here.
DVOA trends see the Patriots getting better, the fuckers, from 48.3, 1st, up to 55.8%, still 1st, in overall DVOA. That's a really high number. There's a slight bump in ODVOA, but the real concern is that their DDVOA went from 6.2, 20th, to -1.0, or 10th. So if the Steelers and Pats do meet, and the Steelers are better on offense but the Patriots are better on defense... Crap, something just Brinkered off in my brain. Seriously. Burning electrical smell. Aphasia on re-reading what I just wrote. Gah.
The Jets are also trending better. Overall DVOA is up from 4.4, 13th, to 14.4, or 7th. That's a big jump over 2 weeks. But the ODVOA dropped from 16.1, 6th, to -0.3, or 19th. Why? Sanchez eats worms. Meanwhile, the Jets D is playing better again, more like it did back in the beginning of the season when they actually beat the Patriots, moving from -2.6, 9th, to -9.5, or 5th. Is that enough to pull the upset?
The Rematch Odds
say no, and have the Patriots' chances at 73.8%.
Given all the various corrections for Sanchez declining, the Cromartie Factor, the improving defenses of both teams, and various gaseous impressions from my digestive tract, my revised prognostication is:Patriots 33-20.