Home > Uncategorized > Divisional Round Picks

Divisional Round Picks

January 12th, 2017

Might as well start with my performance picking the wild card games, which was about par for the course. I went 3-1 straight up, 1-3 against the spread.

All of my failures last weekend came as a result of giving too much credit to the road teams. I had the Raiders to win, which was stupid (I knew Connor Cook wasn’t going to be great, didn’t think the Oakland coaching staff would give him the opportunity to be a complete disaster), the Lions and Giants to cover, which … eh, whatever. I didn’t place any actual bets.

If I had it all to do over again, I’d still pick at least one of those games to be close. But I don’t have it to do over again. And now my task is not to let my mistakes from the first round of the playoffs affect the way I look at the games in the second round.

That’s not necessarily a simple task. The quality of the teams remaining at this point is much greater than it was a week ago — last week’s field of competitors included four teams that were never going to get very far (two of which were playing each other); this week there’s just one of those — but in three out of four games, that uptick in quality is there for both teams. So you tell me: In any of the three close matchups, is favoring the well-rested home team the wise course, or would it constitute going conservative after getting bit by overestimating the road teams last week? Does looking for reasons to believe a road team will win (or keep it close) make for smart analysis, or would I simply be repeating my errors of a week ago?

I have no answers to those questions. So I suppose I should just move ahead with getting everything wrong.

Here’s what not to expect.

Seattle (+5) at Atlanta
I think the Falcons would have beat the Seahawks back in week six had the game been played in Atlanta. I don’t necessarily think that means a whole lot three months later, but there it is just the same. So what does mean something? Well, let’s start with the big three predictive stats: scoring differential, Falcons +1.8; passer rating differential, Falcons +7.1; takeaway-giveaway differential, Falcons +10. That doesn’t point to a good outcome for the road team. Pairing that data with Seattle’s offensive line issues and lack of a robust rushing attack makes it really hard for me to see a path to victory for visitors. The Seahawks’ defense could potentially carry the day, I suppose. And if this game were being played in Seattle, I’d consider that a real possibility. But I don’t think you can count on it here. Atlanta by a field goal.

Houston (+16) at New England
Hey, you never know. Lots of things could happen. Like, the Patriots could lose a handful of critical players early in the game. The whole New England team could get the flu. Maybe it turns out the Texans have been working an elaborate rope-a-dope these last few years. The Texans could be accidentally exposed to gamma radiation on their way to the stadium and hulk out en masse just before kickoff. Or, you know, it could just be one of those freaky games when everything happens exactly as it shouldn’t. Barring something along those lines, though, (and with all due respect to Tom Brady’s caution about the quality of this weeks’ opponent) it’s really hard to envision any way this is still a game when the second half gets under way. Here are the predictives (factoring in the Texans’ atypically strong performance against the depleted Raiders in the wild card round): scoring differential, Patriots +7.1; passer rating differential, Patriots +14.9; takeaway-giveaway differential, Patriots +16. Those are not numbers one expects to see in the second round of the postseason. They’d point to a decisive Patriots victory in Houston. In Foxborough, they spell blowout. Patriots by 28.

Pittsburgh (+1.5) at Kansas City
If there’s an upset coming this weekend, it’s almost certainly coming on Sunday. And I think it’s more likely to happen in Kansas City than in Dallas. The holy trinity of predictive stats say this is probably the Chiefs’ game to lose: scoring differential, Steelers +0.2; passer rating differential, Chiefs +3.6; takeaway-giveaway differential, Chiefs +10. Close, but a home team coming out ahead in two out of those three factors is usually in good shape. The ground game, though, points in a somewhat different direction. Both teams run the ball well. But the Chiefs can struggle on run D. That’s a tough position to be in with Le’Veon Bell coming into your building. If Kansas City can solve that problem, force the Steelers to the air, and get Ben Roethlisberger to throw at least one pick, they should be able to earn a trip to the AFC Championship (for the first time since they had Joe Montana behind center). I suspect, though, that stopping Bell is a bit too much to ask. I won’t be surprised by any outcome in this game (other than a blowout), but since I have to make a pick, I’m going to say Steelers by a point.

Green Bay (+4.5) at Dallas
This one comes down to the ground game, too. The predictive stats say it’s a tossup: scoring differential, Cowboys +1.6; passer rating differential, Packers +0.3; takeaway-giveaway differential, Packers +5. I see nothing that tells me the Packers’ average-ish run defense can contain Ezekial Elliott. Their only hope is to build a big enough lead that the Cowboys abandon the run. And I can’t even imagine what a lead like that would look like. More likely, I think, Elliott helps keep the Packers offense off the field, limiting Aaron Rodgers‘ opportunities and forcing him to take too many chances when he does get out there. I think it translates to a Dallas win in a game that will be closer than the 6-point gap in the final score.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
Comments are closed.