NFL Divisional Round Playoff Picks

We’re back again this week to pick the Divisional games, with Jonathan Lack joining us this week, along with Jay Hashop, Danny Lei, and Chad Horner who gave their picks last week.

For the record, last week’s records were as follows:

  • Hashop: 4-0
  • Lei: 3-1
  • Velloso: 3-1
  • Horner: 2-2


Baltimore Ravens @ Denver Broncos

Jay Hashop: Denver; Knowshon Moreno gashed the Ravens defense to the tune of 115 yards at a rate of 5.5 yards per carry when these two teams met in Week 15, and the Mile High Machine is still clicking on all cylinders. Meanwhile, the Flaccocoaster’s passer rating has alternated between being above 114 and below 77 over his last six games. You can probably guess which one’s due this Saturday.

Danny Lei: Denver; The Denver defense will be too much for Joe Flacco to handle, and Peyton Manning will continue his dominant play. In their only matchups against top-5 defenses this year, the Ravens lost by 30 and 17 points.

Jonathan Lack: Denver; These two teams met in Week 15 and the Broncos blew out the Ravens in Baltimore. While Baltimore has gotten some defensive starters back since then, I would hesitate to read too much into the Ravens’ win over the Colts. They put up some points against a poor defense, but moving the ball will be far more difficult against a Broncos defense rated top-5 in defensive efficiency. With a short week to travel to altitude against Peyton Manning and Co., I’m taking the home team on an 11-game win streak.

Chad Horner: Denver; To me, this game isn’t very difficult to pick.  Baltimore beat the Colts rather easily last week, but Indianapolis was the worst team in the playoffs.  I think Denver is going to win the Super Bowl, and I don’t see the Ravens, who the Broncos handled rather easily a few weeks ago – in Baltimore no less, stopping them.

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NFL Wild Card Round Playoff Picks

The NFL playoffs kick off tomorrow afternoon, starting with Bengals-Texans at 4:30.  We asked four of our writers to give their thoughts on who will be victorious in each of this weekend’s matchups.  Interestingly enough, no writers had the same picks.


Cincinnati Bengals @ Houston Texans

Danny Lei: Houston; Matt Schaub has failed to throw a touchdown pass in five games this year. All four of Houston’s losses have come in these games, and that fifth game was a beatdown of the Jaguars. The Texans go as he goes, but I expect Schaub will come out strong in his long-awaited playoff debut.

Jay Hashop: Houston; One of the best indicators of Houston’s recent collapse on defense is their inability to get off the field. In their three losses in the past four weeks, the Texans have allowed third down conversion rates of at least 50 percent in each one, while the Colts converted only one third down in Houston’s most recent win. Cincinnati’s poor 34% clip on third down for the season doesn’t bode well for the Bengals.

Bruno Velloso: Cincinnati; The Texans’ slide really began in Week 11, where they needed OT to beat Jacksonville and Detroit, followed by a sloppy win over the Titans before losing three of their last four games. In those three losses, Schaub posted a passer rating of 72.1 or below. The Bengals, meanwhile, are hot, having won seven of their past eight. In those eight games, they have allowed a passer rating above 70 only twice, and not one above 80.

Chad Horner: Cincinnati; The Texans haven’t played a truly impressive game since they dismantled Baltimore over two months ago.  They backed into the playoffs, becoming the first team ever to be 11-1 and end up playing a game on Wild Card Weekend.  These teams are moving in opposite directions, and unless they get a huge game out of Arian Foster, I think the Texans are finished.

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NFL Week 16 Power Rankings

Welcome to the first edition of the Princeton Sports Analytics NFL Power Rankings, a feature which will continue through the final few weeks of the season.

The rankings were compiled based on the votes of five of our writers: Julian HK, Jonathan Lack, Danny Lei, Bruno Velloso, and Chad Horner.  For each team, we had the voter who was highest/lowest on that team give something good/not so good about them, to explain their decision.

Please don’t hesitate to comment and to share your thoughts on the overall rankings, or the individual opinions given by the voters.

2012 Power Rankings: Week 16
Rank Team / Record The Good The Not So Good
The fact that the 49ers have a top-2 defense is not surprising. The fact that their offense is the 3rd most efficient in the league (averaging 6 yards per play) is just scary. (Velloso) The Niners are rolling on all fronts, but the Pats’ 28-0 run during Sunday night’s game should be cause for concern. If young QB Colin Kaepernick gets down big, it could be trouble for the NFC favorite. (Lack)
Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas are easily the top receiving duo in the AFC, and Knowshon has had over 100 total yards in 3 of his 4 games as a starter.  The defense is top 5 in the league, and Peyton Manning is their quarterback.  What’s not to love? (Horner) With upcoming games against Cleveland and Kansas City to close out the season, Denver should lock up a first-round bye. However, unlike the other top-four teams, this young Broncos defense has not played deep into the playoffs and that might prove to be the difference. (Lei)
The Patriots had 425 passing yards against the 49ers, who had yet to allow a 300-yard game. And they are on pace to score 578 points this season, which would be second all-time next to the 589 points scored by the undefeated 2007 Patriots. (Velloso) If last week’s shellacking of Houston counted as a “signature win” for the Pats this season, what does that make this week’s loss to the Niners? Interesting stat: This was the first Patriots loss in the month of December in the last 14 games.
Aaron Rodgers has met or exceeded his career yards per attempt 4 times in his past 5 games, after doing so only twice in his previous 9 games. As the Packers get healthy, watch out. (Lei) How to describe the Packers this season… lackluster? With the second easiest strength of schedule, they’ve lost to the Niners, Seahawks*, Colts, and Giants, and their PPG and yardage (League ranks of 13 and 17, respectively) aren’t outstanding. (HK)
After exposing the Colts, the Texans need a home win against the Vikings to avoid the Broncos and Patriots until the AFC championship game. While their 5th-best rush defense may be up to the task, Adrian Peterson has a habit of impoverishing anybody who dares to bet against him. (Lack) They beat Denver way back in week 3, but since then the only elite teams they’ve played (GB and NE) have handled them easily – by a total of 46 points.  (Horner)

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