NFL Conference Championship Playoff Picks

It’s Championship Week, and the picks are in!  This week we have Sam Michaelson and Max Kaplan joining us for the first time.  Last week, Jay Hashop was the only one to pick Atlanta, and therefore the only writer to get two games correct, bringing his record to 6-2 so far.  This week he is sticking with them, while the other writers aren’t convinced.

If you’d like to see us justify a bunch of picks that were eventually wrong, here are last week’s picks.

 

                      

San Francisco 49ers @ Atlanta Falcons

Jay Hashop: Atlanta; Much of San Fransisco’s offensive success against the Packers followed as a result of their 8-for-13 mark on third down. That 62% rate seems anomalous given that the 49ers converted a subpar 36% on third down in Kaepernick’s regular season starts. Atlanta’s run game looked revitalized against Seattle, providing the necessary balance the Falcons will need to continue toward the Super Bowl.

Sam Michaelson: San Francisco; While everyone seems to be discussing Kaepernick’s record-breaking rushing performance, aside from his early interception, he was also nearly perfect through the air. Russell Wilson showed that the Falcons defense is susceptible to a scrambling/playmaking quarterback in the second half last week, and I fully expect Kaepernick to exploit these weaknesses as well. Matt Ryan will need a monster game against arguably the best defense in the league to keep up with the ‘9ers balanced attack.

Max Kaplan: San Francisco; The Falcons almost blew it last week. The 49ers, on the other hand, approached 600 yards. They already had a top defense (2nd to only Seattle in the regular season). The Falcons were the #1 seed and have home field advantage (7-1 in the regular season), but the 49ers just looked unstoppable against the Packers. Kaepernick runs a 4.5 40-yard dash, and the Niners will run their way into the Super Bowl.

Chad Horner: San Francisco; The 49ers are better than the Falcons in passing and rushing DVOA on both offense and defense.  They’re simply the better team.  If Atlanta is to win, it’ll have to be through the air – they’re 29th in rushing offense DVOA, while San Fran is 2nd in rushing defense.  However, the Falcons are only 2-3 in games in which Matt Ryan throws over 40 passes.  I think the Niners will run all over Atlanta and win big.    

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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 17 Power Rankings

Welcome once again to the Princeton Sports Analytics NFL Power Rankings.

The rankings this week were compiled based on the votes of five of our writers: Julian HK, Jonathan Lack, Jay Hashop, 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.  Each team’s ranking from last week is in parentheses.  You can view last week’s rankings here.

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 17
Rank Team / Record The Good The Not So Good
1 (2) Broncos The Broncos are 2nd in rush defense and 6th in pass defense, in terms of yards allowed, and 5th in the league in points allowed. The Broncos’ offense, meanwhile, is 2nd in points scored and 4th in total yards. It doesn’t get more well rounded then that. (Velloso) If you’re looking for flaws in a team on a 10-game win streak, they’re hard to find. But it’s worth mentioning that Denver is 2-3 in games against playoff teams, including losses to AFC rivals New England and Houston. (Lack)
12-3
2 (3) Patriots Last week’s poor performance against the Jags led to a fiery postgame speech by Tom Brady.  The Pats still boast the top ranked offense in terms of DVOA.  Sucks to be the Dolphins this week.  (HK) The close victory over the Jaguars shouldn’t have been too much of a shock – this is a team that lost to Arizona, and almost lost to both the Bills and the Jets at home.  (Horner)
11-4
3 (4) Packers Aaron Rodgers, who has reclaimed his usual spot at the top of the league in passer rating, hasn’t had a multi-interception game all year. He also has yet to have a game with a passer rating below 80.  (Horner) Apparently, by keeping the Packers at 4th, I am now lowest on them. The reason they stayed at 4? A 55-7 win over the Titans doesn’t really mean anything. Their offensive line struggles are still there, and until I see them beat a team with a good pass rush, that’s a huge concern. (Velloso)
11-4
4 (6) Seahawks With a 118 passer rating, Russell Wilson has been crazy good since Week 9. For perspective, over the same time period, Brady and Manning have managed 95.8 and 98.3 ratings respectively. With the number two rushing attack, number one scoring defense, and a top-3 pass defense to go along with Wilson, the Seahawks are thinking Super Bowl. (Velloso) The last three weeks were some of the strongest single-game performances ever, but the Seahawks will still likely need to win on the road in the playoffs without the “12th man”, unless the Cards knock off the Niners.  (HK)
10-5
5 (1) 49ers   It’s only one game, and the Niners won’t have to travel to Seattle in the playoffs unless they blow a gimme at Arizona. The return of Justin Smith would help buoy a defense that has allowed 70 points in the 1.5 games he has been off the field. (Lack) Perhaps losing Justin Smith was more significant than we anticipated. The 49ers defense simply couldn’t get off the field against Seattle on Sunday, allowing the Seahawks to convert on all 10 third downs with eight or fewer yards to go.  (Hashop)
10-4-1
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