Friday, January 7

NFL Picks: Wild-Card Weekend

Congratulations to Bucko, the winner of the Forest City Fanatics 2010 NFL Picks competition! Bucko followed up on his 53.8% short-season debut a year ago by making a late push to hit 54% and claim the 2010 title by five games. It's amazing how tight NFL picking can be - first and last in our five-man group were separated by just 13 games in a 256-game season.

But even though the Browns season has mercifully ended, there's more work to do, in the form of the NFL Playoffs, always a delightful time of year. The quality of play, additional chances to pick games incorrectly, and opportunity to just absolutely hate on Baltimore and Pittsburgh should make this year's postseason exciting once again. Please, please, someone beat those horrible teams.

Last Week
Andy: 11-5
Figgs: 7-9
Nick: 8-8
Bucko: 9-7
Gopo: 10-6

Nick's Money Picks ($): 1-1
Andy's PBR picks (PBR): 0-1

Final Standings
Bucko: 134-114-8 (54.0%)
Andy: 129-119-8 (52.0%)
Figgs: 126-122-8 (50.8%)
Gopo: 122-126-8 (49.3%)
Nick: 121-127-8 (48.8%)

Nick's Money Picks ($): 34-35-3
Figgs' Money Picks ($): 26-14-4

AFC Wild-Card Playoffs

Saturday 8:05
COLTS (-2.5) vs Jets
Andy: Jets. I'm recalling a lesson from last year where I underestimated the Jets against Cincy in a first-round road playoff game. Like that Cincy bunch, I don't think this Colt club is as tough as New York, and I think they benefitted from playing in a weak AFC South in 2010. Plus, I had some success utilizing SRS last week (that and navigating various teams' interest in playing to win), and that measure has the Jets ahead by 3.5 points. Peyton Manning has done a remarkable job holding this Indy team together by duct tape, but I think this is the end of the line for them.
Figgs: Indy. The Jets defense seems to be getting let off the hook a lot this year. They aren't that good, especially if Revis isn't 100%. I know the Colts are really banged up, but I'm nowhere near confident enough in this Jets team to go against Manning in the dome in the post-season.
Nick: Colts. They're stopping the run, Addai's back, and they're in the dome. They've got one more playoff win in them. ($ straight up)
Bucko: Colts. They look like they might be getting a little healthy again. They should have Addai this week, which should make a big difference.
Gopo: Jets. I just don't think the Colts are very good this year, and Manning isn't enough to get this team through a tough Jets D.

Sunday 1:00
CHIEVES (+3) vs Ravens
Andy: Ravens. This line opened at +1 for some reason - I wasn't at all surprised to see it jump up to where it is now. I wouldn't be surprised if it hit 3.5 by kickoff. As much as I despise them, the Ravens appear to be just too good for this KC team; strong rush D, can get to the passer, playoff-experienced QB, dynamic offensive weapons. Sigh. They've won road playoff games handily in each of the past two seasons and look poised to do so once again, just to piss me off. I give some credit to the Chieves for winning close ones - with an SRS of -0.7 (Baltimore is at 6.4, making them nearly a TD better) they probably should have ended up 8-8 but managed to sneak in at 10-6 anyway. But that doesn't seem sustainable, and their Arrowhead mystique was blown apart by Oakland last week.
Figgs: Ravens. I hope they lose, but I just don't see it. I don't think KC will be able to run the ball consistently, and really that's all they do well. ($)
Nick: Ravens. Lock of the weekend. ($)
Bucko: Ravens. KC just is strong enough, but it's good to see them competitive once again in the AFC West.
Gopo: Ravens. I don't think the Chiefs have a chance in this one - I would love to see the Ravens lose this game, but the Chiefs don't have enough on D or O to handle this Ravens team.

NFC Wild-Card Playoffs

Saturday 4:30
SEAHAWKS (+10.5) vs Saints
Andy: Saints. Just your basic 7-9 home playoff team getting ten and a half, nothing to see here. This is one of the more ridiculous opening-round matchups I've seen, mostly due to the presence of the historically inept (by playoff standards) Seahawks. Depending on what happens here and in the other contest, New Orleans could have only this softy plus a very winnable game in Chicago (or a tougher one in Atlanta, where they've already won) on their way to another NFC title game. The SRS differential here favors the Saints by 12, and profootball-reference says take away two for home-field, so not much to make there, but perhaps I can interest you in the margins of defeat in the Seahawks' nine (!) losses this year: 17, 17, 30, 34, 15, 18, 19, 16, 23. This is not a team that keeps it close or notches back-door covers; when they lose, they lose hard, by an average of 21 (minimum of 15, median of 19). Think about that again: they lost nine games in 2010, and ALL of them were by more than two TD's. No way do I trust them here. May as well keep piling on Seattle while I'm at it - did you know their season point differential is -97? The hapless Browns, for the sake of comparison, were just -61. The Chieves, at +40, are the next-lowest team by this simple metric, meaning that Seattle was almost a TD a game worse than the next-worst team in the entire NFL tournament, and that's even with the Seahawks having the benefit of six games against their putrid division (which, as a group, averaged a five-point loss every time they laced it up). I drink Seattle's milkshake. I drink it up! Like Daniel Plainview after beating that guy with the bowling pin, I'm done now.
Figgs: Saints. I originally had Seattle, and rarely ever go against my first instinct. I read what Andy wrote and considered it, but stuck with my original thought. But the closer this game gets the more I'm seeing NO win 40-3.
Nick: Saints. Taking the Hawks is over-thinking the match up and getting too cute. The Seahawks don't have the emotion nor the skill to play another game like they did last week, and even if they did, they'd still lose. ($ -10)
Bucko: Seahawks. They play good at home for some reason. Also, the Super Bowl champ always struggles the following year in the playoffs. The Saints may win, but the Hawks could cover.
Gopo: Saints. I was going to pick the Seahawks to lose and cover, but was convinced by Andy's thorough analysis up top. Saints in a blowout.

Sunday 4:30
EAGLES (-2.5) vs Packers
Andy: Packers. Toughest game on the board for me, but they're hot right now and they sport a 6.7 SRS advantage over Philly. I wish I was getting three points for this, but sometimes you just have to go for the team that you think is better, and despite the success Andy Reid's teams have had in the early rounds of the playoffs, I'm taking Green Bay here. And just to be a bit of a contrarian to Gopo even though we made the same selection, I'll point out that the Saints lost three straight before their Super Bowl run last year.
Figgs: Pack. Absolutely no idea here, definitely the toughest one for me to call. I think both teams are basically even, so you'd think I would go with the home team, but I like to think of myself as an upredictable kinda guy.
Nick: Packers, but who the hell knows? It's the stay away game of round one!
Bucko: Packers. Their "D" is playing really well as of late. Plus the Pack has to many offensive weapons.
Gopo: Packers. I think the Packers are coming together at the right time, while the Eagles are going the other way. Momentum matters a lot going into the playoffs.

Figgs $ Bets
Ravens/Saints parlay - straight up
Saints (-4.5)/Colts (+3)/Ravens (+3) - three-team six-point teaser

1 comment:

Andy said...

[The Seahawks] play good at home for some reason.
Not really.

They're only 5-3 at home, including 2-3 in their last 5 (one of which was Carolina). They beat exactly one team at home that finished .500 or above (SD) this year. We're setting the bar pretty low for "good" here.

Meanwhile, New Orleans is 6-2 on the road.

Also, the Super Bowl champ always struggles the following year in the playoffs.
Absolutely not true. Careful with that word "always."

Eight of the 43 Super Bowl winners so far (excluding NO) have repeated as Champion and another three times reached the Super Bowl and lost. Another 12 times the defending SB Champion didn't even make the postseason (three times it was the steelers, ha.)

So, of the 31 SB winners to qualify for the playoffs the following year, 26% repeated and another 10% made it back to the big game.

Historically, better than 1 in 3 defending SB Champs qualifying for the playoffs have made it back the next year and 1 in 4 have repeated, a much higher rate than for all qualifying teams.

Now, maybe Seattle will pull off a cover, but neither the theory of them being a good home team or of SB Champs struggling in defense is supported by facts.