Friday, January 8

NFL Picks: Wild-Card Round

Another season of guessing NFL lines is complete, at least the regular portion of it, and all of our prognosticators finished above .500. Andy edged Nick and Figgs to take the full-season title at 52.8%, while Dasharath and Bucko made their short-season debuts to the tune of 54.1% and 53.8%, respectively. Nick hit on 55.0% of his Money Picks, making the 2009 season a profitable one as well. Let's look at the Week 17 results and the final standings:

Last week
Andy: 10-6
Figgs: 9-7
Nick: 9-7
Bucko: 9-7
Gopo: 10-6
Nick's Money Picks ($): 3-1

Final regular-season results
Andy: 133-119-4
Figgs: 128-124-4
Nick: 129-123-4
Bucko: 42-36-2
Gopo: 33-28-3
Nick's Money Picks ($): 33-27

But we're certainly not done for the year - it's playoff time! Everyone loves the NFL's postseason, and we at FCF are no exception. We may even have a special feature for next week's division round.

The Wild-Card round is peculiar this year because we have THREE rematches of games played just last week! What are the odds of that? Well, considering that each team has 31 prospective opponents, the chances of any one team facing their Week 17 foe in a first-round playoff matchup should be 1/31. Not so fast - teams play more intraconference games (12) than interconference tilts (4), so it's actually 1/20 (3/4 intraconference games)*(1/15 other conference clubs) . Intradivision games are even more frequent, but not all Wild-Card matchups are necessarily intradivision, so we can't factor that in. But still! That makes the odds of having three such games in one Wild-Card weekend (1/20)*(1/20)*(1/17) = 1/6933, or roughly 0.014%. The 1/17 accounts for the fact that, in the conference with two rematches, two teams are taken out of the randomness. I'm sure I made a mistake in this calculation, but it's at least a good approximation and should give you some idea how odd this is.

Anyway, onto the games:

AFC Wild-Card Playoffs

Saturday 4:30 pm
BENGALS (-2.5) vs Jets
Andy: Wow, did the Jets ever destroy Cincinnati last weekend. Granted, Cincy wasn't at full strength, but still. I feel like people are lining up to get behind the AFC's New Jersey team, but I've liked this Bengal team all year and I still think they're tough. I'm bucking the national feeling (PTI asked: are the Jets a Super Bowl favorite?) and going with my Ohio mates. Bengals.
Figgs: I've been back and forth with both of these teams all year, so I'm pretty torn in this one. I don't have any confidence in Sanchez at all, but I do have a lot of confidence in their running game. Jets.
Nick: I really like the Jets here. Revis will take Ocho away, and I don't think Cincy has enough left in the passing game to make an impact. What the hell happened to Carson Palmer? He looked like the heir apparent to Manning a few years ago. These teams are kind of mirror images in that they both do the same things well - play defense and run the ball. The thing is, the Jets are doing both of those things better right now. Sanchez on the road in cold weather spooks me, but I think the Jets scheme around him and win the right to get destroyed in Indianapolis next week. ($ - straight up)
Bucko: I'm going with the J-E-T-S in this one. I completely agree with Nick's comments. I also feel the week off for Benson is going to hurt him.
Gopo: i too have gone back and forth on this several times. i'm going with my gut and picking the jets - also because the bengals haven't been playing very well recently. plus, it's always dangerous when your team is saying "we'll just step it up this time" after getting blown out the week before.

Sunday 1 pm
PATRIOTS (-3) vs Ravens
Andy: I don't have a really strong feeling on this one either way, except for two factors: 1) New England is really, really good at playoff games and 2) I really, really hate the Baltimore Ravens. Pats.
Figgs: Just like everyone else said. Brady, Belichick, Gillette, and the playoffs all put together? Even without Welker you gotta like the Pats in this one.
Nick: If I were forced to bet this, I'd go Pats because they're really tough at Gillette and it's usually pretty safe to pick Brady/Belichick in the playoffs. That said, the Welker thing throws a huge wrench into this, and I came to the conclusion that the only reason I was betting this game was to increase my interest - and that's not good when you're trying to win your bets. Hating the Ravens gives me plenty of interest, because with Pittsburgh on the outside looking in, Baltimore is now my number one enemy that needs to be destroyed. Pats.
Bucko: The Pats are without Welker, but I believe Baltimore is down a DB as well. I just don't think Rice can carry Baltimore in this one. Plus the Pats are at home.
Gopo: the only team i might hate more than the pats is the ravens. i wish them zero success. pats for one week only.

NFC Wild-Card Playoffs

Saturday 8 pm
COWBOYS (-4) vs Eagles
Andy: A few weeks ago, I would have laughed at this line, but Dallas completely dominated a Philly team with lots at stake last weekend to earn home-field in this one. The Cowboys are peaking, and Philly hasn't looked too strong these past couple of weeks. But I'm still taking the Eagles, who had a 6-game winning streak before their Dallas debacle. Andy Reid is good at two things: 1) wearing that one awesome hat he had in like 2002 and 2) advancing his team to the NFC title game. Eagles.
Figgs: I was planning on going with Philly for weeks, but now I don't know after last week's game. I guess I'm still gonna lead towards the Eagles, but I'm not comfortable with this one.
Nick: Dallas is getting hot at the right time, and they'll be at home with 110,000 packed into Dallas Stadium. You're telling me that the Boys are only a point better than the Iggles at a neutral site? I'm not buying it. Philly might have called off some of their blitz packages in the second half, but the Cowboys were running the ball at 6 YPG in addition to throwing it around. Philly's center is out for the remainder of the season, which is enormous this late in the year. The only way Philly has a shot is if Donovan can hook up with DeSean Jackson for two or three big plays. I think Dallas contains him. Pokes. ($)
Bucko: I know the Eagles got pounded last week, but for some reason I think they will bounce back here. I think they will do a better job of containing the Cowboy's running game. McNabb plays very well and Wade is still winless in the playoffs.
Gopo: eagles have been a team to be hot and cold all year. if they had won last week, i would have picked the cowboys. since they lost, i'm picking the eagles. makes perfect sense, right?

Sunday 4:40 pm
CARDS (-1) vs Packers
Andy: In taking the Bengals and Eagles, I've assumed a certain degree of revenge/pride motivation on the part of teams with rematches against opposing clubs who embarrassed them just a week earlier. For some reason, I view the Cards as too quirky and soft to draw such inspiration. Plus, I don't think they can stop Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense. Packers.
Figgs: I like the Pack here too. Rodgers might just take this team to the Super Bowl.
Nick: I'm calling for a complete repeat Sunday. The Packers could easily be riding an eight-game winning streak if not for the debauchery in Pittsburgh, and you could argue that they're playing the best football in the NFC. Green Bay's going to score enough to win, it's just a matter of whether or not their defense can contain Fitz and force Kurt Warner to move laterally. You pressure Warner and limit Fitz's big plays, and you win. Maybe even comfortably. Pack. ($)
Bucko: Packers all the way in this one. Rodgers has already had a great year, and he is getting a little better protection from his line. This guy should be in the MVP discussion. 4th in yards, 4th in QB rating, 4th in TD's, only 7 int's (least among starters), 64.7 completion %. Boldin still appears to be hurt. Woodson is playing awesome this year, and will be all over Larry Fitz. I'm predicting a GB vs. Indy Super Bowl. Both teams are possibilities for Bucko's future favorite team. Go Pack.
Gopo: packers. the only game i feel good about picking out of these four, which probably means that i'm getting it wrong. i don't think the cards d has a chance in hell of stopping the packers, and i think the packers will stop the cards enough to take this one.


Andy said...

Bucko, sometime you'll have to explain to me how a week of rest is a bad thing for a running back who was injured a month ago.

Bucko said...

Rest for a running back is great most times. It's just my opinion in this situation. He's kind of a nut case, and I thought a week off would give him to much to think about. Kind of like Delonte. If that guy is playing consistently he produces and stays out of public trouble. I just thought kind of the same with Benson. I agree rest is usually much better.