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NFL Efficiency Ratings- A look at the Playoffs

Well with the season over Iíll take one last look at the teams rankings for the year and then take a glance at how the teams look to fare in the playoffs. Looking over our predictions edition 5 weeks ago, it did not come out too badly. We nailed 5 of the 6 AFC playoff teams and 4 of 6 in the NFC. The big whiff was on the New York Jets who fell apart after their big run in the middle of the year. The Jets basically balanced themselves out and finished 15th which is where they spent a good portion of the season. Miami was the least deserving team based on efficiency to make it into the AFC. Miami was unimpressive in victory all year and doesnít even have a quality win under their belt. They caught the Jets when they were reeling and the Pats when they were doing the same. New England ended up the team most screwed over in missing their chance and the difference between the Pats and Dolphins this year basically came down to New England having to travel to San Diego while Miami got San Diego in Florida. Over in the NFC things ended up much worse. The fall of the Buccaneers really threw the playoffs out of whack. While we nailed the Eagles record, Tampa just failing to do anything of merit gave the Eagles a chance to make it. Minnesota was a surprise. They caught the Cardinals and Giants at the right times and then the Bears fell a game short of their predicted 10-6 record. The Arizona Cardinals were the luck team of the NFC. Arizona played at a much higher clip than 19th overall this year for most of the season, but went into the tank and stopped trying once they wrapped up a playoff spot. The Saints were the best team to not make it in the NFC, but when you have no defense it is very hard to win. New Orleans also posted a giant difference in quality play between their home and away games which skews their overall ranking. Overal, the top 8 teams, not surprisingly all made the playoffs, while the bottom teams all were firmly entrenched there by mid-season. Surprisingly the Rams actually performed worse than the Lions did, most likely being due to the Rams playing in the NFC West where the competition is weak. Those two teams were miles worse than the Kansas City Chiefs and the rest of the pretenders in the group.

Lets take a look at the playoffs now:

Baltimore Ravens (1st Overall, 5th Scoring, 3rd Defense, 2nd Overall Away) at Miami Dolphins (17th Overall, 21st Scoring, 12th Defense, 20th Overall Home)

This is just a game where Miami looks to be overmatched. Miami could not beat a good team all year and was routinely blown out when they stepped up in class. Baltimore had their own problems beating good teams as well, but played all those games close and blew bad teams away. The Dolphins were actually outscored at home this season 20.5 to 18.6, so home field does not look to be any advantage all for Miami. About the only thing in Miamiís favor is that they have a veteran QB whereas the Ravens do not. Sometimes that can make a big difference in the playoffs. Ravens murdered this team earlier in the year. Based on the numbers the Ravens should win this game something like 27-16, unless the QB play makes a major difference.

Indianapolis Colts (7tt Overall, 9th Scoring, 4th Defense, 7th Overall Away) at San Diego Chargers (6th Overall, 3rd Scoring, 14th Defense, 5th Overall Home)

Probably the most interesting matchup of the wildcard round as both teams could do some damage in the playoffs, but one will be eliminated this week. Both teams got off to horrible starts this year. The Colts spent the first 6 games or so of the season ranking in the bottom half of the NFL while the Chargers, typically ranking around 10th, were terrible on the road and could not find ways to win away from their home stadium. Both closed the year very hot. The Colts have won 9 in a row, including wins against the Chargers and Steelers, and the Chargers are on a 5 game streak with an impressive three game road win streak. Home field could play the difference, though Indy has already won in San Diego. San Diego has outscored teams by an average of 12.4 points a game in their building while the Colts are being slightly outscored away from Indianapolis. San Diego has been very inconsistent so they are a team you donít like to say is ever a lock, but on paper they should win this game by around 10 points. For Indianapolis to win their defense is either going to have to play much better than it has on the road or Peyton Manning is going to have to lead the offense on an explosive attack. Or of course the Chargers could just play one of their usual no-show games where they pull a furious 4th quarter comeback and either just fall short or just pull it out. Iíll say 31-21 San Diego, but just as easily it could be 21-18 Indy.

Atlanta Falcons (11th Overall, 16th Scoring, 9th Defense, 7th Overall Away) at Arizona Cardinals (19th Overall, 6th Scoring, 29th Defense, 11th Overall Home)

The major question here is whether or not the Cardinals can turn it on in the playoffs after basically shutting it down for the last 5 weeks of the season. Arizona has two advantages. The first is that they play at home where they are at least a playoff caliber team. The team is outscoring teams by 8 points a game in Arizona while the Falcons have been outscored away from Atlanta. The second advantage is that Kurt Warner is a playoff veteran matching up with a rookie quarterback. Other than that Atlanta is the better football team. Arizonaís defense has been torn up and the Falcons do have the ability to get to the QB and slow down the Cardinals passing attack. If this was on a neutral field the game would easily run in Atlantaís favor. Between the home field and Warner Arizona should be able to eek this one out, by a score around 24-20.

Philadelphia Eagles(5th Overall, 4th Scoring, 7th Defense, 10th Overall Away) at Minnesota Vikings (12th Overall, 17th Scoring, 11th Defense, 19th Overall Home)

The Eagles went into a big funk for a few weeks before totally turning things around on Thanksgiving. Philadelphia consistently ranked the top 5 this year before their bad stretch and have quickly jumped right back in there. This is a very dangerous team with big time ability to force upsets in the playoffs. They also have a habit of overlooking opponents which causes those 10-3 losses to teams like the Redskins. The Vikings are really overmatched in this one. Like Miami, they were a terrible home team playing way down to the opposition and just never scoring the football. Philadelphia has gone on the road and beaten teams like the Giants. Even if the Eagles play down they should win the game in a low scoring contest by a field goal. If they play at a higher level this could be a 24-10 type of game.

The rest of the playoffs:

Tennessee Titans (4th Overall, 15th Scoring, 2nd Defense, 7th Overall Home) - Despite the home field advantage, the Titans will not be a heavy favorite to make the Super Bowl in the AFC. They will likely play the Ravens in the second round of the playoffs and they could very easily get knocked off against that team. It is basically an even game even taking home field into account. The same goes for the game against the Steelers, even though they recently wacked the Pittsburgh team. They should be favored to beat the Colts and Dolphins by 4 or 5 and the Chargers by 8 or 9 points based on regular season play.

Pittsburgh Steelers (2nd Overall, 14th Scoring, 1st Defense, 9th Overall Home, 1st Overall Away) - The Steelers are a very intriguing team that should be the odds on favorite to make the Super Bowl if their QB is healthy. The Steelers defense is downright scary. They held teams to almost 34% below their seasonal averages this year and saw no negative affects by going out and playing on the road. The one thing that scares you about picking the Steelers is that they always seem to play it close and pull games out in the 4th quarter. That doesnít always translate to the postseason. Of their possible second round matchups Miami actually presents the biggest problem. Miami has played extremely well on the road this season, though that has also been against a very weak schedule of opponents. Pittsburgh will be a heavy favorite in round 2. They are even matches against either Tennessee or Baltimore.

Outside of the Steelers, Titans, and Ravens the only other potential Super Bowl team would be San Diego. For that to happen San Diego would need to get the AFC Championship at home against Baltimore.

New York Giants (3rd Overall, 2nd Scoring, 10th Defense, 6th Overall Home) - Along with the Eagles this is the most balanced team in the NFC. They can beat you by scoring the football or they can beat you by shutting you down on offense. The Giants outscored their opposition by nearly 13 points a game at home this year. Even though the Eagles upset the Giants earlier this season, and they may be the team the Giants least want to see, NY will be a heavy favorite in round 2. The should beat a team like the Eagles by 9 or 10, but the Eagles have a very high upside which gives them a punchers chance. Their favorite matchup would be Arizona who the Giants would likely rout by at least two touchdowns. Atlanta would likely fall by 10 points. In the championship game the Giants would expect to defeat Carolina by 10 points and the Vikings by at least a touchdown. It would be an enormous upset if the Giants do not make the Super Bowl this year. One of the biggest letdowns in playoff history.

Carolina Panthers (8th Overall, 12th Scoring, 6th Defense, 3rd Overall Home, 12th Overall Away) - Carolina is a good team that is absolutely dominant at home where they are winning by nearly 16 points a game. They will be very big favorites to get to the NFC Championship. They will be at least a touchdown favorite against the Vikings, 10 points against Atlanta, and a monster favorite against Arizona. Their problem is that they do not play well enough on the road, where the team is being outscored by about 5 points a game, to have a good chance against he Giants in the championship game. Carolinaís path to the Super Bowl would only look to be facing the Eagles in the title game. They need Philly to go into the Meadowlands and beat NY and the Panthers at that point should manhandle a tired Eagles team, in a similar manner to how the Panthers lost to the Bears a few years back. Definitely a contender, but they look like a team that needs help.

Really the Giants and Carolina look like the only two teams who could make the Super Bowl from the NFC. Both are so dominant at home it is hard to imagine both being upset in their building. Philadelphia would have the best chance of pulling the upsets off, but it is hard to imagine the Vikings or Falcons being able to compete at this level. Arizona is the least likely to go anywhere in the playoffs. If they escape round one it would not be a shock to see them lose by at least 20 points to either the Panthers or Giants.

2008 NFL Efficiency Ratings, Final 2008 Rankings

Rank Team Scoring Efficiency Defensive Efficiency Overall Efficiency
1. Baltimore Ravens 20.36 22.91 43.27
2. Pittsburgh Steelers 8.76 33.77 42.52
3. New York Giants 26.33 11.89 38.22
4. Tennessee Titans 5.73 30.59 36.32
5. Philadelphia Eagles 22.56 13.31 35.87
6. San Diego Chargers 23.46 4.23 27.69
7. Indianapolis Colts 11.68 14.07 25.76
8. Carolina Panthers 10.44 13.61 24.04
9. New England Patriots 12.48 11.03 23.51
10. New Orleans Saints 27.13 -9.45 17.68
11. Atlanta Falcons 3.58 12.35 15.93
12. Minnesota Vikings 3.22 11.57 14.79
13. Green Bay Packers 15.19 -5.52 9.67
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers -4.48 13.88 9.40
15. New York Jets 11.44 -5.05 6.38
16. Chicago Bears 2.13 3.90 6.02
17. Miami Dolphins -6.96 11.24 4.27
18. Dallas Cowboys 9.16 -7.04 2.12
19. Arizona Cardinals 19.73 -24.18 -4.44
20. Houston Texans 11.25 -18.41 -7.16
21. Buffalo Bills -9.84 0.78 -9.06
22. Washington Redskins -25.01 12.91 -12.10
23. Jacksonville Jaguars -10.57 -5.80 -16.37
24. San Francisco 49'ers -10.26 -8.82 -19.08
25. Denver Broncos 2.96 -26.71 -23.75
26. Cleveland Browns -25.60 -2.71 -28.30
27. Seattle Seahawks -19.09 -9.23 -28.32
28. Oakland Raiders -27.32 -1.24 -28.56
29. Cincinnati Bengals -34.29 -2.61 -36.89
30. Kansas City Chiefs -17.53 -20.14 -37.67
31. Detroit Lions -21.82 -37.89 -59.71
32. St. Louis Rams -34.20 -27.14 -61.33