NFL Efficiency Ratings- Divisional Predictions
The prediction model only went 2-2 last week and the Packers, who projected to be one of the NFC favorites, got knocked out. The Cardinals are a tough team to predict and the Packers sloppiness early cost them the game. Onto the Divisional Round:
Baltimore Ravens (4th Overall, 9th Scoring, 3rd Defense, 9th Overall Away) at Indianapolis Colts (9th Overall, 8th Scoring, 10th Defense, 19th Overall Home) - An intriguing game. The Colts, despite the near perfect season, were actually in the bottom half of the NFL in terms of home field play. They played down to their opposition each and every week. To their credit they always found a way to win and perhaps that remains the same in the playoffs. The Ravens were a complete contrast. This was a team that almost always played up to their competition when they left Baltimore, however they rarely found a way to win, finishing 3-5 in the regular season. For the Ravens to win on the road they have to typically came out fast and put the game away early. That was what they did in their surprising win against the Patriots last week. When they play close or from behind they typically will lose because the QB can not make plays and the defense isn’t like it was in the old days where they made up for it by scoring points. Statistically this is a very close game. Going strictly based on the home and away split’s the Ravens should win the game by a 1 point margin. Overall stats say they should win by three. Logic says if the games are close like that Peyton Manning will find a way to pull it out like he always does, but going blindly on stats we’ll say the Ravens should win something like 21 -20.
New York Jets (5th Overall, 16th Scoring, 1st Defense, 3rd Overall Away) at San Diego Chargers (8th Overall, 4th Scoring, 18th Defense, 13th Overall Home) - This was the one matchup that the Chargers wanted to avoid in the playoffs simply because the Jets score points away from home (they average nearly 24 a game) and the Chargers give up a lot of points(just under 22). You put those two things together and you have to believe the Jets will score at least 24 points in the game. Defensively the Jets are holding teams nearly a touchdown under their home scoring averages. These stats put the Chargers in danger of losing the game. The question here is whether or not the “road” Jets can show up this week or not. The one thing with San Diego is that they are consistent. They play well at home. They play well on the road. The Jets have the capability of playing poorly, especially offensively. If their “home” offense shows up it is unlikely they win. That poor offensive showing is what led to the big losses in New Orleans and New England. Assuming everything goes according to plan this could be Norv Turners swan song with the team. Jets should win 24-20 or somewhere along those lines. If the bad Jets show up its more likely to get a 24-17 type win for San Diego.
Arizona Cardinals (18th Overall, 15th Scoring, 16th Defense, 5th Overall Away) vs. New Orleans Saints (2nd Overall, 1st Scoring, 19th Defense, 5th Overall Home) -Here is where the question comes up in deciding this game---was that the real Arizona Cardinals this past week or an aberration? Arizona has been a strong team away from home all year, but will be going to play in one of the toughest venues in the NFL. The one thing about the Saints is that they have been trending down for the last 7 weeks or so of the season, playing uninspired football. Early in the year they were getting into the Patriots 2007 territory, but ended up not even finishing as the top team in the NFL. The defense fell apart. At one stage they were consistently ranked up near the top of the league and they ended up falling all the way to 19, which means over the last half of the year they statistically performed as bad as any defense in the NFL. The Patriots had a noticeable dip in December of 2007 and still made the Super Bowl, but that dip was more due to weather slowing the offense down than anything else. The Saints have had no weather problems of any kind. Based on the overall season stats the Saints should win by a field goal, somewhere along the lines of 27-24. But they really needed to face the Eagles in this round to guarantee them a championship game. If you just looked at the numbers over the last half of the season the Saints probably project to lose this game.
Dallas Cowboys (6th Overall, 17th Scoring, 2nd Defense, 15th Away) vs. Minnesota Vikings (7th Overall, 6th Scoring, 15th Defense, 3rd Overall Home)- This is going to be the highest rated game of probably the entire playoffs, but is the one game that looks, on paper, to be non-competitive. It’s not that Dallas is worse than the Vikings, because they are not. It’s just that the Vikings are incredible at home and Dallas has been, for the most part, average away from home. The one thing Dallas has going for them is that their defense is playing great and they may be able to stop the Viking offense. That still means Tony Romo will have to march his team down to score points, but it at least gives them a chance. Vikings average margin of victory in the dome is over 17 points. I don’t see how the Cowboys can compete with that. Minnesota should win the game by 9 or 10 points assuming Dallas plays well. If Dallas plays poorly it will be even worse. Game should be in the 24-14 range.