NFL Efficiency Ratings- Conference Championships
3-1 last week with the Colts spoiling the party, by coming away with a win against a very mistake prone Ravens team. Rankings given for each team are based on their efficiency ratings.
New York Jets (5th Overall, 16th Scoring, 1st Defense, 3rd Overall Away) at Indianapolis Colts (9th Overall, 8th Scoring, 10th Defense, 19th Overall Home)- The Jets are more than a touchdown underdog this week as they head into Indianapolis to take on the best QB in the game. The matchup here will answer the question about whether or not it is better to have a team that does 1 thing great - Jets Defense-- or a team that doesn’t do anything great but does pretty well in every category. Statistically there are two ways to look at this game. From the strict home/away perspective the Jets are clearly the better team. Looking at the total picture it is much closer. The Jets margin on the road this year was a little over 6 points whereas the Colts are only a field goal a game at home. Colts home opponents, on average, this season gave up about 23 points a game on the road scored just under 20. The Colts own home average was 22.6-19.5, so basically the Colts were a slightly below average performing team at home. What teams allowed the Colts usually scored and they Colts held teams to around their own averages. The Jets were a different story. The Jets opponents scored, on average, 22 points a game and allowed 21 points a game. The Jets road scoring average was 23.4-15.5, so they were doing an excellent job outscoring their opponents and were holding their opponents to about a touchdown less than their average home offensive output.
The other way to look at this game is from an overall perspective. When you factor in road games for the Colts they went from slightly below average to well above average. It is fair to say that a team that plays that well on the road has the potential to do so at home in a big enough game, which this certainly is. That still leaves the Jets with a slight advantage, but Manning has shown in the past that a slight advantage means a Colts win if you allow them to stick around. The Jets defense played well whether they were home or away so they should do well enough regardless of how well Manning plays. The question becomes will the Colts defense step up their game against a Jet offense that is shaky. If that happens the Colts will end up victorious. If it does not expect the Jets to pull the game out. Call it Jets 21 Colts 17.
Minnesota Vikings (7th Overall, 6th Scoring, 15th Defense, 21st Overall Away) at New Orleans Saints (2nd Overall, 1st Scoring, 19th Defense, 5th Overall Home)- What really jumps out right away in this game is how bad Minnesota is on the road. The Vikings were actually outscored away from the dome this year and their defense away from home was one of the worst in the NFL, ranking 27th overall in efficiency. It is a rough matchup for them. Unlike the Colts, where you can make an argument that their road success could mean a good home game, the Vikings have far less of a chance to turn good home stats into a good road game. Neither of these two teams is strong defensively. The Saints limped into the playoffs and while they did play well last week, it may just be reading too much into one game. Minnesota’s defense is reliant on their defensive line pressuring the QB and when that does not happen they are going to give up a bundle of points, especially to a team like New Orleans that was explosive this season and scored 9 points a game higher than their opponents normally allowed.
If the Vikings are to win this game they are going to have to get an out of this world performance from Brett Favre. Fave has played decently on the road this year and they will be up against a bad defense this week. They are going to have to put up over 30 points just to have a chance at winning. If the Saints just play their usual game they should win easily. New Orleans big test was going to be in that second round where they were likely to get the Packers or Cardinals. The Saints got the biggest break when the Packers were eliminated in the classic against Arizona. Not that Arizona was a bad team, they just did not project to have as much of a chance to win. New Orleans has a clear edge here and should advance to the Super Bowl by a score of something like 36-24.