16 games. That’s the NFL Regular season, 16 games. That’s 1/5th the amount of games played in the NBA, 1/3rd the games played in the Premiere League, and 1/10th the games played in MLB. It seems almost presumptuous to assume any amount of certainty when seen through this lens of statistical minimalism, but the efficient pragmatism of professional football continues to render the schedules of other sporting leagues nearly obsolete. How superfluous does MLB seem every time a team catches fire on the last month and wins the World Series with hot pitching and a soon to be over-rated hitter (Hello Marco Scuttaro). What is there to possibly learn from the NBA when Greg Popovich sits his entire team in nationally televised games, and Lebron James cruise controls so thoroughly through home games against the Bobcats that he’s forced to pedal his bicycle home to achieve any real exercise–Though, to be fair to Lebron, it takes more effort to bike home than it takes to beat Byron Mullens to the rim. When forced through the most common test–The Human Eye Test—The NFL season simply has no competition. With only 16 games there’s no “cruise control”. With only 16 games there is no “sitting starters”.The New York Giants are talented and inconsistent, we saw it with blowouts over Green Bay, and home losses to the Cowboys. The Pittsburgh Steelers finally got too old. There is no guess work here because the NFL is too violent to leave room for such things. There is a scientific precision that exists inside of such mindless violence, a sort of brilliance from the beast. It’s the great dichotomy of the NFL: with only 16 games we know exactly what teams are when the playoffs come around. So with such knowledge in hand, the plan here is to predict the winners and spreads of Wild Card Weekend based on the facts we already know.
The Indianapolis Colts v The Balitmore Ravens
Fact: The Colts faced the league’s easiest schedule
Fact: The Colts did not have a road win v. a winning team all season.
Fact: The Colts 5 losses came by an average of 16.5 points.
Fact: The Colts DVOA says they’re not only the worst 11 win team in 20 years, they’re also the worst 10 win team in 20 years.
Fact: Andrew Luck led the league on third and long conversions
Fact: T.Y Hilton ranks as the #1 rookie Wideout and it isn’t very close.
Fact: Andrew Luck is really, really good in the 4th quarter. Top 5 QBR in the 4th Quarter.
Fact: The Ravens have the NFL’s best special teams.
Fact: The Ravens are no longer an elite defense.
Fact: The Ravens are in fact in the bottom half of the league in Yards and Points allowed.
Fact: The Ravens defense has been better since Ray Lewis’ injury.
Fact: Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis coming back isn’t nearly as valuable as Ladarius Webb still being injured.
Despite everything I’ve said about facts, this game and the Colts entire season is based around one thing: ChuckStrong. It’s circumstantial in most places, but the NFL is one of the few places where emotional turbulence can factor into statistical relevance. With players being so equally talented, something as emotionally hefty as your cancer beating coach returning to the sidelines can be all the difference. Believe in Chuckstrong.
Colts +7. Colts 31, Ravens 24.
The Houston Texans v. The Cincinnati Bengals
Fact: Arian Foster had five 100 yard games in his first 9 games.
Fact: Arian Foster had two 100 yard games in his last 7 games.
Fact: Arian Foster had 617 receiving yards in 2011
Fact: Arian Foster had 217 receiving yards in 2012
Fact: In the 4 losses for the 2012 Texans, Arian Foster averaged 46 yards per game.
Fact: Matt Schaub completed 58% of 3rd down plays against the blitz
Fact: Matt Schaub completed 34% of 3rd down plays against 4 pass rushers.
Fact: Matt Schaub makes absolutely no sense statistically.
Fact: The Texans have the worst Special Teams in the NFL.
Fact: The Houston Texans use play action more than all but six teams in the NFL.
Fact: The Bengals give up the most yards per play action in the NFL
Fact: Geno Atkins and J.J Watt are both having MVP Seasons from positions that don’t win MVP Awards.
Fact: The Cincinnati Bengals have the 2nd best wide receiver in the NFL
Fact: The Cincinnati Bengals have one of the league’s bottom 10 receiving corps.
Fact: The Houston Texans allowed the fewest yards to #1 receivers.
Fact: Johnthan Joseph is the best deep ball cornerback in the NFL.
Everyone is lining up behind Cincinnati this week because they’re coming in hot and the Texans are having an historically bad falling off. But if you look at the Bengals “hot streak” you’ll notice a major flaw: They’re beating the league’s worst teams. It started with a win over the New York Giants that has now lost a significant value. They proceeded to stomp the AFC West and Eagles(like everyone else), and finished it off with wins over the AFC’s New York Giants(The Steelers) and barely beat a Ravens team playing its backups. Don’t forget that this is the same team who lost to the Dolphins, Steelers, and Cowboys at home. In the matchup of “Team Beating Bad Teams” v. “Winning Team Getting Complacent” I’ll take the latter.
Texans -4.5. Houston 23, Bengals 10.
The Minnesota Vikings v. The Green Bay Packers
Fact: Adrian Peterson is having the greatest season in the history of running backs. The word greatest is naturally subjective, but the stats remove it rather quickly.
Fact: Adrian Peterson averaged 6 yards a carry. No importance just a hilarious fact.
Fact: Adrian Peterson is not a human being. He may be a robot, an X-Men, or an Alien but a human being he is not.
Fact: The Minnesota Vikings beat the Green Bay Packers last week.
Fact: Charles Woodson, Randall Cobb, and to an extent Jordy Nelson did not play in that game.
Fact: The Green Bay Packers have the best wide receiving corps since the 2005 Indinapolis Colts.
Fact: The Minnesota Vikings have the league’s worst rated secondary.
Fact: The Minnesota Vikings #1 Corner, Antoine Winfield, will be wearing a cast.
Fact: The Green Bay Packers give up the most yards to #1 wide receivers
Fact: The Minnesota Vikings #1 receiver, Percy Harvin, is out for the season.
Fact: The Minnesota Vikings have one of the league’s five worst receiving units
Fact: Christian Ponder did not complete a pass longer than 15 yards from Weeks 9 through Weeks 15.
Fact: Christian Ponder is the starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings
Fact: Christian Ponder is a starting quarterback for an NFL franchise in the playoffs. I’m not kidding.
Fact: No, seriously, he didn’t complete a pass over 15 yards for 6 weeks.
Fact: That stat is more impressive than Adrian Peterson’s yard per carry stat. It’s historically atrocious.
Fact: Aaron Rodgers yards per pass decreases with the number of pass rushers sent at him.
Fact: The Minnesota Vikings blitz less than 28 other NFL teams.
Adrian Peterson has turned a 3 win team into a 10 win team. A W.A.R of 7 is great for a baseball player; a W.A.R of 7 for an NFL player is one of the great feats in NFL history. But the sad fact here is that the Green Bay Packers are a vastly more talented team. Peterson has ran for 200 yards in both games against the Packers and both games were still dominated by the Packers. This is the NFL in 2013, a passing league at its core, and comparing Aaron Rodgers to Christian Ponder is like akin to the hotness of women at 3 A.M with alcohol in your system inside a dark room, and women at 3 A.M completely sober in the light. It’s just not very fair.
Packers -8. Packers 34, Vikings 17.
The Washington Redskins v. The Seattle Seahawks
Fact: Russel Wilson had a statistically superior season to RGIII and Andrew Luck.
Fact: Russel Wilson has no chance of winning Rookie of the Year.
Fact: The 2012 Seattle Seahawks rank as one of the most balanced teams in 20 years.
Fact: The Seattle Seahawks have a Top 5 Offense, Top 5 Defense, and Top 3 Special Teams.
Fact: Of the 5 losses the Seahawks had, 3 of them came on the road in division games.
Fact: The Seahawks lost by an average of 5 points a game.
Fact: The Seahawks never lost a game by more than one touchdown.
Fact: The Seahawks scored 50 points twice and also scored the most points on the San Fransisco Defense.
Fact: The Seattle Seahawks rank in the Top 5 of the following categories: Rushing Efficiency, Passing Efficiency, 1st 2nd and 3rd down yards per play, red zone scoring, red zone defense.
Fact: The Seahawks are the worst team in the league when facing a blitzing corner.
Fact: The Redskins blitz a corner more than any team in the NFL.
Fact: The Seahawks rank 21st in rushing yards to opposing quarterbacks.
Fact: The Redskins have Robert Griffin the Third.
Fact: Robert Griffin the Third>RGIII
Fact:The Seattle Seahawks have the league’s best cornerbacks.
Fact: The Redskins are the #1 team against the blitz.
Fact: The Seattle Seahawks rank 25th in blitz attempts.
As I said before, Seattle doesn’t just rank high in team efficiency, they’re historically great. As FootballOutsiders points out, only twice before has a team as good as Seattle not won its division and had to go on the road: The 2009 Ravens and the 2008 Eagles. Both teams won by double digits. I expect a similar score line here because my Seahawks to the Super Bowl campaign is heating up.
Seattle 27, Redskins 14
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