Saturday, February 6, 2016

NFL Pick, Super Bowl

My boss asked me if I was watching the Super Bowl. At first I looked at him sideways, but he followed up by mentioning that his heart isn't in it as he has no one to root for. As a diehard Pats fan, he's not going to pull for Peyton Manning and as a man of a certain age (my take), he's not going to cheer for Cam Newton. That leaves him without much interest.

My response was that we're about to be without football for 7 months, why wouldn't you watch?

I'll admit, 2 weeks ago when this matchup was set, I was sure Carolina was going to take this game, and it wouldn't be a one-story affair.

As I've read more and more on this matchup, I think my initial take was being unfair to the Denver defense. They may not be #1 in points allowed for the 2015 season, but I'd agree that they were the best defense of 2015. There is absolutely a formula Denver can follow to win this game: if you watched the AFC Championship Game, you've seen it: Get points early and let the defense protect that lead the rest of the way.

The issue here is, Carolina has made strong starts the rule in this postseason, and they've done so against very strong defenses. In a way, the Panthers remind me of the LeBron Cleveland Cavaliers pre-LeBron in Miami edition. Those Cavs teams were talented, and they were very interested in showing how much fun they were having playing the game. And they were front-runners. They would feed off of the emotion of strong starts to carry themselves to terrific regular season performances. Then in the playoffs, someone would hit them in the mouth and they wouldn't know what to do. Their resolve cracked when breaks didn't go their way.

So if Denver can stop them early, and if Peyton Manning can score 10-14 points on his first 2-3 drives, there's a chance it could all come apart for the Panthers. I just don't see it happening. And if Denver doesn't get a 2 - score lead by the end of the first quarter, they won't be able to hold off the Panthers attack all game long. Newton is too much of a run/pass threat to bottle him up all game long.

Essnetially, the 1st quarter will decide this game. If Denver is up 7+ points after one quarter, they have a chance. If not, they won't score enough points to win the game. Peyton Manning will not get better as the game goes on.

In the end, Denver's offense just won't score enough against the Panthers defense, and Cam Newton will take home his first title.

The pick: Panthers 26, Broncos 16 (Carolina -5)
Under 44.5
MVP: Cam Newton

Friday, January 15, 2016

Divisional Round NFL Picks, Sunday Games

Seattle at CAROLINA (-2.5)



Team
Seattle
Carolina
Record
10-6
6th
15-1
1st

Reg. Season
Rank
Reg. Season
Rank
Efficiency Statistics
Total
26.66
1
19.81
3
Rush YPC
4.5
7
4.3
9
Def YPC
3.6
4
3.9
7
Pass YPA
8.3
2
7.7
8
Def YPA
6.1
5
5.8
2
Total
3.1
1
2.3
3
Takeaways
23
16
39
1
Giveaways
16
3
19
8
Big Plays For
93
3
95
2
Big Plays Vs
51
1
61
4
Differential
49
2
54
1
Points Scored
2.43
3
2.53
2
Points Allowed
1.59
6
1.57
3
Differential
0.84
3
0.96
1
3rd Down/ Red Zone
3rd Down For
46.50%
4
42.40%
7
3rd Down Against
34.40%
4
37.90%
14
3D Differential
12.10%
1
4.50%
8
Red Zone For
55.10%
16
68.25%
2
Red Zone Against
42.11%
3
52.50%
10
DVOA
Offense
18.50%
2
9.90%
8
Defense
-15.20%
4
-18.40%
2
Special Teams
4.20%
3
-2.40%
23
Total
38.00%
1
25.90%
4
Weighted Total
51.10%
1
30.80%
3

I believe this will be the best game of the weekend. These two teams are pretty good mirrors of each other. Strong defense, strong running game, strong commitment to the running game, and a mobile quarterback who frustrates defenses with his ability to move around and keep plays alive. The thing is, I believe Seattle does most of these things just a little bit better than the Panthers do.

The Seahawks' rush defense has better numbers than the Panthers. The Panthers pass defense numbers are better, but their pass numbers are trending down (283 yards per game over the last month) while Seattle's are trending up (142.3 yards per game over the last month). The Panthers feast on takeaways, but Seattle was 3rd in the league at taking care of the football. 

Seattle's rushing numbers are better than Carolina's, and that's with pre-season cast-off Christine Michael toting the tock for the last month. Granted, Carolina has been without Jonathan Stewart for a few weeks as well.

And if we're choosing quarterbacks, I'm going to take Wilson over the (rightful) MVP. Cam has had a great year, and he has made great strides in his ability, but Wilson has been on fire until Mother Nature (literally) iced him down last weekend in Minnesota. If both defenses can contain the opposing quarterback in the pocket, are you really going to buy Cam Newton outplaying Russell Wilson?

Finally, these two teams have played 5 times in the last 4 seasons. The results?
2012: Seattle 16, CAROLINA 12
2013: Seattle 12, CAROLINA 7
2014: Seattle 13, CAROLINA 9
2014 (playoffs): SEATTLE 31, Carolina 17
2015: Carolina 27, SEATTLE 23

The fan in me feels very nervous at how confident I feel going into this game. It won't be an easy game, but I trust Seattle to make a couple more plays in the end.

The pick: Seahawks 27, Panthers 24 (Seattle +2.5)


Pittsburgh at DENVER (-7)


Team
Pittsburgh
Denver
Record
10-6
6th
12-4
1st

Reg. Season
Rank
Reg. Season
Rank
Efficiency Statistics
Total
7.38
10
6.09
11
Rush YPC
4.4
8
4.2
13
Def YPC
3.8
6
3.3
1
Pass YPA
8.2
3
7.0
22
Def YPA
7.0
18
5.6
1
Total
1.8
7
2.3
4
Takeaways
30
4
27
9
Giveaways
28
22
31
29
Big Plays For
90
6
73
22
Big Plays Vs
71
7
59
3
Differential
21
7
10
11
Points Scored
2.23
9
1.78
23
Points Allowed
1.69
11
1.47
1
Differential
0.54
7
0.31
10
3rd Down/ Red Zone
3rd Down For
38.90%
17
35.30%
25
3rd Down Against
40.00%
21
35.20%
7
3D Differential
-1.10%
18
0.10%
17
Red Zone For
60.71%
10
47.73%
28
Red Zone Against
49.12%
6
59.46%
20
DVOA
Offense
17.30%
3
-8.80%
25
Defense
-3.80%
11
-25.80%
1
Special Teams
0.10%
18
0.70%
14
Total
21.30%
7
17.70%
8
Weighted Total
26.80%
4
16.30%
6

Much like the other AFC game this weekend, it essentially boils down to health. A healthy Pittsburgh is a nightmare matchup for the Broncos, because that offense will score and force Manning to throw to keep pace. The Broncos do not want Manning to throw a lot, his arm is at best on heavily borrowed time if not outright shot.

But this isn't a healthy Steelers offense. Their top 2 running backs are out (DeAngelo Williams isn't playing again), Antonio Brown has been ruled out due to his concussion from Vontaze Burfict's illegal, stupid, and dirty hit, and Roethlisberger is nowhere close to 100% with his shoulder thanks to Burfict's legal and clean hit. It seems clear that Roethlisberger's throwing range will be constricted, we won't know just how much until the game starts. But this Broncos defense is too good to allow a limping offense with a hobbled quarterback to come in and put up points.

This has the feel of a game where the Broncos are in control, but they can't pull away, mostly because I don't trust the Broncos to have much of a running game (Pittsburgh is just outside a top-5 rush defense).

The pick: Broncos 23, Steelers 13 (DENVER -7)

Last week: 3-1 (.750)

2014 Postseason: 6-5 (.545) / Miles' 2014 Postseason: 6-5 (.545)
2013 Postseason: 4-5-2 (.455) / Miles' 2013 Postseason: 6-3-2 (.636)
2012 Postseason: 6-4-1 (.591)
2011 Postseason: 6-5 (.545)

2015 Season: 125-124-7 (.502)
2015 Midweek Picks: 10-7-1 (.583)