Friday, January 31, 2014

NFL Picks, Super Bowl Edition

Seattle Seahawks vs Denver Broncos (-2.5)

Get ready, this is going to be quite a ride. Luckily, that ride won't take us through Atlanta, so we should be able to avoid having to hole up in a Publix, Home Depot, or a school just to make it through the night.

Everyone is salivating over the matchup of Denver's offense and Seattle's defense. And it's the easy narrative: it's the top offense versus the top defense. But the Super Bowl won't be won or lost here.

Why do I say this? As good as Seattle's defense is, they aren't holding Peyton Manning with those weapons to under 20 points. Seattle will give up yards, that's a given. The question is what happens when the Broncos get in the red zone? It's unrealistic to believe the best red zone offense in the league will be held to field goals, but it's also unrealstic to think that the best red zone defense in the league will suddenly hemorrhage touchdowns. I feel pretty confident that Denver will score 20-27 points. I don't see them scoring more, and I don't see them scoring less.

No, it's the other matchup in this game that will determine who hoists the Lombardi trophy; the matchup between the Denver defense and Seattle's offense.

The narrative says that Seattle's offense is stumbling to the finish line. As with most narratives, there is some truth in there, but not as much as you'd think. Yes, Seattle's offense has struggled since week 13. But that came against a stretch of defenses who are all better than the Broncos.

The counter-argument? Look what the Broncos' defense has done this postseason. They shut out the Chargers for 3 quarters and then held the Patriots at bay for most of that game too. If you look closer, again, it's not that simple.

The Broncos defense that stopped the Chargers had Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Chris Harris at cornerback. Harris went down with a torn ACL in this game, and after that happened, San Diego started pouring on the points, as Chargers wideout Keenan Allen started abusing his replacement. In fact, had Peyton Manning not run the final few minutes off the clock, we very well could have seen a repeat of last year's overtime heartbreak for the Broncos.

The Patriots offense that Denver's defense locked down featured Austin Collie as the 2nd option in Tom Brady's passing "attack". Yes, that Austin Collie. No, I don't know how he got clearance to play again after all of his concussions. The important point is, that offense was down to one reliable option in the passing game: Julian Edelman.

Seattle presents a significantly better stable of receivers than the Patriots had 2 weeks ago, and they present a more balanced offense than the Chargers from 3 weeks ago, thanks to the Ryan Mathews injury.

So can the Seahawks offense score 24-30 points? Well, they scored 23 against both the Saints and the 49ers in these playoffs, two much stronger defenses than what Denver has. Again, it comes down to red zone efficiency.

Let's close with 5 facts about this Super Bowl.

1. Seattle had the #8 offense in 2013 by points-per-game, and the #7 offense by DVOA (see here). I know the narrative is Denver's top-ranked (and historic) offense against Seattle's #1 ranked (and historic) defense, but Seattles offense is no slouch.
2.  Denver's defense was mediocre in 2013 (22nd in points-per-game and 15th by DVOA).Seattle's last four games came against the following defenses: Arizona (7th PPG, 2nd DVOA), St. Louis (13th PPG, 12th DVOA), New Orleans (4th PPG, 10th DVOA), and San Francisco (3rd PPG, 13th DVOA). All of those defenses are better than Denver's unit.
3. Seattle hasn't lost by more than 7 points in 44 games. Or, to put it another way, they haven't lost by 7+ since November 6, 2011.
4. Health favors the Seahawks. Their offensive line is as healthy as it's been since the start of the season, and Percy Harvin (kind of a big deal) will play with no restrictions. Denver, in contrast, is missing their best pass rusher (Von Miller), a starting cornerback (Chris Harris), a starting DT (Kevin Vickerson) among others.
5. I opened the 2013 NFL Season picking Denver to beat New England in the AFC Championship Game, and Seattle to beat San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game. I then picked Seattle to beat Denver in the Super Bowl. After the 266 games between my predictions and the big game, I have seen nothing to change my mind.

The pick: Seattle 34 - Denver 23 (Seahawks cover)
O/U (48): Over
MVP: Russell Wilson

My almost 3-year-old son's pick: Seattle Seahawks.
He surprised me. I was sure he was going to go with the Broncos. 

Last round: 0-2 (D'oh!)
2013 Postseason: 3-5-2 (.350)
Miles (my almost-3-year-old son) last week: 1-1 (.500)
Miles' 2013 Postseason: 5-3-2 (.550)

2012 Postseason: 6-4-1
2011 Postseason: 6-5

2013 season: 115-134-7 (.463)
2013 Midweek Picks: 7-9-1

No comments:

Post a Comment