Meadow Muffins of the Mind

The droppings of some guy's imagination.

Tag: Green Bay

2011 NFL Power Rankings #5

Well, we are down to a single unbeaten – and so we get a change at the top yet again.  The 49ers, the team that precipitated the change with the win over previous #1 Detroit – was justly rewarded by the numbers.  What ARE those numbers??

Rank Team W L RPI Margin PairWins
1 Packers 6 0 0.749 (1) 15.908 (3) 31
2 Patriots 5 1 0.73 (2) 14.604 (4) 30
3 49ers 5 1 0.698 (3) 16.892 (2) 29
4 Ravens 4 1 0.672 (5) 19.948 (1) 27
5 Lions 5 1 0.684 (4) 13.219 (5) 27
6 Bills 4 2 0.65 (7) 12.392 (6) 26
7 Raiders 4 2 0.613 (9) 7.546 (12) 24
8 Titans 3 2 0.581 (11) 6.368 (14) 22
9 Steelers 4 2 0.589 (10) 6.873 (13) 22
10 Saints 4 2 0.64 (8) 9.808 (8) 22
11 Cowboys 2 3 0.535 (15) 10.88 (7) 20
12 Bengals 4 2 0.57 (13) 6.108 (15) 18
13 Bucs 4 2 0.576 (12) 0.067 (22) 17
14 Jets 3 3 0.514 (16) 7.715 (11) 16
15 Texans 3 3 0.492 (18) 8.448 (10) 16
16 Redskins 3 2 0.491 (19) 1.69 (18) 15
17 Bears 3 3 0.472 (21) 9.55 (9) 15
18 Falcons 3 3 0.508 (17) 2.025 (17) 14
19 Chargers 4 1 0.653 (6) 0.253 (21) 11
20 Giants 4 2 0.555 (14) 1.675 (19) 11
21 Seahawks 2 3 0.476 (20) -0.335 (23) 11
22 Eagles 2 4 0.47 (22) 5.008 (16) 10
23 Broncos 1 4 0.361 (25) 1.23 (20) 9
24 Vikings 1 5 0.304 (26) -2.369 (25) 6
25 Jaguars 1 5 0.292 (27) -5.371 (27) 5
26 Panthers 1 5 0.288 (28) -1.1 (24) 4
27 Browns 2 3 0.392 (24) -5.44 (28) 3
28 Chiefs 2 3 0.461 (23) -9.785 (31) 3
29 Cardinals 1 4 0.268 (29) -3.945 (26) 3
30 Dolphins 0 5 0.243 (31) -5.81 (29) 1
31 Rams 0 5 0.262 (30) -9.498 (30) 1
32 Colts 0 6 0.225 (32) -10.348 (32) 0

A few items to note:

  • The most obvious quirk is the muddle in the NFC East.  How are the first place Giants at 4-2, only 20th and only the 3rd highest rated team in the division?  Well, the Giants have a >.500 RPI (schedule adjusted winning percentage basically) but their strength of schedule is 29th in the league.  The Cowboys have a better adjusted scoring margin (basically they have done better margin wise than their opponents typically allow) and have played the #1 schedule in the league.  The Redskins gap is explained mostly by the head-to-head, and that the Redskins have played more good teams than the Giants have (but not by a huge margin).  It is hard to get that worked up about shuffling the teams around.
  • Packers are the obvious top ranked team.  The 31 pairwins shows that they outflank every team in the five ratings criteria, and with the #1 RPI and #3 scoring margin – even considering their pedestrian schedule (17th so far) their resume is clearly the tops.

2011 NFL Power Rankings #3

Another week, another number one bites the dust.  Of course, as the underlying quality of the teams gets revealed, some of the movement in the rankings is explained there.  Also – now with 4 games down, the “good team” criteria kicks in.  So if a team has at least played 1/3 of their schedule (1 game so far) against > .500 RPI teams, the games count in that comparison criteria.  Anyway, at number one is probably the people’s number one:

Rank Team W L RPI Margin PairWins
1 Packers 4 0 0.802 (1) 19.875 (2) 31
2 Lions 4 0 0.776 (2) 15.104 (5) 30
3 Patriots 3 1 0.696 (5) 17.979 (3) 27
4 Bills 3 1 0.698 (4) 13.521 (6) 27
5 Saints 3 1 0.724 (3) 17.208 (4) 27
6 Titans 3 1 0.651 (6) 12.063 (8) 26
7 Ravens 3 1 0.651 (6) 21.292 (1) 26
8 Texans 3 1 0.63 (9) 12.375 (7) 23
9 Cowboys 2 2 0.573 (13) 12 (9) 23
10 49ers 3 1 0.599 (11) 8.083 (10) 21
11 Redskins 3 1 0.641 (8) 6.833 (13) 20
12 Raiders 2 2 0.542 (15) 7.938 (11) 19
13 Jets 2 2 0.526 (17) 6.938 (12) 18
14 Bucs 3 1 0.554 (14) 3.917 (18) 18
15 Giants 3 1 0.618 (10) 6.625 (15) 17
16 Bengals 2 2 0.516 (19) 6.563 (16) 16
17 Bears 2 2 0.49 (20) 6.792 (14) 16
18 Steelers 2 2 0.526 (17) 4.188 (17) 12
19 Broncos 1 3 0.401 (22) 1.917 (20) 12
20 Chargers 3 1 0.583 (12) -1.229 (23) 9
21 Falcons 2 2 0.536 (16) -2.75 (26) 8
22 Jaguars 1 3 0.354 (25) -6.292 (27) 7
23 Eagles 1 3 0.354 (24) 1.042 (21) 6
24 Browns 2 2 0.406 (21) -6.333 (28) 5
25 Panthers 1 3 0.333 (26) 0.042 (22) 5
26 Cardinals 1 3 0.297 (28) 3.208 (19) 5
27 Seahawks 1 3 0.302 (27) -8.167 (29) 3
28 Dolphins 0 4 0.234 (30) -2.208 (24) 2
29 Vikings 0 4 0.255 (29) -2.396 (25) 2
30 Chiefs 1 3 0.359 (23) -12.063 (32) 1
31 Colts 0 4 0.214 (32) -9.208 (30) 0
32 Rams 0 4 0.229 (31) -10.354 (31) 0

Notes?

  • Detroit leaps to #2 both by staying unbeaten and beating a team who has been well regarded so far.  Dallas, #9 on this list, is only 2-2, but has played four good opponents.  They are just a bit behind Green Bay, though I think it is fair to say GB passes the eye test as well as the numerical one.
  • Baltimore, with the best adjusted scoring margin in the league, seems to have the most upside of any team on the list.  They have shown a propensity to score, though the Sunday game against the Jets was a different deal with all those returns and whatnot.
  • It is impossible to write this without mentioning the Eagles, suddenly 1-3 and 2 games off the pace in the NFC East.  Given the crazy level of turnover they underwent, it stands to reason that they will be a better team in Week 10 than now.  However, the team has to put some games away, or it might be too late.  This is not the NBA or baseball, where you have 50 games to iron things out.

2010 NFL Power Rankings – Final

Well, one week of the playoffs is already in the can … that said, for posterity’s sake, here are the final numbers:

Rank Team W L T Margin Sched Rtg SOS Rank Last Wk
1 Patriots 14 2 0 17.09 3.481 2 1
2 Packers 10 6 0 13.324 2.745 6 3
3 Steelers 12 4 0 12.965 2.653 9 4
4 Falcons 13 3 0 10.79 1.353 22 5
5 Chargers 9 7 0 9.833 0.833 24 2
6 Ravens 12 4 0 8.99 1.803 16 7
7 Jets 11 5 0 8.251 2.329 11 8
8 Eagles 10 6 0 7.571 2.164 12 6
9 Saints 11 5 0 6.634 0.29 28 9
10 Colts 10 6 0 6.559 1.872 14 10
11 Bears 11 5 0 6.182 1.666 20 13
12 Raiders 8 8 0 4.792 1.495 21 15
13 Giants 10 6 0 4.647 0.475 25 11
14 Titans 6 10 0 4.588 1.854 15 12
15 Lions 6 10 0 3.851 2.851 5 16
16 Chiefs 10 6 0 3.771 -0.479 30 14
17 Bucs 10 6 0 3.59 0.403 27 21
18 Texans 6 10 0 1.895 2.458 10 19
19 Dolphins 7 9 0 1.302 3.302 3 17
20 Cowboys 6 10 0 1.125 1.797 17 20
21 Browns 5 11 0 0.733 2.671 7 18
22 Bengals 4 12 0 0.317 3.755 1 27
23 Vikings 6 10 0 0.218 2.656 8 24
24 49ers 6 10 0 -0.447 0.459 26 28
25 Redskins 6 10 0 -0.87 1.974 13 26
26 Rams 7 9 0 -1.355 -0.871 31 25
27 Jaguars 8 8 0 -1.423 0.952 23 22
28 Bills 4 12 0 -3.284 3.231 4 23
29 Seahawks 7 9 0 -3.974 0.151 29 29
30 Broncos 4 12 0 -4.008 1.773 18 30
31 Cardinals 5 11 0 -8.242 -0.945 32 31
32 Panthers 2 14 0 -9.675 1.732 19 32

If we used the raw numbers from this thing for the wild card round, we would have had (without adjusting for home field):

Saints by 10.6 over the Seahawks, Jets by 1.8 over the Colts, Ravens by 5.2 over the Chiefs, Packers by 5.7 over the Eagles.  Pat on the back for me, even if my picks did not make the mark!

For the record, incorporating the Week 18 results, the raw numbers for this weekends matchups (the delta in “margin”):

Steelers by 2.8 over the Ravens, Packers by 2.6 over the Falcons, Patriots by 8.7 over the Jets, Bears by 9.3 over the Seahawks … picks to come later in the week

 

2010 NFL Playoffs: Wild Card Round

Wow, it HAS been a while, hasn’t it? Anyhoo, Happy New Year to this teeny tiny following here, and I hope that your holidays have been good. Writing from India, obviously great blogging time has been intermittent. (Thus the dearth of power rankings) Of course, there will be posts covering that adventure forthcoming.

However, there is the business at hand, the wild card round and the four matches. With time a wastin before my flight tonight, time to get some wrong picks out there. This way if I am wrong, I have to be accountable – I did not attend Tom Coughlin’s school of blame shifting.

New Orleans Saints (-10.5) at Seattle Seahawks: It is hard for this to not offend my sensibility. The Seahawks of Pete Carroll, by virtue of their location in the truly execrable NFC West, rode a 7-9 record to a home game against the Saints. The Saints are considerable still, though lacking the creds of last year, in particular a decimated running back corps. The defense has been less turnover strong than a year ago. But come on! Even with home field, the Seabags were one of the league’s worst most of the season, and they were debating QBs for the game. The only question is if the Saints cover. Saints 34, Seahawks 17

New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts (-2.5): Rematch of last year’s AFC title game. The Jets are better, the Colts are worse. Now, the Jets have issues running consistently, while Mark Sanchez is beat up at quarterback. The defense is strong though. However the blitz heavy defense is made to order for Peyton Manning if his line can block. And they’ll have to with their injuries at skill positions and their near total inability to run. Peyton can make any prognosticator look bad, but the Jets have to be smarter in their defense this season, especially with a stronger cornerback tandem. Few points but Jets 20, Colts 14

Green Bay Packers at Philadelphia Eagles (-2.5): Rematch of week 1, but this might as well not be. That Eagle team thought Kevin Kolb would be starting. Instead we have the force of nature that is Mike Vick back in the playoffs for the first time in 6 seasons. The Eagles are the most dynamic offense in the league with unmatched big play ability from both passing and running avenues. The Packers have a big play defense and their own force of nature in Aaron Rodgers quarterbacking, but a line that gives him little help, and a total inability to run the football. The Eagles defense makes plays but gives points up, while their return and kicking game require no explanation. Anyway, this is clearly the best game of the weekend. The Eagles do just enough. Eagles 31, Packers 28

Baltimore Ravens (-3) at Kansas City Chiefs: The playoffs are back in Kansas City, which is neat. And this team is in line with what the 90s Martyball teams would love – running hard, passing smart, strong defense. Baltimore clearly is an elite team, especially when they keep the offense focused around Ray Rice like they did in their win over the Saints in Week 15. The defense gets the ink, but they have given up big ground games to opponents much of the year. In a lot of ways this is an offense driven Raven team between Flacco, Rice and their depth at receiver. Baltimore scares me as a Patriots fan but they have to advance first, and the Chiefs might be the wrong matchup. This is no fun without calling a surprise. Chiefs 23, Ravens 20

NFL Power Rankings – Week 13

With the schedule getting harder and the results getting bigger, it’s time for some blatant homerism … as always, this is a combination of scoring margin and opponents scoring margin.

Rank Team W L T Margin Sched Rtg SOS Rank Last Wk
1 Patriots 11 2 0 15.224 3.455 3 1
2 Steelers 10 3 0 12.302 3.513 2 3
3 Packers 8 5 0 11.766 1.401 23 2
4 Falcons 11 2 0 10.898 2.167 13 4
5 Chargers 7 6 0 10.693 1.539 20 6
6 Eagles 9 4 0 9.031 2.339 12 5
7 Ravens 9 4 0 8.652 1.767 18 7
8 Saints 10 3 0 6.786 -1.484 32 12
9 Giants 9 4 0 6.529 -0.528 29 10
10 Jets 9 4 0 6.426 2.022 14 8
11 Colts 7 6 0 5.951 1.836 16 11
12 Titans 5 8 0 5.491 1.971 15 13
13 Bears 9 4 0 4.108 0.8 24 9
14 Dolphins 7 6 0 3.866 3.443 4 16
15 Chiefs 8 5 0 3.294 -0.668 30 14
16 Browns 5 8 0 3.03 2.454 11 15
17 Lions 3 10 0 3.015 3.63 1 18
18 Raiders 6 7 0 2.802 1.476 21 17
19 Texans 5 8 0 1.944 3.329 5 19
20 Cowboys 4 9 0 1.595 3.191 7 21
21 Bucs 8 5 0 1.38 0.034 27 22
22 Vikings 5 8 0 0.988 2.757 9 20
23 Jaguars 8 5 0 0.63 1.784 17 23
24 49ers 5 8 0 -0.834 0.397 25 28
25 Rams 6 7 0 -0.843 -1.208 31 25
26 Bills 3 10 0 -1.264 2.87 8 27
27 Redskins 5 8 0 -1.328 2.479 10 24
28 Bengals 2 11 0 -2.023 3.246 6 29
29 Seahawks 6 7 0 -3.538 -0.422 28 30
30 Broncos 3 10 0 -4.292 1.554 19 26
31 Cardinals 4 9 0 -6.347 0.326 26 31
32 Panthers 1 12 0 -10.205 1.448 22 32

Some observations?

  • Talk about running a gauntlet.  The Patriots, since the debacle against Cleveland have beaten the Colts, Steelers, Bears, Jets and the better than their record Lions.  This has firmly established them as #1, and perhaps by a margin that will hold the rest of the way.  I don’t think they are the favorites, but hey – makes as much sense as any other I suppose.
  • The Packers remain in the top 3 – although with Aaron Rodgers going out – their prognosis does not look good – well whatever prognosis Matt Flynn portends.

NFL Power Rankings – Week 11

Three teams share the lead with an 8-2 record.  None of them are #1.  As always, a combination of scoring margin and opponents’ scoring margin:

Rank Team W L T Margin Sched Rtg SOS Rank Last Wk
1 Packers 7 3 0 13.456 1.781 15 2
2 Steelers 7 3 0 13.025 4.5 2 4
3 Eagles 7 3 0 10.894 3.694 5 5
4 Falcons 8 2 0 10.161 2.311 12 7
5 Titans 5 5 0 9.703 2.178 13 1
6 Patriots 8 2 0 9.581 3.256 8 6
7 Jets 8 2 0 9.542 1.692 17 3
8 Ravens 7 3 0 8.592 0.992 19 10
9 Chargers 5 5 0 8.331 0.431 26 9
10 Colts 6 4 0 8.067 0.767 23 8
11 Saints 7 3 0 5.429 -2.121 32 15
12 Giants 6 4 0 5.406 0.831 21 11
13 Browns 3 7 0 5.061 4.711 1 14
14 Bears 7 3 0 5.033 -0.867 28 18
15 Chiefs 6 4 0 4.469 -0.881 29 16
16 Lions 2 8 0 3.844 2.544 11 12
17 Dolphins 5 5 0 2.467 4.317 3 17
18 Raiders 5 5 0 2.453 0.628 24 13
19 Redskins 5 5 0 1.583 3.983 4 23
20 Texans 4 6 0 0.665 3.215 9 24
21 Bucs 7 3 0 0.056 -1.994 31 28
22 Cowboys 3 7 0 0.04 2.165 14 27
23 Vikings 3 7 0 -0.111 3.539 6 19
24 Bills 2 8 0 -0.403 3.322 7 30
25 Broncos 3 7 0 -1.55 3.05 10 21
26 Rams 4 6 0 -1.731 -1.356 30 22
27 Jaguars 6 4 0 -1.858 1.742 16 29
28 Bengals 2 8 0 -2.261 1.689 18 20
29 Seahawks 5 5 0 -2.67 -0.27 27 25
30 49ers 3 7 0 -3.961 0.539 25 26
31 Cardinals 3 7 0 -7.335 0.84 20 31
32 Panthers 1 9 0 -11.119 0.831 22 32

The simple takeaway from this week – the Saints are starting to round into form it seems. That and the Bucs 21-0 win over the 49ers – their best result of the year – did not go unnoticed by the model.

What is also interesting is that while the AFC continues to dominate the Top 10, the NFC is starting to rise to the top, with three of the four top rated teams being NFC entries.  In a year without a dominant outfit, it might very well be that the NFC has the best teams – but the AFC just has many many more good ones.  I mean even the bad AFC teams – like Buffalo, clearly are playing good football now, marked by their shocking comeback over the possibly dead Bengals.

NFL Power Rankings – Week 2

(unrelated note: two more mobile feasts added to the food truck page)

Well, if we can come up with a model to rank college football teams, might as well do the same with the NFL.  The nice thing with the NFL is 1) two games in the books for everyone so strength of schedule numbers are cleaner and 2) no neutral site games to worry about aside from the Halloween 49ers-Broncos game in London.  With 2 weeks of datapoints in the books, where do we shake down?

Rank Team W L T Margin Sched Rtg SOS Rank
1 Steelers 2 0 0 36.75 28 1
2 Falcons 1 1 0 23.75 9.5 7
3 Texans 2 0 0 23.25 15 2
4 Packers 2 0 0 19.5 0.75 20
5 Chiefs 2 0 0 19 12.75 3
6 Colts 1 1 0 18.5 9.75 6
7 Chargers 1 1 0 17 6.25 11
8 Jets 1 1 0 12.75 6.25 11
9 Titans 1 1 0 12.5 4 13
10 Eagles 1 1 0 12.5 12.75 3
11 Browns 0 2 0 11 11.75 5
12 Broncos 1 1 0 8.5 1.75 15
13 Bears 2 0 0 5 -2.75 22
14 Vikings 0 2 0 4.75 7.5 9
15 Bucs 2 0 0 4 -5.75 26
16 Patriots 1 1 0 3.75 2 14
17 Ravens 1 1 0 3.25 1.75 15
18 Redskins 1 1 0 3 1.5 18
19 Seahawks 1 1 0 2.5 -3.25 24
20 Jaguars 1 1 0 -0.5 6.75 10
21 Lions 0 2 0 -0.5 1.75 15
22 Cowboys 0 2 0 -3.75 1 19
23 Dolphins 2 0 0 -4.5 -12.5 30
24 Bills 0 2 0 -5.25 9 8
25 Bengals 1 1 0 -5.75 -3 23
26 Saints 2 0 0 -7 -12.75 31
27 Cardinals 1 1 0 -11.375 -0.5 21
28 Giants 1 1 0 -13.5 -9.75 29
29 Raiders 1 1 0 -15.75 -6 27
30 49ers 0 2 0 -16.5 -4.25 25
31 Panthers 0 2 0 -20 -8.75 28
32 Rams 0 2 0 -26.625 -25.375 32

A few thoughts:

  • The methodology is the same as for college football.  As such, the Steelers being at the top is not a surprise.  Two solid wins over teams that kicked the tar out of its other opponent.  The Rams being the worst is a mild surprise given how pathetic the Bills have actually played compared to the Rams decent results.  But the Rams have played a couple of lousy teams and have little to show for it.
  • The two 0-2 teams with positive rankings are the Vikings and Browns.  The Browns seem a bit unsustainable, only because I am not sure the results of Kansas City and Tampa in the future will buoy the Browns so.  The Vikings however did play two good teams New Orleans and Miami (who I sense might be punching above their 23rd rank weight).
  • The Packers schedule is light like the Dolphins I suppose, but the Packers have crushed it so far – the Dolphins have been very impressive defensively, but it is hard to keep winning 15-10 games.

Wild Card Weekend and The Divisionals

Full disclosure – I had a previous commitment which precluded me from watching the best (and perhaps, only good) one of the four wildcard matchups – the hellacious Arizona 51-45 win over Green Bay – aside from highlight form.  I expect it will be NFL Network’s game of the week – so some more complete thoughts are warranted then.  Obviously sounded like a great game – if not a great defensive performance until the end – and full marks to Arizona for stemming the tide when the Packers seemed to have turned things around.  As for the rest of it:

Jets 24, Bengals 14 – The Jets continued their physical, mauling defense and stifled the Bengals passing game.  Darrelle Revis is the best cover CB in the league obviously, and the Jets front seven is good enough to not make him defend more than he (or any defensive back) can.  But the offensive side of the ball was where the Jets triumphed.  The Jets have been ultra careful not to expose Sanchez – and they did a great job keeping him from being stuck in “pass when we have to pass” situations.  They remained unpredictable with their running game and used it to give Sanchez some easy throws which he made.  And hey he showed poise.

Cowboys 34, Eagles 14 – The Eagles are an outstanding football team.  They hung 45 up on the Giants very recently, they beat some good opponents, their offense is young and gifted in so many places.  The Cowboys just match up very well with them, especially in the trenches where so many games are won.  The Cowboys just flogged the Eagles up front and the rest took care of itself.  The way the Cowboys have played since shocking New Orleans a few weeks back, they are going to be a very tough out.

Ravens 33, Patriots 14 – A complete wipeout.  The Ravens and Patriots have been different teams all season – the Patriots have been so beaten up by injury and attrition, their lack of depth at receiver was exposed.  Their defense has been below average much of the season.  The Ravens suffered from a lot of bad luck and lot of close losses.  But their upside is so much greater than the Patriots and they played near the top of their form.  This was a physical beat down – and the shocking beginning upset any game plan the Patriots might have had.  Just a sad day in Mudville.  The Patriots Era is not over – not by any stretch – but Belichick (one of his poorer coaching seasons) has some work to do.

So now the iron enters the fray.  The Wild Card memories reek with the bias of recency – and we tend to forget that the reason the teams with byes got them was because they deserved them largely.  Does this mean we will see four servings to the firing squad?

Cardinals at Saints – The Cardinals defense got lit up by a very talented Green Bay team.  The Saints indoors might be even more gifted.  Kurt Warner has proven how good he is when is protected.  Facing a very aggressive Gregg Williams defense, the challenge will be to rob Warner of time.  Can it happen?  Sure – especially with Anquan Boldin hurt (though he might be available, who knows – either way not 100%).  The Saints ended the season on a 3 game losing streak, including a varsity-free Week 17.  However, the bye, being at home, and their ability to generate speed all bode well.  I admire the Cardinals toughness – this is a better team than the one that stumbled into the Super Bowl last season – but the Saints have too much firepower under the dome.  Saints 34, Cardinals 24

Ravens at Colts – This is not your father’s Colts team.  I am not sure how much I have seen them really light it up.  It is a testament to Peyton’s brilliance that they have not dropped off offensively.  That said, the Ravens defense is good – maybe not as good as they looked against the fossilized Patriots attack, but good.  The Colts though have had trouble exploding at times – though augmented by better defense than normal.  Their first meeting was a 17-15 tight game where the Ravens had 5 FGs, and against a good team you need more TDs.  Colts inside though should have a little better luck.  Colts 24 , Ravens 17

Cowboys at Vikings – Vikings stumbled down the stretch.  Cowboys are surging and riding a nasty physical defense and an explosive balanced offense.  The Vikings, aside from pasting a character-free Giants team, have shown vulnerability.  The size on the inside of their defensive front bodes well against the Cowboys, but the outside defense, I am less certain.  Also Favre has been good at serving up key turnovers against good teams.  There are so many pro Cowboys signs that I should veer the other way and pick a Vikings rout, but the Cowboys have looked so strong.  I will hate myself for this: Cowboys 27, Vikings 24

Jets at Chargers – The Jets defense and blitzing will cut into what the Chargers like doing – throwing the ball deep.  The Chargers will have to be patient, and might have to win a rock fight.  The Jets running game also plays well against a very suspect Chargers defensive front.  And as last week showed, Sanchez can make a play or two if the situations are handled smartly.  That said, the firepower for th Jets is limited with Braylon Edwards being more likely to drop a big play than make one.  The Chargers will struggle, but not enough.  Chargers 20, Jets 10

Happy New Year – NFL Playoffs are Back

With 17 weeks in the book, it is time to offer some thoughts on each of the Wild Card matchups, going in chronological order:

However first of all, some comment on the Wes Welker injury.  It happens – first quarter, guy makes a cut, untouched, season over.  (or whatever, given how coy Bill Belichick is)  It is tempting to say that this validates the Colts decision to sit their starters and turn their backs on an unbeaten season (not accomplished since the 1972 Miami Dolphins) – which has its eloquent defenders.  The defenses are fair and reasonable.  However, the argument misses a couple of key points:

  • History.  The unbeaten season is historically a fairly big deal – there is a reason that it has not been chased down in 37 years – it’s hard!  No true football fan believes that the 1972 Dolphins are the greatest team of all time.  But they are the one that never lost a game, and so there is immortality.  Maybe the players don’t care – somehow I doubt it.
  • Causation.  The 2007 Patriots did not lose the Super Bowl due to the chase of history.  There may have been stress factors, and dealing with being cast as villains – but really that might have been 2% of the cause.  The Giants were just better once – which is how single elimination tends to work.
  • You never know.  Welker blew out his knee in a somewhat meaningless game.  But it was the first quarter, he was not touched.  Manning could have been hurt in the same manner.  Football is a hard game.  Heck, airplane travel is dangerous – but the Patriots made the trip.  They are not faberge eggs – you hope they don’t go out like this, but it’s a risk with the sport.
  • Customer service.  The teams that DO play preseason games in January should declare their intentions.  Fans deserve (especially paying ones) to watch football.  They already are saddled with 2 preseason games, they should not be forced to buy a third or fourth.

Rant over.  Now to the playoff games:

  • Jets at Bengals:  One of three Week 17 rematches this weekend.  The Bengals did play their varsity against the Jets and the Jets, in a win or else mode, pasted them.  That said, the scenery changes to Cincinnati this weekend.  Both teams have stout defenses and pedestrian offenses, though the Bengals can throw the ball better.  The Jets are trying to keep Mark Sanchez away from having a role in the final result of games, but you cannot hide him forever.  He has star ability and presence, but he is a rookie and has looked like one.  The Jets have the league’s best defense and it’s best defensive player (Darrelle Revis).  The team can run and win bad weather games.  But the Bengals have a little more firepower and I suspect they held back a bit tactically.  Bengals 17, Jets 13
  • Eagles at Cowboys:  This is a little different.  Eagles had a lot to play for – a division title and a bye.  The bye of course increases the odds of winning it all geometrically.  The Cowboys manhandled them up front and won with defense and running.  There is the usual adage about the difficulty of beating a team three times, but the Cowboys physicality makes it hard to pick against them.  Cowboys 27, Eagles 17
  • Ravens at Patriots:  The Ravens are 9-7, theoretically limping into the postseason, like the 10-6 Patriots are.  However, I look at the Ravens 7 losses, and see that they were all to playoff teams except for a loss to the Steelers, and that they were outscored in those games by a combined 38 points.  In other words, the losses were competitive.  Add their second in the AFC +130 scoring margin, and the resume looks more impressive.  The Patriots have a higher scoring margin and 10-6, and playing at home, so they are in good shape, right?  Well, there is the Welker injury, that is one thing.  Tom Brady’s 3 broken ribs and resulting mediocre play is another thing.  They smashed bad teams and played well at home.  On the road their defense seemed not very good, and they had a knack for collapsing facing adversity.  The character seems lacking a bit.  They can beat the Ravens, but I have a hard time picturing it, with the injuries and all.  Ravens 23, Patriots 20
  • Packers at Cardinals: Well the Packers belted them 33-7 this past Sunday.  However, Arizona did play Matt Leinart extensively, and I am not sure how much they cared about the result.  The Cardinals have a true track record now, and this year even have some very big high profile wins.  The inconsistency is there (really the NFC is wide open), but the Cardinals know how to work in big games, especially if the weather is not a big deal.  The Packers with Rodgers can flat out score, and Charles Woodson has been magnificent defensively.  However, their protection has been an issue at times this season and I am not convinced they are ready to win this sort of game – not yet anyway.  Cardinals 30, Packers 27
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