NFL Playoffs-Wild Card Week

Regular Season ATS 60-42 58.8%

Playoffs: Playoffs?

Game 1: Ari @ Car -5.5

Bet% Ari 55% Car 45%

This is a tough pick for me to make because it seems like all the sharps and smart people on Arizona and my numbers point to the Panthers. The Cards went 11-5 and despite poor underlying numbers they kept winning games and it’s hard for me to see them continuing especially with Ryan Lindley.

Arizona had a point differential on the the year of just 11, easily the lowest among teams that won at least 10 games, they finished 23rd in weighted  DVOA which is way below their rank in wins. So how has Arizona done it this year? 2 areas that have really helped are turnover margin where they finished +8 which was 5th in the league and they were 2nd in the league in defensive TDs with 4. Not to say those stats are pure luck but they are very difficult to count on long term, especially the turnover margin.

In breaking this game down the last month of the season has these teams going in opposte directions. The Cards had a passer rating on the season of 81.8 which was 25th but over the last 3 games its a dreadful 59. On defense  Arizona ranked 23rd  or worse in yards/play, yards/pass and yards per rush against and their numbers the last 3 weeks have been worse for all their season defensive numbers. The one stat they have been great at is yards/pt against where they ranked 1st at 19.8 so for whatever reason they give up a lot of yards but keep teams from scoring, can that keep up?

On the Panthers side they have had very few wins over good teams but they have been much better the last 3 weeks especially defensively. Panthers passer rating against  over the last 3 weeks was just 62, the yards per play in those games was 4.8 so they are playing their best football on both sides of the game the last month. I’ll take Cam Newton over Lindly here and the hot Panthers

Game 2: Bal+3 @ Pit

Bet% Bal 41% Pit 59

These 2 division rivals had very interesting seasons, that these teams had such highs and lows in their performances added to the fact that their 2 meetings this year resulted in 20 point wins for the home teams makes this a very difficult game to handicap. Add in an injury to Levean Bell and there is another key actor to take in.

The Ravens are 5th overall in weighted DVOA, 9th on offense and 8th on defense and had a season point differential of 107 which is 6th best. The Steelers rank 8th in Weighted DVOA, 2nd on offense and 30th on defense with a point differential of 37.

Clearly the Steelers have the better offense, they had a passer rating of 103.2 which was 3rd compared to the Ravens who were 14th with 90.9 rating, Pit was also 2nd in yards/play at 6.2, and 3rd in yards/pass att at 7.9 but you wonder how much of the efficiency n their pass game will be impacted by the loss of Bell. While the Ravens big hole on defense is in their secondary they have still managed to be much better defending the pass than have the Steelers, the Ravens rank 15th in opposition yards/pass att and 19th in opp passer rating vs the Steelers who rank 29th and 28th in those metrics.

Where the Ravens defense excels is vs the run, they rank 3rd in the league giving up just 3.6 yards per attempt and with Bell out they should be able to make the Steelers very 1 dimensional in this game. Ravens also get back star DT Haloti Ngata back and while he will probably not play his regular number of snaps he should be able to have an impact.

In the end I think you have a great offense minus a key player playing a very good defense on one side and a good offense playing a terrible defense on the other, in what should be a close game I can see the Ravens defense coming up with a big spot or 2 when needed but I can’t see the Steelers D doing the same. I like Ravens winning this game straight up.

Game 3: Det @ Dal -6.5

Bet% Det 33% Dal 67%

This game has been described as strength vs strength, the Cowboys dominant run game 3rd in league at 4.6 yards per att vs the Lions #1 run defense giving up just 3.2 yards per attempt. The issue as I see it for the Lions is that the Cowboys pass offense is equally as impressive if not more. Dallas finished #1 in passer rating at 110.9 and 2nd in yards per pass at 7.9, amazingly over the last 3 games they have been even better than those numbers with passer rating of 137 and 9.1 yards per pass.

The Dallas improvement over the last 3 weeks has not been limited to the pass game, in fact the biggest improvements have been on defense. Their Opp passer rating for the season was 88.5 which was 3rd but over the last 3 weeks that dropped to 70.8, they gave up 7.2 yards per pass att which was 25th on the season but that number dropped down to 6.7 over the last 3.

The Lions rank 15th in weighted DVOA, they dropped to 3rd on defense after being #1 for a stretch late in the season and 19th on offense. While the defense has been able to play at a high level all year, the offense has been middling or worse and trending downwards in the last month or so. Lions finished 21st in passer rating at 85.9 but that number is only 75.9 over last 3, they finished 19th in yards per pass att at 6.7 but again over the last 3 that number drops significantly to 5.4. The Lions have struggled to run the ball all year averaging just 3.6 yards per rush which was 29th.

The Dallas defense is not great but they have been ok vs the pass, they finished 13th in opp passer rating and over the last 3 weeks all their defensive numbers have seen improvement while the Detroit offense seems to be moving in the opposite direction. While the Detroit defense should be able to slow Dallas from their regular season  numbers I still think Dallas will be able to put up enough offense that Detroit won’t be able to keep up to. I like Dallas by double digits.

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