FIWK the NFL: Playoffs Week 1

This picture is honor of Eric Weddle being named to the All-Pro team. Which is about the only good thing going for the Chargers right now. If you want to know if any 49ers made the All-Pro team, you'll have to ask Scott or Mik. I'm already thinking about next year and fantasy football for next year. I won our keeper league, but we'll have to see how I do without Adrian Peterson next year. I guess I'll just have to console myself with Ray Rice in the 3rd round, Matthew Stafford in the 5th round and Vincent Jackson in the 8th round. I think I'll be ok. As for this weekend, the only good thing I can think of for Royce and myself is that we can make completely objective thoughts and analysis. Before I get to the actual games, a little reminder about how I do things around here. First, I take the team's points scored and points allowed to calculate a Pythagorean winning % that is more accurate than a team's actual winning percentage. Then taking the two winning percentages, I determine how often the favorite is likely to win. Yeah, you learned all of this from Bill Barnwell a couple months ago. Then, using data from Spreadapedia, I determine how often a favorite with a given spread has won historically. Additionally, for the playoffs I take a look at interceptions. It is easy to say that the team that turns the ball over the least is probably going to win. And fumble recoveries tend to be very random. But interceptions are not. So I look how many pass attempts and offense and defense should expect to see before an interception is thrown. I don't have a specific algorithm, but there are only four data points and the sample size is a little small, so I prefer to eyeball this one. Then I check Football Outsiders just because I like their DVOA efficiency stat. And then I just make up the rest. I'll walk you through it, but it's probably easier with an example. That way I don't have to be explaining this for every game, every week.

Cincinnati @ HOUSTON (-3): Houston scored 381 points and allowed 278 points for a Pythagorean winning % of 0.676. The Bengals scored 344 points and allowed 323 to get to 0.537. Already we see that the Texans scores more points and allows fewer points than the Bengals, which is much more descriptive than looking at 10-6 Houston vs. 9-7 Cincinnati. We'll come back to the point differential conclusions. In 467 pass attempts Houston quarterbacks threw 9 interceptions. Why am I not determining the difference between Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart, TJ Yates and Jake Delhome? Because I'm lazy. Come on. You had to see that joke coming. But seriously folks, it doesn't matter as much as you think it does. There is a big difference in quarterbacks overall, but scheme, play calling, receivers, running game, opposing defense, etc. all factor into interceptions thrown. Houston's defense has caught 17 interceptions in 538 opposing pass attempts. When you divide these numbers you see that the Texans offense throws an interception every 51.9 pass attempts while their defense catches an interception every 31.6 pass attempts. Considering a team usually runs 40-60 plays, you can probably guess that against a neutral/average opponent, Houston will throw 0 or 1 interceptions and will catch 1 or 2 interceptions. For Cincinnati, with the offense throwing an interception every 535/14=38.2 pass attempts and their defense catching an interception every 539/10=53.9 pass attempts, they are probably going to throw 1 or 2 interceptions and only catch 0 or 1. So when You combine the Texans and Bengals, I'm going to guess that the Texans have an expected value around .25-.5 interceptions thrown and the Bengals are going to throw 1.5-2.5 interceptions. This looks pretty good for the Texans, even with TJ Yates at QB. As for how often the Texans would expect to win this game based on both teams point differentials? The Texans, should win 70% of the time, which means this should be a 6 or 7 point spread. A 3 point favorite only wins 58% of the time (which is just slightly more than the 56-57% that the home team wins). I say the Houston Texans win and cover.
Not so bold prediction: The Texans run for a touchdown. And my analysis of all the other games is much shorter.
Bold prediction: Both AJ Green and Andre Johnson catch a touchdown. And my analysis gets funnier.

Detroit @ NEW ORLEANS (-10.5): Whew! 10.5 points?!?! In a playoff game? What does the betting public think this is? A guy who just set the single season passing yards record against a defense that allowed a backup QB to throw six touchdowns? Preposterous! No way a playoff game matches up one team so vastly superior to another. Why, that would be like matching up a conference champ with an 8-8 team on an 0-3 losing streak. New Orleans biggest problem is going to be their defense that didn't catch any interceptions, while the Lions defense does catch a lot of interceptions. Although the Saints did finish with the best point differential in the NFL. Even better than the Packers. And in Football Outsiders Weighted DVOA, which gives more weight to recent games, the Saints are their #1 tea with the Steelers second and the Packers third. After crunching all my numbers, I think this should be a 7 point spread, not 10.5. So I am picking the Saints to win, but the Lions to cover.
Not so bold prediction: Drew Brees throws a touchdown pass.
Bold prediction: This game goes over 60.

Atlanta @ NYG (-3): The Falcons are the better team. In every capacity. Except how often each defense catches interceptions. In that category they are virtually equal. But in every other category the Falcons are far superior. They score more point and allow fewer points than the Giants. They throw fewer interceptions. They have a better record. Even when you account for home field advantage, they should still be winning this game outright. But that's saying the Falcons odds of winning drop from 59% to 53% when you account for home field. Still, to be able to take the Falcons plus three points? Thank you.
Not so bold prediction: The lead changes at least once this game.
Bold prediction: The Giants are so decimated by injury, Eli Manning steps in to play safety, intercepts the ball and returns it for the winning touchdown and becomes a hero in New York. Is there any other way New York will love Eli?

Pittsburgh (-8.5) @ Denver: Beware the home dog. These teams win against the spread a lot and even win outright more than you think. But remember where I said the Falcons were better than the Giants from every perspective? The Steelers are A LOT better than the Broncos from every perspective. Mendenhall's injury won't be a factor in this game because their backup running backs are just as good. That's a knock on Mendenhall's effectiveness more than it's a compliment to the backups. It is going to feel like the Steelers are dominating all day long, but when you look up, the score is going to be closer than you realized. I think it ends 17-10 Steelers, which means, like the other huge spread this weekend, I think the favorite wins, but the underdog covers.
Not so bold prediction: This game is under 50.
Bold prediction: This game is under 30.


  1. $50 on Houston -3, $20 on Detroit +10.5 and Denver +8.5.

  2. I loved reading the detailed breakdown of how you do the picks. That was absolutely awesome.

    Can I just say I LOVE getting the extra 0.5 points for the Lions? That is fantastic; now the backdoor cover attempt becomes all the more real as they go from 17 down to 10 down with 2 minutes left.

    Also what's the over/under on that game? I feel like everybody and their dog expects it to be super high. Which means it might get over inflated and the under might be reasonable? Hang on...

    ... *elevator music* ...

    Over/under is apparently 59... I am not quite ready to say they don't score 30 each, so I won't bet it. Actually the over seems decent.

    I am currently at $850. I am putting $100 on Houston -3, $100 on Detroit +10.5, and $100 on Atlanta +3.

  3. Made $50 this weekend and now up to $1290. There are some big spreads this weekend. Not sure what I'm going to do.

  4. +$100 and up to $950 for me. Who knows, I might break even by the end of the playoffs!

  5. Someone - anyone(!) - tell me where I'm at in this game!!!

    (PS - I'm super pissed I was unable to find/link-to Royce's introduction of the "(!)" punctuation related to chess. SUPER PISSED Okay...maybe not that pissed)