FIWK the NFL: Playoffs Week 2

What? A picture that isn't the Chargers? Is Aaron feeling ok? Yes. But just in case the Saints emerge victorious this weekend, I wanted Scott and Mik to be a little happy. As for last weekend...that Texans-Bengals game pretty much went exactly as I called it. That was the big news right? I mean, you couldn't turn on the TV without seeing JJ Watt, right? In much more boring news, every home team won. Every home team was the higher seed and they won, meaning there were no upsets. In every game, the victor threw fewer interceptions than the loser (or tied at zero, meaning they weren't a factor). Even in the Denver-Pittsburgh game, the Broncos quarterback played significantly better than his Steelers counterpart and won. But in actually making my predictions, especially against the spread, I did not do so well. When the Saints-Lions was at 24-21, choosing the underdog and all those points seemed like a really good idea. Thirty minutes later at 45-28, not so good. As for the Falcons laying an egg? (Does that even count as a pun?) I guess I was smart not to put $ on them. And if the Saints and Lions were to play again this weekend, I'd probably still pick the Lions and the points. And while I picked the Broncos and the points, I was very, very confident the Steelers would win. In fact, I'm participating in a pool where you get to pick a winner for each of the eleven playoff games straight up and assign it a confidence 1-11, where you can only use each confidence number once. I picked the Steelers with confidence of 11. Now, that I've convinced you just how good I am at predicting the outcome of NFL playoff games, on to the picks...

New Orleans (-3.5) @ San Francisco: Remember from last week, the Saints throw quite a few interceptions and their defense does not catch any. Well, the 49ers are the complete opposite. Their offense threw the fewest interceptions in the league and even after you adjust for the number of pass attempts, they are still best in the league at not throwing interceptions. Their defense is only second best in the league at intercepting the ball. Remember from last week where I said we calculate the Pythagorean winning percentage? The actual formula, derived from Points Scored (PF) and Points Allowed (PA), is PF^2.33 / (PF^2.33 + PA^2.33). The reason I am getting this technical is because even though the Saints finished with the best point differential in the league (547-339=208), even better than the Packers (560-359=201), and the 49ers (380-229=151) finished 4th behind the Patriots (513-342=171), San Francisco had the BEST Pythagorean winning percentage. Wait, does that mean what you think it means? Yes. On a neutral field, I would pick the 49ers against any team in the NFL. So obviously I'm taking the 49ers +3.5. But next week I'll explain why I'll don't want the 49ers to make it to the Super Bowl.

Denver @ New England (-13.5): Ok, I guess I can't write the entire column without mentioning Tim Tebow. How long did it take you to figure out that was my goal in the intro? I'm guessing at the word "news" or "JJ Watt". Last week, Tebow was a legitimately good quarterback, in every sense of the word. The Steelers put 10 and 11 guys in the box and dared Tebow to beat them by throwing and he did. The Steelers were also greatly hampered by Ben Roethlisberger's ankle. You could tell for the first half he wasn't effective at all. And with the Steelers defense not holding up against the Broncos, he pushed himself, started scrambling and was much more productive in the second half. But do you know what all this means for the Broncos game against the Patriots? Absolutely nothing. And not nothing like this is a new game and different defense and a healthy opposing quarterback. I mean nothing at all. I just finished reading Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, a behavioral psychologist who won the Nobel Prize in Economics, and one thing I learned is that humans are wired to attempt to use a narrative and cause to explain past events that were actually caused by luck within the wide range of possibilities. So when making predictions, humans like to rely on a narrative that makes sense. I used to do this, and this column used to be funnier. But now I am trying to develop a more systematized approach to making my predictions and thusly have to rely more on making up words oftener to be funny. Apparently my spell check informs me that oftener is not a made up word. Oh well. So why does the Broncos victory mean nothing at all? Because my algorithm only looks at the regular season stats. Oh, Tebow throws two more interceptions than Tom Brady and I'd take the Patriots up until -14.5. So I am taking New England -13.5.

Houston @ Baltimore (-7.5): I don't know what the under is, but I am probably going to take the under. Both teams are led by competent, but not outstanding quarterbacks and great defenses. Quick, without looking, who allowed the fewest points in the NFL? Well, it's the Steelers of course, you weren't surprised by that. So between the Ravens and Texans, who allowed the fewest points. It's the Ravens. You expected me to try and surprise you with the Texans, but I played a little psychological misdirection. Now, if you did look it up, you will see that the four best scoring defenses were the Steelers, 49ers (not exactly a surprise), Ravens and then the Texans at 4th. I've been trying to tell you all season that the Texans are going to win by running the ball and playing great defense. The Texans offense was third best in the NFL at not throwing interceptions and their defense was actually better than the Ravens at intercepting the ball. But do you see what all this is doing? Didn't we learn anything from five minutes ago? This is a narrative trying to predict the future. But I guess this is also me explaining my algorithm? So maybe it's helpful? On a neutral field, Baltimore wins 51% of the time and at home they win 58% of the time, which means this really should only be a three point spread. I don't know who wins, but I'm guessing they win by 3, so I'm taking the Texans +7.5.

Nyg @ Green Bay (-7.5): Eli Manning throws two more interceptions than Aaron Rodgers and the Packers win by 10 or more. Packers -7.5, Done.

Oh, you want more? See, just giving you the results is neither fun nor informative. AND doesn't require any made up words. I meant to mention this when talking about Tebow. Most people will try to figure out if last week was an aberration or a sign of improvement by Tebow. Was the Giants 24-2 trouncing of the Falcons an aberration or an indicator that they are more focused now? In both cases, neither. Both are results possible in the entire range of what they are capable. I don't try to think of Tebow as a quarterback who can throw from 316 yards or 60 yards. I think of the Broncos as a team that threw 13 interceptions in 16 games. The Giants are a team that went 9-7, that with their negative point differential should have finished under 8 wins. Sometimes they play like a 9 win team and sometimes they play like a 7 loss team. You know what I'm saying? Yeah, me either. Bill Barnwell actually has a good phrase that I wish I came up with, the Giants "need to take shots down the field to rack up the kind of points that will be needed to beat the Packers, but that leaves them susceptible to turnovers. It's almost like the Packers planned it this way, huh?" The Packers are the much better team and we're lucky the spread isn't 11.


  1. I'll put $30 on all four games as I called them above.

  2. Alright - I'm starting this week at $1,061.

    (Sidebar: Royce, I agree 93.6% that losing the ability to link to comments is dumb. What gives Google?!?!)

    I'm going with $50 on the Pack-Attack at -14.5. What, I only need to give 7-and-a-half? Sweet. Make that $52 on the Packers at -7.5.

    And that's it. So at a loss on the other games. I'd pick the Niners, but that seems like tempting fate. Did I just tempt fate by saying I would tempt fate if it wouldn't in fact tempt fate?

  3. I forgot to mention one of favorite aspects when analyzing the 49ers-Saints. When a great offense takes on a great defense, we look the other way. This game will be decided by how the 49ers offense does against the Saints defense.

  4. Holy crap that Niners-Saints game was awesome. One of the most fun playoff games I've seen in a while. I had no idea who would win, so I didn't make a pick, but just wow.

    On the other games - $100 on Baltimore -7.5, $200 on New England -13.5, and $300 on Green Bay -7.5. That's right, a total of $600 bet and $300 of it on GB. Like Scott and Aaron described, I could not possibly be more excited to bet on a team that should be favored by more than two scores (at least -10.5) rather than the 7.5. I think this line is depressed by the huge number of Giants fans; all the NY people are putting action on them and keeping this from being higher than it should.

    I'm starting the week at $950 and expect to be ahead of both of you after winning all 3 of these.

  5. So I went 3-1 to win $60 for the week, up to $1350 overall. Royce went 1-2 to lose $200 on the week, down to $750 overall. You don't have to thank me for doing the math for you.

  6. Wow you really had to do the math for me?? Who needs enemies when you have friends... jerk

    Anyway I lost by half a point on the Texas game, so whatever, but I am stunned about the Packers losing. Does the regular season really mean nothing in football now? The Packers were so good all year... I am confused. Damn you NFL, why must you vex me!

  7. I love the word "vex". I tend not to like situations where I have to use the word "vex".