NFL 2012 Playoffs Week 1: Don't bet against...

Don't bet against Chuckstrong.  Don't bet against Adrian Peterson.  Don't bet against Aaron Rodgers.  Don't bet against JJ Watt.  Don't bet against a retiring Ray Lewis. Don't bet on a rookie quarterback. Don't bet against AJ Green in garbage time.  You're going to have to violate some of these to make your picks?  You know why that doesn't bother me, because I really don't care.  I take a look at team Pythagorean winning percentage (man, Seattle and New England look really good) and then for the playoffs, I add in the offensive and defensive interception rates (New England looks even better).  Why don't I look at interception rates for every game?  Because I don't have the time to do it for four times as many games, but more importantly, it is actually more subjective and not just something I can input into a pre-created Excel model.  For example, among teams in the playoffs, New England was the best at not throwing interceptions and the second best at catching interceptions.  That's a pretty scary combination going into the playoffs.  But does that really tell you much about their odds of winning?  Not really.  So I'll take a look and mention it if I think its relevant, but only because I step my game up for the playoffs.  Well, my statistical analysis game steps up.  So far, it doesn't look like my style, humor or overall interestingness steps up.  But back to Chuckstrong.  Leukemia vs. retirement.  What do you think is the bigger motivator?  You know what I think the biggest motivator is?  Talent and game plan.  Also, looking at interceptions might give me a better idea of who I think will win outright, but it doesn't help against the spread.  Well, I guess it does to some degree, if you are subjectively more confident a team will win outright, then you inherently feel more confident that that team will cover.  Those are correlating feelings.  Where am I?  What's going on?

Cincinnati (+4.5) over HOUSTON: Man, I can already feel that I'm not going to like this.  It already feels like I'm totally ignoring a season's worth of stats and going with trends and momentum.  The Texans are fading and the Bengals took care of business towards the end to lock up the wild card.  But my stats say Houston wins this game 51% of the time on a neutral field.  Home field advantage says they should be a three point favorite. Also Houston threw more interceptions than you would have thought a team with Arian Foster would throw.  And even with all of JJ Watt's passes defensed the Texans didn't force opponents into that many interceptions.  Although Cincy was actually slightly worse in both respects.  I think this game turns on a random fumble recovery and I'm taking the points.

Minnesota (+7.5) over GREEN BAY:  It's getting pretty late, and I'm typing without my glasses, and because I'm old, I'm not sure I'm seeing things correctly.  Did I really just pick the Vikings to cover at Lambeau Field?  I mean, there's no way I think Adrian Peterson runs for 200 yards again and this mean I'm expecting Christian Ponder to cover on the road against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.  This 7.5 point spread, which should only be 4, says I am.  Among teams that qualified for the playoffs, the Vikings caught the fewest interceptions.  But that's ok, because Aaron Rodgers threw the fewest interceptions.  It will be pretty hard for the Vikings to win if they don't get any turnovers.  I think this post is missing something.  It needs more snark or disgruntled-ness (disgruntled-ocity? disgrunt? disgruntle?  Royce, are you the arbitrator of made up words or am I?  Even if I am, I think I'd like a second opinion.)  I really wanted to go with the Texans above just to go against the public betting momentum nonsense, but the Texans were a 10.1-5.9 team and the Bengals were a 9.8-6.2 team.  They really are that close.  Here, I really don't want to pick Christian Ponder and I don't think a running back can actually carry a team to victory.  But Green Bay just isn't as good as people want to think they are.  AND they are one of those popular teams who get enough action to actually swing the line towards them by a point or so.  I honestly think the Packers win, but don't cover 7.5.  And it's entirely possible the Vikings beat the Packers outright, you know, like they did last week.  This was one thing I forgot about last week.  I think I made some mention about how there seems to be a recent history of teams having to play each other two weeks in a row.  I thought it might have been the Ravens getting up to the 3 seed and facing the Bengals after playing them last week.  It honestly didn't occur to me that a Vikings win over the Packers would push the Packers down to the 3 seed an they would have to face the Vikings again in the first round.  I'm ok with this because it means we get to see plenty of highlights of Adrian Peterson from last week and that was fun.

Indianapolis (+6.5) over BALTIMORE: What?  Three underdogs?  And aren't the Colts the worst team to make the playoffs, like ever, or something like that?  Don't they have a negative point differential?  Aren't they worse than the Chargers (who finished with exactly 0 as a point differential), Bucs, Panthers, and Cowboys?  A rookie quarterback, ON THE ROAD, who led all playoff teams in interceptions thrown, and whose defense caught the second fewest touchdowns...Blah, blah, blah, more stuff about how the Colts are overrated by any statistical analysis, especially Football Outsiders, they won close games and got blown out by the Jets, etc. etc.  It turns out the Ravens aren't really a dominant enough team to take advantage of all these things (in terms of their odds of winning)  The spread should only be 5, so it's close.  An for what it's worth (not much), the Colts actually do have a better record than the Ravens.  That's right, if some pundits got their way and winning the division didn't guarantee a home playoff game, then this game would be in Indianapolis.  So this pick really isn't for the Colts as much as it is against the Ravens being favored by 6.5 over any playoff team.  I kind of paused there to read some Bill Simmons preview an he genuinely scared me regarding my previous pick of the Vikings.  I mean, he actually had some good points that I liked.  But then I took solace in the idea that I was picking against Bill Simmons.

Seattle (-3) over WASHINGTON:  FOUR ROAD TEAMS?!?!?  (That caps lock was intentional and not an unintentional left-the-caps-lock-on joke that I have used the past few weeks.)  FOUR ROAD TEAMS?!?!  Am I just guaranteeing that I don't go 4-0 but significantly increasing the odds that I go 3-1 or 2-2?  Well, looking at just this game, the Seahawks are a terrifyingly efficient team.  I think that's something people don't quite realize about Football Outsiders and DVOA.  They are saying that on each individual play, the Seahawks are 30% more efficient than the average team this year.  They aren't necessarily dominant in the way you think Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson are dominant.  Nor are they even Tom Brady or Peyton Manning dominant.  They're more steamroller dominant, but if a steamroller was also capable of going 30mph.  They're not a tank or a rocket, jut something that looks like its going faster than it should be allowed to go. Was that an effective analogy?  I don't even care any more.  Although it will be fun to watch Russell Wilson an RGIII on Sunday afternoon.  I guarantee a rookie quarterback will win a playoff game this week.  Maybe we can get Bill Simmons to tweet about his man-crush on Russel Wilson to Matthew Berry, who will respond with irrational Redskins fandom regarding RGIII.  If there's a secret to this game, the Redskins actually lead playoff teams in interceptions caught and even though the Seahawks only threw 10 interceptions, they attempted so few passes that the offensive interception rate is actually kind of high.  The more passing situations the Redskins can force the Seahawks into, the less effective Beast Mode will be and the better the chance for the Redskins to win outright.


  1. $60 on Minnesota, $50 on Cincinnati, $40 on Seattle, $20 on Indianapolis.

  2. Ahahaha.... "Where am I? What's going on?" Love it. Your openings always degenerate into a stream-of-consciousness style riff on NFL picks, almost like you're Will Ferrell in the debate in Old School: "I just blacked out, what happened?" "That... was perfect."

    I am going big for the playoffs. Picking every game, and commenting on every pick...

    $100 on Houston -4.5 - I am going with a season of evidence, not just the late-season performance, because I think with small sample sizes, the momentum of NFL teams really isn't that important. I also don't trust Andrew Dalton on the road, against the Houston pass rush. (Side note: my favorite Barnwell column headline on Grantland this year was titled "JJ Watt is your god now". It was just a series of gifs of Watt destroying linemen.) It's a subjective argument married with the object stats that Houston was a better team for most of the year.

    $100 on GB -7.5 - Another pick against you above. Ponder sucks, and I can't pick him. I think GB is legitimately pissed that they got the 3 seed, and will blow the doors off Minnesota.

    I like "disgrunt" as the descriptor for what makes your posts good. You write well when you are full of snark and disgrunt. Or maybe disgruntledness. All we can say for sure is that you lack snark when you are fully gruntled while writing.

    $100 on Baltimore -6.5 - Didn't Barnwell write that the Colts' pythagorean wins (-30 pts on the year, right?) is closer to a 7-9 team than an 11-5 team?? I hate that. I like Luck a lot, but he's a rookie and he is prone to turning it over, as you say. I think the Ravens uncork Ray Rice in this game and pound Indy into submission. Hooray for 3 straight picks against you!

    $100 on Seattle -3 - Darn, I almost wanted to make it four picks against you. But I think this is the easiest call of the day. Seattle has been really, really good statistically this season, right? I mean your weak sauce analogy about a fast-moving steamroller isn't inaccurate (just weird). I wish Seattle were at home, and not on the road, but I think they overcome the barely-made-it Redskins in this one.

    Final thought ... how pissed to you think Peterson is that he couldn't quite break the single season record last week? He got SO close! That one really has to sting, even though he's a class act and a professional and won't admit it.

  3. So apparently Christian Ponder is inactive for the Vikings and Joe Webb will be starting, so the line has moved to Green Bay -10.5. In addition to the $60 I already have on Minnesota +7.5, I'm going to do another $40 on Minnesota +10.5.

  4. It would appear your doubling down was a poor choice.

    What's the best gambling play there? If I were gambling, should I have put a second bet of some amount on Minn +10.5, so that I'm hedging my original while also getting the possibility of a middle, where GB could win by 8-10 pts and I'd win both bets? Thoughts?

  5. Yes you should have gone for the middle. Especially with no vig.

  6. Woohoo 4-0 this weekend! Plus $400 so I am at $890 for the season. So probably I will not end up negative this year, at least.

    Aaron I beat you head to head in every pick (we both had Seattle). Are you doing okay?

  7. Wow - completely screwed the proverbial pooch this past weekend and didn't make any picks. That said, I can confidently state I would have followed Royce, and made $400 w/out the vig. Go me!

    The vig is the juice!

  8. When the Redskins were up 14-0, I was starting to worry that I would go 0-4, then started to be amazed at the odds of that happening (Assuming skill gives you a 60% chance of picking each game, then the odds of going 0-4 are 2.5%, while you have a 13% chance of going 4-0. With 50/50 odds, you will go 0-4 or 4-0 6.25% of the time.) Then the Seahawks came back and all the favorites covered. How boring.

    I went -$130 to go down to $940. Scott's Jeopardy method paid off this week.

    And yes, this went through my head:
    Sam : It's a private poll. The press doesn't have access to it... The only way they'd know what questions were being asked is if they were actually called by one of the pollsters
    and... Oh my god!
    CJ : Yes.
    Sam : A reporter got called by one of the pollsters?
    Josh : Wow. What are the chances of that?
    Sam : The chances of that are astronomical.
    Josh : We can calculate it. They sample 800 respondents...
    CJ : Would the two of you stop being amazed by the mathematics!

  9. Wow! So after that weekend I am only $50 behind Aaron? Hot diggity!

    Haha Aaron you pulled the PERFECT West Wing quote for that situation, well played sir.