NFL 2013: Super Bowl!!

Sometimes this is what the Super Bowl feels like.  Football players wearing suits.  It's a HUGE deal, but not exactly the ideal scenario for anyone.  Too many distractions, too much hoopla.  But you know what?  No one cares.  IT'S THE SUPER BOWL!! This might be America's biggest unofficial holiday, although Cinco de Mayo might take exception to that (and you do not want to piss off someone drunk on tequila).  Wow, this really went off the rails fast.  Where was I? Oh yeah.  THE SUPER BOWL!!  Squares, parties, commercials, media driven hype, prop bets, confetti, Disneyland, half time shows, and a little football mixed in.

Music Tuesdays - Happy by Pharrell Williams

This song is everywhere nowadays, and it's just super fun.  Kind of the perfect pop song.

Music Tuesdays - Coming of Age by Foster the People

New song by Foster the People that has a fun vibe to it.  They'll also be performing at Coachella this year.

NFL Conference Championship Games

Wow...all the emotion and fire is gone after the Chargers loss on Sunday.  I mean, I knew that was going to happen, but I didn't realize how much it would hit me.  I wasn't expecting them to beat the Broncos...but I REALLY wanted them to.  And if the Chargers hadn't just lost, this pair of games would have been amazing.  Well, I guess it still is, but I'm not feeling the amazingness.  On the to ho-hum, exactly what every neutral party wanted, conference championship games.

New England @ Denver (-5.5)
Both teams are just as likely to throw an interception, so we don't learn anything there.  By Pythagorean winning percentage, the Broncos would win 55% of the time on a neutral field and 64% of the time in Denver.  This means the Broncos should be favored by 3.5.  The line is too high.  Bu enough of that analytical talk.  Lets get some narrative going.  I believe Peyton Manning is the greatest quarterback of all time (except for possibly Johnny Unitas, but I don't really have a way to compare them directly).  Tom Brady is an amazing, Hall of Fame quarterback who has been the second best of his generation and at least one of the top ten QBs ever, if not top five...but Peyton is better.  I think he has gone farther with weaker support from his teams.  Tom Brady has had Bill Belicheck and much better defenses throughout his career.  But you will hear too often how Brady has 3 Super Bowl wins (and a 3-2 record) and Manning only has one Super Bowl victory, so obviously he is the inferior quarterback to Eli Man- I mean, Tom Brady.  From here on out, I will be emotionally cheering for Peyton Manning, not because of an AFC West thing, but because I really am tired of the narrative that Tom Brady is the better QB only because he has more rings.  I will acknowledge arguments that Brady is superior if they look at the entire body of work and can convince me that his individual performance, independent of their coaches and the rest of the team, has been better than Manning's.
New England +5.5

San Francisco @ Seattle (-3.5)
Seattle's pass defense is so good and Kaepernick is only average (among playoff QBs) at avoiding interceptions, so the 49ers are much more likely to throw an interception.  Other than that, the teams are actually pretty close with Seattle winning 55% of the time on a neutral field and 63% of the time in Seattle (rounding is the difference from above).  This is the same 3.5 point spread as the other game, but this time it is right on.  I guess I'll take the 3.5 points because the most likely case is one team wins by 3.  As far as narrative, I kind of like that one game is two HOF pocket QBs with questionable defenses and this game is two young, running QBs against great defenses.  Love that the Super Bowl will match up HOF QB vs great defense and young running QB no matter who wins tomorrow.  I wonder if I can tolerate going to a Super Bowl Party surrounded by SF fans with the 49ers playing two years in a row.  I probably can.
San Francisco +3.5

Both games I'm picking the favorite SU and the underdog ATS.  I also chose that picture partly to remind people that there are four complete games playing on Sunday, not just four QBs.

Music Tuesdays - Stay Alive by Jose Gonzalez

As featured in the move the Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  I'm a big fan of Jose Gonzalez; he's also in the group Junip, who we've featured on FIWK before.

NFL Divisional Round: Chargers are still alive!!

PLAYOFFS!!!!!  WHOOOOOOOO!!!  CHARGERS!!! I'm sure I'll come up with some rational analysis (for at least three of the games), but I'm going to take a few more minutes to stay excited.  You know what the best feeling is?  Playing with house money.  Being the big underdog and winning.  Barely scraping in via luck and still being alive after a week.  And since I made a few HUGE predictions (Melvin Ingram was getting great pressure and running all over the place, in the first half I texted other Chargers fans that he was going to make a big play in the second half), I will use my powers for good and make a few more predictions to benefit the Chargers.

New Orleans @ Seattle (-8):
So the Hall of Famer Drew Brees, who owns half or the eight 5,000 yard passing seasons, goes into Seattle to face the best pass defense in the NFL.  I mean, this pass defense is being considered as one of the top pass defenses EVER.  You know what?  I think Drew Brees kind of wins out.  Well, He throws for at least 200 yards, has more touchdowns than interceptions, kind of winning out.  I'm saying Brees does well enough against the Seahawks vaunted pass defense that the Saints could win if the rest of the team plays well.  This is where we look the other way.  This game will be decided by how the Saints defense performs against the Seahawks offense.  And here, Russell Wilson is going to out-short-QB Brees.  He's going to make some very creative plays running and throwing and the Saints defense (which is coordinated very well by Rob Ryan) and he's going to look/sound good in interviews and win over a few significant others.  Also, these guys are awesome.  Interception likelihood says the Seahawks will prevail.  Drew Brees will throw two or three TDs and only one interception, but Wilson doesn't throw any.  But it will be closer than 8.
Saints +8.

Indianapolis @ New England (-7.5):
I'm fairly confident the Seahawks will win, even though I'd taking the Saints against the spread.  I'm not so confident regarding the Patriots.  They are slightly more likely to throw an interception than the Colts, but it's basically even.  The Patriots are better and they are at home, but I feel much more comfortable taking the Colts and the points.  The bigger question is whether I think the Colts win outright?  After long internal deliberation (seriously, there was about twenty minutes between these sentences), I'm going with New England.  Home field advantage and Tom Brady will be better than Andrew Luck against Bill Belichek.
Colts +7.5

San Francisco @ Carolina (0):
This game opened with the Panthers as a 2 point favorite and is now down to a pick'em.  Lots of SF fans forgetting the Panthers actually have a better defense and a young mobile quarterback of their own and that the game is in Carolina (I'm guessing the Northern one?), not California (definitely the northern half).  This game would be awesome if it was measure by QB rushing yards.  But it's going to be something like third downs rushing by QBs.  And Cam Newton is much more likely to convert a 3rd and 1 than Kaepernick.  Rushing QBs and linebackers.  That's what this game is all about.  With no segue... (does that count as a segue?) the Saints are the most likely team to throw an interception this weekend.  The Panthers are second most likely and the 49ers are third most likely.  I expect both teams to throw at least one interception, it will be the team that scores a TD off the turnover that wins this game.  I say it's the team with home field advantage.
Panthers +0

San Diego @ Denver (-9.5):
Ok, ready for the specific predictions that could be overcome and still result in a Broncos victory, but are all leaning towards key breaks that the Chargers will need to win the game?  Peyton Manning is throwing for 300 yards this game.  I don't see how the Chargers defense is going to stop him. But he will throw one interception and Philip Rivers will not.  Wes Welker will have a drop on a key third down in the second half.  Rivers may not throw for 250 yards, but he will throw three touchdowns.  It wouldn't surprise me if Ryan Mathews has a big catch in a situation where the Broncos defense would be expecting a run.  The Chargers will run the ball much better than the Broncos, which will actually be the overall theme of the game.  Peyton keeps getting faced with 3rd and 7 while Rivers keeps facing 3rd and 2.  The Chargers will convert more third downs than the Broncos.  Peyton Manning will actually play great, but the rest of the Broncos around him (including the defense) will have trouble executing and Peyton gets unfairly blamed for another early playoff exit.
Chargers +9.5

Music Tuesdays - You're Not Good Enough by Blood Orange

NFL Playoffs: Wild Card Weekend

Playoffs, playoffs, playoffs!  Playoffs, playoffs, playoffs!!  That's the song Hazel and I made up on Sunday.  We also went running around the neighborhood in excitement, stopped at a park and watched the sunset over the ocean.  It was a great moment.

Kansas City @ Indianapolis (-2.5):
Now that it's the playoffs, I add interception rates to my analysis of games.  It's easy to say that whoever has more turnovers will lose.  Fumbles are too random, scheme and talent can produce or reduce interceptions.  So in addition to comparing Pythagorean winning percentage, I also look at which QB-opposing defense matchups are most likely to result in interceptions.  In this game, the Chiefs have the better Pythagorean winning percentage and are less likely to throw an interception.  The only thing keeping the Colts in it is home field advantage.  The Chiefs defense is tied with the Panthers defense at second in intercepting the ball and among playoffs quarterbacks, Alex Smith throws the second fewest interceptions.  That's the recipe that could take them...well, not exactly far, because you need a lot more than that...but if they can get 2 interceptions per game, they will be pretty hard to beat in the playoffs.  Home field advantage brings it much closer.  In fact, I think the Chiefs should be favored, but only by half a point.  That means I'm getting some decent value with an extra three points.  The harder question is how much to bet.  I have a lead.  Do I make smaller bets to protect my lead? Increase my bets for the playoffs?  Stay consistent with my level of confidence?  I'll wait until I see your comments.
Kansas City +2.5

New Orleans @ Philadelphia (-2.5):
Remember how Alex Smith is the second best playoff QB at avoiding interceptions? (It wasn't that long ago.) Nick Foles is the best.  You were expecting me to say Drew Brees, weren't you.  Actually, in these playoffs, there are a lot of good quarterbacks with low interception rates.  And Drew Brees is right smack in the middle.  The Eagles defense is only average (among playoff teams) in intercepting the ball, but the Saints are towards the bottom.  So Foles is better at avoiding interceptions, The Eagles D is more likely to intercept the ball, and they are in Philly?  Slam dunk, right?  (Of course not.)  By Pythagorean winning percentage, the Saints should win 60% of the time on a neutral field.  In Philly, the Saints should be favored by half a point.  But I'm going to incorporate interception rates in my analysis and make the decision that the Eagles win, but the Saints cover.
New Orleans +2.5

San Diego @ Cincinnati (-7):
Remember how this group of playoff quarterbacks is pretty good at avoiding interception?  Andy Dalton is the exception. He throws more picks than any playoff QB and is the most likely QB to throw three picks and allow the Chargers to win.  The problem is that the Chargers defense doesn't do the greatest job intercepting the ball.  And Philip Rivers is average in avoiding interceptions and the Bengals are above average in intercepting the ball.  Cincy is still more likely to throw an interception, but it's pretty close.  And by home-field adjusted Pythagorean winning percentage, the Bengals should be favored by 6.5.  I'm taking the Chargers ATS and pointing to games like the Colts, Chiefs and Broncos where they won outright as underdogs.
San Diego +7

San Francisco @ Green Bay (+2.5):
I can feel the lazy coming on.  I'll keep chugging along and see what comes out.  A lot of Packers analysis has to be differentiated with Rodgers or w/o Rodgers.  I just looked at Rodgers interception rate, not the Packers.  In general, it feels good to take a home dog.  They cover at a higher rate than home teams in general.  They win 58% of the time as either a favorite or underdog.  But Kaepernick did a much better job avoiding interceptions and the 49er defense is better at intercepting the ball.  On a neutral field the 49ers should be favored by 7.  It will be interesting to see which game plan the 49ers use against the Packers.  What do you think is more likely? Kaep runs for 100 yards or throws for 400?
San Francisco -2.5.