Sep 08

NFL 2016 Pick’em

As already mentioned, the 2016 NFL postseason field is weaker than usual. With three playoff teams finishing in the bottom half of the TABRankings, the league sees more than the usual one outsider reach the second season. To make matter worse, the fifth-ranked Oakland Raiders are relegated to their third-string quarterback. The rookie Connor Cook was not active until Week 17 and had to settle for scout team reps for most of the season. That dynamic would pretty much doom any team in the postseason, let alone a team with minimal experience in a playoff atmosphere. As a result, expect one true slopfest (Raiders-Texans), two potential blowouts (Lions-Seahawks and Dolphins-Steelers) and one actual promising match-up (Giants-Packers). Let’s look at this weekend game by game.

Raiders at Texans: Carr Injury Changes Everything
Had Derek Carr remained healthy through the season, this probably would’ve been a game for which the Raiders handle this game easily. However, both he and backup quarterback Matt McGloin aren’t healthy. Connor Cook gets the starting nod, and it was only two weeks ago that he was basically a redshirt rookie. He has little experience, only working against the scout team for most of the season until being forced into the game as the Week 17 backup. This makes Oakland’s team balance numbers misleading. The Raiders take a clear step down in pass offense efficiency, scoring efficiency and battle-tested experience. Let’s be clear: Just about any team that is forced to start its third-string quarterback (as of December) in the postseason is going to be doomed in these areas. Suddenly, what would’ve been a team balance advantage for the Raiders turns into a team balance advantage for the Texans at NRG Stadium. Consider that with the TABRankings advantage for the Raiders, and it shows how the narrative about Carr’s injury ending Oakland’s season is accurate. The teams are closer to equal in coaching and precedence, so the match-up features a 1-1 tie in the Four Postseason Factors. Home-field advantage acts as the tiebreaker, so expect the Texans emerge victorious. Strangely enough, the 2016 Texans would become the first Super Bowl since the 1998 Dolphins to win a playoff game.

Lions at Seahawks: Historic Streaks Likely to Remain in Tact
The Detroit Lions own an eight-game postseason losing streak, tie for the longest in NFL history. The Seattle Seahawks own a nine-game postseason home winning streak, also topping the charts in league history. Just from that glance, Matthew Stafford (who owns a 1-25 career record against winning teams on the road) and crew have a towering mountain to climb to pull off this upset. However, once adding the Four Postseason Factors into the discussion, the upset might be a near impossibility. Despite Seattle having easily its weakest squad of the Carroll-Wilson era, the team balance advantage goes to the Seahawks thanks to poor statistical profile for Detroit. With mean ranks in the bottom 10 in four of six areas of the game, the Lions are not a playoff fit. While the coaching comparison is much more competitive, the team coaching advantage goes to the Seahawks once the home primetime element is considered. Seattle is 14-1 at home under Pete Carroll with a 4pm PST kickoff or later. The lone loss was last year’s 39-32 defeat to the Cardinals, and that’s the one home bug-a-boo for the ‘Hawks (re: Cardinals 3-1 in Seattle since 2013, while the rest are 3-29) as of late. The TABRankings advantage goes to the Seahawks as well. Seattle is a fringe playoff team according to the rankings, but on the same formulaic token, Detroit is arguably the worst playoff team over the past four years. Finally, the team precedence advantage goes to the Seahawks by a vast margin. The Lions are actually comparable to the 1-15 Cleveland Browns in this category. Seattle should roll without question.

Dolphins at Steelers: Another Clean Sweep in 3v6 Match-up
When Ryan Tannehill went down with a knee injury in Week 14, there was the narrative that seemed to say Miami’s season was all but over. The truth is, though, that the Dolphins didn’t see their fortunes shift much with Matt Moore under center. In fact, Moore (105.58 in 87 pass attempts) beat out Tannehill (93.50 in 389 pass attempts) by more than 12 points in passer rating. The way things laid out in December and January, the Dolphins were going to beat the Jets and lose to the Patriots and Steelers no matter who took the snaps. That Buffalo game in Week 16 was the one that should determine Miami’s fate. Here lays a clean sweep for the Steelers, The team balance advantage for the Steelers will be won on the air and in the ground, as well as in scoring efficiency and battle-tested experience. The team coaching advantage for the Steelers has much to do with continued continuity the franchise enjoys under Mike Tomlin. Remember Miami’s Adam Gase is in only his first season as head coach, so his staff’s mean rank will improve with continued success over a sufficient sample size (re: 3+ years). The TABRankings advantage for the Steelers can be explained by reasons that have been discussed for more than two months. Finally, the team precendece advantage for the Steelers involves another easy explanation, as “fringe contender” status always beats “pretender” status. It is a bit funny to see Pittsburgh’s season come full circle since a Week 6 loss in Miami. However, for the Dolphins, the upset is highly unlikely to happen again. Expect Pittsburgh to handle this one with ease.

Giants at Packers: A True Heavyweight Match Decided By McAdoo’s Inexperience
These two franchises will meet in the postseason for the eighth time. The first five meetings (1938,1939, 1944, 1961, 1962) came in the NFL Championship, while the last tow meetings (2007, 2011) were won by the Giants en route to unprecedented Super Bowl championships. Many will be prepped to hype the winner as a potential Super Bowl favorite, given the lore of this series and great play by one of the team’s primary units (see: Giants defense and Packers offense). At least for this weekend, the Giants-Packers match-up is only one truly fitting of playoff status. Upon a close look, despite amazing play over the past two months or so by the Giants defense and Packers offense, the team balance advantage goes to the Giants. Aaron Rodgers was awesome during Green Bay’s defense, and he did it against great pass defenses (Philadelphia 6th, Houston 5th, Seattle 8th, Chicago 19th, Minnesota 4th and Detroit 31st). However, his Packers teams have recently faltered in the postseason against strong and balanced teams. Just look at the run game and defense the 2012 49ers, 2013 49ers and 2014 Seahawks brought. Look at the late-season defensive run by the Giants in 2011 en route a second miraculous Super Bowl championship in five seasons. Even the 2015 Cardinals showed the ability on defense and in the run game. While this Giants team lacks the rushing ability, the defense is more than able to get the job done. Ranking third against the pass and fourth against the run suggests so. However, the team coaching advantage goes to the Packers. This has a lot to do with Ben McAdoo being in only his first season as head coach. With just one year, he can’t catch up to Mike McCarthy, who leads a staff that ranks third. With the other two factors resulting in a was, there is once again a 1-1 tie in the Four Postseason Factors. That means home-field advantage will make difference. Sure, Eli Manning won his first two playoff meetings at Lambeau Field against the odds, but perhaps the third time is the charm for Green Bay.

Wild Card Weekend (6 points each)
(5) Oakland Raiders (12-4) at (22) Houston Texans (9-7)
(24) Detroit Lions (9-7) at (11) Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1)
(18) Miami Dolphins (10-6) at (6) Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)
(8) New York Giants (11-5) at (7) Green Bay Packers (10-6)


Results: Record and Points
Wild Card Weekend: 4-0 and 24 points (out of 24 possible points)
Regular Season: 170-84-2 and 290 points (66.80 win and 66.21 point percentage)
Postseason: 4-0 and 24 points (100 win and 100 point percentage)
Overall: 174-84-2 and 314 points (67.31 win and 67.97 point percentage)


Wild Card Weekend: Expert Records and Points (2 ties = 1 win + 1 loss)

Rank Expert Record Rank Expert Points
1 Adam Dobrowolski, TABM 175-85 1 A. Dobrowolski 314
2 Chris Burke, SI 172-88 2 KC Joyner, ESPN 310
3 Lorenzo Reyes, USAT 170-90 3 C. Burke 307
4 K. Joyner 169-91 4 Kurt Warner, NFLN 306
4 Mike Middlehurst-Schwartz, USAT 169-91 5 Pete Prisco, CBSS 303
4 Steve Palazzolo, PFF 169-91 6 Football Outsiders 299
4 K. Warner 169-91 6 L. Reyes 299
8 FB Outsiders 168-92 8 FiveThirtyEight Elo 297
8 Gordon McGuinness, PFF 168-92 8 Mike Golic, ESPN 297
10 FiveThirtyEight 167-93 8 S. Palazzolo 297
11 P. Prisco 166-94 11 Adam Caplan, ESPN 295
12 Vinnie Iyer, SN 165-95 11 G. McGuinness 295
12 Steve Mariucci, NFLN 165-95 13 M. Middlehurst-Schwartz 294
12 Jeff Ratcliffe, PFF 165-95 14 V. Iyer 293
M Mean Record 164.03-95.97 15 Kevin Seifert, ESPN 292
15 M. Golic 164-96 16 S. Mariucci 291
15 K. Seifert 164-96 M Mean Points 290.93
17 Matt Bowen, ESPN 163-97 17 Seth Wickersham, ESPN 290
17 A. Caplan 163-97 18 Merril Hoge, ESPN 289
17 Tom Pelissero, USAT 163-97 18 J. Ratcliffe 289
17 S. Wickersham 163-97 20 Marshall Faulk, NFLN 287
21 Nate Davis, USAT 162-98 21 M. Bowen 284
21 Dan Graziano, ESPN 162-98 22 Jarrett Bell, USAT 283
23 M. Hoge 161-99 22 Ron Jaworski, ESPN 283
23 R. Jaworski 161-99 24 T. Pelissero 282
25 M. Faulk 160-100 25 D. Graziano 280
26 J. Bell 159-101 25 Mike Renner, PFF 280
26 Neil Hornsby, PFF 159-101 27 N. Hornsby 279
28 M. Renner 157-103 28 N. Davis 278
29 Sam Monson, PFF 152-108 29 Nathan Jahnke, PFF 271
30 N. Jahnke 151-109 30 S. Monson 264

NOTE: M = mean (average of the 30 competitors)

After going 4-0 last year on Wild Card Weekend picking all the road teams, the home teams take the sweep this year. With these outcomes, there is very little movement in the standings. It takes only one game to change fates in the points standings, but the win-loss standings championship can be locked up by next week. The Divisional Round will provide some interesting challenges, as at least three match-ups provide legitimate intrigue. Odds are at least one home team will take fall next week. Who will it be, and how will that change the Pick’em standings?


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  1. Robert Anderson

    Adam – It would really help the pickers and give you more cred if you posted your picks before the games actually started.

    1. tabm1327

      Apologies for a busy week, but all picks in during the London kickoff!

      1. Robert Anderson

        Thanks! Really enjoy your work!

        1. tabm1327

          HOPEFULLY, it’s quicker next week and all done before the Thursday Night Football kickoff!

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