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Sep 08

NFL 2016 Pick’em

DIVISIONAL ROUND: HEARTBREAKING LOSSES FOR COWBOYS AND CHIEFS SWING STANDINGS
With last week’s home sweep, that marks 10 consecutive losses for the visitors after earning a Wild Card Weekend sweep in 2015. That losing streak should come to an end this weekend. It’s hard to see another clean sweep in the Divisional Round, especially with three juicy match-ups ahead. Besides what should be a Texans-Patriots blowout in Foxborough, this slate of games should live up to the hype as the most intense and choatic weekend in the NFL. Some team is bound to be heartbroken at home. Who will it be?

Seahawks at Falcons: Inconsistency and Injuries Doom the Legion’s Chances
The NFL’s most dynamic offense belongs to the Atlanta Falcons. However, that isn’t as good as it would seem. Playoff history is peppered with high-powered offenses being humbled by more balanced teams, specifically those with a strong defense and capable ground game. Seattle embodied that team from 2012 to 2015, highlighted by the Super Bowl XLVIII romp over the Denver Broncos and its record-setting offense. However, the Seahawks were inconsistent this year, laying several eggs on offense and suffering several setbacks against inferior opponents on the road. To make matters worse, Seattle’s pass defense is notably worse since safety Earl Thomas suffered a season-ending leg injury. Couple these two issues, and Atlanta has enough to win this match-up. The Falcons own both the TABRankings (ATL) and playoff team precedence (ATL) advantage. Then there’s the home-field advantage that could act as the tiebreaker, but that won’t even be necessary. Even though we trust the Seahawks to play well on offense now that quarterback Russell Wilson and running back Thomas Rawls are healthy, thus giving them the team balance (SEA) advantage, the team coaching (push) battle is a wash due to familiarity between Pete Carroll and Dan Quinn. Yes, Seattle was the pick to win the NFC back during the 2016 NFL Preview Season Predictions, but playoff predictions are always about the head-to-head match-up.

Texans at Patriots: The Ugly Duckling of the Bunch
This match-up could provide the biggest mismatch of the postseason. Whether you look at team balance (NE) or team coaching (NE) or the TABRankings (NE) or playoff team precedence (NE), you will see the Patriots outclassing the Texans. Houston was simply fortune to get here, earning the break of Oakland starting its third-string quarterback and becoming the first Super Bowl host in 18 years to win a playoff game. Only a major miracle will get the Texans to the AFC Championship Game.

Packers at Cowboys: Repeat of 1993 or 2007?
The Cowboys twice before sent a fast-rising team with a young stud quarterback to the NFC Divisional Round. In 1993, Dallas hosted the Packers in the Divisional Round as the NFC’s top seed. Led by Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith, the Cowboys prevailed en route to a second consecutive Super Bowl championship. In 2007, Dallas hosted the Giants in the Divisional Round as the NFC’s top seed. This one ended with heartbreak for Tony Romo and Terrell Owens. What will Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott do this weekend? Looking at team balance (DAL), the mix of run and pass make the Cowboys more complete than the Packers. Many will point to the red-hot play by Aaron Rodgers to claim the Packers have the advantage here, but remember that the Cowboys actually very well against Rodgers earlier this year. The key for Dallas is to send limited numbers against Rodgers, who actually thrives more against the blitz. The Cowboys would actually be better mixing the secondary into its blitzes, as mixing coverages also slows up Rodgers a bit. This won’t stop the elite quarterback, but it will at least limit him some. The Cowboys also hold the advantage in playoff team precedence (DAL), thanks to the Packers lying on the fourth percentile in the study. Remember that four-game losing streak that moved the Packers to 4-6? That matters in this case. Green Bay counters with the team coaching (GB) advantage while the TABRankings (push) differential is close enough to be a wash, so balance becomes the difference in this match-up. Given what little edge the Cowboys have in that factor, this will be a nailbiter for America’s Team.

Steelers at Chiefs: Can Alex Smith Continue Regular-Season Trend?
Going against better judgment, the Chiefs were picked to win the AFC in the 2016 NFL Preview Season Predictions. The caveat was that Kansas City would not beat both New England and Pittsburgh — the presumptive AFC favorites with the most dynamic offenses in the conference. This had something to do with Alex Smith going 3-29 as a starter from 2005-2015 when his team allowed 27+ points. He and the Chiefs went 4-1 in those games this season. So is it destiny for Kansas City? It’s hard to say that with the Steelers and Patriots both likely in wait. Like the earlier Sunday match-up, this one will be decided by team balance (PIT), and it doesn’t look good for Kansas City. Yes, Pittsburgh has a dynamic offense, but the pass defense quietly finished seventh in the TABMathletics unit rankings. That gives the Steelers the advantage before running back Le’Veon Bell is considered. He’s on a tear and faces the 23rd-ranked run defense. Pittsburgh will control the sticks as long as the ground game remains the focus. This isn’t a way for the Chiefs even things up, as there are washes for team coaching (push) and the TABRankings (push) and playoff team precedence (push). Here the one heartbreaking outcome for the home half. Not even Andy Reid’s 16-2 record after a bye week can help a franchise that is 0-4 all-time at home in the AFC Divisional Round. Given this weekend’s match-up looks like both preseason conference favorites will have their seasons come to an end. This is exactly why postseason predictions always come within the context of head-to-head match-ups.

Divisional Round (6 points each)
(11) Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1) at (3) Atlanta Falcons (11-5)
(22) Houston Texans (9-7) at (1) New England Patriots (14-2)
(7) Green Bay Packers (10-6) at (4) Dallas Cowboys (13-3)
(6) Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) at (2) Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)

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Results: Record and Points
Divisional Round: 3-1 and 18 points (out of 24 possible points)
Regular Season: 170-84-2 and 290 points (66.80 win and 66.21 point percentage)
Postseason: 7-1 and 42 points (87.5 win and 87.5 point percentage)
Overall: 177-85-2 and 332 points (67.42 win and 68.31 point percentage)

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Divisional Round: Expert Records and Points (2 ties = 1 win + 1 loss)

Rank Expert Record Rank Expert Points
1 Adam Dobrowolski, TABM 178-86 1 A. Dobrowolski 332
2 Chris Burke, SI 175-89 2 KC Joyner, ESPN 328
3 Mike Middlehurst-Schwartz, USAT 173-91 3 Pete Prisco, CBSS 327
3 Steve Palazzolo, PFF 173-91 4 C. Burke 325
5 K. Joyner 172-92 5 S. Palazzolo 321
5 Lorenzo Reyes, USAT 172-92 6 M. Middlehurst-Schwartz 318
7 Gordon McGuinness, PFF 171-93 6 Kurt Warner, NFLN 318
7 K. Warner 171-93 8 Mike Golic, ESPN 315
9 Football Outsiders 170-94 9 G. McGuinness 313
9 P. Prisco 170-94 10 FB Outsiders 311
11 FiveThirtyEight Elo 169-95 11 L. Reyes 311
12 Steve Mariucci, NFLN 168-96 11 Kevin Seifert, ESPN 310
12 Jeff Ratcliffe, PFF 168-96 13 FiveThirtyEight 309
14 M. Golic 167-97 13 S. Mariucci 309
14 Vinnie Iyer, SN 167-97 M Mean Points 307.13
14 K. Seifert 167-97 15 Adam Caplan, ESPN 307
M Mean Record 166.73-97.27 15 Merril Hoge, ESPN 307
17 Nate Davis, USAT 166-98 15 J. Ratcliffe 307
18 Matt Bowen, ESPN 165-99 18 Marshall Faulk, NFLN 305
18 A. Caplan 165-99 18 V. Iyer 305
18 Tom Pelissero, USAT 165-99 20 Neil Hornsby, PFF 303
18 Seth Wickersham, ESPN 165-99 21 N. Davis 302
22 Dan Graziano, ESPN 164-100 21 S. Wickersham 302
22 M. Hoge 164-100 23 Jarrett Bell, USAT 301
24 M. Faulk 163-101 24 M. Bowen 296
24 N. Hornsby 163-101 25 Ron Jaworski, ESPN 295
24 R. Jaworski 163-101 26 T. Pelissero 294
27 J. Bell 162-102 27 D. Graziano 292
28 Mike Renner, PFF 159-105 27 M. Renner 292
29 Sam Monson, PFF 154-110 29 Nathan Jahnke, PFF 283
30 N. Jahnke 153-111 30 S. Monson 276

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

Oh man, poor Dallas. After the Cowboys started slow and the Packers started fast, America Team’s eventually showed why they earned the NFC’s top seed. However, tough luck reared its ugly head for the Cowboys. The finish couldn’t get much better from Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense. That’s how the Four Postseason Factors earns its first loss of the season.

Next up, the conference championship games feature two teams (Steelers at 4-5 and Packers at 4-6) that owned a losing record during the second half of the season. They go on the road to face the two best quarterbacks of 2016. At first glance, it seems like the home teams should prevail next weekend. If things hold as expected, it will lock up the win-loss championship while potentially sealing the points championship. Perhaps it comes ultimately down to Super Bowl LI, which seems quite fitting.

4 comments

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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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