Tuesday, December 30, 2014


I always use the same methodology to formulate these predictions, and last year's description of it is about as clear as I can make it, so here it is again:

I will be relying heavily, as always, on yards/pass adjusted for interceptions. This single statistic remains the only reliable measure of success in the playoffs and the Superbowl. Rushing yards, turnover ratios, sacks, FG%---all these things have their place, and each can be used to describe some aspect of football reality in a season or a particular game. What they cannot do is predict a winner. Adjusted yards/pass, however, though it has little descriptive value, acts like a chemical reagent to reveal something that would otherwise remain hidden---who is likely to win. In the morass of men and motivation and data and hope and history and expectation that is a yet-to-be-played game, there is a team destined to prevail, though its identity is obscured. Adjusted yards/pass dissolves that morass, lays bare the football truth and shows us that identity. It burns away the silt and clay and shows us the gold. Adjusted yards/pass itself has little to do with the football we see. Its meaning resides within the game rather than upon its surface. Adjusted yards/pass is the vehicle of the game's consciousness.

The AFC seeds this year are:

    1. New England
    2. Denver
    3. Pittsburgh
    4. Indianapolis
    5. Cincinnati
    6. Baltimore

    My rankings are:

    1. Denver
    2. New England
    3. Cincinnati
    4. Pittsburgh
    5. Indianapolis
    6. Baltimore
The problem for any team that is not New England or Denver is that, to get to the Superbowl, you will probably have to win games IN New England and IN Denver on successive weekends. Pittsburgh has had a nice year, for example, and their passing attack under Roethlisberger has been outstanding, but can he beat both Tom Brady and Peyton Manning on the road? Answer: no.

Wild Card: Baltimore @ Pittsburgh (-3). The Steelers are more than 3 points better than the Ravens, with the Steelers gaining about 1000 more yards through the air than did Baltimore. Also, in home games, the Steelers outscored their opponents by more than a touchdown per game. I lay the points.

Wild Card: Cincy @ Indy (-4). The Bengals are actually a better team than the Colts, with better numbers. Indy's pass defense is especially suspect. Nevertheless, whether because they have a dome (actually a retractable roof) or for some other reason, Indianapolis is very difficult to beat at home (6 -2, both 2013 and 2014). On October 19 this year, Indy beat these Bengals 27 – 0. In all their home games this year, they outscored their opponents by an average of more than ten points per game. I pass on this one. The Bengals are almost as good offensively and a lot better defensively, but I won't bet against Indianapolis under their roof.

The NFC seeds are:

    1. Seattle
    2. Green Bay
    3. Dallas
    4. Carolina
    5. Arizona
    6. Detroit

My rankings:

    1. Green Bay
    2. Seattle
    3. Detroit
    4. Dallas
    5. Arizona
    6. Carolina

Now, look. I know you are afraid that the referees are going to allow Seattle, when it is on defense, to tackle the backs and receivers of the opposing team as they come off the line of scrimmage. It's what the refs did in last year's Superbowl and it basically ruined the game for tens of millions of fans and turned what should have been an interesting matchup into a televised mugging. I know. I'm worried too. But I'm praying somebody in the NFL office will tell the refs, “Hey, when Seattle cheats, throw a flag once in a while, OK?” So maybe they will this time. Oh, wait, that guy in the NFL office---that's what's-his-name, isn't it? Roger Goodell? Oh, well....

Green Bay is far superior to Seattle this year. Green Bay is the best team in the NFL this year. After the Packers, there is very little separating Seattle, Detroit and Dallas, all of whom have a small chance of getting to the Superbowl and even winning it.

Wild Card: Arizona @ Carolina (-4 ½). One of these two teams is going to win exactly one game in the playoffs this year, and it's probably going to be Carolina. The Cardinals, of course, through most of the season, have been far superior to the Panthers, and their numbers, based on those earlier games, are better (though not much better) than Carolina's. The teams are clearly heading in different directions, however. Arizona has lost four of its last six, including its last two. It has not scored more than twenty points in a game since November 9. Carolina's last ten results, on the other hand, look like this:


The last of these was their 34 – 3 dismantling of the Atlanta Falcons (in Atlanta) on Sunday for the Division championship.

I suspect this is not a close game. I lay the points.

Wild Card: Detroit @ Dallas (-7). There are six teams in the Superbowl tournament with a non-trivial chance of winning the thing, and these are two of them. Dallas, of course, is on a magical roll with Tony Romo, and Detroit presents the best pass defense (in terms of adjusted yards/pass) in the NFC. On the surface, it looks like one of those irresistible-force-meets-immovable object games.

Several factors point to the Cowboys winning this game, however. First, in a playoff matchup between a great offense and a great defense, always prefer the offense. Teams that win playoff games in any sport are the teams that can score, and that can score on anyone. There are occasional exceptions to this rule, but they are less common than most fans think. A good defense will often get a team into the playoffs, but once there, offenses prevail.

Second, Detroit doesn't travel well. Domed teams are often that way. They were 7-1 at home this year but only 4-4 on the road, where they were outscored by an average of 4 points per game. Dallas itself has a strange home/road split this year, with all four of their losses coming in Dallas, but that would seem to be an anomaly of no significance here.

Finally, one minor factor is the suspension of the Lions' psychopath defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh for war crimes committed against Aaron Rodgers last Sunday. The Lions live and die by the defense, and Suh is an important part of it. Detroit had the best rushing defense in the league this year, but there will be a piece missing on Sunday.

Dallas will win this game, but I won't be betting it. The 7-point line is just about right, and I see no value here.

Copyright 2014MichaelKubacki