Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts: 2014 Wild Card Round NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (10-5-1) at Indianapolis Colts (11-5)

In addition to adjusting playoff teams’ rate of moving the chains differentials for strength of schedule, another thing I did differently this week was breaking out schedule adjusted differential into a team’s last 4 games and into a team’s last 8 weeks instead of just the whole season. The motivation for this is because I started the season 100-60 against the spread in the first 11 weeks of the season, but just 43-49 in the final 6 weeks. A similar thing happened in 2012 and 2013 as well and I think part of it is because I put too much stock into old data late in the season. Breaking out the data into the last 4 games and the last 8 games allows me to find out which teams are “hot” at the moment, something that might be masked by the season long data.

Two things this data revealed for me this week are relevant to this game. Before I did this, I was ready to make a big play on Indianapolis. The Colts rank 5th in rate of moving the chains differential on the season, moving the chains at a 74.96% rate, as opposed to 70.28% for their opponents, a differential of 4.67%. The Bengals, meanwhile, rank all the way down at 16th, 2nd worst among playoff teams, moving the chains at a 71.84% rate, as opposed to 71.90% for their opponents, a differential of -0.06%. On top of that, the Bengals are without AJ Green this week.

However, the data from the past 4 games and the past 8 games revealed that the Bengals have gotten a lot better as the season has gone on. On the season, the Bengals rank last among playoff teams in schedule adjusted differential at 0.48%, but over the past 8 games they rank 8th at 3.12% and over the past 4 games they rank 6th at 6.77%. You might think that AJ Green’s return from an earlier injury, which essentially cost him 4 games this season, is the reason behind that. However, their offense has remained below average in all 3 timeframes, season long, last 8 games, and last 4 games.

The unit that has gotten so much better over the course of the season is their defense, in Paul Guenther’s first season as defensive coordinator. They really missed Mike Zimmer to start the season, as their ex-defensive coordinator is now the head coach in Minnesota, but they’ve missed him less and less as the season has gone on, as Guenther’s defense has come into its own. Besides, in the 4 games they’ve been without Green this season, they haven’t been significantly worse offensively, moving the chains at a 69.83% rate in those games, as opposed to 72.46% in their other 12 games. They will struggle to move the chains without him, but their defense should play well once again.

One of the games that Green missed was the Bengals’ earlier trip to Indianapolis, a 27-0 blowout loss by the Bengals that was even worse than the final score suggested. The Bengals went three and out in their first 8 drives and ended up moving the chains at a mere 40.00% rate, as opposed to 75.00% for the Colts, a differential of -35.00%. It was easily the Bengals’ worst performance of the season. The good news for the Bengals is teams are 13-25 ATS in the playoffs in same site, non-divisional revenge games since 2002.

On top of that, teams are 7-2 ATS in the playoffs as underdogs over that same time period against non-divisional opponents that previously beat them by 21 or more in the regular season. It might seem counterintuitive, but it makes sense when you think about it as teams are often overlooked, undervalued, and embarrassed in that spot. The Bengals were also in a terrible spot in the first matchup, exhausted off of a tie with the Panthers the previous week. Teams are 5-11 ATS off of a tie since 1989, including 0-7 ATS on a bye. This week, they’re on normal rest.

Meanwhile, the Colts have gotten noticeably worse as the season has gone on, the other revelation that surfaced as a result of breaking up season long data into the past 4 weeks and the past 8 weeks. While the Colts rank 6th in schedule adjusted differential among playoff teams at 3.87% on the season, they rank 10th over the past 4 weeks at 1.55% and 11th over the past 8 weeks at -0.21%. The unit that has been largely responsible for this decline has been the offense, which has struggled with a season ending injury to Ahmad Bradshaw, a severely limiting injury to Reggie Wayne, and minor injuries to TY Hilton and Dwayne Allen. Hilton and Allen should be good for this game, but now Gosder Cherilus is hurt.

Luck’s numbers have gone down significantly over the 2nd half of the season, completing 57.6% of his passes for an average of 7.55 YPA, 18 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions over the past 8 games as opposed to 64.8% completion, 7.87 YPA, 22 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions over the first 8 games of the season. This is not the same Colts team that destroyed the Bengals earlier this year during week 7, nor is it the same Bengals team. The Bengals are in a good revenge spot and the sharps are on them, as the line has moved from 4 or 4.5 early in the week down to 3.5 now, despite the public being on Indianapolis. I love fading the public and going with the sharps whenever it makes sense and it does here. I’m not that confident though with Green expected to be ruled out.

Indianapolis Colts 20 Cincinnati Bengals 19

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +3.5

Confidence: Low

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Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2014 Wild Card Round NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (10-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)

I’m glad the Ravens made the playoffs. If San Diego had been able to beat the Chiefs, it would have eliminated the Ravens, regardless of what the Ravens did in their game against the Browns, and they would have missed the playoffs despite finishing the season ranked 3rd in rate of moving the chains differential at 5.62%. Even when you adjust that for their weaker schedule, they still come in 4th among playoff teams at 4.94%, only behind consensus top teams Denver, Seattle, and New England. The Ravens went 10-6 despite a 2-4 record in games decided by a touchdown or less, finished 5th in DVOA, and their +107 point differential was 6th among playoff teams, so they definitely fit in among some of the best in the NFL.

The Ravens also come into the playoffs as the 4th hottest teams, ranking 4th in schedule adjusted rate of moving the chains differential among playoff teams at 10.56%, only behind Seattle, Carolina, and Dallas. However, that’s a little skewed because the Ravens faced back-to-back 3rd string quarterbacks against Houston and Cleveland and even schedule adjusted differential doesn’t take injuries into account. Their defense accounted for 11.09% of that, while their offense fared below average given their competition at -0.53%.

Their defensive performance was still very impressive even when you remember that they faced Case Keenum and Connor Shaw in back-to-back weeks and their defense gets an added boost this week, as Haloti Ngata returns from injury, but that offense is a concern, especially since the Ravens figure to be without both starting tackles Eugene Monroe and Ricky Wagner once again in this one. Both of them missed the Ravens’ uninspiring week 17 offensive performance against the Browns. Wagner is on injured reserve and Monroe didn’t practice all week.

Wagner has been the better of the two this season, as Monroe struggled in the first season of his big contract, but both of their backups are significant downgrades and won’t help an offense that’d already been stagnating over the past month or so. More bad news for the Ravens, they’ve been significantly better at home than on the road this season. At home, they’ve moved the chains at a 77.91% rate, as opposed to 67.26% for their opponents (a differential of 10.65%), while they’ve moved the chains at a 73.91% rate on the road, as opposed to 72.97% for their opponents (a differential of 0.94%). This home/road disparity is nothing new as since Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh came in before the 2008 season, the Ravens are 47-11 straight up, outscoring opponents by an average of 10.33 points per game, at home, as opposed to 34-33, outscoring opponents by an average of 1.04 points per game on the road, a swing of about 9-9.5 points. The Ravens are on the road here.

If the Ravens are going to pull the upset here, their defense is going to have to continue playing well and slow down a Pittsburgh offense that ranks 3rd among playoff teams in schedule adjusted rate of moving the chains. Fortunately, for the Ravens, they aren’t the only ones with serious injury problems as Le’Veon Bell has been ruled out for the Steelers. Bell was Pro Football Focus’ #1 ranked running back this season, grading out above average as a runner, pass catcher, and blocker.

He rushed for 1361 yards and 8 touchdowns on 290 carries, a 4.69 YPC, caught 83 passes for 854 yards and 3 touchdowns, and played the 2nd most snaps among running backs this season, showing true three down ability and amazing durability. In his absence, the Steelers will use a committee of Josh Harris, Dri Archer, and Ben Tate. Harris and Archer are rookies with 26 combined carries, while Tate has averaged 3.12 yards per carry on 119 carries this season, is on his 4th team this calendar year, just arrived this week, and doesn’t know the offense yet.

It’s about as big of a downgrade as you can get and not good news as the Steelers get set to take on a tough Baltimore defense, led by a punishing front 7 that should be able to stuff the Steelers’ running game, make them one-dimensional, and unleash their pass rushers. The Steelers have a strong offensive line, but the Steelers’ running back situation will hurt their blitz pickup ability and their check down ability in the face of pressure. If the Steelers are going to have a successful day offensively, it’s going to be because Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and Markus Wheaton are able to win one-on-ones against a weak group of Baltimore cornerbacks, which they have a decent chance of doing.

On the other side of the ball, the Ravens have a good chance of getting their offense back on track, despite missing both of their tackles, because the Steelers have the 2nd worst defense among playoff teams in schedule adjusted rate of moving the chains allowed. They’ve been a little bit better over their past 4 games, playing about league average, and they get Troy Polamalu back this week after he missed week 16 and week 17 (though he hasn’t been that good this season), but it’s still a unit the Ravens can have success against.

The Ravens seem like the right side. They’ve been the better team all season and over the past 4 games, with an edge in schedule adjusted rate of moving the chains differential over both of those time periods (the Steelers have a slight edge over the past 8 games). The Steelers also have the worst injury situation as Le’Veon Bell is significantly more valuable than anyone the Ravens will be without this week. Despite that, we’re getting 3.5 points with the Ravens and the public is on the Steelers. I just can’t be too confident considering the Ravens’ road struggles.

Baltimore Ravens 24 Pittsburgh Steelers 23 Upset Pick +155

Pick against the spread: Baltimore +3.5

Confidence: Medium

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Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys: 2014 Wild Card Round NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (11-5) at Dallas Cowboys (12-4)

The Cowboys have been pretty inconsistent this season. They come into the playoffs red hot, ranking 3rd among playoff teams (only behind Seattle and Carolina) in rate of moving the chains differential adjusted for schedule. This makes sense as they won their final 4 to qualify for the playoffs, including convincing victories against a pair of solid football teams, Indianapolis and Philadelphia. However, over the past 8 games, they rank just 9th among playoff teams, as those 8 games include performances such as big home losses to Philadelphia and Arizona. That Arizona game can be somewhat disregarded though as Romo didn’t play. On the season, they rank 8th among playoff teams in schedule adjusted rate of moving the chains differential.

The Lions, meanwhile, rank near the bottom no matter what timeframe you look at, the last 4 games, the last 8 games, or the whole season. They rank 11th, 12th, and 10th among 12 playoff teams in those 3 metrics respectively. Their +39 point differential is 4th worst among playoff teams (ahead of only Carolina, Arizona, and Cincinnati) and they’ve been overly reliant on a 6-1 record in games decided by a touchdown or less and a +7 turnover margin. If Dallas plays like they have over the past 4 games, they should be able to win this one easily and cover the spread of 6.5 as well, but their season long inconsistency worries me. If they don’t play like they have in their last 4 games, I think we’re getting line value with the Lions.

Another thing that worries me is that, of their final 4 games, 3 of them were on the road. The Cowboys have proven they can win on the road this season, winning all 8 road games, but they’re just 4-4 at home and their numbers have been significantly worse at home. At home, they’ve moved the chains at a 76.86% rate, as opposed to 74.79% for their opponents, a differential of 2.07%, while they’ve moved the chains at a 77.73% rate on the road, as opposed to 72.84% for their opponents, a differential of 4.89%. The Cowboys got a huge home victory over the Colts week 16, beating a solid opponent by the final score of 42-7, but their home issues date back longer than this year, as they’re 8-23 ATS as home favorites since 2010, and in their 2nd to last home game they got destroyed by the Eagles, so I’m not completely sold on the Cowboys at home.

However, the Lions haven’t exactly been good on the road this season either, moving the chains at a 69.71% rate, as opposed to 73.17% for their opponents, a differential of -3.46%, as opposed to a 73.22% rate, as opposed to 67.93% for their opponents, a differential of 5.29% at home. On top of this, they are 4-13 ATS against winning teams on the road since 2011. The Lions should be the right side. The Cowboys struggle at home, are probably a little overrated (when you look at the whole season for these two teams), and have heavy public action on them. However, the Cowboys are a hot team and the Lions are one of the worst teams in the playoffs, especially on the road, so I’m not confident.

Dallas Cowboys 24 Detroit Lions 19

Pick against the spread: Detroit +6.5

Confidence: None

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Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers: 2014 Wild Card Round NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (11-5) at Carolina Panthers (7-8-1)

The Panthers went into Atlanta last week and won 34-3, winning the NFC South and securing a home playoff game with a record of 7-8-1. After the game, Tony Dungy remarked that he believed the Panthers could go into Seattle and knock off the Seahawks the way they’re playing right now. That’s slightly hyperbolic, but I don’t disagree with his pro-Panthers sentiment. I was actually rooting for Seattle to lose and Arizona to win (even though I took Seattle -13 for a no confidence pick) early in those two games when they scenario was happening because I felt we could get a lot of line value with the Panthers as likely touchdown home underdogs to the Seahawks, who would fall to the 5th seed if they lost and Arizona won.

Unfortunately, Seattle did win and Arizona ended up losing anyway. Now Carolina hosts the Cardinals, which is a much easier matchup for them, but we’re not getting nearly as much line value with the Panthers as we would with them as touchdown home underdogs to Seattle. Still, the Panthers do seem like the right side here. The public is split, understanding that the Panthers are playing good football right now and understanding that the Cardinals are not the same team without Carson Palmer and even without Drew Stanton, but hesitant to lay a bunch of points with the Panthers. Despite the public’s hesitance and ambivalence, the line has moved from 4.5 to 6 and even 6.5 in some places over the past couple of days, suggesting heavy sharp action on the host.

I understand why the sharps are doing so and I agree with them. Aside from Seattle, Carolina is the hottest team in football coming into the playoffs. They’ve won 4 straight games and their rate of moving the chains differential when adjusted for strength of schedule is the 2nd best among playoff teams over the past 4 games, only trailing Seattle. In general, they’ve been great since the bye, only losing in Minnesota in a game that Carolina had a highly fluky two punts blocked and returned for touchdowns, the first time anything like that had happening in about 40 years.

Over those past 5 games since their bye, they’ve moved the chains at a 77.38% rate, as opposed to 61.98% for their opponents. The biggest difference is they’ve had Jonathan Stewart come back healthy and rush for 486 yards on 91 carries (5.34 YPA) and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott is finally once again getting the most out of his defense, despite massive personnel turnover from last season. Their schedule has been very easy over those past 5 games, as none of those 5 teams made the playoffs, but, as I mentioned earlier, even when adjusting for strength of schedule, they’re still a red hot team coming into the post-season. They’re outplaying these non-playoff teams far more than the average team does.

Besides, it’s not like Arizona is really playing like a playoff team right now. In terms of rate of moving the chains differential on the season, the Cardinals are the worst among teams who made the playoffs and even when you take strength of schedule into account, they’re only 0.01% ahead of Cincinnati for 11th out of 12 playoff teams. On the season, they moved the chains at a 69.70% rate, as opposed to 69.83% for their opponents, a differential of -0.13% that ranks 17th in the NFL.

Even Carolina is ranked 14th on the season, moving the chains at a 73.64% rate, as opposed to 72.50% for their opponents, a differential of 1.14%. Arizona’s 11-5 record has been buoyed by a 4-1 record in games decided by a touchdown or less and their +11 point differential is 2nd worst among qualifying playoff teams, only ahead of these Panthers and that doesn’t even tell the whole story. The Cardinals have benefitted from tough to sustain things like a 62.07% rate of recovering fumbles (best in the NFL), a +8 turnover margin, and a +4 return touchdown margin, while the Panthers recover just 50.00% of their fumbles, have just a -3 turnover margin, and a -2 return touchdown margin.

Also, while the Panthers are the 2nd hottest team coming into the playoffs, the Cardinals are the coldest, by a long-shot. Their defense has been above average over the past 4 games, as it has been all season, but their offense has moved the chains at a rate -4.67% worse than expected given their strength of schedule over the past 4 games, which makes sense, considering they’re down to their 3rd quarterback. On the season, they’ve moved the chains at a 73.58% rate in games started by Carson Palmer and a 67.03% rate in games started by other quarterbacks.

They’ve also been worse on the road than at home this season, particularly without Palmer, moving the chains at a 68.83% rate, as opposed to 69.53% for their opponents, a differential of -0.70%. That might not seem horrible, but in games started by quarterbacks other than Carson Palmer, they move the chains at a 64.02% rate on the road. Lindley had a decent performance in San Francisco last week against a banged up San Francisco defense, as he completed 23 of 39 for 316 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions, moving the chains at a 80.00% rate, which should give Arizona fans some hope, but this is still a quarterback that completes 50.8% of his passes for 4.98 YPA, 2 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions in his career over 264 attempts. Quarterbacks are 11-22 ATS since 2002 in their first post-season start anyway. Bruce Arians gets the most out of his quarterbacks, but I’m still going with the sharps and taking Carolina at 6 before this line gets any higher.

Carolina Panthers 20 Arizona Cardinals 9

Pick against the spread: Carolina -6

Confidence: High

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Rate of Moving the Chains – Wild Card Round

What is this? This is rate of moving the chains, which is my primary statistic for handicapping games. It holds the assumption that the goal of any team on any given 1st and 10 (or 1st and goal) is to move the chains (or score). In order to figure out how often teams meet that goal, I take first downs plus touchdowns and divide it by first downs plus touchdowns plus failures to move the chains (successes divided by attempts). Failures to move the chains include punts, turnovers, failed 4th downs, and field goal attempts (being forced to kick a field goal is a failure). I have this sorted by percent for (to evaluate offenses), percent against (to evaluate defenses), and differentials (to evaluate teams).

Offense

First Downs Touchdowns Field Goals Punts Turnovers Failed 4ths Safeties
1 GB 356 52 33 51 13 6 3 79.38%
2 NO 395 49 22 58 30 7 0 79.14%
3 PIT 379 43 32 62 21 5 0 77.86%
4 DAL 342 53 29 58 25 3 1 77.30%
5 DEN 360 55 29 69 20 7 0 76.85%
6 NE 361 47 37 67 13 6 0 76.84%
7 BAL 345 43 34 60 20 9 0 75.93%
8 MIA 361 39 37 59 23 12 0 75.33%
9 SEA 328 40 37 62 14 8 1 75.10%
10 IND 371 51 31 69 31 9 1 74.96%
11 ATL 330 39 32 67 23 8 1 73.80%
12 CAR 347 33 35 74 23 4 0 73.64%
13 SD 326 37 26 75 23 6 0 73.63%
14 KC 309 36 30 71 17 7 1 73.25%
15 CHI 322 38 16 72 29 15 0 73.17%
16 PHI 356 43 36 76 36 4 0 72.41%
17 NYG 336 43 26 81 28 11 0 72.19%
18 CIN 313 39 33 73 26 6 0 71.84%
19 DET 310 33 38 68 20 10 1 71.46%
20 SF 303 30 31 73 22 8 0 71.31%
21 WAS 318 33 27 78 31 12 0 70.34%
22 HOU 313 34 35 84 22 7 1 69.96%
23 ARZ 302 27 33 92 17 1 0 69.70%
24 MIN 288 29 35 76 20 6 2 69.52%
25 STL 288 31 30 81 27 6 0 68.90%
26 NYJ 289 27 39 79 24 7 1 67.81%
27 CLE 294 29 32 93 23 9 0 67.29%
28 TB 263 28 24 79 33 8 2 66.59%
29 BUF 273 30 38 86 23 8 2 65.87%
30 TEN 258 26 22 89 26 11 2 65.44%
31 JAX 271 24 26 96 26 12 2 64.55%
32 OAK 248 26 22 109 29 6 0 62.27%

 

Defense

First Downs Touchdowns Field Goals Punts Turnovers Failed 4ths Safeties
1 BUF 302 26 37 88 30 6 1 66.94%
2 SEA 277 25 24 83 24 6 1 68.64%
3 ARZ 300 31 32 78 25 8 0 69.83%
4 DEN 311 38 28 88 25 7 1 70.08%
5 STL 301 30 29 76 25 10 0 70.28%
6 IND 309 41 19 90 26 13 0 70.28%
7 KC 310 26 37 78 14 13 0 70.29%
8 BAL 311 30 36 76 22 9 1 70.31%
9 DET 310 31 23 82 27 9 1 70.60%
10 HOU 329 34 22 83 34 11 1 70.62%
11 CLE 348 35 34 86 29 7 1 70.93%
12 PHI 338 44 27 91 28 9 0 71.14%
13 NE 329 30 37 65 25 15 0 71.66%
14 CIN 337 34 32 75 26 9 3 71.90%
15 NYJ 300 41 32 81 13 4 1 72.25%
16 OAK 320 46 38 83 14 5 0 72.33%
17 SD 307 35 34 69 18 8 1 72.46%
18 CAR 309 39 28 72 26 6 0 72.50%
19 MIA 309 40 34 61 25 9 3 72.56%
20 SF 308 36 20 74 29 7 0 72.57%
21 NYG 326 40 31 75 26 6 0 72.62%
22 JAX 330 39 35 75 20 6 1 72.92%
23 MIN 321 36 31 76 19 5 0 73.16%
24 WAS 307 46 26 80 19 4 0 73.24%
25 PIT 314 39 32 68 21 4 1 73.70%
26 DAL 315 40 18 67 31 10 0 73.80%
27 GB 339 37 24 62 27 13 1 74.75%
28 TEN 357 45 39 73 16 6 1 74.86%
29 TB 353 43 39 64 25 4 0 75.00%
30 CHI 325 46 39 49 24 7 0 75.71%
31 ATL 358 41 38 56 28 4 0 76.00%
32 NO 345 43 32 63 17 4 2 76.68%

 

Differential

1 DEN 6.77%
2 SEA 6.47%
3 BAL 5.62%
4 NE 5.18%
5 IND 4.67%
6 GB 4.63%
7 PIT 4.16%
8 DAL 3.49%
9 KC 2.96%
10 MIA 2.77%
11 NO 2.46%
12 PHI 1.28%
13 SD 1.17%
14 CAR 1.14%
15 DET 0.86%
16 CIN -0.06%
17 ARZ -0.13%
18 NYG -0.43%
19 HOU -0.66%
20 BUF -1.07%
21 SF -1.27%
22 STL -1.38%
23 ATL -2.20%
24 CHI -2.54%
25 WAS -2.90%
26 CLE -3.63%
27 MIN -3.64%
28 NYJ -4.43%
29 JAX -8.37%
30 TB -8.41%
31 TEN -9.42%
32 OAK -10.06%

 

Playoff Team Differential

1 DEN 6.77%
2 SEA 6.47%
3 BAL 5.62%
4 NE 5.18%
5 IND 4.67%
6 GB 4.63%
7 PIT 4.16%
8 DAL 3.49%
9 CAR 1.14%
10 DET 0.86%
11 CIN -0.06%
12 ARZ -0.13%

 

One thing I did differently this week is I calculated rate of moving the chains differential for the playoff teams adjusted for strength of schedule. I took the combined rate of moving the chains differential of each playoff team’s 16 opponents and compared it with the playoff team’s differential to figure out what portion of a team’s success and failure can be attributed to their schedule to give us a differential over average. I also did the same with offenses and defenses.

Playoff Team Schedule Adjusted Differential

1 DEN 6.92%
2 SEA 6.78%
3 NE 5.40%
4 BAL 4.94%
5 GB 4.32%
6 IND 3.87%
7 PIT 3.24%
8 DAL 2.77%
9 CAR 1.16%
10 DET 0.56%
11 ARZ 0.49%
12 CIN 0.48%

 

Playoff Team Schedule Adjusted Offense

1 GB 6.68%
2 DEN 5.77%
3 PIT 5.47%
4 NE 5.27%
5 DAL 4.99%
6 SEA 3.31%
7 BAL 3.00%
8 IND 2.69%
9 CAR 0.08%
10 CIN -0.71%
11 DET -1.91%
12 ARZ -1.95%

 

Playoff Team Schedule Adjusted Defense

1 SEA 3.48%
2 DET 2.47%
3 ARZ 2.44%
4 BAL 1.94%
5 CIN 1.19%
6 IND 1.18%
7 DEN 1.15%
8 CAR 1.08%
9 NE 0.12%
10 DAL -2.22%
11 PIT -2.23%
12 GB -2.36%

 

Another new thing I did this week is I broke out schedule adjusted differential into a team’s last 4 games and into a team’s last 8 weeks instead of just the whole season. The motivation for this is because I started the season 100-60 against the spread in the first 11 weeks of the season, but just 43-49 in the final 6 weeks. A similar thing happened over the last 2 seasons and I think part of it is because I’m putting too much stock into old data. This allows me to find out which teams are “hot” at the moment, something that might be masked by the season long data.

Playoff Team Schedule Adjusted Differential (last 4 weeks)

1 SEA 16.11%
2 CAR 15.06%
3 DAL 10.84%
4 BAL 10.56%
5 NE 6.82%
6 CIN 6.77%
7 PIT 6.20%
8 GB 5.76%
9 DEN 3.00%
10 IND 1.55%
11 DET 0.05%
12 ARZ -3.17%

 

Playoff Team Schedule Adjusted Differential (last 8 weeks)

1 SEA 11.68%
2 NE 11.27%
3 GB 8.08%
4 DEN 6.67%
5 PIT 5.44%
6 BAL 4.60%
7 CAR 4.59%
8 CIN 3.12%
9 DAL 1.02%
10 ARZ 0.22%
11 IND -0.21%
12 DET -1.18%

2014 Week 17 NFL Pick Results

Week 17

Straight Up: 11-5

Against the Spread: 11-5

Pick of the Week: 1-0

High Confidence: 0-1

Medium Confidence: 5-2

Low Confidence: 2-1

No Confidence: 3-1

Upset Picks: 1-1

2014

Straight Up: 162-93-1 (.635)

Against the Spread: 143-109-4 (.567)

Pick of the Week: 9-7-1

High Confidence: 8-11

Medium Confidence: 54-30

Low Confidence: 34-29-2

No Confidence: 38-32-1

Upset Picks: 18-25

Pre-season Prop Bets: 4-2

2013

Straight Up: 178-88-1 (.669)

Against the Spread: 148-110-9 (.574)

Pick of the Week: 10-6-1

High Confidence: 25-10-1

Medium Confidence: 32-26

Low Confidence: 39-28-3

No Confidence: 42-40-4

Upset Picks: 27-30

Pre-season Prop Bets: 8-3

Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers: 2014 Week 17 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (11-4) at San Francisco 49ers (7-8)

This line has shifted from 4 to 6 over the past week. Normally, I love fading significant line movements because they tend to be overreactions. Rate of moving the chains also says this line is too high, as the Cardinals rank 16th, moving the chains at a 69.52% rate, as opposed to 69.49% for their opponents, a differential of 0.03%, while the 49ers rank 20th, moving the chains at a 70.81% rate, as opposed to 72.15% for their opponents, a differential of -1.33% Their defense is also really hurting, losing Chris Borland, Eric Reid, and Ray McDonald for a variety of reasons in the last couple of weeks. However, this line might be warranted. The Cardinals were embarrassed at home by the Seahawks last week in a 35-6 loss that could have been worse if the Seahawks had made two makeable field goals. The Cardinals moved the chains at a mere 58.62% rate, as opposed to 80.00% for the Seahawks.

The 49ers aren’t as good as the Seahawks obviously and the Cardinals will be switching from Ryan Lindley to Logan Thomas at quarterback and I don’t think he could possibly be worse than Lindley, who, somehow in the modern age of football, has completed just 49.3% of his passes for an average of 4.44 YPA, 0 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions and has shown a stunning lack of accuracy and poor ball placement dating back to his San Diego State days. However, Thomas is a 4th round rookie and is just 1 of 8 in his career and, while that 1 completion went for 81 yards, it was on a dumpoff to a running back. The Cardinals only moved the chains at a 67.18% rate with Drew Stanton under center and figure to once again be even worse than that this week with Thomas under center. It’s hard to be confident in him, though I ultimately am going with the Cardinals.

San Francisco 49ers 13 Arizona Cardinals 9

Pick against the spread: Arizona +6

Confidence: None

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