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2009-201- NFL Playoffs Preview

If the Playoffs started today.........

12/10/09

With college football out of the way this week, we had a little extra time, so we decided to take a look at the NFL to see how all of the contenders shape up as we head down the stretch. While season to date numbers are always important, so too are current numbers. In other words, how has a team played lately? Have they fallen apart and hit the skids? Are they all of a sudden hot?

The numbers we are going to use, are the numbers you see us refer to often, yards per point. Once again, it's a snapshot of how a team is playing on both sides of the ball and is one of the most predictive stats in football. After using these numbers for a quarter century, you start to see patterns year after year. For example, you won't find too many Super Bowl winners with a defensive yards per point number below 17. That holds up over many years. Defense still wins Championships. Likewise, you won't find too many teams with an offensive number higher than 15 winning titles.

One thing I don't think we have ever seen, is a team with a negative ypp differential when comparing their offense and defense. Remember, a high defensive number is good and a low offensive number is good. Subtracting the offensive number from the defensive number will give you a positive number for good teams and a negative number for bad teams.

What we did was, we took the last 6 games these playoff contenders played, and came up with their yards per point numbers over that time period. We left out the Jets and the Jags for now. Their numbers wouldn't be great, and we have our doubts about them making the playoffs to begin with. If they do, we'll deal with them at that time. In the meantime, here is how the rest of the contenders break down.

Let's start with defense. Any of these teams with a defensive ypp number if 18 or higher has a great chance come playoff time. We think the defensive number is much more important in the playoffs.

Ravens 20.6

Bengals 20.4

Cowboys 19.7

Cards 19.2

Chargers 18.9

Saints 18.4

Colts 18.3

Your Super Bowl Champion is likely one of the teams listed above. All of those defensive numbers, are championship quality. As you'll see when we look at the offensive numbers, only the Cowboys are out of place, as a result of their offensive numbers.

To round out the defensive numbers, here is the rest of the pack.

Steelers 16.1

Eagles 16.1

Patriots 15.8

Vikings 15

Broncos 13.9

Packers 12.4

Giants 12.3

Now let's take a look at the offensive yards per point numbers. Teams with an offensive number of 16+ simply don't win titles as they will be going up against teams with defensive numbers of 18+ and likely won't score much.

Chargers 11.9

Saints 12.2

Steelers 13.6

Packers 14

Eagles 13.9

Cards 14.6

Bengals 14.7

Vikings 14.8

Colts 14.9

Pats 15.4

Here is where we draw the line offensively. Can't expect to have numbers below this threshold and manage to make any noise in the playoffs.

Ravens 16.7

Broncos 16.8

Giants 16.3

Cowboys 18.5

Likely, your Super Bowl Champion will be a team that is in BOTH of the groups of top teams offensively and defensively. Over the last 6 games those teams would be the Bengals, Chargers, Saints, Colts and Cards.

If you subtract the offensive numbers from the defensive numbers, here are how the teams rank in differential. The higher the number, the better the team is playing on BOTH sides of the ball. Balanced, if you will.

Chargers +7

Saints +5.7

Bengals +5.7

Cards +4.6

Ravens +3.9

Colts +3.4

Steelers +2.5

Eagles +2.2

Cowboys +1.2

Pats +0.4

Vikings +0.2

Packers -1.6

Broncos -2.9

Giants -4

The most notable absence from the top of the standings above, is the Minnesota Vikings. Remember, the above numbers are only considering the last 6 games. What killed the Vikings numbers during that stretch was giving up 27, 26 and 30 points in three of the games. The teams they were able to bottle up were the Bears, Lions and Seahawks. In fact they gave up 23 points or more to every "good" team they faced this year and padded their stats against the likes of the Lions (twice), Browns, Rams, Bears and Seahawks. We may have found a paper tiger in the Vikings as a result of this little study.

Two other teams that don't figure prominently in the top of the standings above, but have good season to date numbers are the Patriots and the Eagles. The Pats are still Brady and Belichick. I wouldn't want to meet up with them in the Playoffs. They are plenty capable of going on a run. Problem with them is, they haven't won a game on the road all year! (just the one in the UK)

The Eagles are just good enough to be dangerous. They can play with anyone on any give day, and if healthy, can certainly surprise some teams.

The Bengals are going to be interesting. They'll hold a huge edge in any cold weather home playoff games. But where they will have trouble, is going up against a team like the Colts or Chargers as both of those teams have the offense and the defense to get it done. Perhaps no team in football is peaking at a better time than the Chargers. In fact, let's go ahead and call a Chargers at Colts AFC Title game with the Chargers pulling the big upset to advance to the Super Bowl. It's Philip Rivers time.

In the NFC, let's call it a Cardinals at Saints Title game with plenty of drama considering the way the Cards play on the road this year, but with the Saints finding a way to advance.

Chargers vs. Saints, Brees vs. Rivers.........could be fun. Let's see how it all plays out.

 

 

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