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NFC Divisional Playoff
Pick with Analysis
The red hot Seattle Seahawks travel East once again to take on the Atlanta Falcons in a Divisional Round NFC playoff match up. The Falcons are currently favored by -2.5 points at 5 Dimes Sportsbook with a total of 46. The betting trends at the world largest sportsbook, sportsbook.ag, show us that 64% of the action thus far has been on the Falcons.
The Divisional round of this years playoffs is shaping up as one of the most competitive and difficult to handicap in recent years and this particular match up may very well be the toughest one to figure out this weekend. All of the various methods we use to get a number and handicap a game, are all over the map on this one. We'll point out a few of those in this write up. As mentioned in previous articles, with match ups like this, it can often times come down to a handicappers gut feeling after having followed these teams all year long. Of course, passing the game all together is always another option!
Heading into this years playoffs, if we ranked all of the teams in order of yards per point differential, using season to date stats, the Seahawks would be #1 with a +6.2 differential and the Falcons would be #2 with a 5.7 differential. So, half a point separating the two. The closest team of all the other playoff teams was a full two points behind. Furthermore, they say defense wins championships, well, these two had the two best defensive yards per point numbers, 19.7, also a full two points ahead of the next closest team.
We can also break down those numbers further by looking at just home numbers for Atlanta and away numbers for Seattle. When doing so, the Falcons numbers actually improve slightly, with a 14 on offense and a 20.8 on defense for a +6.8 differential while the Seahawks weigh in with a 16.2 on offense and a 17 on defense. The defense holds up for Seattle, but that 16.2 tells us they had a hard time converting yards into points offensively on the road.
Finally, using the yards per point method, we can look at the last 6 games only. When we do that, both teams weigh in with fantastic numbers, with the Seahawks a couple of points better offensively thanks to some late season point explosions and both teams with very high numbers defensively, roughly 22 for both teams. Neither team played all that tough of a schedule through the final 6 games though the Seahawks were 6-0 and beat the 49ers and Redskins while the Falcons were 4-2 and lost to the Panthers and at home to the Bucs. They did however, beat the Giants 34-0 and that shutout helps that defensive ypp number. The Seahawks were the more consistent team defensively, giving up no more than 17 points in any one game.
If anything we have said thus far has you thinking Atlanta, don't worry, we're here to confuse you a little more with our NFL score prediction model. We run the model with season to date stats, last 5 game stats and last 7 game stats. All three parameters come up Seattle by the following scores: 24-17, 30-14 and 29-16. Confused yet? If not, don't worry, there's more.
They say you need to be able to run the ball to win titles. Well, the Seahawks rushing game ranks #2 in the NFL and they'll be going up against a Falcon defense that's #20 against the run. Furthermore, the Falcons running game ranks a very poor 29th in the NFL at 87 yards per game average going up against the Seahawks #9 ranked rush defense. You might say Matty Ice and the 6th ranked passing game of the Falcons is the equalizer, but guess who has the #3 ranked pass defense? Yep, Seattle.
Then you have the intangibles. Let's start with the tremendous amount of pressure on Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons to finally win a playoff game. If they go down here, at home, after clinching home field advantage throughout the playoffs, Matty Ice and the Falcons will go down in history as one of the biggest playoff chokes of all time. In three playoff tries, Ryan has thrown just 3 TD passes and averaged less than 200 yards per game while throwing 4 picks.
Aside from stopping Matty Ice, the Falcons last 3 playoff opponents, The Cardinals, Packers and Giants, held Michael Turner to 42, 39 and 41 yards. Turner is no longer the focus of opposing defenses as the Falcons have moved to a pass first offense. Also hidden in the stats is the Falcons screen pass game which is really an extension of the running game, which is why you can't get too worked up by the 29th ranking of their rushing game. Add in the screens, and that 29 ranking gets much better.
Roll it all into a ball and what do we have? Drum roll please.....................
I don't think anyone out there believes the Seahawks would be playing this week if RG3 was healthy last week. For that matter, when RG3 went down early and it was apparent the kid could hardly walk, never mind play QB, the game swung Seattle's way in more ways than one. The Skins became one dimensional and the momentum change was overwhelming. It was like a balloon being popped. It's safe to say that if you put any of the top QB's in the league behind center last week, instead of RG3, you would have had a very different ball game. Well, Matt Ryan happens to be a top QB.
The Seahawks have had to make the trip across the country to play a game two weeks in a row. We all know from regular season handicapping that there is a distinct disadvantage to the team having to do that. The playoffs are no different. While the Seahawks were in a dog fight with the Skins, flying coast to coast and back, the Falcons have had the week off to rest, game plan, and get healthy.
You can look at all the stat rankings you'd like, but when it comes down to it, the bottom line is whether or not a team can put points on the board and keep their opponents off the board. Both of these teams have done that equally as well this year. The Seahawks defense may seem a bit more stingy, but in the red zone, teams end up settling for field goals more times than not against both teams. Factor in the home field edge, the travel, the week off, the pressure on the Falcons to finally get over the playoff hump, the season ending injury to the Seahawks leading pass rusher Chris Clemons, Matt Ryan vs. Rookie Russell Wilson and then just a gut feeling, having watched them both this year, and we're going to side with the Falcons to win this one.
We're not going to mess around with the pointspread in this one. No sense in letting a 1 or 2 point Atlanta win beat us here so were going to play the Falcons on the money line. You can get -130 at 5 Dimes currently. We'll also make a small play on the under here. Once again, using yards per point as a measuring stick, these were the two best defenses of all the playoff teams. We're not expecting a shootout. Good Luck and enjoy the game. This one should be good. Falcons pk -130 and Under 46
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