The 2011-12 NFL playoffs are upon us, and it seems everybody is fighting to make their predictions stand out.
I like to consider myself an aficionado when it comes to picking NFL playoff games, but this season I decided to do something a little different. I took "gut feeling" out of the equation—in fact, I took guessing out of the equation altogether. I decided to use a statistical formula for picking winners.
We'll see if it works soon enough, but I'll share it with you now.
Firstly, I ranked teams by their Defensive Quarterback Rating (QBR) from 1-12. This is how the list looks...
1) Ravens 68.8
2) Texans 69.0
3) Steelers 71.7
4) 49ers 73.6
5) Packers 80.6
6) Lions 82.1
7) Falcons 83.3
8) Bengals 85.0
9) Patriots 86.1
10) Giants 86.1
11) Saints 86.4
12) Broncos 93.1
After this was done, I ranked the teams in reverse order of Offensive QBR, and this is the list I ended up with...
12) Packers 122.5
11) Saints 110.6
10) Patriots 105.6
9) Lions 97.2
8) Giants 92.9
7) Atlanta 92.2
6) 49ers 90.7
5) Steelers 90.1
4) Ravens 80.9
3) Texans 80.7
2 Bengals 80.4
1) Broncos 72.9
In the simplest way possible, I decided to add Team A's Offensive QBR to its opponent's Defensive QBR.
For example, in the first round the Houston Texans are playing the Cincinnati Bengals. The Texans' offensive rank was third-worst, so they got a three. I then added their opponent's (Bengals) defensive rank, eighth, to that first number, giving the Texans a total of 11. The same formula was used for the Bengals, who ended up with a four. The Texans win.
It's not perfect or comprehensive, but it seems to have generated some strong picks. In the end, this is how my playoff predictor turned out. Take a look...
Unlike last time, Ndamukong Suh is going to make the trip to NOLA.
Texans over Bengals
This is the first time in NFL history that two rookie quarterbacks will face off in the playoffs. The Texans took the last meeting in dramatic fashion and haven't won since. This isn't the sexiest matchup in the playoffs, but these teams are probably destined to play a lot more meaningful games in the future. The Texans get the close win at home this time.
Steelers over Broncos
What really needs to be said about this game? The Steelers need to go into Denver and take the Broncos out early. There has been talk during the week that the Broncos could possibly bench Tebow during the game, but the Steelers should be more concerned with being able to bench their own quarterback with a big, comfortable lead.
Lions over Saints
This is the first shocker that the system produced. The final tally was 20-17, Lions and it almost made me trash the idea of this entire picking system. But then I thought how smart I would look if the Lions pull it off and I stuck with them. People are expecting a shootout, but that's always when defenses clamp down. This is an intriguing game.
The last time the two teams played Matthew Stafford threw for 408 yards and the Lions dominated the time of possession by over 10:00 minutes. Ndamukong Suh didn't even play and the undisciplined Lions still had 11 penalties for over 100 yards and went 2-for-11 on third down. That won't cut it against the Saints. The Lions know that this time and they'll go into New Orleans as the sixth seed, loose, confident, and ready. The Saints will have their hands full.
Falcons over Giants
Matt Ryan has been solid since he entered the league. Tony Gonzales has been legendary. Against the Giants, they will both get their first playoff wins of their careers.
Brady and the Patriots will be one-and-done for the third year in a row.
Steelers over Patriots
The Patriots are the No. 1 seed... again. They are probably one and done...again. The biggest frauds in the NFL haven't beaten a team that finished over .500 this season, and the Steelers aren't afraid to travel to Foxboro. The defense is an absolute joke, and the Pats have played poorly going into the postseason.
Those early-game woes won't be easy to come back from when you're not playing the Dolphins and Bills. It's been a long time since Belichick, Brady and Co. have raised the Lombardi, and haven't done it since they were caught cheating by the NFL. Coincidence?
Ravens over Texans
This game will be closer than most people think. The Texans match up well with Baltimore and their defense will force it to be close. The Ravens playoff experience will be the deciding factor, though. They are destined for a third showdown with the Steelers.
Packers over Lions
The Packers were the first team to ever go 6-0 in the NFC North this season. Now they'll be the first team to go 7-0 in the NFC North, too. The Lions haven't won in the state of Wisconsin since 1991. They play there every year. Not even last week with all of their starters playing in a game against the Packers JV squad could they muster a win. This will also be Aaron Rodgers first home playoff game. He's 4-1 on the road.
49ers over Falcons
A week after the Falcons get over the playoff win hump, the 49ers send them back home. In a game featuring strength vs strength, the 49ers defense will out perform the Falcons underachieving offense. Alex Smith doesn't turn the ball over, and that will be enough to eliminate Atlanta in the divisional round for a second straight season.
Ray Lewis finally gets back to the Super Bowl.
Ravens over Steelers
If the Ravens are going to go to the Super Bowl, it's fitting that they would have to get through the Pittsburgh Steelers to get there. The best current rivalry in football has been dominated by the Steelers until this season. The Ravens have beaten the Steelers twice and with a banged up Roethlisberger, they are in great shape to put the nail in the coffin.
Packers over 49ers
The old adage is "Defense Wins Championships" and it will be put to the test in this game. The 49ers have the best defense in football and the Packers have the best offense. Beyond that, the Packers have, statistically, the worst defense. The real story line of this game is going to be Aaron Rodgers going up against the team that passed him in the draft.
The 49ers broke his heart in 2005, and he will be chomping at the bit to break their heart in return. Not to mention Alex Smith, the player they preferred to Rodgers, is the opposing quarterback. They say "defense wins championships" but they also say that "revenge is a dish best served cold"...I think Lambeau Field qualifies as cold enough. This one isn't close as the Packers win the conference for the second consecutive season.
Pack to Back.
Packers over Ravens
In a game that will be promoted as offensive versus defensive juggernauts, the truth is that the Packers were always going to win their second straight world championship. The Packers offense will overpower the Ravens defense, much like it did to the Steelers in the game last season.
This time, Charles Woodson won't break his collarbone and allow the opponent back into the game. The Ravens will keep it relatively close, but once Madonna leaves the field, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense will take over and put the game away early. Joe Flacco will throw interceptions, giving Rodgers the extra possessions needed to spread the score over two touchdowns.
Green Bay will spend the fourth quarter pounding the ball with James Starks and Ryan Grant, running out the clock to a big Packers victory. Aaron Rodgers wins his second consecutive Super Bowl MVP and the quest to be the first team to 3-peat since Lombard's Packers begins.