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Ravens vs. Patriots: Early Stat Predictions, Simulations for AFC Title Game

Zach KruseSenior Analyst IDecember 12, 2016

Ravens vs. Patriots: Early Stat Predictions, Simulations for AFC Title Game

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    You can expect to read your fair share of previews, matchup descriptions, human interest stories and predictions in the lead up to the AFC Championship Game between the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens Sunday.

    In this space, we're going to shift to a simulated look at the matchup. 

    Using the sports simulation service at What If Sports, we ran Patriots vs. Ravens through the predictor more than 10 times, and we'll use those results to help paint a more clear picture of the AFC title game. 

    In the following slides, we'll present what we've found. 

Quarterback Peformance

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    Joe Flacco: 17 for 25, 224 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs

    Tom Brady: 21 for 29, 262 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT



    Flacco: 26-38, 353 yards, 2 TDs (high); 16-27, 250 yards, 2 TDs, 4 INTs, 1 fumble lost (low)

    Brady: 25-34, 322 yards, 4 TDs (high); 13-26, 152 yards 1 TD, 1 INT (low)


    What the Results Point To

    Just as you'd expect, the Patriots appear to have a slight edge at the quarterback position.

    But here's a telling sign for Ravens fans: In the five games in which Flacco did not turnover the football, Baltimore was a perfect 5-0.

    Giveaways on the road have to be avoided for Flacco to beat Brady in New England. 

Running Back Performance

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    Ray Rice, Ravens: 19 rushes, 79 yards, TD; 4 catches, 26 yards

    Bernard Pierce, Ravens: 8 rushes, 26 yards; 1 catch, 10 yards

    Stevan Ridley, Patriots: 18 rushes, 119 yards, TD; two catches, 13 yards

    Shane Vereen, Patriots: 7 rushes, 13 yards; 1 catch, 10 yards



    Rice: 15 rushes, 134 yards, two TDs; 2 catches, 20 yards (high); 13 rushes, 28 yards (low)

    Pierce: 7 rushes, 58 yards, TD; 1 catch 10 yards (high); 5 rushes, 3 yards (low)

    Ridley: 17 rushes, 141 yards, TD (high); 20 rushes, 74 yards; 1 catch, 3 yards (low)

    Vereen: 4 rushes, 32 yards; 1 catch, 44 yards, TD (high); 7 rushes, 4 yards (low)


    What Results Point To

    Both running backs were consistently productive over the simulations, but Ridley's numbers are especially striking. His worst rushing total clocked in at 74 rushing yards, which is hardly poor in a game of these stakes. His average of 119 yards and a score shows that these simulations expect Ridley to have a significant impact of the outcome.

    Another trend emerged for Baltimore however:

    In games where Rice and Pierce combined for at least 30 carries, the Ravens were 3-0. 

Receiver Performance

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    Torrey Smith, Ravens: 3 catches, 68 yards, TD

    Anquan Boldin, Ravens: 4 catches, 54 yards

    Jacoby Jones, Ravens: 2 catches, 34 yards

    Tandon Doss, Ravens: 1 catch, 24 yards

    Wes Welker, Patriots: 8 catches, 99 yards, TD

    Brandon Lloyd, Patriots: 4 catches, 55 yards

    Deion Branch, Patriots: 2 catches, 29 yards

    Danny Woodhead, Patriots: 3 catches, 25 yards



    Smith: 4 catches, 132 yards, 2 TDs (high); 0 catches, 0 yards (low)

    Boldin: 10 catches, 101 yards, TD (high); 1 catch, 4 yards (low)

    Jones: 4 catches, 100 yards, 2 TDs (high); 0 catches, zero yards (low)

    Doss: 2 catches, 90 yards, TD (high); 0 catches, 0 yards (low)

    Welker: 12 catches, 142 yards, 2 TDs (high); 4 catches, 70 yards, TD (low)

    Lloyd: 5 catches, 98 yards, TD (high); 1 catch, 7 yards (low)

    Branch: 5 catches, 77 yards (high); 0 catches, 0 yards (low)

    Woodhead: 5 catches, 45 yards, TD (high); 0 catches, 0 yards (low)


    What the Results Point to

    The simulations come out as most would expect.

    Welker and Smith carry the load for their respective passing games, while Boldin and Lloyd play complimentary roles.

    An interesting trend that came out of the simulations is the variance in secondary receivers playing a large role this weekend. When Jacoby Jones and Tandon Doss hit their outlying numbers, the Ravens won the game; same outcome for Branch and Woodhead too. When they hit their outliers, Pats won.

    Note: Woodhead is listed as a receiver because he carried the football just three times over the simulations. His impact was much more evident in the passing game. 

Tight End Performance

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    Dennis Pitta, Ravens: 3 catches, 45 yards

    Aaron Hernandez, Patriots: 4 catches, 38 yards, TD



    Pitta: 5 catches, 78 yards (high); 0 catches, 0 yards (low)

    Hernandez: 8 catches, 102 yards, 2 TDs; 3 catches, 19 yards (low)


    What the Results Point To

    Nothing about the simulations were especially surprising, although an average of just 38 yards seemed a bit low for Hernandez.

    The Patriots might need more production out of him with Rob Gronkowski out (the sims were done without Gronkowski).

    Pitta had some highly productive games, but also some clunkers, too. 

Defensive Performance

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    Sacks, Ravens: 2

    Turnovers Forced, Ravens: 1

    Sacks, Patriots: 2

    Turnovers Forced, Patriots: 2



    Sacks, Ravens: 5 (high); 0 (low)

    Turnovers Forced, Ravens: 4 (high); 0 (low)

    Sacks, Patriots: 6 (high); 1 (low)

    Turnovers Forced, Patriots: 6 (high); 0 (low)


    What the Results Point to:

    The defenses were hard to get a handle on during the simulations, but the limited statistics available do point to the Patriots being able to turnover the Ravens at a higher rate. The outlying cases for New England were also better than Baltimore in both sacks and turnovers.

    A nifty trend for the Patriots: When New England forced at least two turnovers and sacked Flacco two times or more times, the Patriots were 4-0. 

Special Teams Performance

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    Instead of averaging out special teams numbers, we'll provide a quick breakdown. 

    The Ravens received kick-return touchdowns from Jacoby Jones during three different simulations, while

    the Patriots had muffed punts in two others. New England lost both the games in which they turned the ball over on punt returns. 

    While difficult to get too much out of these special teams sims, the difference on returns—scores for Baltimore, turnovers for New England—is something to watch for Sunday.

    Both kickers—Justin Tucker from Baltimore and Stephen Gostkowski from New England—missed a total of just three kicks. The two from Tucker were over 50 yards.

    On two separate occasions, Gostkowski hit game-winning field goals.

Offensive Efficiency

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    First Downs, Ravens: 16

    Third Down Conversions, Ravens: 5-13

    First Downs, Patriots: 22

    Third Down Conversions, Patriots: 7-15



    First Downs, Ravens: 24 (high); 11 (low)

    Third Down Conversions, Ravens: 7-11 (high); 2-12 (low)

    First Downs, Patriots: 28 (high); 18 (low)

    Third Down Conversion, Patriots: 12-17 (high); 3-9 (low)


    What the Results Point to

    The simulated data is clear.

    The Patriots are the better offense, both in accumulating first downs and converting on the game's most important down, third. 

    However, it's interesting to note that both the Ravens and Patriots both lost a game in which they had their outlying high amount of first downs.

    Both teams won the game in which they had their best third-down conversion rate.

    Quality over quantity? 

Points Scored

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    Ravens: 23.4

    Patriots: 27.6



    Ravens: 36 (high); 14 (low)

    Patriots: 45 (high); 11 (low)


    What the Results Point To

    New England finished with just one game under 20 points, a 36-11 loss in the first simulation. The 36 points from Baltimore was also its high outlier in the simulations.

    Only twice did the Ravens crack 30 points. They were 2-0 in those games.

    New England; however, was just 1-3 when scoring under 24 points. 

Ultimate Results

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    Win-loss, Ravens: 5-9

    Win-loss, Patriots: 9-5


    What the Results Point To

    Given the rest of the simulation data, it's no surprise that the Patriots won nine of the 14 simulations.

    On average, New England outplayed Baltimore on the ground, third downs and avoided turnovers.

    It took outlying cases (four turnovers, muffed punts, uncharacteristic performances from Brady for example) for the Ravens to win games. While those outliers remain a possibility, the Patriots should be considered a strong favorite to advance past the Ravens and to Super Bowl XLVII. 

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