NFL Playoffs 2011: Behind the Numbers and Predictions for This Weekend
The NFL playoffs have been good so far.
We saw the first 7-9 divisional winner to make the playoffs. The rest of the playoff teams won ten games or more.
The defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints made the playoffs, but bowed out in the first round to the first 7-9 team to win a playoff game, the Seattle Seahawks.
Seven teams from the 2009-10 playoffs made it back to this year's post-season. The new teams are: Pittsburgh, Seattle, Kansas City, Chicago and Atlanta. All five of these teams won their divisions.
So far, the home teams in the playoffs are 3-5. The only winners have been Seattle in the Wild Card Round and Pittsburgh and Chicago in the Divisional Round.
Teams with a bye are only 2-2. Atlanta and New England both lost at home. Chicago and Pittsburgh were the winners.
If everything sticks like it has in the playoffs, only one home team/one-bye team will win this weekend. This makes for some interesting predictions.
Here is a look at the remaining matchups.
Green Bay vs. Chicago
This will be the third time these teams have met this season, with the home team winning each matchup. Green Bay is arguably playing their best football of the season right now. Chicago always has the X-factor with Devin Hester and their special teams.
Who will be in the Super Bowl?
Head-to-head, these teams are very similar. Green Bay has faced teams with a 51.9 winning percentage this season, while Chicago has faced teams with a 47.2 winning percentage.
Both teams have faced five different playoff opponents, both going 3-3 against them. Please note: Green Bay counted twice on Chicago's schedule.
They have 12 common opponents this season. Green Bay is 8-4, while Chicago is 9-3. Both teams beat Philadephia, the New York Jets, Minnesota, Buffalo, Detroit and Dallas this season. Green Bay beat the New York Giants and the Lions only once, while Chicago also beat Miami.
Green Bay was 3-5 on the road this regular season. With the playoffs, they are 5-5. Chicago is 5-3 at home this season. With the playoffs, they are 6-3.
The Packers have a lot of momentum right now and are playing their best football. Clay Matthews has found quarterbacks once again with three sacks this postseason.
Pro-Bowl snub Tramon Williams has taken it personally and stepped it up in the playoffs. He has three interceptions, including one that he returned for a touchdown.
The Bears have a great defense, but they only ranked 20th against the pass. With Aaron Rodgers throwing to seven different receivers, they will struggle when the Packers throw. I do believe the Bears will get to Rodgers a couple of times for sacks.
You always have to consider the X-factor, Chicago's Devin Hester. He had a punt return for a touchdown the first time these two teams met this season. As long as Tim Masthay can play the directional-punting game or never punt in the game, this can be controlled.
Prediction: Green Bay wins, 21-17.
Pittsburgh vs. New York Jets
This is another matchup we have seen this season. The Jets won the first meeting at Pittsburgh, 22-17. Pittsburgh won their last two games to seal up the No. 2 seed in the playoffs.
Like Green Bay and Chicago, Pittsburgh and the Jets have similar resumes. Pittsburgh faced five different playoff teams, while the Jets faced six. Both went 2-4 against these opponents (Baltimore counted twice for Pittsburgh).
Pittsburgh's opponents had a winning percentage of 50.0, while the Jets faced opponents with a 49.2 winning percentage. This gives Pittsburgh a slight edge.
The Steelers and Jets have nine common opponents. Pittsburgh went 7-2, while New York went 6-3. Both teams beat Cincinnati, Cleveland, Miami and Buffalo. Pittsburgh beat Baltimore once, while New York beat New England once, but also lost once to Miami.
Pittsburgh was 5-3 at home this season. With the playoffs, they are 6-3. New York was 6-2 on the road this season. With the playoffs, they are 8-2.
Like Green Bay, the New York Jets have momentum right now. They have won their last three games, including wins over Indianapolis and New England on the road. They are not putting up huge numbers or flashy performances. They are just doing their jobs.
Similarly, Pittsburgh has won their last three games as well, highlighted by their win over Baltimore. Once Pittsburgh woke up in the second half, they took the game to a new level.
Pittsburgh comes in with the No. 2 defense this season. They have held opponents to an average of 14.5 points per game. Do not expect them to go easy on Sanchez. They had 21 interceptions and 48 sacks during the regular season.
If offense wins games and defense wins championships, expect the best defenses to come out on top Sunday. The edge in this game has to go to Pittsburgh.
Ben Roethlisberger has tons of playoff experience and that defense is tough. I expect Sanchez to be there, but not just yet.
Prediction: Pittsburgh wins, 27-20.
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