Lo and behold, the top-ranked offense of the eight Divisional teams advanced to the Conference Round – although Green Bay Packers failed to cash in against the NFL odds. Can they do it this Sunday?
Jason’s 2014-15 postseason record: 3-1 ATS, 2-1-1 Totals
Ah, nothing like a clean sweep of our Divisional Round picks to get the ol’ bankroll back in order. And we were suitably pleased to see the Baltimore Ravens get the cover in their loss to the New England Patriots. Mind you, it didn’t take a Super Genius to fade the home favorites in these matchups. Which makes us wonder about the final numbers coming off our expanded consensus report for Sunday’s Divisional games – the Denver Broncos and the Dallas Cowboys had the most money on them by far. Are there simply that many casual fans making football picks these days?
We’ll leave that for another day. For now, let’s reset for the Conference Round by taking another look at the offensive rankings for the remaining four teams. We used the DVOA stats at Football Outsiders last time around; this week, let’s head on over to Pro-Football Reference and use their Offensive Simple Rating System to rank this fearsome foursome. All numbers are from the 2014 regular season.
1. Green Bay Packers (plus-7.9 OSRS)
Sure enough, the Packers retain top spot, although they would have placed second to Denver (plus-9.2 OSRS) had the Broncos advanced. Green Bay still has the leading MVP favorite in QB Aaron Rodgers, but the big question for the NFC title game is how mobile Rodgers will be. He was clearly not at 100 percent against the Dallas Cowboys (+5.5 away) with that partially torn calf, and it nearly cost the Packers their season in a 26-21 come-from-behind victory.
Read our analysis of Conference Championships Defensive Power Rankings.
2. New England Patriots (plus-7.5 OSRS)
Who needs Tom Brady? New England managed to survive Baltimore (+7 away) 35-31 thanks in part to versatile wideout Julius Edelman, who threw a perfect touchdown strike to Danny Amendola late in the third quarter to knot the game at 28-28. Okay, Brady also threw three TD passes and ran for another, but who’s counting? We’d be worried about the Patriots running attack, though. They picked up just 14 yards on 13 carries against the Ravens. Maybe Jonas Grey (ankle) will be healthy enough this Sunday to face the next team on our list.
3. Indianapolis Colts (plus-5.2 OSRS)
This is where SRS and DVOA have different ideas about the Colts. From an efficiency perspective, Indianapolis is sorely lacking in the running game, especially in short-yardage situations, and QB Andrew Luck just throws too many damned interceptions – 16 during the regular season, and two more against the Broncos, although both those NFL picks turned out to be just as good as punts. Anyway, the Colts were still able to put 28.6 points per game up on the board, placing sixth in the league, and they led the NFL with 42 touchdowns through the air.
4. Seattle Seahawks (plus-2.4 OSRS)
And the first shall be last. Once again, SRS has something different to say about the Seahawks, who were No. 10 in overall scoring at 24.6 points per game despite possessing the No. 5-ranked offense in terms of efficiency. Not that Seattle is an offensive juggernaut by any means; Russell Wilson got sacked 42 times this year, and his 20 TD passes were less than half of Luck’s total with Indianapolis. But the Seahawks easily led the league this year with 172.6 rushing yards per game. The next closest team was Green Bay at No. 11 overall (119.8 yards).
One last thing about the Seahawks: Center Max Unger, who’s been in and out of the lineup (mostly out) with injuries, appeared to tweak his already-gimpy ankle against the Carolina Panthers in the Divisional Round. Keep an eye on the big man’s status for the NFC title game NFL odds, and may the prolate spheroid be with you.