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Week 17 of the 2013 Regular Season

Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals

Baltimore at Cincinnati (-6.5)

The Bengals just might be one of the more overlooked and underrated teams in the NFL this year. In more than a dozen of our Quality Stats categories, Cincinnati ranks in the top 10, with the Offensive Hog Index (No. 16) the only major category in which it slightly lags. The Bengals are No. 7 in our Quality Stats Power Rankings.

The Bengals still have a shot at a first-round playoff bye if they win this game, with the added incentive of knocking a hated division rival out of the playoff hunt, as the Ravens have to win in order to have any chance at all at a playoff spot.

The Ravens traditionally have won with defense, but their offensive numbers here in 2013 are shockingly bad even by their previously mediocre standards.

Baltimore ranks No. 27 in Real Passing YPA, Offensive Passer Rating, and on the Offensive Hog Index, and is coming off a horrific offensive performance last week against a New England defense that had been springing huge leaks in the weeks leading up to that game.

Defensively, Baltimore has been pretty good and still has our No. 2 Defensive Hogs through 16 weeks, but it ranks a pedestrian No. 13 in Defensive Passer Rating—a category the Ravens have dominated in years past.

Cincinnati enjoys huge edges in Passer Rating Differential, Real QB Rating Differential, and on the Relativity Index, and is better than Baltimore just about across the board in most other Quality Stats.  The Bengals are also 7-0 at home this year and boast wins over Green Bay, Indianapolis and New England at Paul Brown Stadium. The Ravens, meanwhile, are just 2-5 on the road.

The last time these teams met the game went into OT, however, with the Ravens prevailing by a field goal. Baltimore is a proud team with a championship pedigree and has a lot to play for this week, so we’re expecting a game similar to the last meeting.

Finally, never underestimate the ability of Marv Lewis’s Bengals to underachieve in a big game. Twice this year Cincy had a chance to make huge progress in divisional games, the aforementioned loss to the Ravens and their ugly Week 15 loss at Pittsburgh.  

The value here is on the side of the Ravens, too. The Pigskin Public has ratcheted up the line from Cincy -3.5 to -6.5 this week.

Pick: Cincinnati 20, Baltimore 17

Ravens Pre-Game Analysis Bengals
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
18.59 20

Quality Stats Power Rankings

8.50 3
20% 20

Quality Standings

100% 1
15.37 18

Scoreability

13.71 6
15.25 14

Bendability

16.03 11
5.38 30

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.72 9
6.21 15

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.09 2
66.45 29

Real Quarterback Rating

84.06 11
75.94 12

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

68.83 3
- 9.49 22

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

15.23 5
72.05 29

Offensive Passer Rating

88.97 12
82.23 11

Defensive Passer Rating

74.17 2
- 10.18 24

Passer Rating Differential

14.80 6
25.00 29

Offensive Hog Index

15.67 17
7.00 2

Defensive Hog Index

10.00 6
- 2.38 20

The Relativity Index

7.12 6
6857 21

Total Team Yards

7608 9
6899 10

Total Team Yards Allowed

6786 8
-42 15

Total Team Yards Differential

822 4
77.75 30

Offensive Rusher Rating

85.99 22
79.15 4

Defensive Rusher Rating

79.40 5
- 1.40 16

Rusher Rating Differential

6.59 11
29 22

Total Turnovers

34 29

 

Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots

Buffalo at New England (-7.5)

The Patriots are fresh off a stunning tour-de-force 41-7 win at Baltimore and need only a home victory over their traditional whipping-boy Bills to secure the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye, with an outside shot at the No. 1 spot still in play.

The Patriots are 24-2 against Buffalo since December 2000 and have not lost to the Bills at home since November of that season. The average game of that period is a 28.4 to 14.7 New England victory.

However, the Patriots needed a Stephen Gostkowski 35-yard field goal with 5 seconds to play to eke out a 23-21 victory in Buffalo back in Week 1.

Here in Week 17, the reasons for another disappointing Bills season are obvious:

The Bills rank No. 28 in Offensive Passer Rating, No. 28 in Real QB Rating and No. 30 in Real Passing YPA.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that Buffalo actually fields a Super Bowl-caliber pass defense: No. 3 in Defensive Passer Rating, No. 2 in Defensive Real QB Rating and No. 3 in Defensive Real Passing YPA.

If not for the Flutie hex, the Bills would actually be competent at QB and might be a Super Bowl contender. Alas, they are not on both counts.

New England obviously has an incentive to win and is a monolithically good late-season team, with a record of 49-7 in regular-season games played in December or January with Brady at quarterback.

Look for the Patriots to enter the postseason with style – and with a week off before hosting a divisional-round playoff game.

Pick: New England 28, Buffalo 17

Bills Pre-Game Analysis Patriots
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
19.00 22

Quality Stats Power Rankings

10.77 8
17% 22

Quality Standings

50% 10
15.96 25

Scoreability

13.86 9
13.75 24

Bendability

17.66 5
5.44 29

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.12 15
5.29 3

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.00 12
68.48 25

Real Quarterback Rating

79.14 18
65.53 2

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

75.67 11
2.95 16

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

3.47 14
74.98 26

Offensive Passer Rating

87.29 15
74.91 3

Defensive Passer Rating

81.01 9
0.07 17

Passer Rating Differential

6.28 12
23.00 26

Offensive Hog Index

11.00 9
12.67 11

Defensive Hog Index

19.00 22
- 3.38 22

The Relativity Index

6.21 8
6499 27

Total Team Yards

7743 5
7261 23

Total Team Yards Allowed

7076 11
-762 29

Total Team Yards Differential

667 7
89.58 16

Offensive Rusher Rating

103.22 4
88.35 13

Defensive Rusher Rating

85.40 10
1.23 14

Rusher Rating Differential

17.82 6
27 19

Total Turnovers

20 7

 

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons

Carolina (-6)  at Atlanta

The Falcons have had an injury-plagued and bitterly disappointing season after last year’s run deep into the NFC playoffs, but Atlanta has a shot to spoil a division rival’s party this Sunday when they host the Panthers.

Carolina, with a win in this game, wraps up the NFC South and a coveted first round playoff bye. A loss opens up the possibility for New Orleans to take both of those positions away from the Panthers.

We’re not betting on that.

Carolina is the vastly superior team here just about everywhere you look. Atlanta’s Offensive Hogs are a little better, and Matt Ryan gets the ball downfield more effectively than Cam Newton (Atlanta is No. 16 in Real Passing YPA; Carolina is No. 21).

But the Panthers dominate pretty much every other Quality Stat comparison, especially Passer Rating Differential, Real QB Rating Differential, and on both the Relativity and Intelligence indices.

The Panthers also bring the No. 1 scoring defense in the league into this game.

In short, the outcome of this game shouldn’t be much different than the last time the teams met on November 3, when Carolina won 34-10.

Give the Falcons a little boost for playing at home this time around, but this game really shouldn’t be all that close.

One other advantage: Panthers-Falcons is not one of our stated Intelligence Index Mental Mismatches for Week 17, but could be: Carolina is No. 1 on the indicator, Atlanta No. 25. That disparity has added up to big victories all season long.

Pick: Carolina 31, Atlanta 20

Panthers Pre-Game Analysis Falcons
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
8.18 2

Quality Stats Power Rankings

22.27 27
50% 9

Quality Standings

0% 30
13.85 8

Scoreability

15.55 21
20.00 1

Bendability

13.70 25
5.90 19

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.04 17
5.50 5

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

7.11 32
86.39 8

Real Quarterback Rating

80.35 16
70.33 5

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

94.96 31
16.06 4

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 14.61 25
88.76 13

Offensive Passer Rating

89.47 11
81.37 10

Defensive Passer Rating

102.44 31
7.39 11

Passer Rating Differential

- 12.97 26
15.00 15

Offensive Hog Index

13.67 12
8.67 4

Defensive Hog Index

30.67 32
8.39 4

The Relativity Index

- 4.41 24
6228 30

Total Team Yards

6639 22
5835 2

Total Team Yards Allowed

7121 14
393 10

Total Team Yards Differential

-482 22
95.30 11

Offensive Rusher Rating

87.80 20
70.86 2

Defensive Rusher Rating

94.44 21
24.44 1

Rusher Rating Differential

- 6.64 21
19 3

Total Turnovers

28 21

 

Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers

Cleveland at Pittsburgh (-7)

Somehow, some way, the Steelers have managed to at least give themselves a shot at making the playoffs with a win this Sunday against the Browns and an enormous amount of help from several other teams (the playoff scenarios for Pittsburgh, and each postseason contender here).

Still, for a team that started off at 0-4 to be at least “in the hunt” for a wild card berth entering Week 17 is a terrific comeback story.

The key to the Steelers’ resurgence has been a pass defense that took a lot of haymakers to the jaw early in the season but has managed to climb all the way up to No. 11 in Defensive Passer Rating and No. 10 in Defensive Real Passing YPA.  

Ben Roethlisberger (93.7 passer rating) and the Pittsburgh pass offense have been good all year, and when those numbers are combined with the improved pass defense stats, the Steelers now come in at No. 7 in Passer Rating Differential—the mother of all Quality Stats.

As for the Browns, they were once 3-2 and in first place in the AFC North.  Since then, they have turned back into the Browns and enter this game having lost six straight and nine of their last 10.

Cleveland’s pass defense has gone in the opposite direction of Pittsburgh’s over the past few weeks, and even allowed the Jets’ Geno Smith to rack up a 91.7 rating against them in New York last week (Smith’s season passer rating is just north of 65).

Cleveland does still rank at No. 6 in Defensive Real Passing YPA, which means that opposing offenses kill them slowly, with shorter stuff, rather than by biting off large chunks of real estate at a time.

The Steelers own the Quality Stats comparisons here, by pretty solid margins in the key categories. Pittsburgh also won the first meeting between the teams in Cleveland rather easily and should have very little trouble repeating that feat at home this Sunday.

Pick: Pittsburgh 27, Cleveland 17

Browns Pre-Game Analysis Steelers
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
21.32 23

Quality Stats Power Rankings

16.36 15
20% 19

Quality Standings

50% 11
17.61 29

Scoreability

14.25 13
13.10 29

Bendability

14.58 17
5.53 27

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.39 12
5.49 4

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.88 10
67.65 27

Real Quarterback Rating

81.45 14
78.85 18

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

77.26 16
- 11.20 23

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

4.19 12
75.70 25

Offensive Passer Rating

92.29 8
84.06 16

Defensive Passer Rating

82.71 12
- 8.36 21

Passer Rating Differential

9.57 9
21.33 25

Offensive Hog Index

18.67 21
20.00 23

Defensive Hog Index

24.67 28
- 6.91 28

The Relativity Index

- 0.69 16
7104 16

Total Team Yards

7061 17
6579 5

Total Team Yards Allowed

7160 15
525 8

Total Team Yards Differential

-99 17
72.37 32

Offensive Rusher Rating

79.96 27
91.39 16

Defensive Rusher Rating

101.66 29
- 19.02 28

Rusher Rating Differential

- 21.70 32
29 22

Total Turnovers

24 14

 

Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings

Detroit at Minnesota (-3)

This meaningless trip to Minneapolis is just the type of game we’d expect the inconsistent Lions to win, and win big.

Detroit pulled a pathetic December disappearing act after blowing out the Packers on Thanksgiving Day to seize complete control of an NFC North race that was theirs for the taking, given that Chicago and Green Bay had both lost their starting QBs to injuries for long stretches of time.

However, the Lions since then have dropped three straight, including two homes games against very beatable Baltimore and NY Giants teams, and are now eliminated from NFC playoff contention.

The Lions are the quintessential paper tiger, a talented bunch whose obnoxious bark is much worse than its bite.

The Vikings are reportedly about to say goodbye to coach Leslie Frazier after this game as well. Minnesota played hard for Frazier this year, especially after a horrid 1-6 start to the season.

But persistent QB issues and consistently bad pass defenses basically doomed Frazier’s tenure in Minneapolis, despite last season’s Adrian Peterson-led run to the post-season.

The Quality Stats comparisons for this game are heavily in Detroit’s favor in most of the major categories, and the Lions also won the first meeting between the teams by 10 points way back on opening day.

When nothing is on the line, you can usually count on the Lions to come through.

Pick: Detroit 27, Minnesota 24

Lions Pre-Game Analysis Vikings
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
15.59 13

Quality Stats Power Rankings

22.05 26
20% 18

Quality Standings

17% 23
15.88 23

Scoreability

14.09 12
14.75 16

Bendability

13.26 27
6.82 8

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.81 21
6.53 20

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.67 23
79.48 17

Real Quarterback Rating

70.98 21
77.24 15

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

91.48 30
2.24 17

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 20.51 30
84.17 18

Offensive Passer Rating

75.99 24
84.97 19

Defensive Passer Rating

98.61 30
- 0.80 19

Passer Rating Differential

- 22.62 30
10.00 5

Offensive Hog Index

15.00 15
15.33 16

Defensive Hog Index

23.67 26
- 0.60 15

The Relativity Index

- 5.61 26
7697 6

Total Team Yards

7627 8
7176 18

Total Team Yards Allowed

8220 32
521 9

Total Team Yards Differential

-593 24
88.36 19

Offensive Rusher Rating

112.82 1
90.42 15

Defensive Rusher Rating

93.78 20
- 2.06 17

Rusher Rating Differential

19.04 5
34 29

Total Turnovers

32 28

 

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears

Green Bay (-2.5) at Chicago

Packers-Bears is the oldest rivalry in the NFL and, adding another layer of legend, their 2013 finale is one of two do-or-die games here in Week 17.

The winner captures the NFC North. The loser hits the golf course … or the bottle. Whatever floats your boat there, folks.

The big news, of course, that we just learned Thursday afternoon, is that Green Bay All-World QB Aaron Rodgers will be back on the field Sunday.

It will be his first start since suffering a broken collarbone back on Nov. 4 (Week 9) against, yes, these very same Chicago Bears.

The Packers immediately hit most boards at -3 in wake of the Rodgers news. The game was quickly chipped down to -2.5, according to the Vegas Insider Consensus line.

Here's a quick look at the Rodgers statistical impact:

  • Green Bay was No. 4 in Real QB Rating (99.7) and No. 4 in Offensive Passer Rating (108.02) entering Week 9
  • Green Bay is No. 10 in Real QB Rating (83.2) No. 9 in Offensive Passer Rating (92.2) entering Week 17

Those numbers represent pretty dramatic declines during life without Rodgers, and provide perfect evidence about why the QB position in general, and great QBs in particular, are so important. It’s tough to win without them, as the 2013 Packers have proven.

It’s hard to expect Rodgers to be in peak form after missing nearly two months with an injury. But he faces a welcoming reintroduction to life in the NFL.

The Bears, as we’ve noted all season and as is evident below, field one of the worst pass defenses in football:  No. 20 in Defensive Real QB Rating, No. 21 in Defensive Passer Rating and No. 27 in Defensive Real Passing YPA.

Rodgers should have enough bullets in the refinished chamber to outgun Jay Cutler and the Bears. Cutler has been only mediocre in his two games back from injury (4 TD, 3 INT), a 38-31 win over the lowly Browns and last week’s colossal 54-11 beating by the Eagles in Philadelphia.

Pick: Green Bay 28, Chicago 23

Packers Pre-Game Analysis Bears
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
17.82 18

Quality Stats Power Rankings

15.00 12
0% 29

Quality Standings

40% 14
15.36 17

Scoreability

13.73 7
13.92 21

Bendability

13.21 28
6.94 7

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

7.03 5
6.79 25

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.93 27
82.94 13

Real Quarterback Rating

89.86 6
85.62 25

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

80.61 21
- 2.67 19

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

9.25 9
91.69 10

Offensive Passer Rating

96.86 6
95.88 25

Defensive Passer Rating

86.89 21
- 4.20 20

Passer Rating Differential

9.97 8
10.33 6

Offensive Hog Index

6.00 1
20.33 24

Defensive Hog Index

24.33 27
- 2.14 19

The Relativity Index

- 3.23 21
7641 7

Total Team Yards

8455 2
8085 31

Total Team Yards Allowed

7705 27
-444 21

Total Team Yards Differential

750 6
101.55 6

Offensive Rusher Rating

94.02 12
99.44 27

Defensive Rusher Rating

113.20 32
2.12 13

Rusher Rating Differential

- 19.18 29
25 15

Total Turnovers

23 13

 

Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans

Houston at Tennessee (-7)

Not surprisingly, things have gone from bad to worse for the Texans since they canned Gary Kubiak and inserted Wade “Curse of Flutie” Phillips into the interim head coaching position a couple of weeks ago.

Houston had been mostly competitive, if unsuccessful, in the several losing weeks leading up to Kubiak’s firing, but in two games under Phillips, the Texans have fallen off the face of the earth, losing to Indianapolis and Denver by an average of 23 PPG.

The 6-9 Titans are headed for yet another mediocre finish this year. Tennessee is in the middle of the pack just about everywhere on our Quality Stats totem pole, though their rankings in some key categories such as the Offensive Hog Index have crept up to respectable levels of late.

Houston, of course, has been a Quality Stats disaster in 2013, and it continues to be the dumbest, worst-coached team in the NFL based on our efficiency measures of Bendability and Scoreability.

The Titans probably aren’t good enough to be favored by this many points against most teams, but against a Houston team that appears to have checked out mentally on the 2013 season, this number actually seems reasonable.

However, keep mind that one of two Houston wins this year came against the Titans, in OT, back in Week 2, while Tennessee boasts just one win all year of more than a touchdown (38-13 over Jets back in Week 4).

Pick: Tennessee 24, Houston 21

Texans Pre-Game Analysis Titans
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
22.50 29

Quality Stats Power Rankings

16.45 16
11% 28

Quality Standings

12% 26
20.13 32

Scoreability

14.89 15
11.87 31

Bendability

14.19 20
5.65 25

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.13 14
5.97 11

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.22 16
67.01 28

Real Quarterback Rating

80.81 15
85.29 23

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

76.76 13
- 18.28 29

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

4.06 13
73.98 27

Offensive Passer Rating

83.62 20
93.94 23

Defensive Passer Rating

83.27 13
- 19.96 29

Passer Rating Differential

0.35 16
17.33 19

Offensive Hog Index

13.67 12
17.67 20

Defensive Hog Index

14.67 13
- 8.82 30

The Relativity Index

- 1.64 18
7394 11

Total Team Yards

6925 20
7164 16

Total Team Yards Allowed

6893 9
230 11

Total Team Yards Differential

32 13
80.33 26

Offensive Rusher Rating

96.36 10
93.50 19

Defensive Rusher Rating

103.34 30
- 13.17 26

Rusher Rating Differential

- 6.97 22
31 25

Total Turnovers

25 15

 

Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville at Indianapolis (-11.5)

The Colts have been one of the great enigmas of the 2013 season.

An impressive road win against the Chiefs last week was  just the latest major scalp added to Indy’s trophy room this year, to be placed alongside the heads of the 49ers (also on the road) and Broncos (Denver’s first loss of the season).  That’s an impressive array of Quality Wins.

And yet this is the same Indy team that has lost at home by 30 points to the Rams and also been defeated by average Miami (also at home) and San Diego teams. With a little more consistency, the Colts would have clinched a first round playoff bye already and would have very little to play for this week against the hapless Jaguars.

As it stands right now, however, the Colts need to win this game and then get lots of help (losses by Patriots, Bengals) if they want to avoid playing on wild card weekend.

Part one of that scenario – beating the Jaguars – shouldn’t be much of a problem. Jacksonville has played much better over the last seven weeks, winning four times and playing all-around competitive football.

But the Jaguars are still a very bad team that ranks in the lower-third of the league in an eye-popping 21 of our key Quality Stats shown below.

Jacksonville also is coming off back-to-back home losses to mediocre Buffalo and Tennessee teams, and now has to play out the string on the road against an Indy team that not only won the first meeting between the teams by 34 points, but that also has at least a little incentive to play hard, given that a first round bye is not completely out of the question.

Naturally, the Quality Stats comparisons for this game are off the charts in Indy’s favor, and so the Colts should be able to run away and hide.

One concern would be if Indy calls off the dogs early – a Colts’ tradition of sorts – in order to rest some starters for the post-season. But, with a playoff bye still technically in play and Indy playing in the early hour, the incentive should be there for the Colts to keep their main guys playing for most of the contest.

Pick: Indianapolis 28, Jacksonville 14

Jaguars Pre-Game Analysis Colts
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
29.23 32

Quality Stats Power Rankings

13.05 10
0% 32

Quality Standings

57% 5
19.03 31

Scoreability

13.98 10
13.52 26

Bendability

17.00 7
5.29 31

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.07 16
6.81 26

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.42 19
64.02 30

Real Quarterback Rating

84.07 10
89.16 27

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

77.08 14
- 25.15 31

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

6.98 10
71.84 30

Offensive Passer Rating

86.50 16
96.51 29

Defensive Passer Rating

84.63 18
- 24.67 31

Passer Rating Differential

1.87 15
31.00 32

Offensive Hog Index

10.33 6
26.00 30

Defensive Hog Index

16.33 18
- 12.69 32

The Relativity Index

3.92 10
6222 31

Total Team Yards

7032 18
7465 25

Total Team Yards Allowed

7330 24
-1243 32

Total Team Yards Differential

-298 20
79.74 28

Offensive Rusher Rating

103.64 3
100.79 28

Defensive Rusher Rating

92.86 17
- 21.06 31

Rusher Rating Differential

10.77 9
27 19

Total Turnovers

18 1

 

New York Jets at Miami Dolphins

N.Y. Jets at Miami (-6.5)

We’re not sure what will become of Rex Ryan, the Jets’ formerly fat bastard of a head coach, after this game down in Miami.

But, you have to give the now-svelte Ryan some credit. Any coach that can coax seven wins out of a team whose starting QB has a 65.3 passer rating for the season has done a pretty damn good job.

What’s been even more amazing about the Jets’ reasonable amount of success this season is the fact that they rank down near the bottom of the barrel in many of our crucial Quality Stats, like Defensive Passer Rating, the Relativity Index, Passer Rating Differential and Real QB Rating Differential.

Clearly, Ryan’s team has punched well above its statistical weight in 2013, but that may not be enough to save his job.

The Dolphins, after pulling an embarrassing no-show in Buffalo last week, have to have this game or they can kiss their playoff hopes goodbye. Miami’s Offensive Hogs have been a major problem all year, and last week they allowed the Bills to sack quarterback Ryan Tannehill seven times.

Miami has now allowed 11 sacks over the past two games and actually has set a franchise record for the most quarterback sacks allowed in a season, with 58. That’s not exactly the type of protection a team should be providing a young QB upon whose shoulders the franchise has placed its future hopes.

Those poor Offensive Hogs could be a problem for the Dolphins this week against the Jets’ No. 8-ranked Defensive Hogs. However, the Jets’ offense will be facing a defense that ranks No. 5 in Defensive Passer Rating, and it’s the same defense that held New York to just 3 points when the teams met in the Meadowlands four weeks ago.

The Quality Stats comparisons call for a solid Miami win here, and with a playoff spot as a possible reward. But the Jets should have enough in the tank to make it interesting.

A touchdown is a big number for a team like Miami to give. The Dolphins had a lot to gain with a win last week and couldn’t even score a single point, rushing 12 times for just 14 yards.

Pick: Miami 21, N.Y. Jets 17

Jets Pre-Game Analysis Dolphins
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
21.64 24

Quality Stats Power Rankings

18.91 21
40% 13

Quality Standings

57% 6
17.55 28

Scoreability

15.80 22
13.85 23

Bendability

17.16 6
5.56 26

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.47 28
6.30 18

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.03 13
63.31 31

Real Quarterback Rating

70.39 23
80.48 20

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

71.86 7
- 17.17 27

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 1.47 18
66.58 32

Offensive Passer Rating

80.13 21
86.48 20

Defensive Passer Rating

77.26 5
- 19.90 27

Passer Rating Differential

2.87 14
18.33 20

Offensive Hog Index

23.67 28
11.00 9

Defensive Hog Index

15.00 15
- 6.68 27

The Relativity Index

- 0.98 17
6502 26

Total Team Yards

6377 29
7255 22

Total Team Yards Allowed

7193 19
-753 28

Total Team Yards Differential

-816 31
91.38 13

Offensive Rusher Rating

85.96 23
87.68 12

Defensive Rusher Rating

94.90 22
3.70 12

Rusher Rating Differential

- 8.94 25
29 22

Total Turnovers

26 17

 

Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

Philadelphia (-6.5) at Dallas

The playoffs start a week early in the NFC. Eagles-Cowboys is one of two do-or-die senior-circuit showdowns in Week 17 that will determine division titles, in this case champion of the NFC East.

Tony Romo is America’s favorite whipping boy, constantly blamed everytime the overrated Dallas Cowboys and their historically inept defense blow a game.

Romo, of course, has a severe back injury that we learned Monday may keep him out of this do-or-die game in the primetime nightcap of the 2013 season.

The line quickly moved from Dallas -2.5 now to Philadelphia -6.5. That’s night. A 9-point swing in the eyes of the Pigskin Public for the over-criticized QB.

At least the public acknowledges what all pigskin “pundits” should have long known: Romo makes the Cowboys a much better team.

Dallas will likely start at QB Kyle Orton, who last time he started a game ceded the starting Broncos job to Tim Tebow, inspiring Denver’s remarkable second-half run to the playoffs in 2011. Meanwhile, Dallas has called Jon Kitna out of retirement and off the sidelines of high school football coaching to handle emergency QB duties.

Yes, the Curse of Doug Flutie works in mysterious ways.

The problem for Dallas in this game, without or without Romo, is a very bad matchup: Philly’s Nick Foles, the most efficient and productive QB in football this year, against one of the worst pass defenses in football. Dallas this year ranks:

  • No. 24 in Defensive Passer Rating
  • No. 25 in scoring defense (27.2 PPG)
  • No. 29 in Defensive Real Passing YPA
  • No. 29 in Defensive Real QB Rating
  • No. 32 on the Defensive Hog Index
  • No. 32 in pressuring the passer (7.04% Negative Pass Plays)

Philly’s Foles, meanwhile, leads the NFL in YPA (9.03), TD-INT ratio (25-2), passer rating (118.8) and Real QB Rating (110.0). Put most simply: this game is a huge mismatch without Romo, and a struggle at best if he is 100 percent and does play.

Pick: Philadelphia 30, Dallas 21

Eagles Pre-Game Analysis Cowboys
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
11.55 9

Quality Stats Power Rankings

17.68 17
40% 12

Quality Standings

14% 24
15.10 16

Scoreability

12.44 2
16.51 9

Bendability

15.38 13
7.40 3

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.37 13
6.56 22

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.98 29
93.87 4

Real Quarterback Rating

88.14 7
79.05 19

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

90.88 28
14.83 6

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 2.74 20
102.69 4

Offensive Passer Rating

95.70 7
83.97 15

Defensive Passer Rating

95.95 26
18.72 4

Passer Rating Differential

- 0.25 18
10.67 8

Offensive Hog Index

13.33 11
18.00 21

Defensive Hog Index

29.67 31
2.49 12

The Relativity Index

0.12 14
7939 4

Total Team Yards

7365 12
7968 29

Total Team Yards Allowed

7959 28
-29 14

Total Team Yards Differential

-594 25
105.21 2

Offensive Rusher Rating

97.36 9
85.89 11

Defensive Rusher Rating

98.53 25
19.32 4

Rusher Rating Differential

- 1.17 15
19 3

Total Turnovers

20 7

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints

Tampa Bay at New Orleans (-12.5)

New Orleans has a rep as an offensive juggernaut: well-deserved after recent years of historically productive success by Drew Brees and his mates.

But this year that Saints offense, while still statistically proficient (No. 4 in Real QB Rating, No. 5 in total offense), is a mere No. 13 in scoring offense (372 points, 24.8 PPG).

The QB-deficient Vikings have actually scored more points (377), as has every other team in the NFC North in fact. 

The problem, of course, is the shocking disparity in peformance at home (7-0) and on the road (3-5):

  • Saints at home: 32.9 PPG, 15.4 PPG allowed (+17.5 PPG); 5-0 vs. Quality Opponents
  • Saints on the road: 17.8 PPG, 22.4 PPG allowed (-4.6 PPG); 1-3 vs. Quality Opponents

No team needs a home playoff game more than the Saints, which they will capture (along with a first-round bye) with a win over the Bucs and an unlikely Carolina loss at lowly Atlanta.

This game, of course, is at home. So the Saints should at least uphold their end of the deal against Tampa.

The Buccaneers made a nice little midseason recovery from 0-7, winning four of five games to gain some respectability, but have since been beaten convincingly by both the 49ers and Rams, the latter of whom also beat the Saints convincingly in Week 15.

Tampa’s biggest problems are on offense: No. 29 in scoring (18.1 PPG), No. 29 in Real QB Rating, No. 30 on the Offensive Hog Index, No. 31 in Total Team Yards and No. 32 in Real Passing YPA.

Bucs young QB Mike Glennon, meanwhile, has regressed badly in recent weeks, as do so many rookie passers. In his last four games, he’s failed to top 180 passing yards or a passer rating of 80.

He just doesn’t have the chops to keep pace with Brees in the Superdome. And the Tampa defense is not good enough to do what playoff contenders Arizona, Miami, Dallas, San Francisco and Carolina have failed to do: contain the Saints on their home turf.

Pick: New Orleans 30, Tampa Bay 10

Buccaneers Pre-Game Analysis Saints
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
22.36 28

Quality Stats Power Rankings

9.27 7
0% 31

Quality Standings

50% 8
15.39 19

Scoreability

15.44 20
14.31 18

Bendability

16.09 10
5.03 32

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

7.15 4
6.54 21

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.58 7
67.84 26

Real Quarterback Rating

97.39 2
85.49 24

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

73.81 9
- 17.66 28

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

23.58 3
79.59 22

Offensive Passer Rating

104.50 3
88.93 22

Defensive Passer Rating

83.62 14
- 9.34 22

Passer Rating Differential

20.89 3
26.00 30

Offensive Hog Index

11.33 10
16.00 17

Defensive Hog Index

14.00 12
- 4.14 23

The Relativity Index

8.17 5
5888 32

Total Team Yards

7303 14
6590 6

Total Team Yards Allowed

6042 3
-702 27

Total Team Yards Differential

1261 3
76.14 31

Offensive Rusher Rating

88.86 18
83.98 7

Defensive Rusher Rating

95.39 24
- 7.84 23

Rusher Rating Differential

- 6.52 20
21 9

Total Turnovers

21 9

 

Washington Redskins at New York Giants

Washington at N.Y. Giants (-3.5)

With all of the fallout from “RGIII-gate” swirling around the D.C. area, it’s pretty easy to miss the fact that Mike Shanahan’s team has played competitively over the past two weeks with Kirk Cousins at QB, losing both games by a single point. 

Griffin III is the future in Washington, and Shanahan probably will be part of the past not long after the final gun sounds Sunday in the Meadowlands, but at least the Redskins kept things interesting down the stretch of what’s been an extremely disappointing season.

Speaking of disappointing, Tom Coughlin’s Giants never really recovered from their 0-6 start—very few teams can. But, the G-Men have managed to salvage some pride by going 6-3 over the past nine weeks, including a 7-point win the first time these teams met back on Dec. 1.

One of the odd statistical outliers about the Redskins is their very strong showing along both interior lines.

Of course, when you field the No. 31 scoring defense in the NFL with a pass defense that ranks No. 30 in Defensive Passer Rating and No. 32 in Defensive Real Passing YPA, then that 3-12 record comes into better focus.

The Giants’ pass defense has improved dramatically as the season has progress and now ranks No. 10 in Defensive Passer Rating and No. 9 in Defensive Real Passing YPA, but New York represents the flip side of Washington along the interior lines, ranking No. 31 on the Offensive Hog Index and No. 21 on the Defensive Hog Index.

The Quality Stats breakdown is pretty close for this game. The teams are within a few slots of one another in Passer Rating Differential, Real QB Rating Differential, and on the Relativity and Intelligence indices. And while the Redskins throw the ball a little better, the Giants stop the pass much better than Washington.

This is a game to avoid, if possible, but the Giants are at home and have the overall better team, if only slightly.

Pick: NY Giants 27, Washington 20

Redskins Pre-Game Analysis Giants
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
22.91 30

Quality Stats Power Rankings

21.91 25
14% 25

Quality Standings

25% 17
17.71 30

Scoreability

16.73 27
11.85 32

Bendability

13.88 22
5.74 23

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.89 20
7.08 30

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.63 8
70.71 22

Real Quarterback Rating

60.95 32
86.76 26

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

74.68 10
- 16.05 26

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 13.73 24
76.12 23

Offensive Passer Rating

67.60 31
96.07 27

Defensive Passer Rating

78.25 6
- 19.95 28

Passer Rating Differential

- 10.66 25
9.67 4

Offensive Hog Index

29.00 31
10.67 7

Defensive Hog Index

17.33 19
- 9.26 31

The Relativity Index

- 4.67 25
7487 10

Total Team Yards

6392 28
7639 26

Total Team Yards Allowed

7173 17
-152 18

Total Team Yards Differential

-781 30
90.30 15

Offensive Rusher Rating

78.49 29
109.48 31

Defensive Rusher Rating

84.42 8
- 19.18 30

Rusher Rating Differential

- 5.92 18
34 29

Total Turnovers

44 32

 

Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders

Denver (-12) at Oakland

The high-flying Broncos close out the season with a chance to wrap up the No. 1 seed in the AFC and rewrite the record books.

Peyton Manning has already set one new NFL standard with 51 TD passes this season.

His Denver crew, meanwhile, has scored 572 points in 15 games. They need to score just 18 points on Sunday to break the single-season scoring total set by the 2007 Patriots (589 points).

Meanwhile, a 40-point effort will give them 38.88 PPG, breaking the per-game average of 38.83 PPG set so long ago by the 1950 L.A. Rams (466 points in 12 games).

Those legendary Rams boasted two Hall of Fame QBs and a soft schedule filled with expansion teams.

The 2013 Broncos boast only one Hall of Fame QB and a tough schedule (league-best six Quality Wins) in a league constructed for parity.  

The Raiders, however, provide an ideal opportunity for Denver to pad those dizzying totals. They are No. 27 in scoring D (27.9 PPG) and No. 31 in Defensive Passer Rating.

Even worse: Oakland is in a downward spiral, losing five straight and seven of their last eight. Home has been no refuge: the Raiders in their last home game were torched for 56 points by the Chiefs and, back in Week 9, got ripped by Philly’s inexperienced Nick Foles with a record seven TD passes.

Short version: historic offense vs. bad defense adds up to big blowout.

The Broncos also need to win to ensure they have the AFC’s No. 1 seed over the Patriots, who are also playing in the same late-afternoon time slot.

Pick: Denver 38, Oakland 21

Broncos Pre-Game Analysis Raiders
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
9.23 6

Quality Stats Power Rankings

24.18 31
57% 4

Quality Standings

12% 27
12.07 1

Scoreability

16.58 26
14.28 19

Bendability

12.85 30
7.83 1

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.91 18
6.22 17

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.95 28
106.05 1

Real Quarterback Rating

69.77 24
77.91 17

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

95.83 32
28.14 2

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

- 26.06 32
114.38 1

Offensive Passer Rating

73.93 28
84.47 17

Defensive Passer Rating

105.09 32
29.91 2

Passer Rating Differential

- 31.16 32
7.67 2

Offensive Hog Index

20.33 24
14.67 13

Defensive Hog Index

20.33 24
12.66 1

The Relativity Index

- 8.29 29
8849 1

Total Team Yards

6966 19
7083 12

Total Team Yards Allowed

7243 21
1766 1

Total Team Yards Differential

-277 19
88.95 17

Offensive Rusher Rating

98.16 8
95.13 23

Defensive Rusher Rating

90.09 14
- 6.18 19

Rusher Rating Differential

8.07 10
26 17

Total Turnovers

31 25

 

Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers

Kansas City at San Diego (-9.5)

The Chiefs ripped the Redskins and Raiders on the road for a combined 101 points in Week 14 and 15 victories, then spit the bit last week at home in a 23-7 loss to the Colts – a likely wildcard round foe.

Kansas City is now locked into the No. 5 seed no matter what happens Sunday in San Diego. Coach Andy Reid has already vowed a “mix and match” process for his starters. In other words, his Chiefs are not going all out to win this game, and will largely treat it as an exhibition.

The Chargers, however, MAY have plenty to play for: if the Dolphins (vs. the Jets) and Ravens (at Bengals) lose in the early hour, the Chargers will be battling for a spot in the postseason in the late hour.

Kansas City, of course, has been the better team wire to wire. The are a top-half offensive club (No. 6 in scoring, No. 15 in Offensive Passer Rating, No. 15 on the Offensive Hog Index); and they remain a very good defensive club (No. 4 in scoring defense, No. 3 in Defensive QB Rating, No. 6 in Defensive Passer Rating).

The Chiefs also remain the smartest team in football, No. 1 on our Insider-only Intelligence Index by virtue of their extreme efficiency: No. 2 in Bendability, No. 3 in Scoreability.

The Chargers have put themselves on the cusp of the playoffs despite huge statistical woes on defense. Even with those issues, they are still No. 11 in scoring D and 8-7, thanks in large part to a big 41-38 win at Kansas City back in Week 12.

All in all, the Chiefs are still the better team, and the -9.5 number is wildly speculative, based on the notion that Kansas City is going to pack it in and play dead while the Chargers battle for the final playoff spot.

But, as noted above, San Diego may already be eliminated by the time kickoff rolls around.

And, as we noted elsewhere this week, teams “incentivized” to win in Week 17 are badly overvalued by the Pigskin Public. This game seems like a classic example of an unnecessarily speculative line.

Pick: San Diego 24, Kansas City 23

Chiefs Pre-Game Analysis Chargers
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
8.95 5

Quality Stats Power Rankings

15.86 14
17% 21

Quality Standings

71% 2
12.55 3

Scoreability

15.89 24
19.30 2

Bendability

16.85 8
5.69 24

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

7.54 2
6.17 14

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

7.10 31
83.22 12

Real Quarterback Rating

97.31 3
69.94 4

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

90.89 29
13.27 8

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

6.42 11
88.63 14

Offensive Passer Rating

105.47 2
78.46 7

Defensive Passer Rating

96.42 28
10.17 7

Passer Rating Differential

9.05 10
14.00 14

Offensive Hog Index

9.33 3
12.33 10

Defensive Hog Index

24.67 28
6.79 7

The Relativity Index

3.35 11
7961 3

Total Team Yards

7336 13
7208 20

Total Team Yards Allowed

7995 30
753 5

Total Team Yards Differential

-659 26
101.57 5

Offensive Rusher Rating

84.59 25
80.26 6

Defensive Rusher Rating

99.04 26
21.31 3

Rusher Rating Differential

- 14.45 27
18 1

Total Turnovers

21 9

 

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks

St. Louis at Seattle (-11)

The Seahawks have dominated the NFL largely wire to wire and remain No. 1 in our Quality Stats Power Rankings, despite last week’s first-since-2011 home loss the Cardinals.

Seattle is still good everywhere, in fact: a Top 5 team in 19 of 23 Quality Stats.

Surprisingly, though, they still need a win here to wrap up the NFC West crown and the No. 1 seed in the conference – which all but assures the Seahawks a trip to the Super Bowl given their home dominance in recent years.

The Rams, meanwhile, have produced a nice 4-2 run here over the second half of the season, with wins over the playoff-contending Colts, Bears and Saints.

But St. Louis most likely does not have the horsepower to run with the Seahawks in the Seattle.

After all, Seattle remains a frighteningly dominant defensive club when at the top of its game:

  • No. 2 in scoring D (14.8 PPG)
  • No. 1 in Defensive Real Pass YPA
  • No. 1 in Defensive Real QB Rating
  • No. 1 in Defensive Passer Rating
  • No. 1 in Defensive Rusher Rating
  • No. 1 in Total Team Yards Allowed

That unit presents a formidable challenge for Kellen Clemens, who has thrown just 7 TDs in his nine appearances this year, with an 80.6 rating.

The big -11 line should be enough to frighten you off, given the often tight nature of so many NFC West battles. But if all goes according to statistical plan, the Rams will struggle badly to move the ball. They produced just three field goals in Seattle's 14-9 win in St. Louis; of course, keep in mind that the Seahawks that day produced just 135 yards of offense.

We're largely banking on Seattle returning to dominant home form after last week's scare.

Pick: Seattle 27, St. Louis 13

Rams Pre-Game Analysis Seahawks
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
17.86 19

Quality Stats Power Rankings

4.95 1
33% 16

Quality Standings

57% 3
14.01 11

Scoreability

13.01 5
15.16 15

Bendability

18.95 3
5.77 22

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.97 6
6.75 24

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

4.84 1
75.32 19

Real Quarterback Rating

91.00 5
81.74 22

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

57.64 1
- 6.42 21

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

33.36 1
84.76 17

Offensive Passer Rating

102.36 5
94.69 24

Defensive Passer Rating

63.39 1
- 9.94 23

Passer Rating Differential

38.97 1
19.00 22

Offensive Hog Index

19.00 22
8.67 4

Defensive Hog Index

6.67 1
0.54 13

The Relativity Index

12.19 2
6532 25

Total Team Yards

7106 15
6383 4

Total Team Yards Allowed

5628 1
149 12

Total Team Yards Differential

1478 2
84.73 24

Offensive Rusher Rating

91.12 14
92.93 18

Defensive Rusher Rating

69.79 1
- 8.19 24

Rusher Rating Differential

21.33 2
21 9

Total Turnovers

19 3

 

San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals

San Francisco at Arizona (pick ‘em)

The 49ers-Cardinals showdown is not technically a do-or-die game, but it might as well be.

San Francisco still has a shot at the NFC West crown, with a win and a Seattle loss; Arizona, meanwhile, needs a win here and an unlikely Tamp upset of the Saints to battle its way into the postseason.

In either case, it should be a tough, hard-hitting game in what’s become the NFC West style in recent years.

Both teams are hot: the 49ers head to the desert on five-game win streak, including a Week 14 win over Seattle; the Cardinals have won three straight, and seven of eight, including last week’s signature win in Seattle.

The fact that this is a toss-up game indicates a lot of respect for the Cardinals.

The big advantages in this battle, however, belong to the San Francisco offense, which has been far superior to Arizona’s:

  • San Francisco is No. 4 in Scoreability, No. 10 in scoring (25.5 PPG) and No. 12 in Real QB Rating
  • Arizona is No. 12 in Scoreability, No. 16 in scoring (23.9 PPG) and No. 21 in Real QB Rating

The 49ers also enjoy advantages defensively, especially when we look at the Relativity Index, where San Francisco is No. 3 in relative scoring D (+6.78) and Arizona is No. 9 (+3.13).

The big difference is location. The 49ers are 5-2 on the road, but those wins have come over the Rams, Titans, Jaguars, Redskins and Buccaneers. Arizona has been virtually unbeatable at home at 6-1, with victories over Detroit (when the Lions were playing well), Carolina and Indianapolis.

Pick:  Arizona 21, San Francisco 20

49ers Pre-Game Analysis Cardinals
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
8.68 4

Quality Stats Power Rankings

13.64 11
50% 7

Quality Standings

38% 15
12.76 4

Scoreability

14.62 14
18.64 4

Bendability

15.68 12
6.53 10

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.51 11
5.68 9

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

5.55 6
85.85 9

Real Quarterback Rating

74.92 20
71.96 8

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

71.56 6
13.89 7

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

3.36 15
91.71 9

Offensive Passer Rating

83.90 19
76.44 4

Defensive Passer Rating

80.25 8
15.28 5

Passer Rating Differential

3.65 13
16.67 18

Offensive Hog Index

23.00 26
10.67 7

Defensive Hog Index

7.00 2
9.14 3

The Relativity Index

5.42 9
6540 24

Total Team Yards

6579 23
6631 7

Total Team Yards Allowed

7109 13
-91 16

Total Team Yards Differential

-530 23
99.31 7

Offensive Rusher Rating

87.57 21
85.26 9

Defensive Rusher Rating

71.76 3
14.05 8

Rusher Rating Differential

15.81 7
19 3

Total Turnovers

31 25





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