People love drama. People love football. We can therefore assume that people love football because of the drama. Case and point: the NFL Playoffs.
From Wild Card Weekend to the Super Bowl, fans flock to stadiums, huddle around televisions in bars and host block parties just to see who can beat who in an all-or-nothing matchup. The Divisional round gave us a perfect case study for this principle: the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys.
The Dallas Cowboys, the number one seed in the NFC, came into the matchup off a bye. The Green Bay Packers entered the game after a big win against the New York Giants. NFL fans around the world went crazy as the Packers took a big lead and went even crazier when the Cowboys came back. And let’s not even talk about the back-and-forth events of the final two minutes.
The Packers won, and many experts—ourselves included—lost a key member of our Super Bowl prediction, the Cowboys.
Do I regret predicting in my NFL Playoffs Divisional Round preview the Cowboys would make it Houston? Nope. The prediction we created was based purely on numbers, and by the numbers, Dallas was the better team the whole season. What I do regret is focusing solely on numbers and not on Aaron Rodgers’ ability to make things happen at the end of games.
Now, don’t get this wrong. Numbers are great tools for prediction accuracy; however, we must also consider the eye test (insert eye roll here) when making our picks.
So, let’s look at the NFL Playoff matchups for this weekend based solely on numbers with no names attached to them:
27.6 Points Per Game
386.2 Yards Per Game
31:13:00 Time of Possession Per Game
15.6 Points Per Game
326.4 Yards Per Game
28:47:00 Time of Possesion Per Game
24.9 Points Per Game
372.6 Yards Per Game
30:45:00 Time of Possession Per Game
20.4 Points Per Game
342.6 Yards Per Game
30:00:00 Time of Possession Per Game
In this scenario, team one has a higher scoring offense, averages more yards per game, allows less points and yards per game, but turns the ball over more than team two.
Based solely on the numbers, team one is the better team.
27 Points Per Game
368.8 Yards Per Game
31:14:00 Time of Possession Per Game
24.2 Points Per Game
363.9 Yards Per Game
28:46:00 Time of Possesion Per Game
33.8 Points Per Game
415.8 Yards Per Game
30:22:00 Time of Possession Per Game
25.4 Points Per Game
371.2Yards Per Game
30:00:00 Time of Possession Per Game
In this scenario, team two has the higher scoring offense and averages more yards per game, but their defense allows more points and yards per game. Team two, on the other hand, has a less potent offense; however, their defense is better. Team two also has a better time of possession average and has turned the ball over less.
Based solely on the numbers, we would pick the team with the better offense.
Now, let’s look at what we have seen each team do so far during the playoffs:
AFC Team One: New England Patriots
The Patriots game against the Houston Texans was far from a perfect performance. Dion Lewis scored a receiving, rushing and return touchdown; however, the New England offense could not get much going until the end of the game.
In the second half, the Patriots defense gave Brock Osweiler fits and forced three turnovers, but they might have a hard time doing that to the Pittsburgh Steelers offense.
AFC Team Two: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs without scoring a touchdown. If that’s not a confidence booster for a defense, I don’t know what else is. Though the defense is on fire, the offense, beyond Le’Veon Bell, is not.
In addition to their lack of touchdowns, Pittsburgh just cannot stay out of the headlines. Last week, a coach was arrested, suspended and then reinstated, and this week, they are dealing with the fallout of Antonio Brown’s Facebook Live stream. With so many off-the-field distractions, can the Steelers focus on defeating the top-seeded Patriots?
NFC Team One: Green Bay Packers
No team in the NFL finished the regular season on a better note than the Green Bay Packers. In the playoffs, the Packers have two huge wins, including their victory against the Cowboys, which will go down as an all-time classic.
With Aaron Rodgers’s ability to make things happen, Green Bay can keep up with anyone, and they should never be overlooked.
NFC Team Two: Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons have one of the highest scoring offenses in the NFL, which is evident by their stats. Matt Ryan is this year’s MVP, Julio Jones is one of the NFL’s top receivers, and the two-headed rushing attack of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman is a major weapon that allows the offense to spread the field at will.
Now, Atlanta is not without its weaknesses, and the biggest one is its defense; however, they looked great against the Seattle Seahawks. Can they do the same against the Packers?
Who will go to the Super Bowl?
The numbers tell us one story, and our eyes tell us another story. Based just on the numbers, we would predict victories by the Patriots and Falcons, but when we combine both sets of information, we get a new story. So, who will be going to the Super Bowl?
AFC: The Patriots will defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers 35 to 28
NFC: The Green Bay Packers will defeat the Atlanta Falcons 28 to 24
Who do you think will be playing in Super Bowl LI in Houston? Please follow us on Dapper Sports Facebook and Dapper Sports Twitter and let us know what you think!