Friday, January 6, 2012

Perry's Playoff Prognostications

Like everyone else who puts their ramblings about the future on the ledger, I am usually wrong. Rather than trying to pick who is going to win each game in the Wild Card round of playoff, I decided to give the underdogs an upset percentage. Yes, I am hedging my bets. I am doing this not so much because I hate being wrong, but because I don't see much point in being sure about something that is untenable. Let's go from most likely to upset to least likely:

Denver 35% chance to beat Pittsburgh

The Steelers may be the best of the eight Wild Card teams, but they have been crushed by injuries on offense. Rashard Mendenhall is out, All Pro center Maurkice Pouncey will be sitting with an ankle injury, and Ben Roethlisberger is hobbled by a high ankle sprain. The team has adjusted to injuries along the offensive line well in the past and I think Isaac Redman is a decent enough running back. However, the Bronco defense has enough talent to take advantage of the Steeler problems. I don't see Denver scoring a lot of points on the potent Pittsburgh defense, even without safety Ryan Clark. This will likely be a low scoring affair and if Tim Tebow has any magic left in his much maligned left arm, I think the Broncos could pull off the upset at home.

Cincinnati 30% chance to beat Houston

The Texans eeked out a win over the Bengals in Week 14, which would turn out to be their last win of the regular season. They haven't had much to play for with the division wrapped up, but Houston is not good enough take weeks off. The return of Andre Johnson, even at less than 100%, will help the Texan offense. One interesting note about the Bengals: all seven of their losses were against teams that made the playoffs, while all nine of their wins were against non-playoff competition. They were 5-3 on the road and their earlier loss to Houston was in Cincinnati. This game will feature more running plays than any of the other three Wild Card games. Both teams have strong offensive lines and this will likely be another close game. I will now give you an insight that no one else could have thought of ever before: this game will hinge on turnovers. Andy Dalton had 13 interceptions in 16 games, and T.J. Yates had three in six games.

Atlanta 30% chance to beat the Giants

From Weeks 10 to 15, the Giants lost four of five games. Three of those losses came to eventual NFC playoff teams (San Francisco, New Orleans, and Green Bay), but they also lost to Philadelphia and Washington. The one team that it appears New York could beat every time is Dallas. The Giants were 4-4 at home. Atlanta, meanwhile, won five of their last seven games. All five wins came against non-playoff teams and both losses came to teams that are still playing (Houston and New Orleans). The clear key to the game is Michael Turner. If the Falcon offense can consistently gain yards on the ground, they will be able to use play-action to their benefit. Neither team features a strong defense, so I could see this game being the shootout that everyone expects the next game to be.

Detroit 7% chance to beat New Orleans

I have not forgotten what the Saints did to me last year. I was sure they would win in the Wild Card round over Seattle and drafted New Orleans' players heavily. That did not work out and I have not forgiven them. However, I like the Saints at home and I don't think the Lions are good enough to keep up with them. Detroit kept things respectable in their last visit to the Super Dome (which also hosts the Alabama-LSU championship game on Monday) with a 17-31 loss in which Nbamukong Suh did not play. Down the stretch, the Lions were able to beat up on non-playoff teams that made their offense seem more potent than it really is. They scored 41 points in a losing effort against the Packers' second team defense, which should tell you all you need to know about the Lion defense. The Saints, meanwhile, scored 90 points in their last two homegames and scored 42 points or more four times in their last six games. I think Suh is very good, but he'll be facing a pair of All Pro guards. I just don't see Detroit winning this game.