TSZ Predicts The NFL Play-offs
7th Jan 2017 by TSZ
With NFL fans preparing for the annual drama and excitement of the play-offs, TSZ takes a look back at recent history to see how each team has performed over a six-year period, before focusing in on the 2016 regular season. Using the statistics at out fingertips and having analysed the performances of the teams this season, we then project the outcome of the play-offs and subsequent Super Bowl.
Firstly, let’s look at the regular season stats since 2011;
- The Patriots absolutely dominate the basic rankings during this period and would likely do so if we took the sample size further back in history.
- The performance of the Raiders in the last six regular seasons shows just how far they have come this season.
- The top four teams average 10 wins or more over the six-year period, which explains why they are virtually permanent fixtures in the NFL play-offs.
- Delving into points scored, the Patriots dominate those stats also, averaging 30.1 points per game while conceding the second lowest figure of just 19.7 points per game.
- The Seahawks have comfortably the best defence over the six-year period, conceding just 16.8 points per game, but conceded 18.3 this season with the Patriots conceding just 15.6.
- The Raiders average just 20.8 over the six-year period but racked up 26 points per game in their fantastic 2016 regular season.
Of course, if we’re going to make projections for the play-offs this month, we need to analyse what has happened in the 2016 regular season more closely;
- The most prolific team offensively has been the Atlanta Falcons this season, racking up an impressive 33.8 points per game which is more than six points per game than the Patriots.
- Despite ending the season 9-7, the Texans had the largest negative points differential but still managed to win their division, largely thanks to the poor quality in the AFC South.
- The second best defense in terms of points per game conceded over the regular season was the Giants. These numbers arguably underestimate the quality of their defense which may be the most impressive unit so far.
- For all the strength of the Giants’ D, Eli Manning and their offense will have to improve notably if they are to reach the Super Bowl, as 19.4 points per game is unlikely to cut it against the elite.
- The Falcons averaged just under four touchdowns per game, which is staggering when compared to the Texans who managed just 1.5 per game on average.
Based on these results and after analysing the performances of all teams and all matches this season, we have come up with our own power rankings for the play-off teams.
1. New England Patriots
Difficult to argue that the Patriots are not the favourites or the most well equipped team to win another Super Bowl. Barring injuries disrupting their post-season, they have the best coach, the best quarterback and the best system and with home field advantage, that makes them as formidable as ever.
2. New York Giants
Possibly the dark horse in the play-offs as they come into it in exceptional form and their defense has improved every week during the regular season. Many will write the Giants off having to play on the road, but if Eli Manning can find some form, the Giants are a sleeper candidate.
3. Seattle Seahawks
A mixed regular season for the Seahawks but Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson have a knack of producing it when it matters. They should improve defensively but they will need to offer Wilson better protection if they are to make a Super Bowl run, which is well within their capabilities.
4. Dallas Cowboys
The star rookies Prescott and Elliott have spearheaded a stunning campaign which many believed was doomed when Tony Romo went down with injury. However, the Cowboys have had a stellar season and only a lack of experience among their key men can be seen as a weakness.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
Likely to be the biggest concern to the Patriots in the AFC with key playmakers Bell and Brown playing close to their best. Their defense can raise their game when they have to but whether they or anybody else can win in Foxboro remains to be seen.
6. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons will be confident of beating any team in a shootout but after a strong start to the season, they have not been quite as convincing in the second half. They will need their run game to find their best form but they are not without a chance of a Super Bowl run.
7. Kansas City Chiefs
The big question with the Chiefs is can they score enough points to beat the cream of the crop. Their defense is unquestionably elite, but unless they are on fire in possession of the ball, that may prove to be their undoing.
8. Green Bay Packers
The Packers and Aaron Rodgers are one of the form teams coming into the play-offs but they will need their MVP to play some lights out football to overcome their defensive vulnerabilities in making a genuine run at the Super Bowl. They could well fall at the first hurdle against this talented Giants team.
9. Detroit Lions
The Lions have thrived without Calvin Johnson this season, with Matt Stafford producing heroics in a variety of fourth quarter comebacks. Their luck will surely run out however against the Seahawks in what promises to be a high scoring encounter.
10. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins have flown under the radar this season but they have picked up ten wins thanks to some excellent coaching in a difficult season. The loss of Tannehill has proved to be not as major as first expected but they will need plenty to go in their favour to overcome the Steelers in the Wildcard round.
11. Oakland Raiders
Without Derek Carr, the Raiders’ hopes of a Super Bowl run virtually ended but they have a chance of at least making it into the divisional round. Their elite pass rush will cause the Texans plenty of problems and may see them progress but a trip to New England will end their superb season.
12. Houston Texans
Arguably the weakest offense with poor quarterback play and a weakened defense without talisman JJ Watt, it is difficult to have much confidence in the Texans. If they manage to get past the Raiders, it seems unfathomable that they will go any further.
Of course, there’re no guarantees and the play-offs have a tendency to throw up a few surprise results, but we look forward to finding out how accurate this scenario will prove to be!
Do you disagree with our assessment? Feel free to let us know! Passionate debate is always welcomed at TSZ, and we’re sure there are some of you who may have other ideas about how the play-offs will pan out. Let’s hear you!
Scribble your email address here and click subscribe to receive our newsletter on all things sport, data and analysis!