Wednesday, November 20, 2013

NFL Power Rankings

The season is winding down and at this point, we've seen what most contending teams have to offer.  When making these power-rankings, I think in terms of head-to-head matchups, in other words, 'if both these teams brought their best, who would win'. Other things are balance, leadership, likelihood to advance in the playoffs, talant on the depth chart, injuries, and anything else.

Tier 1

1. Seattle Seahawks - As I've mentioned before, I think this is the best team I've seen in years.  They remind me alot of the super-bowl winning Steelers teams of the recent past.   Dominant defense, dominant running-game, creative playmaking QB.  When this team brings its best, they can beat anyone.   I can list a bunch of stats or I can link you to this article that does it for me.   Its just a matter of watching them play.  Every aspect of the team is balanced and exceptional.  They can win in so many different ways.  Their biggest challenge will be New Orleans.  Beyond that, I think they can convincingly beat Denver in the superbowl.

2.New Orleans Saints - I think there are two teams in the NFL who are elite on both sides of the ball, and both those teams I put at 1 and 2.   In a pass-happy league, they are the 2nd best passing offense and have the 3rd best passing defense.  The key-word is balance.  Head to head I think the difference between the saints and seahawks is the running-games.  I think Lynch would be the difference maker.   I would take the Saints O vs Den D as opposed to Den O vs Saints D.  Its really as simple as that.  People still have the image in their minds that the Saints defense is soft.  They are a completely different team this year.  Last year they were by FAR the worst defense in the league.  They gave up the most rushing yards a game, and 2nd most passing yards a game, as well as the 2nd most points per game.   This year they are the 5th best scoring defense.

3. Denver Broncos - Even though I think this is too much of a 1-sided team, this is one of the best offenses I've ever seen.  Its comparable to the 07 patriots.  But even the 07 patriots fell victim to a great pass-rush.  But the fact is, when trying to beat the broncos, you need to have some degree of luck, hoping that Manning makes mistakes and you play a flawless game.  I think the elite 4-man rush combined with the lock-down defensive backs of the Seahawks can slow the Broncos just enough to let the offense outscore Manning.

Tier 2

4.  Carolina Panthers - One of the best, if not the best defense in the league.  Combined with a solid run game, combined with a nice set of receivers, veteren leadership with the one and only Steve Smith, and a QB who continues to get better.  I'm not a fan of Newton, but I gotta give it to him, he's been playing better and better.   I think this teams weakness is its passing defense.  Brady was able to exploit it, and Brees will be able to as well.  I wouldn't be surprised if the Saints take both games versus Carolina.  But I think their defense will keep em in any game.  They robbed the patriots but what goes around comes around, the Patriots robbed the Saints, Saints robbed the Niners, Niners robbed the Packers.  The Packers' cheap victory is yet to come.  I feel like thats how they'll beat the Lions.

6. San Francisco 49ers - Its as if you have to be a niners homer or niners hater.  It makes no sense.  This is where they deserve to be.  Tier 2 of NFL teams.  A great defense no doubt, a good running game, and banged up receivers who are returning soon.  Davis, Crabtree, Boldin, Manningham should be an effective bunch when all healthy.  I'm not a big Kaepernick fan, I'll post about this later, but I think he's good enough in that offense, with that playcalling to put up more points than most opposing teams.  More points than KC, not as many points as carolina.  I think this is where they belong.

7. New England - Still an elite offense, especially with Gronk back.  The defense is just way too banged up.  They were playing scrubs against carolina.  But the fact is the Belichick and Brady combo is always a threat to win and always a threat in the playoffs.  They got robbed against Carolina, otherwise that would mean they'd have beaten the Saints and Panthers.  Brady's offense made the Panthers defense look weak.  Since about half-way through the 2nd quarter, the Patriot offense looked like they were going to drive at will.

8.  Kansas City Chiefs - Kind of the same reasons as the Panthers, great defense, good rushing attack, good coaching, good receivers, but I would take Newton and Kaepernick over Smith.  Simple as that.  I think Newton and Kaepernick's playmaking abilities would be enough to allow their teams to score points while their defenses hold solid.  I dont think Alex Smith would be able to move the ball effectively on any of the 6 teams above.  I trust the New England offense vs KC def more than I do the KC Offense vs New England D.

Tier 3.

9. Indianapolis Colts
10. Green Bay Packers
11. Cincinnati Bengals
12. Detroit Lions
13. Chicago Bears

Tier 4:

14. Arizona Cardinals
15. New York Giants
16. Philadelphia Eagles
17. Dallas Cowboys

Saturday, November 16, 2013

NFL Futures Predictions

I've recently started checking Bovada for their NFL lines. I think anyone can make bold predictions, but once you suggest putting money on it, people back down.    With the money factor, I realized the way I analyse the game changes.  I put all emotions aside and think as objectively as possible.  I will make a later post discussing what exactly I look for and how I judge outcomes, but for now I'm going to make a few predictions of my own.

Things I would put money on:

1. Giants win the division (+500)

The Giants have been a joke all year, but they've had a dysfunctional defense and the worst run game in the NFL.  As of late, their defense has been playing much better and they look like they've finally found the answer to their running problems in Andre Brown.  Its just a matter of time before the offense gets it together.  I think theres a higher probability of that than the dallas defense coming together.  With the loss of Sean Lee, I think Dallas is done, I believe the team is too one dimensional.  I have the same problem with philly.  Ultimately record and schedule aside, I feel like the Giants are the best team in the division, and thats why I feel like the 5/1 odds of winning the division are worth it.

2. Seahawks win the superbowl (+375)

I started watching the seahawks mid-way through last season and every time I see them bring their A-game, I just think wow, this is one of the best teams I've ever seen.   I dont see anyone beating them when they play their best.  Unfortunately they didn't show up to the falcons playoff game until half-time.   And in that second half, the seahawks scored a TD on every drive except 1.  Since right after that game, I've been picking the Seahawks to win the superbowl this year.  When I see em bring their best, I'm still amazed.  If you take away the garbage time TD with a minute something left, they beat the niners in their last 2 meetings with a combined score of 71-9 forcing a total of 7 turnovers with Wilson scoring 5 TDs and Lynch scoring 3.   Their biggest challenge will be New Orleans, I would guess in the NFC championship.   That will be a game of the ages.  Denver is much too one sided to win the superbowl, but I will talk about them next.

Things I would NOT put money on:

1. Denver winning the superbowl (+333)

They are much too one-sided to win the superbowl.  You absolutely need a balanced team to win it all.  They're so powerful on offense that they can get through the regular season with 3 losses maximum.  But from the NFC they will face teams with elite pass defenses like the Seahawks, Saints, Panthers, all of whom have top 5 pass-defenses. (Which is also the reason I feel the niners can't get through any of those teams, with an already weak passing offense, they are rendered completely inept against those teams.)

An elite pass-rush can take out any pocket quarterback.  That was the formula the Colts used to beat the broncos.  That was the formula the Giants used to beat the Patriots, which looked like one of the greatest offenses ever.   None of those games were flukes.  Bronco fans will be quick to mention the Hillman fumble at the goal-line, but even more fluky was Trent Richardson losing the first fumble of his NFL career right before that drive that gave them the ball.  As great as the offense is, I see too many flaws on defense, I see the loss of Ryan Clady hurting them big-time. Its what allowed Mathis to have 2 sacks and 4 QB hits, its why Mannings has been getting hit alot lately to the point where he's questionable every week now.  Its known that his ankles are weak, one bad hit could put him out for a week or two, which could lose them the division to the chiefs, forcing them to go on the road at Foxborough and Arrowhead.  I honestly believe they split 1-1 with the Chiefs this season.

2. The Niners winning anything important - SB (+1000), NFC (+550), Division(+400), Big Regular Season Games

I absolutely don't believe in the niners, and I absolutely don't believe in Kaepernick as a passing QB.   I need to see them pass the ball effectively before I pick them for anything.  They have a brilliant defense, a declining run-game, a decimated receiving corps, and a poor-vision passer who is as good as the playcalling.   Thats enough to keep them out of the top tier of teams.  I put them in the tier of Carolina with an elite defense and an offense that will dominate weak defenses and struggle against good ones.   I picked the Seahawks and Panthers to beat em, and I'm picking the Saints to beat em as well, and then the Seahawks to beat them again in San Francisco.


Theres a few teams I really believe in, including the Saints, Panthers, Chiefs, and Colts, in that order, to be contenders.   But I'm still weighing out whether its worth putting down the money or not.  Thats the only thing that holds me back.