There were a couple of close games this weekend if you didn’t watch them. Here’s the breakdown.
Ravens at Patriots: If you knew going in that Brady would throw two picks and no touchdowns, and that the Pats would lose a fumble on top of that, you might have given this one to Baltimore. And they certainly had their chance, with a near touchdown batted out of the receiver’s hands and a missed field goal to give them a shot in overtime. But the Pats were surprisingly effective in the running game; their yards per carry weren’t great but Green-Ellis and Woodhead each had a 50% success rate. Besides the picks, Brady did reasonably well and was only sacked once. The Ravens, on the other hand, put up decent numbers (the only real negatives were three sacks and an interception, and one missed field goal) but Rice never got going and they just didn’t move the ball consistently. The main problem was that the Ravens only got a couple big plays, and if the running game isn’t working they simply aren’t consistent enough to keep the chains going. The Patriots, on the other hand, thrive on the short passing game.
In terms of the model, Luigi got the correct winner, stayed away from a moneyline winner, got the spread correct, and got the over/under.
Giants at 49ers: I called this one a toss-up, and it doesn’t get more toss-up-y than overtime. This was a fairly ugly game, the kind where both QBs threw two touchdowns but you wouldn’t say either had a good game (the Advanced NFL Stats page has both Manning and Smith at solidly negative WPA and barely positive EPA). Neither team was great at running the ball. There were nine sacks in the game, and the 49ers would have taken more if Smith didn’t show off his running ability a few times. About the only positives in the game were Victor Cruz and Vernon Davis, and Davis still took two personal foul penalties for no good reason. There were five fumbles in the game but the only two that mattered were the two actual turnovers, both by Kyle Williams on kick returns, including the one in overtime that gave the Giants their winning field goal. And that was really the story of the game.
Luigi missed the outright winner on his coin flip and the over/under, but got the moneyline winner and the spread. So for the weekend Luigi was 1-1 on outright winners and is 5-5 for the playoffs. It was 2-0 against the spread and is 7-3 for the playoffs. It’s 1-1 against the over/under and 4-6 for the playoffs. And it’s 1-0 against the moneyline and 4-2 for the playoffs. Luigi agreed with Bill Simmons’ picks against his lines and both went 1-1, putting Bill at 7-3 overall and Luigi at 6-4. The playoff mini-contest is going to come down to the Super Bowl. Since there won’t be a whole lot to say for a couple weeks, although you’ll still have something like 100 hours of coverage in that time, I’ll just throw my pick out there. Luigi says that the Pats are favored to win even if this game were in New York; they would be almost a touchdown favorite if it were at New England. People will, of course, point out that was also the case when they played earlier in the year and the Giants won, and this game will be on a neutral field. At any rate, I give the Pats about a 64% chance of winning, with a spread of about 4 or 4.5. The total should be a little high, around 51.
Enjoy the break guys! I don’t care at all about the Pro Bowl, so football is on hiatus until February.