You probably know what all is at stake at this point. The scenarios are here: the only playoff-eligible team with nothing to play for is the Chiefs, who are locked in the 5 seed. Chicago-Green Bay and Philly-Dallas are straight-up play-in games (it took until week 17, but that sentence set my record for hyphens). The only absolutely meaningless games are Tennessee-Houston, Minnesota-Detroit, and Giants-Washington. Even then, Houston is playing for the number 1 draft pick, if you’re into that kind of thing. Let’s take a look at a few games of interest to the model and do the picks.
Chicago-Green Bay is on the list because Green Bay has been an odd team ever since Aaron Rodgers went down. The model uses the team’s average stats, so as soon as Rodgers was injured the Packers became over-rated. They then had to put up with Wallace and Tolzein for a bit and mixed in their stats. Then they brought Matt Flynn back into the field, who was probably in the middle of the three. Now Rodgers is back after about two months off. What set of stats would you use? If you assume that over the course of the season that Green Bay’s quarterbacks have averaged out to reflect something like a two-months rusty Aaron Rodgers, then everything is gravy. If you think Rodgers will be at full strength, they’ll be underrated. As it stands, the Bears have been put in as 4.5 point favorites (in the SuperContest) and 3 point underdogs (in the SBR odds). The models like the Bears, Yoshi 1 by a bunch.
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Dallas and Philly is another one that the models might have issue with because of Tony Romo’s injury. Going in, they have Dallas as the favorite (Yoshi 1 by a good amount, Luigi and Yoshi 2 by the tiniest bit). But with Romo injured, the line is Eagles by about a touchdown. The winner goes to the playoffs, so obviously this is a critical game. Kyle Orton has started in the NFL before, so he isn’t a pushover, but he also isn’t Tony Romo. Just looking at yards per play, Dallas has the third-worst defense in the league, so maybe it won’t matter who they play at QB.
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Here are Bill Simmons’ picks. He’s out of the running for catching the models with his picks, but maybe he’ll warm up for the playoffs. Plus he gets to know about injuries, so that should give him an advantage this week. Of course, it didn’t help him at all during the season. On the topic of running out of time, the Ravens absolutely need a win to get into the playoffs (or they can hope that all of the Chargers, Steelers, and Dolphins lose). Unfortunately for them, they’re about touchdown underdogs to the Bengals, which the models all think is about right.
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The final game of potential model relevance is the Chargers and Chiefs since the Chiefs have nothing to play for. The Chargers still have a shot at the playoffs, so they’ve been put in as almost double-digit favorites. All three models agree that they would be favorites, but not by that much. How much you like that pick depends on how lazy you think the Chiefs will be exactly. On that note: Luigi’s SuperContest picks are Dallas +6.5, Oakland +12.5, Chiefs +9.5, Tampa +12.5, and Detroit +3. Dallas and Kansas City are kind of iffy picks given the injury and motivation issues; if you wanted to switch them out you would put in Jets +6.5 and Jacksonville +11.5. Yoshi 1’s picks are Atlanta +7, Dallas, Oakland, Arizona +1, and Tampa. Yoshi’s substitute for Dallas would be Chicago -4.5 marginally over a few other options. Yoshi 2’s picks are Oakland, Dallas, KC, Tampa, and Atlanta, with substitute picks of Jacksonville and St. Louis +10.5. Across the three models, the ‘safest’ picks look to be Oakland and Tampa, although neither team has anything to play for.
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