The predictions this week start off on a high note, as the Jets managed to keep the game close against the Patriots for a cover. The models though the Pats were favorites by about the early line of a touchdown, but as the number moved closer to 10 the Jets became more of a preference. The models sort of took a week off for the week 3 Falcons-Bucs Thursday night game, where they similarly had Atlanta as the 6 point favorite that the line claimed, but otherwise have gotten every other Thursday night game this year wrong. So with one correct pick in the bag, let’s get to the rest of the weekend.
Using the over/under as an index of exciting games, because people love the points, it looks like Baltimore-Atlanta, Indy-Cincy, and Green Bay-Carolina are your top three games to watch. Denver-San Fran could also be in there, but that’s also a little more traditionally appealing. Perhaps oddly, Luigi and the SBR totals differ on Cleveland-Jacksonville. SBR is looking for something more middle of the road, but Luigi thinks there could be some points on the board. I guess we’ll see which way it goes.
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There’s a neat graphic over at 538 for identifying the important games for each team. It took me a second to figure out exactly what it was saying, but then I got it. Unsurprisingly, each team’s own game is most important for its future playoff chances. But then you can see which other games are important. At this point in the season, other games don’t have a big effect because there are too many other games to play to really rely on tie breakers and whatnot. But for the Lions, for example, aside from their game with the Saints they could also keep an eye on Miami-Chicago, Seattle-St. Louis, Carolina-Green Bay, San Fran-Denver, and Arizona-Oakland. All those NFC West games are presumably in there because Detroit may have to fight with them for a wild card spot down the line.
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Instead of looking at teams though, we could look at games. The Tennessee-Washington game, for example, barely budges anyone’s numbers because neither team is expected to impact the playoff chase. On the other hand, Cincy-Indy has implications not only for themselves but also 1-4% swings for Cleveland, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Houston, KC, and San Diego. Adding up the percentages for a game (Colts-Bengals is 41, to finish the example), the important ones this week appear to be Miami-Chicago (39), Atlanta-Baltimore (50), KC-San Diego (48, nearly all of it for those two teams), San Fran-Denver (43), Houston-Pittsburgh (41), Carolina-Green Bay (62), and Detroit-New Orleans (75). Each of those teams is near average (as I’ve been harping on, those are the teams that have the most to gain or lose from a win or loss) or involved in an early playoff race but not an elite team. The two NFC North-NFC South games are big because right now it seems likely that only the two division winners will make the playoffs.
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Bill Barnwell’s (potentially last?) picks are here. He’s bemoaning his pick record too, so maybe it isn’t just me having a bad season. We’ll see if Simmons returns; I forget when his suspension is supposed to end. I need to do some catching up, but I’ll really be happy enough if everyone just has a good week.
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Finally we have the SuperContest. Luigi is generally in agreement with the lines this week, so the picks are (theoretically) not as strong as usual. But his picks are Rams +6.5, Houston +3.5, Oakland +3.5, San Diego -4.5, and Cleveland -5.5 (narrowly over Minnesota +5.5). Yoshi 2 is taking the same games but switching Minnesota in for Cleveland. And Yoshi 1 is taking the Rams, San Fran +6.5, Jacksonville +5.5, Carolina +7, and Oakland (narrowly over Giants +6.5 and Atlanta +6.5). So someone’s going to be wrong on the Jaguars-Browns game; we’ll see who it is.