NFL Picks - Super Bowl XLVII

Baltimore vs. San Francisco

After a long season of middling to above average success at predicting the results of NFL games, I felt I'd be doing a disservice to all(?) of my loyal(?) reader(s) by not breaking down the Super Bowl. Also, my pick has national implications that are a bit hard to explain, but let's just say I owe it to America to give it my best effort for one more week. So let's get started, or more importantly, get this over with.

In recent years a lot has been made of the increased parity in the NFL. Personally I keep hoping that the last few weeks turn out to be a parody, like one of those fake endings to a Wayne's World movies; we'll find out it was just a goof, rewind a few weeks and get back to reality. Just in case that scenario doesn't come to fruition I decided to take a closer look at this parity deal. Here's a few things that stood out:

The 49ers have had what most would consider a good season, compiling 11 victories, including blowout wins of 34 and 42 points that would suggest that parity is a myth. However, they were also beat down by 23 at home and crushed, I mean just absolutely dominated, by 29 late in the season (video of said domination can be seen here). Meanwhile, the Ravens ran the gamut of win/loss margins to the tune of 35 and 30, respectively. So, as you can see, with such parity even the "best" teams can be beaten badly. If you ask me, a great team should never lose a game by more than seven points, but that's neither here nor there.

Parity has reared its ugly, socialist head in the Super Bowl particularly. Over the last nine years (XXXVIII - XLVI) the average margin of victory for the Super Bowl winner has been under a touchdown (6.7 points per game). In the nine preceding Super Bowls (XXIX - XXXVII) that margin was over two touchdowns (14.8 ppg). And if we want to look even nine years further back than that, Super Bowls XX - XXVIII were decided on average by over three touchdowns (22.4 ppg). So as you can see, the league's championship game is getting closer by a touchdown every decade, more or less. Clearly we're headed towards a nine year stretch in which the average margin of victory will be zero. That's right Donovan McNabb, nothing but ties!

Here's one last factoid in support of the parity argument: this is the only Super Bowl to be played following a full 16 game season in which neither of the teams has at least 12 wins.

So I suppose it's time to make my pick. I've thought long and hard about this (because, like I said before, it has national implications) and one score keeps flashing in my mind like a florescent Dirk Diggler sign, and that score is 27-20. As I explained earlier, the average point differential in the last nine Super Bowls is just about 7 points, furthermore, the average score is 26-19. So I figured I'd just normalize those scores a bit and trust mathematics, because I no longer have the capacity for emotion. So who's winning?

49ers 27-20

Pretty lame huh? What won't be lame is when the Seahawks ruin San Francisco's first night as defending champs on Thursday, September 5th. There ya go, that's like a three-tiered prediction, that should last you for the next seven months you vultures.


NFL Picks - Conference Championships


San Francisco @ Atlanta

Fuck this.      Suggested alternate viewing.

49ers 35-24


Baltimore @ New England

Don't care.     Suggested alternate viewing.

Patriots 27-24


NFL Picks - Divisional Round


Baltimore @ Denver

Peyton Manning is back in the playoffs, look out NFL! Or don't. Three of the last four times Manning has been in the playoffs he's lost his first game, with two of those losses coming at home. So perhaps the rest of the league shouldn't look out, they should look in. The secret to conquering Peyton can only be found within oneself. However, if the Ravens don't have time for self reflection they can just heed this advice: make him throw lots of interceptions. Like at least five, ten plus if possible. If that's not possible then Baltimore could struggle. The Ravens D looked strong last week against Indianapolis, but the Colts and the Broncos are completely different animals. Well, not really, they're both horses. But I think you get my point, and that point is that colts and broncos are actually two very similar animals while the Colts and Broncos are not. You're following this right? I think Denver will have enough firepower to handle Baltimore, even if it doesn't turn out to be as lopsided as when these teams met in Week 15.

Broncos 27-17

Green Bay @ San Francisco

It's a rematch of Week 1 when the 49ers prevailed in Green Bay. A lot has changed since then. For instance, I started using an exercise ball for all of my sitting situations and my core has responded in kind. But enough about my newly shredded physique and improved balance, these teams have come a long way too. The Packers have dealt with injuries all year but are finally rounding into form, much like their coach who rounded into form years ago and has stayed round ever since. Meanwhile, the Niners have a new starting quarterback who hasn't let the luster of his new spot on the depth chart give him a big head; I mean just look at that thing, his hat size is probably 6 & 1/4. But for however many ups and downs these squads may have gone through this season they find themselves right back where they started. I see this one being closer than their first meeting, in fact, it will be closer than any playoff game ever, or at least tie for that honor.

49ers 24-23


Seattle @ Atlanta

Matt Ryan has had a solid career so far. In his five seasons the Falcons have amassed a 56-24 record while he's thrown for nearly 19,000 yards and 127 touchdowns. There's no debating that those are solid numbers. Still, Russell Wilson has one more playoff win than he does. Ryan and the rest of the Falcons will have the weight of their past playoff failures on their shoulders Sunday, meaning that the Hawks won't need Chris Clemons to put pressure on the QB, the city of Atlanta will already be doing that. The loss of Clemons thrusts Bruce Irvin into the spotlight, which is fine because a spotlight and a searchlight are very similar, and the rookie pass rusher has some experience with the latter. A big performance from Irvin would be a bonus for the Seahawks, but the real key to the game, is their backfields, both offensive and defensive. A shutdown performance from the secondary coupled with a stampede from Russell and the Beast will propel the Hawks.

Seahawks 28-20

Houston @ New England

The Texans have become very bland. At this point everybody would appreciate it if they just left quietly, which I'm guessing is the same way everybody whose ever hung out with Matt Schaub feels. Seriously, look at this dork. It's an interesting juxtaposition with Tom Brady as his counterpart in this contest, because, as well know, Brady is the coolest guy ever. It's well documented (in several books) that the Patriots crushed the Texans 42-14 in Week 14. I expect Houston to put up a better effort in this one, I mean, with this guy rallying the troops how could they not lay it all on the line? However, even a much better effort still wouldn't be enough.

Patriots 31-21


NFL Picks - Wild Card Round


Cincinnati @ Houston

It's the rematch America deserves, but not the one that it needs right now. So we'll watch it, because it's a playoff game, not a great game; that's why it's been relegated to the shadows of Saturday afternoon, because if this were given the primetime kickoff that would surely be a dark night (when I saw this match-up it was just screaming for a Batman reference). But seriously, this is a rematch that no one asked for. In last year's Wild Card round the Texans creamed the Bengals 31-10 with T.J. Yates at the helm. Perhaps Yates should get the start this year as well, seeing as how Matt Schaub's performance has been uninspiring for the past month (and normally Schaub inspires me to no end). Opposing defenses stumped the Schaub for most of December, as he was only able to amass one touchdown pass in the last four games. And now he heads into his first career playoff start to face an above average Cincinnati pass defense. So to be clear I have serious concerns about the Texans' offense. But I'm not crazy about the Bengals' O either. They've won seven of their last eight, but I feel like the home field advantage will help key the Texans' defense, and their effort will be the difference.

Texans 19-16

Minnesota @ Green Bay

It's the rematch America wants to see! Can the Packers respond after falling one week ago to the Vikings who were led by Adrian Peterson's virtuoso performance (not only at running back, he performed during the halftime show and cooked the postgame meal as well)? The move from the HHH MetroDome to Lambeau Field will definitely work in Green Bay's favor; the Vikings are normally protected from the elements by a roof that only occasionally collapses. I'm expecting the wind chill to make temperatures in the low teens come kickoff; I have no basis for this belief, nor have I done any research into the matter, it's just what I expect. I suppose finding out the truth would be as easy as going to weather.com and simply looking at the forecast for Green Bay, Wi at 5:30pm (Pacific, 7:30 local time) and finding the temperature; in fact, just typing this hypothetical has probably taken me longer than it would to actually do what I'm describing ... fine I'll do it! Aright, it looks like 21 degrees, so I'll probably be just about right. Good, I'm glad we got this figured out. So, to recap, the Packers are at home, and a better team, and it will be cold, so I think they'll win.

Packers 31-20


Indianapolis @ Baltimore

Well it's January and Joe "Flac Man" Flacco is playing football, what else is new? Homeboy has made the playoffs every season he's been in the league, and what's more, he's had at least one win in every postseason. Say what you will about Flac Man (I can't believe you just said that about Flac Man!), but that's pretty impressive. Now the Ravens have an added edge with Ray Lewis's announcement that he will retire at the end of the season. You can bet that the rest of that defense will want to give him at least one more opportunity to put on the pads, unless they all secretly hate him and now they've finally been presented with a chance to end his career. If you think that's the case then bet heavily on the Colts. I, however, believe there's only about a 20% chance that that's true, so I'll go with Baltimore. Don't let me down Flac Man.

Ravens 27-22

Seattle @ Washington

Here. We. Go. A lot has been made about the similarities between these teams, but let's focus on a big difference instead. All you need to know is that the Seahawks have the 12th man, and with their crowd making noi ... what's that? It's a road game!? That's just not fair; teams with a worse record should NEVER get the home field advantage in a playoff game. Well, that will make things a bit tougher for the Hawks, of whose road struggles much has been made. But a 3-5 mark away from home isn't catastrophic, and the Redskins' 5-3 home mark is hardly dominant. Besides, in the Hawks' first four road games RussellMania was not yet running wild on the NFL. The last two times Washington has been in the playoffs ('05 & '07) they've been eliminated by the Seahawks, and I can't think of one variable that would make the result any different Sunday. Oh shit, that's right, they're on the road, I keep forgetting. While that is an important variable, the Hawks have the ultimate variable, and his name is Russell Wilson.

Seahawks 21-17