NFL Power Rankings - Divisional Round
by Robert Ferringo - 01/11/2007
The Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs kicks off this weekend and we'll be treated to four games that, at this point, I don't think anyone can say with any certainty we know who will win. Are you going to tell me that Seattle can't beat Chicago or that Belichick and Brady can't topple Marty and the Boys? Please.
The NFL is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league and sometimes bettors can get caught in an out of sight, out of mind situation between the Wild Card Round and the Divisional Round. Just because a team looked great last weekend it can sometimes be enough to make you forget that the teams that had a bye last week did so for a reason: because they're the best.
Over the past 15 years the average margin of victory in the Divisional Round is 15 points. Over the past five years the average victory is 11.6 points, and the last three years it's been an average of 9.3 points. While those trends point towards parity bringing the league closer together, I still see an average margin of two scores as a considerable difference between teams coming off a bye versus those who played the week before.
Further, home teams are 43-13 SU and 30-24 ATS in the Divisional Round. The No. 1 seed in each conference is 20-11-1 ATS over the past ten years.
So we've determined that playing on your home turf and having a week of rest is a benefit. Not rocket science there. But the relevant question facing us today is whether or not these historical and statistical trends will continue or whether this weekend will be the dawn of a new day.
Who's to say? But while you're stressing over that one, maybe my Divisional Round Power Rankings can help:
1. San Diego (14-2) - I think the key player for San Diego this week is safety Terrence Kiel. San Diego was just 13th in pass defense this year, and that was with 61 sacks. If they can't get to Tom Brady then I'm not sure the Chargers corners can slow the Pats down. Also, the Chargers faced just three of the top 15 defenses in the NFL (Baltimore, Oakland, Denver). New England finished sixth in total defense and is renowned for their play in the postseason.
2. Baltimore (13-3) - The Ravens are tied for the third-longest streak of wins off a bye week with five. They've won those five off rest by an average of 11.2 points. This year they had extended rest twice. The first time they came back and were the first team to beat the Saints in the Superdome. The second time they had five days after a Thursday night game and 12 days later became the first team to win in Arrowhead in December in over a decade.
3. Chicago (13-3) - Matt Hasselbeck completes just 51 percent of his passes on third down in the playoffs, and Chicago managed 24 interceptions on third down this season. Soldiers Field has been re-sodded after the players complained about its condition over the past three games. Chicago ran for 148 yards in the first meeting. If they're anywhere close to that in this game Seattle has no chance. However, the Bears defense is not the same now as the one that took the field in October. Chicago has given up an average of 22 points per game over the last six weeks.
4. New England (12-4) - The Patriots are giving up less than two yards per play in the red zone this year. They will again be without Rodney Harrison, who played in S.D. for many years, and while last year that was a crippler the secondary is kind of used to it by now. Tom Brady is 25-4 in his career in games decided by a touchdown or less, including 5-0 in the postseason.
5. Indianapolis (12-4) - Let's not get carried away about the Colts stopping the Chiefs offense. They were at home, and dropped passes and a failure to get away from 5- and 7-step drops once it was clear they couldn't protect Trent Green both conspired to do in Kansas City. The two things that work in Indy's favor is that A) Samari Rolle cannot stay with Reggie Wayne and B) the Ravens do not have anyone explosive on offense that can make the Colts pay for shoddy defense.
6. New Orleans (10-6) - Despite everything that's been made of the Saints' huge home-field advantage, they are just 1-4 ATS in their last five in the Superdome and just 1-7 ATS in their last eight games as a home favorite. The crux of that defense is interior linemen Hollis Thomas and Mark Simoneau - both ex-Eagles. The Philly offensive line should be very familiar with those two and know what it takes to handle them up front. The Saints are 9-3 ATS in their last 12 against the NFC, but were just 2-3 ATS against teams with winning records this season.
7. Philadelphia (10-6) - That's six straight wins for the Eagles, who will be playing their fifth road game in eight weeks. During their winning streak the Eagles have been posted as an underdog four times - winning and covering in all four. Donte Stallworth missed the first meeting between these two teams and I expect he wants a little payback on the team that traded him in the preseason. Speaking of revenge, the Eagles are 25-9 ATS when revenging a loss under Andy Reid and 15-6 ATS when revenging a loss by seven points or less since 1996.
8. Kansas City (9-7) - Just remember that I was the one screaming for Herm to stick with Damon Huard - for a number of reasons having to do not just with this year. The idea that you can't lose your job to injury is the biggest load of shit. Just ask Lou Gehrig and Tom Brady.
10. New York Jets (10-6) - I like their spirit, and this team has nowhere to go but up. I just hope they don't get saddled with ridiculous Super Bowl hype like they did in 2005 after simply winning a playoff game in 2004.
11. Seattle (10-6) - Sneaky. This team is sneaky right now. The Bears haven't been able to stop the run and we know that the Seahawks can move the ball in the air. That 37-6 loss from earlier in the year is very, very misleading. This team isn't any good, except when it comes to one thing: taking advantage of opponents' meltdowns. Look for Seattle to run a lot of four-wide spread sets to exploit the Bears secondary, which hasn't been its strong suit. Also, if Shaun Alexander goes over 100 yards - look out.
12. Dallas (9-7) - Man, do you think it was hard for Drew Bledsoe not to crack a smile on Saturday? Could you see him consoling Romo afterwards? "Hey kid. You know, it's pretty much the worst feeling in the world knowing that you cost your team the game. Knowing that 52 other guys had their season end because of your play. It's tough having them all looking at you with disdain and hatred. Real tough. (Starts laughing) I'm just really glad I didn't have to deal with it again this year!! Thanks kid!"
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