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NFL Efficiency Ratings- A Look at the Playoffs

Well with the season over Iíll take one last look at the teams rankings for the year and then take a glance at how the teams look to fare in the playoffs. Looking over the predictions from a few weeks ago it was not terrible. Every year it seems as if two teams just fall apart down the stretch that throws things off. Last year it was the Bucs in the NFC and the Jets in the AFC. This year it was the Broncos in the AFC, who should have been a lock for the 5 seed, and the Giants who were expected to be a wildcard team. Both collapsed badly and again we ended up projecting 10 of the 12 teams in the playoffs. Looking over the ratings it is hard for any team to complain this year about missing the playoffs. The top 10 teams in the ratings all are in the playoffs. The Bengals and Cardinals are the two worst teams to make it, ranking 15 and 17 respectively, but the Cardinals play in an awful division and the Steelers had two cracks at the Bengals this year and lost. Atlanta was the best team to not make it and they had a very balanced team. The biggest disappointments were the Giants and Titans. The teams finished in the top 5 last year and fell to 20 and 21 this year with the defenses falling apart. Much of the blame may go on the new defensive coordinators that coached there. Of the potential coaching vacancies Carolina is the most attractive. They ended up with the number 5 ranked defense and are a QB away from being competent on offense. Buffalo and Washington both look to have the defensive pieces in place as well, but offenively they are really bad. None of the other potential vacancies look like a good landing spot. On the new coaches in 2009 front Rex Ryan was cleasrly the big winner with the Jets going from number 15 to 5 overall and number 20 to number 1 on defense. If they had a veteran QB like they had in 2008 they may have graded out as the best team in the NFL. Denver showed some improvement jumping from 25 to 19, but it will be hard to sell a fanbase on the season being a positive after yet another epic collapse. Detroit saw no improvement while Tampa, Cleveland, and St. Louis all were wore in 2009 than they were in 2008. .

Lets take a look at the playoffs now:

New York Jets (5th Overall, 16th Scoring, 1st Defense, 3rd Overall Away) at Cincinnati Bengals (16th Overall, 21st Scoring, 7th Defense, 10th Overall Home)

Very interesting game this week. The Jets are clearly the better football team in almost evey category there is. They are more efficient both scoring and defensively and are an excellent road team. The Bengals are the weakest team in the AFC playoffs and statisticaly mimic the Dolphins from 2008 who got murdered by the Ravens in round 1, a team not that different from this years Jets. Like last seasons Ravens/Dolphins game the one advantage going into the game is that the home team has the QB experience and that can never be underscored. That did not help the Dolphins last season, but this could be a different story. The Bengals have one quality win at home, which was against the Ravens, but most of their games came against the bottom rung of the teams in the NFL. The Jets had two quality road performances with one resulting in loss and one a controversial win. This is a game where the Jets should win by at least a field goal unless the QB of the Jets has a meltdown game that leads to points for the Bengals. Final score should be in the 16-13 type range.

Philadelphia Eagles (10th Overall, 6th Scoring, 17th Defense, 7th Overall Away) at Dallas Cowboys (6th Overall, 17th Scoring, 2nd Defense, 4th Overall Home)

Dallas is probably peaking at the right time and go into the playoffs with the top defense in the NFC and perhaps the hottest defense in the game. This is a game of very contrasting styles. Dallas, depite all the offensive hype, is a mediocre offense with a dominating defense. Philadelphia is the exact opposite relying on their offense to cover for a pretty bland defense. Whichever team sets the pace of the game early is going to win. If the Cowboys smack the Eagles around early the Cowboys are going to win. If Dallas allows the game to be a shootout they are going to lose. Dallas was 2-0 against the Eagles this year because they never allowed Donovan McNabb to get on track and made the games low scoring contests. They lost twice to the Giants because they allowed Eli Manning to get on track and turn the game into a track meet. Being the home team Dallas should have the edge this week. If they play their game you are looking at a 21-17 type win.

Green Bay Packers (3rd overall, 3rd Scoring, 9th Defense, 3rd Overall Away) at Arizona Cardinals (18th Overall, 15th Scoring, 16th Defense, 23rd Overall Home)

Arizona again comes in as the worst NFC team in the playoffs, but the major difference this year over 2008 is that there is nothing they do exceptionally well. The offense is nowhere near as effective as last season nor is their home field advantage anything worth considering. They also did not lay down over the last month of the year to skew the numbers. This is just a mediocre team that has fallen short all but one time against a quality road team. Green Bay has not always closed the deal on the road, but puts up a tremenus amount of points away from Lambeau. This is a very dangerous playoff team. Unless Green Bay is just overwhelwhelmed by being in the playoffs this is a 30-21 type of game for the Packers.

Baltimore Ravens(4th Overall, 9th Scoring, 3rd Defense, 9th Overall Away) at New England Patriots (1st Overall, 2nd Scoring, 4th Defense, 1st Overall Home)

A real matchup between heavy hitters in this game. Both teams have outstanding defensive numbers and well above average offensive numbers. The major difference here is that New England has the best homefield advantage in the NFL. The Patriots were dealt a big blow losing Wes Welker to injury in a meaningless game, but they are so good at home they should be able to absorb the loss. They are outscoring teams by over 18 PPG at home and some of those wins have been against good road teams, including these Ravens early in the year. Statistically Baltimoe plays well on the road and have faced a brutal road schedule, but never win these games. They are a team with the guns to reach the Super Bowl, but they blew their chance when they stumbled against the Bengals and lost the division. With a few breaks the Patriots could make the Super Bowl and will likely get through this round by a score of something like 27-20.

The rest of the playoffs:

Indianapolis Colts (9th Overall, 8th Scoring, 10th Defense, 19th Overall Home) - The Colts go inro the playoffs as a big favorite, but they are nowhere near the best team in the AFC despite the record, Give them credit for knowing how to win, and their overall numbers are somewhat skewed by somewhat poor efforts the last three weeks of the year, but there was never a point where the Colts tracked as the best in the league. The one thing that really stands out with them is that they are not a good home team and basically play average football. Their most likely 1st round opponent is the Jets and the Jets would have a good chance to beat them. The Ravens would look to be an even opponent while the Colts would only match up favorably against the Bengals who they should beat by 3-5 points. If they advance to the final round they will be big underdogs to the Chargers who should win by double digits in Indianapolis. New England would be a 1 point underdog if that was the matchup. For Indy to make it they need the Bengals to eliminate the Jets and the Pats to eliminate the Chargers. Its probably 50/50 they escape round 1 and maybe only a 20$ chance they advance to the Super Bowl.

San Diego Chargers (8th Overall, 4th Scoring, 18th Defense, 13th Overall Home, 1st Overall Away) - With virtually no difference between home and away splits the Chargers are the most well rounded team in the playoffs and the most likely to project in the Super Bowl. The Chargers only weakness would look to be if they face a top defense then that balances things out since the Chargers are not a strong defensive club. The two teams they want to avoid are the Jets and Ravens since those are the two road clubs that can turn a game into an ugly styled game. If those two wildcard teams brought their best games they would trend about even with the Chargers. San Diego would be favored by about 5 against the Patriots, 8 against the Bengals, and 10 against the Colts, who they would meet in Indianapolis.

Other than the Bengals, who look to have no chance, the AFC is wide open. San Diego is the clear favorite, but if the Patriots can get the championship game back in their building they would be a lock. New England actually finished as the top team in the league but their home/away splits are huge which makes the playoffs tough for them. Both the Jets and Ravens could make some noise due to their strong defensive play. Both teams major stumbling blocks would be games in New England which would be near impossible. Both are live underdogs though. If I had to rank the teams in order of likelihood to make it I would go Chargers, Patriots, Colts, Jets, Ravens, Bengals.

New Orleans Saints (2nd Overall, 1st Scoring, 19th Defense, 5th Overall Home) - The class of the league fell apart as the season went on and will be entering the playoffs on a 3 game losing streak after a 13-0 start. The real concerning thing with the Saints is that their defense stopped playing well and ended up falling all the way to 19th in the league. This makes them very vulnerable against any style team in the playoffs that has a upside in either category. In the first round they could play the Eagles, Packers, or Cardinals with the likely opponent being Green Bay. Green Bay is a nightmare for the Saints and the Packers would only be a slight underdog using the full season stats. Based on the last half of the year they would be the favorite. Saints would be a 4 point favorite to beat the Eagles and a 3 point favorite against the Cardinals. Arizona would be an intriguing game because they play so well outside of Arizona, but they have also been trending down as of late. This would look to be the danger round for New Orleans who would be big favorites against the Cowboys and Vikings, though the Cowboys current defensive attack could lead to their second upset in New Orleans.

Minnesota Vikings (7th Overall, 5th Scoring, 15th Defense, 3rd Overall Home, 21st Overall Away) - No team benefitted more from the Eagles fall from grace as the Vikings, who are a great home team and awful road team. Had they fallen down to the 3 of 4 they would have had irtually no chance to advance in round 2. Now they get a chance to not just win in round 2 but make the Super Bowl since the Saints have such a tough potential first game.The disparity for Minnesota comes from the fact that they play excellent defense at home and horrible defense on the road. They would look to be a 9 point winner against Dallas and a 5 point winner against Arizona. Green Bay has the best chance in Minnesota, but would be the underdog. The Eagles would be a double digit loser if the two teams met.

This looks to be a 3 horse race to the Auper Bowl with Dallas being a dark horse fourth team due to their current defensive play.If the Cowboys got lucky and like the Cardinals last season ended up with the championshop game in their building they would have an excellent shot at the Super Bowl even matching up against the Packers. Green Bay has the firepower to knock anyone out but could be at a slight disadvantage over the Vikes and Cowboys since they both play strong defense in their own building. The Saints toughest game will come in their first game and if they escape should make it. It is very hard to see Arizona repeating last seasons miracle and while the Eagles can always get hot, their QB cant play well enough over a three game stretch to make it back. Had they won the 2nd seed they might be the favorite. Now they will be lucky just to get past the wildcard round. Based on how the teams are currently trending I would rank them Vikings, Packers, Saints, Cowboys, Eagles, and Cardinals.

2009 NFL Efficiency Ratings, Final 2009 Rankings

Rank Team Scoring Efficiency Defensive Efficiency Overall Efficiency
1. New England Patriots 29.52 17.38 46.89
2. New Orleans Saints 46.34 -3.26 43.09
3. Green Bay Packers 29.31 7.92 37.24
4. Baltimore Ravens 13.75 23.28 37.02
5. New York Jets 2.02 30.87 32.88
6. Dallas Cowboys 1.37 29.05 30.42
7. Minnesota Vikings 27.78 1.80 29.58
8. San Diego Chargers 28.66 -0.12 28.54
9. Indianapolis Colts 18.45 7.91 26.37
10. Philadelphia Eagles 24.96 0.48 25.44
11. Atlanta Falcons 9.15 7.90 17.05
12. Carolina Panthers -5.76 16.73 10.97
13. Houston Texans 12.52 -3.36 9.17
14. Pittsburgh Steelers 5.31 3.80 9.11
15. San Francisco 49'ers -10.04 16.66 6.63
16. Cincinnati Bengals -9.91 15.62 5.71
17. Miami Dolphins 12.43 -8.39 4.04
18. Arizona Cardinals 2.49 0.57 3.07
19. Denver Broncos -4.08 5.56 1.47
20. New York Giants 21.22 -20.96 0.26
21. Tennessee Titans 5.99 -16.59 -10.60
22. Chicago Bears -5.90 -6.84 -12.74
23. Buffalo Bills -23.65 8.15 -15.50
24. Washington Redskins -26.14 2.63 -23.51
25. Jacksonville Jaguars -16.43 -12.8 -29.27
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers -24.95 -7.24 -32.19
27. Cleveland Browns -27.22 -10.09 -37.31
28. Seattle Seahawks -20.55 -17.56 -38.11
29. Kansas City Chiefs -12.11 -28.78 -40.89
30. Oakland Raiders -40.58 -7.33 -47.91
31. Detroit Lions -22.41 -35.84 -58.26
32. St. Louis Rams -49.68 -30.48 -80.16