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NFL Efficiency Ratings- Divisional Round Breakdown

Going strictly by the numbers worked pretty well last week producing a 4-0 record. 7 of the top 8 teams from the 2008 efficiency rankings are all still alive while the lowly Cardinals remain the one darkhorse team in the playoffs.

Predicting things get a little trickier this week as teams are playing off by weeks and the competition is much better. The rankings listed are where each team finished in the efficiency categories.

Baltimore Ravens (1st Overall, 5th scoring, 3rd defense, 2nd Overall Away) at Tennessee Titans (4th Overall, 15th scoring, 2nd defense, 7th Overall Home)

Probably the closest game and hardest to decide of all the second round matchups this week. Baltimore is getting somewhat screwed over by the NFL, because the Ravens vs the Titans is not a marquee football game. They are only getting 6 days of rest rather than 7 days of rest, while the Chargers get 8 days because that game has more star power. That could prove to be the difference in this one. The Ravens are a slightly better team than the Titans. They are much more efficient at scoring points than the Titans are even taking home field into account, though the Titans home defense is exceptional. The Ravens will win the game if Titan QB Kerry Collins turns the ball over the way he has in the past against this defense, just as they murdered Miami once Chad Pennington started to throw the football. It is important for the Ravens to play from ahead early on to force the Titans into throwing more than they want. Anyway you slice it this just has the makings of a 1 or 2 point game either way. One less day of rest might make the difference, but the stats say that the Ravens should just eek this out. Call it 17-16 Baltimore.

San Diego Chargers (6th Overall, 3rd scoring, 14th defense,15th Overall Away) at Pittsburgh Steelers (2nd Overall, 14th scoring, 1st defense, 9th Overall Home)

The Chargers played exactly to form last week. They made all the mistakes in the world, nearly shot themselves in the foot multiple times and then came back in the 4th to tie and eventually win the game. By the numbers they have very little chance in this one. The Steelers are outscoring teams by nearly 9 points a game on their home field and are holding teams to nearly 30% below their away scoring averages this season. San Diego has had all kinds of problems away from home, especially defensively. The only thing that tempts you about the Chargers is that you know they have the physical talent to beat anyone in the NFL. They have played better of late and nearly beat the Steelers a few weeks ago on this very field. If they win this game the Chargers have an excellent chance to reach the Super Bowl at 8-8, but this will be a tough task, especially since the Steelers are so good at the end of football games. Pittsburgh will need to take advantage of the mistakes the Chargers leave on defense this week. Pittsburgh has been a very average team on offense on their home field, so when San Diego gives them some chances they must take advantage of the situation and not miss receivers or stub themselves in the foot with a penalty. If they allow the defense to skate by this will end up being alot closer than it should be. Pittsburgh should win this one by something like a 26-17 kind of score and move on to the AFC Championship.

Arizona Cardinals (6th Overall, 5th scoring, 29th defense, 24th Overall Away) at Carolina Panthers (8th Overall, 12th scoring, 6th defense, 3rd Overall Home)

On paper this is the biggest mismatch of the playoffs. Carolina has yet to lose a game at home this season and has just pummeled teams in their building by an average of 15 points a game. Meanwhile the Cardinals are miserable away from home being outscored by 8 points a game and allowing teams to score over 30% above their normal averages at home. The Panthers score at a decent clip on their home field and their home defense is 2nd best in the NFL holding teams 33% off their road averages. Arizona did have a decent effort in their first game here, and Jake Delhomme is very inconsistent which is about the only disadvantage that the Panthers could have in this game. Arizona likely met every objective they had for the season by getting by the Falcons last week and might just mail it in here. Home field should make this a blowout with Carolina winning by at least 15 points, unless they just call off the attack late in the game or are somehow looking ahead to the NFC Title game. This should be around 36-16..

Philadelphia Eagles (5th Overall, 4th scoring, 7th defense, 10th Overall Away) at New York Giants (3rd Overall, 2nd scoring, 10th defense, 6th Overall Home)

The Eagles are a very dangerous team and were one of the few teams this year to go into NY and really outplay the Giants. It is a game that salvaged their season and they certainly have the confidence that they can beat this team. The Eagles have a habit of falling into offensive funks on the field, which is something that they can not do this week or the Giants will just run away from them. Similar to the Ravens/Titans game in that the two teams are both very evenly matched and both are probably the most well rounded teams in the NFC. The major difference here is that NY is a much better team at home than Philadelphia is on the road. The Eagles were slightly outscored on the road this year during the regular season and were just slightly above average on defense, holding teams about 3% below their scoring average, away from home. Their road record this year is 3-4-1 and typically when they donít fire on offense they underperform badly, which is the only way to explain the games against the Bengals, Ravens, and Redskins. The Giants have been dominant at home this year going 7-1 and winning by an average margin of just under 13 points a game. NY has waited for this home playoff game for over a year really want to beat on Philadelphia and may come out a little tight because of that. If they minimize the early turnover and contain DeSean Jackson on returns this is their game to lose. Giants should win by anywhere from 7-10 points. Call it 26-17.