Since DCIAPC is the most successful feature our site has had, we decided to continue picking games in the NFL playoffs. We’ll predict each and every playoff game (against the spread, as always, because those who pick games straight up should be decapitated) [not really] and tally up our records at the end of each week. Just so you know, the only part of this article that is always mandatory reading is Bob’s game analysis.
Last week, the Denver Broncos (-4.5) were able to shut down Tom Brady and the Patriots on defense until the fourth quarter, leading them to a 26-16 win and cover. In the night game, the Seattle Seahawks (-3) scored the game-winning touchdown on a huge fourth down conversion late in the game and outlasted the 49ers 23-17.
You can get involved with this picks column, by simply writing your picks in the comment section of this article. If making a WordPress account is just too physically taxing for you, feel free to tweet your picks at us or message us on Facebook. Please note that Harry will not hesitate to make fun of you if your picks suck. We’ll include all fan-made picks in their own standings column and the winner will get absolutely no prize or reward. If that’s not incredible motivation to get involved, I don’t know what is.
Before we get into this week’s games and spreads, let’s take a brief look at those standings. Guest commenters are included, as always. The standings are ranked according to the number of wins.
1. Bob [6-3-1]
1a. Creed Tucker [6-3-1]
3. Matt [3-6-1]
4. Harry [3-6-1]
5. Bobby [3-3]
6. Arnim “My Name Is Arnim” Whisler [2-2]
7. Peter Silberman [1-2]
8. Michael Weller [1-3]
It’s going to be a tight finish between Bob and Creed Tucker, also known as the all-time greatest DCIAB commenter. I’m not going to tell you for whom I’m rooting, but it’s definitely not Bob. Let’s get to the game this week, which goes by this quaint little name: the Super Bowl.
13-3 Seattle Seahawks vs. 13-3 Denver Broncos (-2.5)
Sunday, February 2nd, 5:25 PM CST
Well, here we are. After a long season, just two teams remain. Awesomely, this Super Bowl will pit the #1 offense (Denver) against the #1 defense (Seattle), an event which has occurred very few times in NFL history. ESPN Stats and Info tweeted out a nice graphic showing the results of those previous games, but don’t base your analysis of this match-up off it or Bob will eat your face:
Who has the edge when the No. 1 offense faces the No. 1 defense in the Super Bowl? Take a look pic.twitter.com/AgLnXHuNh3
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 1, 2014
Drawing the conclusion that the defense usually prevails in an #1-offense-vs-#1-defense matchup is absurd
— Bob Hayes (@_BobHayes_) February 1, 2014
That is coming from a FOUR-GAME SAMPLE SIZE in which the D won three times. That has nothing to do with tomorrow’s game. #TalkingHeadsPAB
— Bob Hayes (@_BobHayes_) February 1, 2014
In any case, this is sure to be an extremely interesting match-up. Seattle boasts one of the top pass defenses in history, and they’re going up against a quarterback who may one day be regarded as the best of all-time. Peyton Manning’s offense with the Broncos in 2013 also rates as one of the greatest in history, and is this year’s top-ranked offense by far according to Football Outsider’s DVOA rankings. Put simply, when these two units are on the field, it is going to be a clash between two of the best sides ever. It’s pretty crazy to think that viewers of this Super Bowl will be witnessing a statistically better offense-defense match-up than has ever been seen in the Super Bowl’s 48 years of existence.
On the other sides of the ball, both Seattle’s offense and Denver’s defense have been inconsistent throughout the year. Seattle has been exhilarating to watch at times, with Marshawn Lynch’s ability to grind out big runs and Russell Wilson’s breathtaking escapability in the pocket. They’ve also had their fair share of struggles, typically because of their offensive line, which has really struggled to protect Wilson this year:
Pressure Point – Will this be a key to the game on Sunday? pic.twitter.com/JEFavrOJjS
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 31, 2014
Denver’s defense has been good against the run for much of the year, but they’ve really struggled to contain the pass at times. They did a nice job against Tom Brady last week, limiting him mostly to underneath throws, but they were carved up more than once this year, most notably in a near-loss to the Cowboys on the road (Denver escaped Texas with the win, 51-48). While viewers can expect both the Denver offense and Seattle defense to play well for stretches of the game, the result of the game may very well come down to which of these two shaky units is able to play to their ceiling.
For the last two weeks, I have gone back and forth on this pick almost by the hour. I could make a very strong case for either of these teams’ going back home with the Vince Lombardi trophy in hand. Before we get into technical matchups on the field, it is extremely interesting that the Denver Broncos are the favorite in this game. Any advanced metric, particularly Football Outsiders’ DVOA, points to Seattle as the superior team. However, the betting line, particularly during the Super Bowl, is shaped by public opinion – not by what the statistics say. Millions of Americans bet on the Super Bowl each year and, for many, it is the only bet they make all year. Thus, many of the bettors are a little more detached from the usual professionals that have money on the game. Due to this relative lack of inexperience, the line has favored Denver because the familiarity of Peyton Manning far outweighs the public’s familiarity with anything relating to Seattle. Thus, around eighty percent of public money is on Denver minus-2.5 right now, while nearly all the professional bettors are taking Seattle. My point is, Seattle really should be favored in this game, and the key reason they are not is because of the public’s influence on the game’s spread.
This leads to the more relevant point: Seattle is the better team. Denver may be the greatest offense in NFL history, but their defense is relatively average (13th in weighted DVOA). Meanwhile, Seattle itself has a legendary defense with a decently strong offense (9th in DVOA). Everyone has been focusing on the Denver offense vs. Seattle defense matchup, but the real gap between the two is on the other side. No matter whether you like the Denver offense or the Seattle defense (I generally feel more comfortable taking the #1 defense over #1 offense), the Seattle’s offense has proven to be superior to the Denver defense.
The key, however, is in the matchup: Seattle’s run-heavy offense faces off against a formidable run-stopping defense. Unfortunately, the real killer for Denver is the injuries to Von Miller, Kevin Vickerson, and Derek Wolfe – three of their top front-seven defenders. Additionally, Chris Harris’s injury forces a debilitated Champ Bailey into a starting role. I see these injuries having a huge effect on this side of the ball. If Seattle can get some push and control the tempo on offense, which I envision, they have a big advantage.
When people think about Denver’s offense, they think, “Oh, Peyton Manning. That guy is a wizard,” but they do not really understand why. This offense has generally thrived on pick-plays, crossing routes, and using the run when they face a favorable route. Unfortunately for Denver, Seattle’s vanilla Cover-3 makes it extremely difficult to run pick-plays and crossing routes, and they generally line up in an even front. In order for Denver to succeed, they will either have to execute flawlessly or throw in something new – both of which are possible. With the early-season injury to offensive tackle Ryan Clady, backup Chris Clark will have his hands full against Cliff Avril and Chris Clemons. If they can get some pressure on Manning with only a four-man rush, Denver could have major problems.
What it comes down to for me is that Seattle appears to have the advantage on the key matchups. It feels as if Denver will have to play a more perfect game in order to win, which is likely, but not something I feel comfortable expecting. Percy Harvin could play an interesting role in this game, but if you ask me to say whether he will have a huge game or do nearly nothing, I would take the latter.
It should be an incredibly fun game. It will likely be one in which they play ten times and each side would win around five, so it really is tough to guess what will happen. Let’s try not to overreact with “legacy talk” after this one. Go Bruno Mars. Go Denver. Seattle +2.5
Last week: 1-1
Apologies to everyone, but my pick is going to be pretty brief this week as I’m away from a computer all weekend on a fraternity trip and have been forced to bang this out on my phone. (Yeah, I know I could have easily just done this yesterday on a laptop like a normal person. Shut up.) Anyway, it’s just absurd that Seattle is the underdog in this game and Vegas agreed, as Seattle was the opening favorite until the betting public pushed the Broncos from field goal underdogs to field goal favorites. Any time you can go against the betting public (and 70% are on Denver), that’s a good idea. Add on the fact that Seattle played a way tougher schedule in the regular season and playoffs and is built for cold weather and this is probably the easiest pick I’ve had to make all season. Seattle +2.5. Thank you and please drive through.
Last week: 0-2
Side note: Did you enjoy the use of tweets in the preview earlier, reader? I’m curious to know if people find them to be interesting information or if they’d prefer to just have the statistics laid out in writing. You can add your opinion to the comment with your pick, if you wish.
If you’ll recall, I predicted before the season that the Broncos would beat the Seahawks in the Super Bowl:
Not too bad. From September: RT @msilich2 Playoffs: GB/DAL/SF/ATL [SEA/CHI] NE/DEN/BAL/HOU [CIN/IND] Broncos over Seattle
— Matt Silich (@msilich2) January 16, 2014
Having seen the results from both teams this season, I’m going against my pick and taking the Seahawks to cover and win. This didn’t work out for me last week, as I went against my preseason picks and chose both the Niners and Patriots to win. This time though, I feel will be a different story. Of note: I agree with nearly everything Bob said before making his pick, and much of my reasoning for picking Seattle lies within his explanation. For the sake of not completely mailing this in, I’ll try to put my own spin on a couple topics here.
As you saw in the Pro Football Focus graphic above, Peyton Manning has been pressured less than any other quarterback in the league this year. Unfortunately for Manning, I don’t believe the Denver offensive line is going to keep him clean against Seattle. Denver linemen are going to have to deal with several ferocious Seahawks, including DE Michael Bennett, one of the five best pass rushers in the league (PLEASE come to the Bears next year, Michael). If Seattle can get consistent pressure with their front four, and I believe they will, it will make it infinitely tougher for Peyton Manning to pick apart a defense with such a talented secondary.
In my mind, this game also hinges quite a bit on Russell Wilson’s performance. The term “game manager” has acquired a bit of a negative connotation due to its use in describing QBs like Matt Schaub and Kyle Orton, but I see Wilson as a rich man’s game manager. He is certainly capable of making incredibly athletic, game-changing plays, but for the most part he is content to take what the defense gives him and let Marshawn Lynch tear opponents to pieces. Wilson is still growing and he’ll be pretty scary in the next few years if Seattle is able to shore up their pass protection unit, but I don’t expect him to have an incredible game against a Denver defense that has looked good in the postseason. If Wilson can take care of the ball, and the defense can get the terrifying pass rush I expect of them, Seattle should be able to put up enough points to get the win. Prop bet: Russell Wilson will throw a touchdown pass (-200) before he throws an interception. Seattle +2.5 (Seattle 30, Denver 23)
Last week: 0-2