I have watched maybe 3.5 hours of football this entire NFL season (including highlights), and 2 of those hours were this past weekend’s Divisional matchups. This is the analysis of a peripheral football fan.
SanFrancisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
This game is less Colin Kaepernick versus Russell Wilson than it is the two QB’s versus the opponents formidable defenses. Who will survive? I’m not a big fan of the Karma Card, but after last week’s over the top display of trash talk from 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldan, I’m predicting Boldin to be contained to the point of some well earned frustration. Mostly thanks to super freak Richard Sherman. The way people talk about Sherman, especially in this era of where the rules are skewed in favor of receivers, I can’t imagine how dominant he would have been in eras passed. He is the Calvin Johnson of defensive backs.
On a side note, I have temporarily abandoned my hope for a super duper athletic quarterback (See here). Without a doubt, a lot of the quarterbacks in the league and coming up are far more athletic than their predecessors. The problem is that so are all of the other positions. Kaepernick is on the cusp of putting together a perfect mix of passing ability and athleticism, but is he any more athletic relative to the other 21 guys on the field than Randall Cunningham or Steve Young were compared to their peers? Additionally, the main reason my wish has not come true is that passing abilities have not come anywhere close to a plateau. Just the opposite is happening. Thanks to the proliferation of 7 on 7 flag football leagues, young quarterbacks are able to develop and hone their skills far earlier. Cannon arms with pinpoint accuracy are becoming the rule, rather than the exception. Until that development starts to slow down, there is no need for a uber athletic running quarterback.
Back to the game. I believe Seattle’s defense with home field advantage will be too much for the 49ers.
What does Vegas say: Seattle -3.5
New England Patriots at Denver Broncos
This is a tough one. I see this as a choice between two different types of statistical formulas. Trends versus regressions to the mean. Regression to the mean is essentially, in the words of Dennis Green, “they are who we thought they were.” If an NBA player is a career 60% free throw shooter and he starts a season making a blistering 85% of his free throws, barring some revolutionary change in technique, that player is expected to “regress” back to his 60% free throw percentage as the season progresses. Think of a coin toss. If a coin toss is a 50/50 proposition, regardless how lopsided the first 10 tosses are in favor of one side over the other, if you toss the coin over 100 times, it is expected to regress back to its 50/50 probability. So how does this apply to Peyton Manning?
Peyton Manning’s mean (average) is better than any quarterback we’ve ever seen. This makes his below average playoff statistics and win percentage look like an aberration. If regression to the mean holds true, then Peyton is likely due, and he should “progress” to his mean resulting in a Broncos win. However, maybe his playoff troubles are “who he is.” Football is not a coin toss, and psychological factors could be the reason for his playoff failures. If that is the case, then his playoff failures are a trend, and trends are expected to continue. However, Manning’s playoff record is only slightly below .500, so we can’t truly call his failures a trend. In fact, he is nearly a coin toss. That fact, coupled with home field advantage, and the possibility of “progression” to the mean, I have to pick Denver. For the record, I’m a Brady guy, but I just can’t muster up the hatred for Manning to wish such a legacy devastating defeat on him. Then again, I may change my mind at kickoff. Nonetheless. . .
Vegas says: -6