Thursday, January 13, 2011

NFL Playoff previews: NFC Divisional game 1

Saturday, January 15 - NFC Divisional Game 1
Green Bay Packers (10-6) at Atlanta Falcons (13-3)

By the numbers:
Green Bay @ Atlanta
TeamWLPFPADifPyth
Green Bay 106388240148.757
Atlanta 133414288126.703

These two teams played one of the big games of the regular season, when the Falcons beat Green Bay in Atlanta in week 12. The Packers never led in the game, and Atlanta never had a two-score lead, with the team's alternating scores and the Falcons breaking a 17-17 tie with a 47 yard field goal with 7 seconds remaining.

But the Packers actually played better. There was one turnover in the game, an Aaron Rodgers fumble on the Falcons one yard line which was recovered in the end zone by the Falcons. If Green Bay scores there, they go up by a touchdown and the game probably plays out differently.

The Falcons did score more than the Packers did in 2010, but Green Bay's defensive advantage is larger than the Falcons' offensive advantage, as the Packers finished the season 2nd in the NFL in points allowed (behind Pittsburgh). They also finished 2nd in the NFL in point differential and Pythagorean winning percentage (behind New England).

Reason to pick the Packers:
Points allowed, point differential and pythagorean all suggest that the Packers are the better team.

Reason to pick the Falcons:
The Falcons have been excellent at home, they're coming off a bye, and Mike Smith hasn't had the kinds of late game tactical difficulties that Mike McCarthy has.

Green Bay wins if:
They can avoid the stupid mistakes, turnovers, tactical errors, clock management problems, etc., that has had them underperform over the past couple of years.

Atlanta wins if:
They can jump out in front early and control the pace of the game.

My Pick:
Green Bay

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