It’s the week we’ve all been waiting for. The NFL playoffs finally start. This week is the wild card round and there are four games, two Saturday and two Sunday. Let’s take a look at the matchups and make some predictions.
Oakland vs Houston: Although Houston may be one of the worst teams to make the playoffs in recent history, and have major quarterback questions, they get to host a playoff game against a team in turmoil in Oakland, who is forced to start a 3rd string rookie at quarterback. It is the first time in league history that a quarterback will make his first career start in the playoffs. Connor Cook has high level playmakers to help him on offense, while Houston has a top-level defense who should confuse him. It’s hard to have any idea what will happen in this game, but the guess is that it will be close. Head to head during the regular season, Oakland won 27-20. You can throw that game out the window now because the circumstances are completely different. Take the points if you’re betting against the spread, Houston is giving 3.5.
Prediction: Houston 20 Oakland 17
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Detroit vs Seattle: This game features two teams who come into the postseason struggling. Seattle is 3-3 in their last 6 games and barely snuck by San Francisco week 17. Detroit lost their last 3 games and barely held on to a wild card spot. Look for Matt Stafford to struggle against Seattle’s defense as they look to get back on track. The good news for Seattle is that they are 7-1 at home this season, and Detroit has not won a road game outdoors all season. Seattle has to give 8 points in this matchup. If you’re betting against the spread, take the points, but Seattle will win.
Prediction: Seattle 24 Detroit 17
Miami vs Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh comes into the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the league, winners of 7 straight to end the regular season. Miami also went on an impressive run going 9-2 in their last 11 games heading into the postseason. Pittsburgh is healthy and coming off a week where they rested all their top players, while Miami is still without quarterback Ryan Tannehill. It will be a tall task for backup Matt Moore to take on Big Ben. Head to head during the regular season Miami won 30-15, but things will be different this time around. Look for Miami to struggle, and even though Pittsburgh is giving 11 there’s a good chance they will cover.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 27 Miami 14
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New York vs Green Bay: Aaron Rodgers made his famous run the table statement, and 6 wins later here is Green Bay hosting the Giants in the playoffs. The rest of the NFC has to be thrilled that one of these teams has to go down this week, because both are major threats to anybody they face down the line. The winner will play Dallas next week. Look for New York’s defense to slow down Rodgers, but for Rodgers to do just enough to win. Head to head this season Green Bay won 23-16. Green Bay has to give 5.5, but they may do just enough to cover. Look for about the same score as last time.
Prediction: Green Bay 23 New York 16
How do you think the games will play out this weekend? Comment and let us know! Stay tuned for more current sports stories. Don't forget to follow us on social media. You can find us on Facebook, Instagram @beyondthemetrics, and Twitter @byondthemetrics
The last two days we looked at the best players at each position on offense and defense. Today, we are taking a look at the top MVP candidates and making our final predictions. The 2016 NFL MVP race is anything but clear. With several top candidates, the voting can go any which way. Let’s first take a look at the top candidates and their case for and against, then rank them in the order in which they should fall in the final voting.
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Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott: Zeke led the league in rushing by over 300 yards while sitting out a game. He was the primary reason the Cowboys were able to play their time control ground and pound offense, allowing the defense to be way more effective than they should have been. Dak had 23 TD’s to just 4 INT’s and his ability to take care of the ball provided a ton of value in the Cowboys time control offense. His ability as a dual threat helped open things up even more for Elliott in the run game and read option. Both will get support because of their success in leading Dallas to a 13-2 record before mailing it in week 17. What is the case against? It’s hard to even say for sure who the MVP of the Cowboys is, so that makes it hard for any of them to win MVP of the league. Is it Dak? Is it Zeke? Is it the offensive line? Everyone will make a different case.
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Tom Brady: Brady put up mind boggling numbers this season with 28 TD’s and 2 INT’s. The Patriots went 11-1 in his starts and 14-2 on the season. The only case against is that he was suspended for the first 4 games and the Patriots went 3-1. How can he win with only 12 great games vs other guys playing 16 great games? If the Patriots were still 3-1 without him, how valuable is he?
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Matt Ryan: Ryan had almost 5,000 yards, 38 TD’s, 7 INT’s, and a first round bye in the playoffs. He led the league in QB rating and total QBR. He was arguably the most consistent quarterback all season start to finish. What is the case against? The Falcons were only 11-5, while the Patriots were 14-2 and the Cowboys were 13-3. The Falcons had a first round bye but still not the same kind of dominant success as the teams who have other candidates on the ballot.
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Aaron Rodgers: Rodgers famously made his run the table prediction and followed through on it, paving his way for a spot on this list. The 6-0 finish to win the division, along with his 40 TD’s to 7 INT’s make a very strong case for. The case against is that Rodgers being on the list through 10 games this season would have been laughable. How can he win with 6 dominant games if the case against Tom Brady is that he only has 12?
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Derek Carr: Carr led a resurgent Raiders team to a 12-3 record and was in position for a first round bye before he broke his leg week 16. He had almost 4,000 yards, 28 TD’s, 6 INT’s, and most notably was one of the best quarterbacks in the fourth quarter all season. The case against? Carr’s numbers aren’t as eye popping as the others on the list. He is quite a bit down the ranks in total QBR, and without some miraculous 4th quarter comebacks we wouldn’t even be talking about him being on the list.
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Matthew Stafford: The biggest case for Stafford is all the incredible 4th quarter comebacks. The Lions came from behind to win in 8 of their 9 games. That paired with his 4,300 yards, 24 TD’s, and 10 INT’s make a pretty good case for. The case against? If Stafford is so good, why did he have to come from behind in 8 of 9 wins? And why couldn’t the Lions finish off the division title? Dropping to a wild card hurts Stafford significantly.
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Le’Veon Bell: Bell’s numbers were historic and the Steelers were dominant down the stretch in winning their division title. In 12 games, he racked up nearly 1,900 yards from scrimmage and single handedly carried to Steelers to some wins. The case against? With only 12 games, it is nearly impossible for a running back to win MVP, no matter how historic those numbers were.
The final ranking prediction:
1) Matt Ryan
2) Tom Brady
3) Ezekiel Elliott
4) Aaron Rodgers
5) Derek Carr
6) Le’Veon Bell
7) Dak Prescott
8) Matthew Stafford
Right now our best guess is that Ryan will win due to his incredible season over 16 games. That will give him the edge over Brady with his 12 games, and Rodgers who struggled out of the gate. Dak and Zeke will take away from each other, while Bell will be hurt by a short season and positional value. Stafford and Carr wont quite measure up with the historic numbers of the others.
What do you think? How will the final voting pan out? Comment and let us know! Stay tuned for more current sports stories. Don't forget to follow us on social media. You can find us on Facebook, Instagram @beyondthemetrics, and Twitter @byondthemetrics
Yesterday we rolled out our best players at each position in 2016 on the offensive side of the ball. Today let’s flip to the defensive side. Because of the differences in the way positions are played based on the type of defense, players will be grouped slightly differently than just their named position. What does this mean? In a 3-4 defensive alignment, the outside linebackers primary purpose is to rush the passer, much the same as a 4-3 defensive end, while in a 4-3 defense, the outside linebackers more often drop into coverage. For this reason, 3-4 outside linebackers and 4-3 defensive ends will be grouped as “edge rushers” while 3-4 defensive ends and 4-3 defensive tackles will be grouped as “defensive interior”. This will leave 4-3 outside linebackers and all inside linebackers to be grouped as “off-ball linebackers”. This is what we feel is the best way to compare apples to apples, as comparing an outside linebacker like Von Miller to an outside linebacker like KJ Wright is impossible. That being said, here are our top players at each position on defense in 2016.
1) Von Miller: No surprise here. With JJ Watt out this season, Von Miller was arguably the best defensive player in the league and a top defensive player of the year candidate. He was 2nd in the league in sacks at 13.5, and that does not even begin to state his overall impact on the game for the Broncos.
2) Vic Beasley Jr: Beasley took a monumental step forward this season, leading the league in sacks at 15.5. He finally showed what made him a top pick in last year’s draft, and will be a key factor for years to come with the Falcons.
3) Khalil Mack: Mack trailed slightly in sacks to Miller and Beasley at 11.0, but he is another top candidate for defensive player of the year. This is a guy who was all-pro last season at 2 different positions, and he was possibly even better this year for the Raiders.
4) Cliff Avril: Avril had a career year this year with 11.5 sacks for the Seahawks. Seattle will be counting heavily on Avril to continue that into the playoffs, as they have struggled since the Earl Thomas injury.
5) Danielle Hunter: Hunter wasn’t even a full time starter for the Vikings, but created havoc every time he stepped onto the field. With 12.5 sacks he was tied for 3rd in the league, but at only 22 years old he may just be scratching the surface of what he is capable of. Look for Hunter, Beasley, and Mack to be fixtures on this list for years to come.
Apologies to: Lorenzo Alexander, Markus Golden, Cameron Wake, and Olivier Vernon
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1) Aaron Donald: Much like Von Miller, this was Donald’s chance to show that he might be the best defensive player in the game not named JJ Watt. Donald was simply unblockable in the middle of the Rams line, and was 2nd among all defensive tackles with 8.0 sacks.
2) Geno Atkins: Atkins for years has been the premier interior pass rusher in the NFL, and proved that once again this year for the Bengals. He led all defensive tackles with 9.0 sacks and was a terror for opposing linemen all season.
3) Daman “Snacks” Harrison: Snacks was given a big contract to join the Giants this season and he didn’t disappoint. He was an absolute monster against the run, racking up 86 tackles from the nose tackle position. Snacks was easily the biggest reason why the Giants were so tough to run on.
4) Calais Campbell: Campbell for years has been one of the most underappreciated players in the league for the Cardinals. Campbell is always a stout run defender, and chipped in 8.0 sacks as well from the 3-4 defensive end position.
5) Ndamukong Suh: Suh doesn’t get as much press anymore when he’s not committing personal foul penalties every week, but he is still easily one of the best defensive tackles in the game. Aside from the great pass rush and run defense, perhaps what makes Suh most valuable is that he played 975 snaps this season, 2nd most for any interior defender.
Apologies to: Fletcher Cox, Kawaan Short, Jurrell Casey, and Linval Joseph
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1) Bobby Wagner: For years this spot has been reserved for Luke Kuechly, but even before Kuechly missing the last 4 games with injury, Wagner may have been outplaying him this season. Wagner flies around the field for the Seahawks, and led the league in tackles with 167, which was 18 more than the next best.
2) Sean Lee: Isn’t it great to see Sean Lee healthy for an entire season for the Cowboys? He has been one of the most talented linebackers in the league for years, but hasn’t been able to showcase that because of injuries. This year, he played every snap for the first 15 weeks, and was one of the biggest reasons why the Dallas defense was able to play respectably.
3) KJ Wright: Boy the Seahawks really have a heck of a duo at linebacker, don’t they? Wright doesn’t get the press the rest of Seattle’s defense gets, but he’s one of the best in the league as well as one of the most underappreciated. He chipped in 128 tackles alongside Wagner’s 167, and was often tasked with matching up with top opposing tight ends.
4) Jerrell Freeman: Freeman was one of the premier coverage linebackers in the game this season for the Bears. He was one of the lone bright spots on an otherwise extremely disappointing Bears team.
5) Luke Kuechly: Much like Tom Brady and Leveon Bell on yesterday’s list, Kuechly is just so good that he still cracks the top 5 even with missing 4 games this season. He is the gold standard of off-ball linebackers with his ability to fly sideline to sideline in the run game, cover tight ends and running backs, and rush the passer. The Panthers were smart to hold him out once their season was over.
Apologies to: Paul Posluszny, Jordan Hicks, Kwon Alexander, and Zach Brown
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1) Landon Collins: Collins was a top flight defensive player of the year candidate this year for the Giants. Known for his ability to play near the line of scrimmage coming into the league, Collins showcased his ability to cover as well this year with 5 INT’s. The impressive work in coverage, in addition to 125 tackles and 4 sacks easily makes Collins the top choice on this list.
2) Eric Weddle: Weddle is one of those under the radar guys who is a perennial all-pro player while generally missing out on the pro bowl. He was sensational in coverage this year for the Ravens with his 4 INT’s and 13 passes defensed, and proved that he’s not yet ready to slow down.
3) Kam Chancellor: Chancellor missed 4 games this year, but once again his 12 games this season were plenty to earn him a spot on this list. As always, Chancellor was exceptional near the line of scrimmage, but while forced to cover more often this year after the Earl Thomas injury, Chancellor proved he’s no slouch in that area of his game. In the games he played, he may have been the best safety in the league this year, but the smaller sample size drops him to 3rd.
4) Eric Berry: The return of Eric Berry the last 2 years has been a feel-good story for the league, but perhaps that was never more apparent than in his homecoming games vs the Falcons this year when he had a pick 6 and pick 2 to win the game for the Chiefs. Berry is a true all around safety and was one of the best in the league once again this season.
5) Harrison Smith: Smith was quietly maybe the best player on the Vikings defense for the last several years, including this year. He didn’t have the same flashy INT and sack numbers this year like he’s had in the past, or like Collins did this year, but his impact was still just as great as ever. One of the best all-around safeties in the game for years, Smith earns a spot on this list despite missing 2 games this year.
Apologies to: Devin McCourty, Tony Jefferson, Johnathan Cyprien, and Earl Thomas
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1) Aquib Talib: Talib had maybe the best year of his career this year for the Broncos. Tasked with covering top receivers each week, nobody was more impressive in coverage this year than Talib. Taking into account his good work in the run game as well, and he gets top honors on this list.
2) Marcus Peters: Peters gets the recognition because of his playmaking ability, but he also improved on his play vs the run this season to make himself a more all-around corner for the Chiefs. He still takes a few too many gambles and gets beat a little too often as a result, but he will be a fixture on this list for years to come.
3) Richard Sherman: Sherman may not have had quite the year this year that he has in the past, but he was as always one of the least targeted corners in the game this year, and was great against the run. As he shadows top receivers more often, it gets harder to knock any part of Sherman’s game.
4) Chris Harris Jr: Yes the Broncos get two corners on this list. Harris was again one of the best in the league in coverage if not the best. Between Talib and Harris, the Broncos were nearly impossible to throw against.
5) Xavier Rhodes: This year was a coming out party for Rhodes, who took the next step as one of the best in the game this year for the Vikings. Each week he was tasked with shadowing opponent’s top receivers, and each week he got the better of the matchup. Throw in his 5 INT’s, his 100 yard pick 6, and his impressive work in the run game, and he earned a spot in the top 5 this season.
Apologies to: Janoris Jenkins, Brent Grimes, Malcolm Butler, and Patrick Peterson
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1) Johnny Hekker: Hekker wins the MVP this year for Most Valuable Punter. He was simply unbelievable for the Rams with his 46.0 yard net average and 51 punts pinned inside the opponents 20 yard line with only 1 touchback.
2) Bryan Anger: Anger had a great year for the Bucs with his 42.7 yard net average and 37 punts inside the 20 yard line with only 5 touchbacks.
3) Sam Martin: Martin was 2nd in the league to Hekker with a 44.2 yard net average and had 23 punts inside the 20 yard line with only 3 touchbacks.
4) Matt Bosher: Bosher didn’t get a ton of work because of the high-powered Falcons offense, but when he was forced to punt he was as effective as anyone. He had a 41.6 yard net average, 21 pinned inside the 20 yard line, and only 1 touchback.
5) Riley Dixon: Dixon was forced to punt a ton this year due to the weak Broncos offense, and he did a good job of setting up the defense. He had a 41.3 yard net average with 28 pinned inside the 20 and 6 touchbacks.
Apologies to: Pat McAfee, Thomas Morstead, and Dustin Colquitt
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What do you think? Who did we miss? Who did we include who shouldn't have made it? Comment and let us know! Stay tuned for more current sports stories. Don't forget to follow us on social media. You can find us on Facebook, Instagram @beyondthemetrics, and Twitter @byondthemetrics